Friday, January 17, 2020

Thoughts on Play By Post

I have a few friends who have chatted on occasion about their Play by Post experiences.  I haven't tried it myself, but I've always been curious about it. My friend Tom, who runs a Play By Post site named Outpost 42 News. and who asked me to express some of my thoughts on the topic, informs me that there are usually 10 to 15 people in a given Play By Post group, who will write a story in small segments called "posts" by email, message board, or whatever other medium is convenient for them. There is usually a host to guide things and settle disputes should they arise, and a few groups even integrate dice or other randomizers into their proceedings. Such games can be any genre.  Space Opera to Neolithic Dinosaur hunting, anything goes.  As it happens, Star Trek is apparently quite popular, probably because of the natural ship/crew link and its episodic nature.

Play By Post originated during the 1980s and early 90s on early bulletin board systems, and early internet services like AOL, Prodigy and Compserve, if anyone remembers those. You might be interested to know that my Elthos RPG predates those by roughly a decade.  Naturally, as one might expect, many of the Play By Post crowd cut their teeth on the early RPGs.  And I should probably mention that in those days most RPGs were not D&D, but homebrews of an enormous variety.  At least where I lived in NY.  Every Gamemaster in my town came up with their own rules and their own worlds. Of course D&D, or earlier games that it was fashioned upon, were the basis for these systems. Some of those early rules systems were really very innovative, by the way, but never seen again outside of their original game-setting.  Too bad.  At any rate, many of the original Play By Post gamers were early RPG Gamemasters and players, and so it's fair to consider this branch of the hobby as simply another stream by which role playing games have manifested in the world.  Other Play By Posters came from fan fiction circles, and still others picked up on it as their first RPG experience, got hooked, and kept going with it.  Why? Because it's fun, that's why.  So I'm told.  I expect to find out for myself at some point, but haven't had the chance (or time) to look into it too far.

The community of Play By Posters is by now quite diverse and has grown into a significant hobby.  There are news and information outlets, Awards systems, and even regular annual events where everyone comes together online.  It's a unique culture with a specific etiquette on how to recruit new players, use other people's characters, and interact with people from other games. Perhaps most interesting is that they now have a satire news blog that parodies some of the bigger groups and players.  That would be Outpost 42 News.  My friend Tom is hoping this post might inspire people to check out his site, so here's the link again:  https://Outpost42News.com.  This is a no holds barred effort, so be prepared for Onion level satire.  They published their first article on April Fools Day 2018.  Definitely check it out if you happen to be a fan of Play By Post, or if you want to learn more about the community.

I have in fact skimmed their articles, and as Tom expected, I really didn't get a single joke, though, since I am really not familiar with their community.  But even so, I did find it entertaining, and it did make me think about Play By Post from an Elthos perspective.

As you know, I created a web application called The Mythos Machine.  It occurs to me that it might be quite suitable for Play By Post scenarios, as the system allows Gamemasters to create their own Worlds online, and then invite their friends to Roll Characters, and maintain them, in the Mythos Machine.  It uses the Elthos RPG rules as a base, and does all the number crunching, and lets the GM focus on the creative aspects of the game.  I can easily imagine people using it to run Play By Post games.  And honestly, I'd be pretty stoked if they did!

So if you are interested in Play By Post, then check out Tom's site, and if you're already a Play By Poster and would like comprehensive online support for your World Building and Character management, then do check out the Mythos Machine as well!

Thanks for all the good times, folks!  Game on!

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