PbC Game Etiquette

PA Cartoon

I swiped the following ‘Top Ten’ list of etiquette rules from some Play-by-Post site, and they’re also pretty applicable to a Play-by-Comment game.

The tone’s a little snarky, but I agree with all the main points.

1. Comment

Yes, this is simplistic. So what. Make sure you respond to every post, even if it’s a quick comment saying “I don’t really have something to do so I’ll just keep alert for threats”. There is nothing a referee hates more than setting up the game, sending out an exciting and gripping post, and then receiving no replies. Your character isn’t going to be center stage all the time, but when he’s not you still need to let me know that you are still interested in the game.

Ideally, I’d like to have new post every three or four days – but I’ll settle for one update a week. There will be times when life prevents you from commenting. Maybe you and your family are going away on a trip. Maybe you’re in the hospital having a baby. Maybe you’re flat on your back with pneumonia. If possible, always warn your referee about times you’re going to miss posting. If you can’t warn me, it’s considered good manners to send a note explaining why you missed responding to the game as soon as you are able. This is polite, and might save your spot in the game.

2. Avoid Bad Posts

There are several different types of posts to be wary of, each with its own problems:

  • Non-Game Related Messages: If you want to say something to the people on the game’s mailing list, as opposed to your character saying something to another character, say it quick, get to the point, and make sure everyone knows it’s an out-of-character post. If you respond to one of these, please respond directly to the player.
  • Rambling Messages That Say Nothing: These messages usually consist of five miles of unremoved quotes followed by three lines of new text. This is not only impolite, it’s incredibly annoying. It borders on spamming. It’s a good idea to quote the message you are replying to in your new response, but only quote applicable text.
  • Messages From The Willingly Oblivious: These messages come about when one player totally ignores something posted by someone else, be it another player or the referee. If you don’t like something that’s been posted, you are NOT allowed to just ignore it and move on… especially if it came from the referee. Feel free to voice your objection to the referee, in a private message.
  • Super-Hero Syndrome: Basically a post of this sort involves your character doing things he simply isn’t capable of doing and not responding correctly to his weaknesses. The best example would be a character who should be hobbling around in pain after being wounded, but instead is prancing around like he was Errol Flynn in Captain Blood. This is a serious issue, even in games set in the super-hero genre.
  • Flames: Now, when I say flames, I don’t just mean two players hurling insults at each other. That’s generally enough to get you booted from most games out there. I also mean the dirty trick known as the In-Character Flame War. In such a flamefest, two or more players will use their characters to fight each other over problems they are having in real life. You can tell this is going on when two characters who have no reason to be hostile to each other suddenly start fighting. Not good. It screws up the referee’s storylines and annoys the hell out of everyone else.
  • Assassin Posts: To put it simply, do not kill, maim, or otherwise destroy another character without the express permission of both the referee and (if it’s a player character you’re aiming to hurt) the other player. It really upsets people when you try to do this, so much so that you are inviting retribution by merely considering it. If you want to seriously hurt a character, remember that the only PC you don’t need permission for is your own.
  • Plot Changers: Do not post a message which drastically changes the plotline the game follows. The referee is there for a reason, after all, and it’s his game, not yours. If you have a good idea for a plotline, contact the referee. Maybe he’ll like your idea and run with it. But if he doesn’t, let it go. Don’t try to force him to accept your idea by jamming it into his game on your own.

3. Write in Third Person, Present Tense

Say “Behzad does this”, “Behzad does that” (if Behzad is your character), “he bravely attacks”, and “he runs away, screaming”. Avoid speaking in the first (“I do this” and “I do that”). And don’t write “I did this” and “I did that”.

The primary reason is because the referee will write the moves in third person, present tense. When he tries to integrate your responses into my moves, and you’ve been writing in first person past tense, the tense and perspective clash. Making life easy on your referee is a good thing.

4. Use Proper Spelling and Grammar

Regardless of what language you are writing in, choppy paragraphs and badly constructed sentences make for difficult reading. People won’t read your comments, or respond, if they cannot decipher what you write.

5. Follow Syntax Conventions

When presenting dialog, use the correct punctuation to help identify how the dialog is being heard by others. It varies from game to game, and referee to referee, but it’s almost certain that there is going to be some accepted rules about dialog conventions. Some conventions used in this game are:

“Use quotation marks here,” the speaker said aloud.
‘Italics and single quotes are used here,’ the man thought to himself.
[I speak a foreign language,] said a voice in perfectly accented Ancient.
(Italic parentheses are used for out-of-character or rules-related comments.)

(Due to the limitations in formatting blog comments, most syntax conventions will be implemented by the referee directly into the game post.)

6. In His Own Game, the Referee’s Word is Law

Most referees are willing to listen to opposing opinions, but please don’t present your opposing opinion to them on the game’s mailing list. And if a referee ever says something along the lines as “my decision stands”, let the issue go. Continuing to argue after he’s reached a final decision is not a smart thing to do if you intend to continue playing in his game.

On a related note, don’t be a rules lawyer. Most referees hate this. If the ref makes a rules mistake, politely inform him of it out-of-game and hope he doesn’t repeat it. Do not demand that he reverse himself, especially if he already made his final decision.

7. Be Heard, But Don’t Shout Others Down

If you’re naturally quiet and generally only post the minimum amount to stay in the game, try to post more often… at least enough to be recognized as being around.

If you’re a big talker who responds to everything vaguely connected to your character, shut up once in a while and let someone else get a word in edgewise.

8. Avoid Time Crunches

Reply to a new move in a timely fashion. Sure, it’s sometimes impossible, but at least make the effort. It also means avoid spiraling time scales. It is rare that an action CAN and MUST take place at such and such a time and no later. If you can do something later and thereby avoid wedging in an unnecessary action now, you’ll be the referee’s friend for life. The game cannot move forward if everyone is always trying to get the last word in. Don’t do this if you can help it.

9. Be Polite

This rule reads: “If you become a problem, you will almost certainly be removed from the game”. This means be polite. It’s not that hard. This has nothing to do with what your character does with the other characters. It involves other real people and whether or not they’re enjoying the game with you in it. Be considerate and polite whenever possible.

10. Treat the Game as a Game

This is the most important rule. No one is going to come up with a cure for cancer while typing away at a Play-by-Comment game. And RPGs don’t promote world peace. They’re just games.

This has three meanings:

  1. People play games for entertainment, so remember to have fun.
  2. Your actions can contribute to the group enjoyment or take away from it. It’s up to you whether or not you have fun.
  3. If real life is interfering with your game play, see to your real life first, even if it means dropping out of the game.

So remember: Have fun, game on, and let the dice fall where they may!


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