OngoingWorlds blog

News & articles about play-by-post games, for roleplayers & writers


What do you call an *Action Post*?

As I’m building my new website “Ongoing Worlds” I started to ask myself a question which I don’t know the answer. I’ll have to explain first the functionality I’m building into the website and then you’ll see why the question is important and and how it relates to PbEM/PBP games.

Members of a game will be able to post. This is easy, it’s just a normal web form where you can write your post and send it. GM’s of the game can obviously post too, but I wanted to make sure that the GM’s post is more clear and has more authority behind it. I’ve built in a checkbox that means this post is important to the story, and everyone has to take notice of it and their characters react to whatever plot has just been unveiled.

In my PbEM game we’ve always had one person at a time running a current story. This is usually a GM, or sometimes a member who we trust and has had a great idea for a story. The story is pushed forward by a post we call the *Action post*. The asterisks around the phrase is tradition all comes from a Star Trek game that I used to play. I thought it was an established standard, but it occurred to me that it might not be, and I wanted to check what other people use instead.

What an *Action post* is for
The purpose of an *Action post* is for when a current story is becoming stale, or the characters are wandering about aimlessly without any purpose or direction. If the GM posts an *Action Post* where something major happens, all characters have to respond to it. So in the example of my scifi game, something important will happen that puts the spaceship in jeopardy, and the Captain orders everyone to do something about it.

So is it customary to call it an Action post? If not, what other term do you use?

Returning to the relevance on the OngoingWorlds website that I’m creating, a GM posts a story post as normal, and there’s a little checkbox that they could tick. I want to say “Check this box if this is an *Action post*”, but will everyone understand this?

My other option if this is not good enough is to allow GM’s of a game to change the wording of this option, so that they can insert any terminology that they use. Would this even be necessary?

Please let me know your thoughts!

  • The elegant solution would be to let the user name the label themselves, but I suppose it would be easier just to call it something.

    In my opinion it is not really that important what you call it, as long as you include clearly a visible description! If I use a hosted solution I kind of expect to have to learn new names for some things.

    Another thought is if it perhaps would be possible to go around the problem by naming the checkbox like this:
    [X] This post is very important to the story.

    • Thanks Janus! I think I might go for your wording as a default (“This post is very important to the story”), I don’t want to confuse people by using terminology that they might not be familiar with.

  • I only ran one PBEM, honestly, and what we used was a system of tagging, where we’d tag other people to respond to the post. As the GM, I’d occasionally ask everyone to respond to something, with a big setting post, as things were moving forward. I had some problems with participation: some people posted one line posts, others posted longer things. Some posted once a week, some several times a day. Some were felt overwhelmed by it and didn’t post. I don’t know if my experience is typical, however.

    • I definitely can sympathise with the difference in length of post, and the differences in how regular people post. The first is one which will normally just work itself out with time, if people see that other members are spending more time carefully crafting their post, and they themselves are sending a one line summary they’ll soon be shamed into conforming with the rest. Or it needs a GM to shout at them about their posts being too short! But that could have a negative effect and mean people aren’t comfortable with posting at all!

      Posting at irregular times can be a problem, for example if you’re a member who posts three times a week and leave a cliffhanger in your post that can only be resolved by one other member, it can be infuriating having to wait for them to post their bit! These things don’t have to hold up a story though, you could always skip past it and fill it the details in later with a “backpost”.

  • Holly

    Hmmm, not sure I entirely agree with Janus (sorry Janus). In my experience with language and its effects on people, prompts and commands are usually short and decisive action words – like *Action Post*. A longer, wordier and less decisive descriptive label like *This post is very important to the story* just doesn’t pack the same punch in getting people to sit up and take notice that they HAVE TO DO something.

    What I do agree with is that the most elegant solution would be to let the user customise the label themselves so as to make it logical to the particular members of that game.

    Here’s another idea. Perhaps it could be a blend of the two concepts, where *Action Post* is the visible heading that prompts members, with a customisable byline below it that reminds members how important the particular post is. Sort of like a command with a polite please below it. Or perhaps, if it’s not too hard, to have the heading visible at all times in Wikipedia dictionary definition style, but to also have a message appear on roll-over which shows the customised label definition / subtle reminder …

    The checkbox could then follow suit, depending on which style you choose.

    • I suppose there’s something to be said for short words that you can instantly recognise as a command or action. having a paragraph of explanation just isn’t the same.
      I’m not sure the “Wikipedia dictionary definition” is needed is it? How about I use a tooltip on the word so that people can go “whats this?” and hover over the word for an explanation. But even then, I’m trying to make this site so easy to use that even that shouldn’t be necessary!

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