[PnP] Tower of the Dead

Scott Adams longshot at darktech.org
Wed Aug 26 02:50:50 CEST 2009

At 08:27 AM 8/25/09, you wrote:
>        I would love to get a PBEM game started.  I think I have a pretty  
>good grasp on how to do things except for combat.  How do you handle  
I know this might bog down the list but in hopes to encourage others to run more pnp pbems :)

Combat varies system to system.  Since I run 26 odd systems from scifi to fantasy it varies.  A game like Trek or Star Wars combat is just point and click shoot and hit.  No big deal.  But in pnp its detail oriented.  
It really boils down to time and details.  How much time and effort the GM wants to put into it.  Same with table game.  A GM can fudge all the numbers on a table game and end a party vs a orc army combat in 10 minutes or draw it out all weekend.  

Being a programmer I'm sadly detal oriented.  I would go insane without those details and then fudging occurs.  Blanket experience awards rather than individual things.  Not sure if that's fair to the player who did more than others.  So I've learned a basic style for my game.  

As Scott M mentioned its basically players supply the actions and the G does all the rolls.  In fact for me I upkeep all character sheets.  I've found if players do it, that's fine but theres is always going to be mismatched data "well I thought i had EL4 in that skill and 35 expertise in this spell?" 

So I handle it all.  In the end it goes down to players simply do the role playing which in the end is the whole basis of the system.  

So basically player says what he wants and then you as GM go with those actions using the data you have.

Some might be as simple as one liner
"Charge Orc 3 and attack with sword."
Some might be more complex.
"Charge Orc 3 but if Orc 4 and 5 attack me then parry and fight defensively.  If I get wounded then back up to the party and..."

Some can be really complex.  I've had some players (1 or 2 righ tnow) post complex 50 liner what ifs.  Those are great but do add work.  They cover all bases.  So it depends on what level teh player wants to give and what you demand.

Of course there are times the GM must interpret.

Players are across a stream and enemy on other side they posted to attack.  But don't sa if they wade or ride horses or cross the river bridge or use the small boat.  So GM could use that opening to have some fun horse falls crossing, etc.  

Combat also means how big is the group?
In the current combat I'm doing with the party I have 13 characters (11 pcs), 12 sailors and 2 animals vs 21 Mermen.

So that's 46 objects or so to control and figure out.  Position is important so yes I keep maps.  Helps my sanity and gives the scene better fleshing out for players than wondering where things are and less detail.

I'm not an artist and can't draw a circle with a quarter tracing withotu problems.  So I don't do graphical maps.  Frankly I've done 1-3 over he years only and that was tought for me.  More land area maps like Burton has done than tactical maps.  For tactical maps mine are all ascii.  The reason is that not everyone has the software to display that image file and the time.  Why download the image, click on a page when you have the map right ther ein the update?  Ascii is universal.  So can be read by anyone as long as yo have a standard computer.

I  X

  Imagine that simple format showing the end of a hallway where I is wall and _ wall and X is some player and O is bad guy and # is say a table.  Fast, easy to update and maintain.

I do it to scale usually for rooms or if more open then I do an actual HEX map.  

So maps add spice and control the combats.

Style and flair is another thing.  Some might do a combat with colorful story tellng and I do that usually when combat is low in number like 3-4 people.  Easy to handle.  But when it gets large detail diminishes in colorful language.  You end up doing more hit/miss and reaction stuff than flair.  But its each to their own.  Time is a fator.

Typicaly it might take 3-4 hours for me to type up a 2 phase combat.  I typically only do 2 phases per update or 4 per week in some cases 6 if do 3 updates in a week.  

Once you get to know folks you tend to know how they will act and even if they don't post can do their defaults.  Some also post default actions "always use sword " "always attack from behind with dagger if can."  Etc.

With me I'm prepared.  I have all charts on the computer and use computer to do the rolls for me.  I do a movement chart so i know who moves in what order rathr than guesswork.  That chart rarely changes only adds/deletes with bad guys.  

Running a pbem is hard towrk but it depend son how fun the GM wants it.  I do it as a fun thing and stress relief.  Sure its work.  Sure it might take 2-3 nights a week 5-6 hours.  But its fun to creating a story arc, background and overall party stories.  You can make combats simple and fudge teh numbers and even skip rolls all together.  Its all in how much work and detail you want in it.  

Now with pbems it can bog down with some things.  Arguments and rule things.  GM should be solid with th r ules.  Back '99 or so we had a player who simply didn't like some of the rules and it bogged us down that entire summer.  By fall he was suddenly found dead by mystrious reasons. So while player views and suggestions are fine you should be confident in your ways.  Also a scene can bog things down.  If one spends time in a shop looking for tht neat shiny box you could spend weeks on end doing that one scene.  You should move on as quick as you can.  Role playing is important but speed is as well.  

Since I'm detail oriented I like getting from point A to Z as that in itself is a story.  So the adventure is one thing but there is adventure getting to the adventure.  Sure we have a teleporter that can jump from Donara to the Cerulean empire in one jump and take the party if he wanted.  But travel is one way for folks to get to know each other and power up.  So if the group didn't know each other when they do get to their spots they are disorganized.  

So throw in a few random encounters have some fun.

So what is combat?  Its a matter for the GM to decide on his work and how much detail.  I'm one loaded with detail.  Enough players have enough info to work with (maps, scenes fleshed out, character info, etc) 
while say Lev is another GM who doesn't use maps but just goes over the basic encounter.  Short, sweet does speed thigns up and makes less work.  So maybe a middle ground might work for you?

I would suggest looking at both games as a template.
There are archives for LEv's game look at his scenes and combat.  Then look at my website.  There have been 30 updates.  Look at a typical action post from players.  Look at the current merman combat and see how I've done map of the ship the players on for reference.  
Then decide which fits you.  

Now combat aside.
You should have a mailing list or good emailer so you can send out posts to all players and players can send to the list.  

A website is for me a good suggestion as its a reference point.  Allows
folks to go and check out links you may have.  For example I have
links on other game aspects like pictures of the enemies, maps, the
ship info, etc.  So if you can maintain a website thats a plus but
not required.  I could show you how to edit a simple html file to do
that if you can find a site to upload it to :)

I use ascii character sheets again so I can travel anywhere without
needing Word or Excel for example.  Easy to update as well.  But not
all players may have word or excel.  So ascii is universal.

Also decide on what you want to run.  PL or your own world?  v1 or V2? All races or just v1?  All classes?  Natural magicians or outlaw
them?  Etc.

If you do run a game I want to be first to sign up! :)

But seriously it will require time.  A short adventure could take 6 months if done fast and dirty.  Or as long as 2 years if done well.

So think about all this before you jump in.  Hoping you do.

If you have other questions I have a link on my website Combat and Magic 101 in those top 10 links I mentioned at the website.  I typed up those files some 7-8 years ago.  It might give more things I've not mentioned here.

Good luck!

Powers & Perils - Feel the evil and taunt the good!

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