Sunday, February 28, 2016

Lessons learned so far, ICONS Play-by-post

So I'm testing an ICONS adventure idea as a play-by-post thing in G+. This is an experiment for me; I'm not currently in a position to actually meet people who play, and this seemed like a reasonable compromise.

We've only just begun playing. Fortunately, one of the players has much more experience with play-by-post games, so I'm leaning a bit on him. Here's what I've found so far:

  • Point buy or random; not both. I'm pretty easy about character creation, and the game system really does even out power levels with the Determination point mechanism. I figured I'd let them either create the character they wanted (point buy) or roll up a character. It doesn't matter if the system evens things out: there are hurt feelings when Jack Point-buy is stuck with a 45-point character and Jill Random rolls up a 63-point character. It makes for better vibes among people if you pick one or the other. There are a couple of alternatives: Jill Random looks at her character and if the character is over 50 points, picks a limit for the highest power; if the character is under 40 points, puts an extra on the highest power; assign a higher point value than 45. But it's easier to avoid the issue.
  • Pre-gens are tough to do right. Pre-gens were an afterthought with me. The players asked if I had any, and I found some I had done for a previous trial with in-person players. I did the pre-gens as random roll, and then picked some. I think I tended to pick the higher point ones. Provide pre-gens and the higher point ones get picked. I can't prove that--I've only had one pre-gen picked, but if you want to play a character, why not pick the one with more or better powers? So if you're going to offer pre-gens, use the point value as a way to make the pre-gens at roughly the same power level.
  • Acting player/GM rolls 2d6-7. Yes, according to the rules, each side rolls 1d6. But what I realized is that if you post the villains or some fraction of their writeups, then each person can resolve a task in one roll. 
  • Don't do initiative. We're trying this. People just post when they can, and I summarize at the end of the page. I might (haven't decided yet) go for straight coordination as initiative. That would be a house rule.
  • Start in media res. This whole thing is slow, so you probably don't want to have a week of "and what are you doing?" Maybe the players mention what they're interrupting to be here.
  • Regular posts and a default action. Post frequently, and every character has a default thing that they do if the player can't post. Blast, recover, hide, whatever...that's what the character does if the player can't make it by the deadline.
Maybe this whole thing will fall apart. I hope not: we're doing a single (long-ish) adventure, and I hope the limited scope will keep us moving. But even if it fails, I expect to learn useful things from this.