Steve Jackson Games - Site Navigation
Home General Info Follow Us Search Illuminator Store Forums What's New Other Games Ogre GURPS Munchkin Our Games: Home

Go Back   Steve Jackson Games Forums > Roleplaying > Roleplaying in General

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 08-12-2013, 10:45 PM   #1
Agemegos
 
Agemegos's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Oz
Default Troupe play in play-by-post campaigns

<edited for a complete re-write. Much briefer and more to-the-point now>

How well is PBP role-playing suited to campaigns in which each player has multiple characters, and plays whichever one happens to be involved in the action from time to time?


The reason I ask is that I have a campaign scheme in mind based on Star Trek-like exploration in a much grittier setting. The Old Series' power trio made much better television than it would have done for the captain and XO to stay on the ship where they belong and beam down specialists to do the scientific and diplomatic work on the ground. But if you divide the work in a sensible fashion among planetologists, sociologists, diplomats, naval officers, and security "officers" then no one character offers a viewpoint into all important phases of the work.

The solution I have in mind is for each player to play one of the senior officers who will be involved when the mission commander takes advice from his heads of department, and one subordinate of each of the others. Then you can have an adventure in which a problem is discovered by the explorers, discussed by the heads of departments, and then passed to the diplomats to solve, leading to the marines having to rescue the diplomats all being played out by the same players.

I've been thinking about this campaign for a while, but in my circumstances I have no chance to play it out around a table. I tried it out in a Skype game that didn't work out, but I think that was because of problems with scheduling, the limitations of VOIP, and my own health, not because the campaign is cursed or anything.


Would this campaign idea be a good thing to try out using PBP, do you think? How well does play-by-post handle "troupe style" RP, in which each player players several characters? I would have guessed that it had a big advantage in reducing the confusion over which of his or her several characters a player was playing at a particular time. Has anyone tried it?
__________________

copyright Brett Evill
Discussion of FLAT BLACK

Last edited by Agemegos; 08-13-2013 at 06:22 PM.
Agemegos is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-13-2013, 06:24 PM   #2
Agemegos
 
Agemegos's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Oz
Default Re: Troupe play in play-by-post campaigns

Background on the campaign in mind, for information:

My interstellar-SF setting, FLAT BLACK, is optimised for serial rationalised-planetary-romance in the vein of my favourite SF writer, Jack Vance. One of the campaign schemas that I use to bring PCs in FLAT BLACK to planet after planet and into encounters with bizarre culture after bizarre culture is what I call "Survey".

The idea of Survey is that the Empire has not yet made any contact at all with about three quarters of the planets that were settled before the Destruction of Earth, and that it has been out of contact with about two thirds of the others for about thirty years. The Imperial Council sends a bunch of ships out to visit a list of planets each, take a quick look at the cultures on them, and determine what sort of resources the definitive study of each one will require, also, discover problems that will need the attention of the Empire's problem-fixing services. In some ways Survey is Star Trek done right, and one of those ways is that the landing parties aren't made up of the captain, the XO, and the medical officer: there are explorers and diplomats to the the exploring and diplomacy, and the security officers are super-stompy space marines, not hapless gunslingers in brightly-coloured sweaters.

I have a couple of recurring problems with Survey. My idea of it is that the PCs ought to be the explorers, not their bus-drivers and bodyguards, because it is the explorers who come up against the bizarre cultures and have to deal with their peculiarities to get their jobs done; but I always come under pressure from players who want to play naval officers or marines. My idea of it is that the major social and political problems of the planets encountered cannot be solved easily; they will take generations of heartbreaking effort. The PCs in Survey are like the surgeons in M*A*S*H; they are patching up a few hundred wounded, having a few laughs and love affairs, and occasionally getting to dish our some poetic justice on a personal scale. They are not single-handedly winning the Korean War in time for the closing credits. But players, or at least certain players, get distracted over and over. They cannot let go of the huge social tragedies. I think this contributes to the players' ambition to play marines and naval officers and Commission for Justice investigators and undercover special operators.

A while ago I had a bit of a brainwave, and thought of a way to set Survey up that might better satisfy both the typical character-player and me.
  • Each character player plays one of the senior staff who would be involved in strategic decision-making. One plays the captain of the ship. Another plays the Ambassador-at-Large. Another plays the CO of the marines contingent. Either one plays the Head of Survey, or two play the Chief Planetologist and the Chief Social Scientist. Perhaps another plays the XO of the ship.
  • Each player also plays one subordinate of each of the others: one naval department head, one diplomat, one marine, and either one explorer or one planetary scientist and one social scientist.
Under this scheme an adventure might start out with everyone playing their explorer character. They deal with the natives, and discover a problem that they cannot solve. So they report it to the senior staff, at which point everyone except the Head of Survey switches to his or her senior officer character and a response is decided upon. Supposing that a diplomatic response is attempted first, everyone except the Ambassador-player switches to his or her diplomat character, and the party is sent in to do a Charles Napier. If the locals cut up rough and take the diplomats hostage all the players switch to their marines hats to game out the assault and rescue.

My circumstances of late have not been such as to allow me to try this out around a table: I think it would require an intense schedule. I did try it as a play-by-VOIP campaign, but we had trouble with international player scheduling (and my health). I'm thinking of trying it as play-by-post.
__________________

copyright Brett Evill
Discussion of FLAT BLACK
Agemegos is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-19-2013, 08:16 AM   #3
martinl
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Default Re: Troupe play in play-by-post campaigns

Quote:
Originally Posted by Agemegos View Post
Would this campaign idea be a good thing to try out using PBP, do you think? How well does play-by-post handle "troupe style" RP, in which each player players several characters? I would have guessed that it had a big advantage in reducing the confusion over which of his or her several characters a player was playing at a particular time. Has anyone tried it?
I've been mulling this for a while, and have some thoughts.

One advantage over tabletop play is lack of crunch. PBP works fine with very abstract mechanics, which means the multiple PCs can be described at a very high level. There are fewer mechanical issues to keep track of. (Yes, tabletop does not need crunch and PBP does not preclude it, but IME there are strong leanings.)

Similarly, there is more time available to handle the switch. It's not "OK, now you're gonna switch to Chekov on the bridge" but rather "In your next post, describe Checkov's reaction to the Ravenous Alien Space Bunny. Players have more time to switch mental gears. This is presumably the reduced confusion Brett mentions.

I think PBP is also more amenable to GM prompting and cool-headed reflection. In troupe play where some of the PCs represent authority figures with awesome power that is heavily circumscribed, the time-delayed collaborative nature of PBP makes the circumscription less onerous. Time to cool down, time to consult the GM, time for GM input/refining of notes, etc. In particular, I suspect the PCs in the described game are going to meet many figures who's moral standing is along the lines of Hitler, Genghis, or Pot. The Captain has the resources to fry these monsters from orbit, but usually the consequences (which are easier to calculate in FB) will make that ill advised. [1] Having the time and GM input to reflect on that will make it both easier to do correctly, and more bittersweet when it happens.

[1] I suspect the Captain will LIVE for the moments when his sociology officer tells him the political fallout from ortillerying some obscene despot will be a net positive.
martinl is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
flat black, planetary romance, play by post, sci-fi, troupe

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Fnords are Off
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 02:01 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.