OngoingWorlds blog

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


Class is in Session

teaching class in sessionI have seen many games where the mod has asked you to write three or more sentences per post. While this is a good rule to live by… or should I say write by, not every post can be like this. There have you even been mods should have asked for a certain word count or even a paragraph number. All well and good. But again not every post can have a certain number of words or certain number of paragraphs. In fact, many replies to certain post only done with one sentence or one word. How do we stop this growing trend of short blurbs for posts?

One way is to write a post where another character has to actually speak more than one sentence or one word at a time. Instead of asking a yes or no question, have your character ask more complex question. Instead of asking “Do you have the book?” ask “Did you get the book from Mr. Doe?” While both may seem like a simple yes question, the last one actually leaves more to be desired. Did Mr. Doe seem funny? Did he just handed to you without any questions? Or did he ask you a few questions to make sure you are who you are? By simply adding in an NPC to your post, you actually engaged in a full conversation. It is then up to the player to decide if it is a simple yes no question, or a if a larger post is needed. The same can be done in reverse. If it is the first question is asked, the replying player can wanting to a story on how Mr. Doe was strange. But it may seem a little unnecessary, like the character is just rambling or trying to make a good impression. The intention may be to make a long post, but the outcome may leave a bitter taste in the mouth. We want our players to be able to write good posts, not have to worry about the number of sentences order to make a good story. The writing may end up suffering.

Ask for word count, this is something that only teachers should ask for. While it does make sure that there are long posts, and the game isn’t going by too fast, it is still difficult to get to a certain word count, even for those who are used to writing in large amount. This is not to say you shouldn’t put a word count on your game, just put it in a durable form. Two hundred words may seem like an easy number to achieve, it is harder than you think. Take the question above for instance. The question of “Did you get the book from Mr. Doe?” only requires you to answer in short dialogue. This means you only need one paragraph at most. This paragraph maybe at least two sentences long. Again, this is not a bad thing, but it is short. Unless the character is known for rambling useless information or unnecessary storylines, there is no way this player can make a two hundred word count post. Not to say that they couldn’t try adding more to the story, the simple fact is this one question does not require a novella as an answer. Simply putting a one hundred word count is enough for any story. This allows the players to put in enough dialogue for the story to go along, and even to add more to their personal storyline. Maybe the character nurses something funny in the office? Or see somebody strange outside the window of a coffee shop? A doable word count that is small yet convenient is better than having a novella to read each post if you’ve been gone for a long time, as some of your players may have to do as a vacation, hospital visit, school, excetra.

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Looking for a number of paragraphs is iffy. A paragraph can be any number of sentences long. Sentence length is also in question here. If a person talks in with only a handful of words, one sentence is one paragraph. If. A. Person. Is. Angry. They. May. Make. Each. Word. A. Sentence. The definition of a paragraph is in question. How many sentences are in your paragraph? How many words? Does one sentence count? Does one word count? Keep in mind that not every person needs to write a paragraph three sentences long or more. Some people think the twenty sentences is one paragraph when it is actually two or more. A paragraph is like water, it takes on the shape the writer wants. This is not a bad thing, but it is a questionable thing.

While these are things that you can do as a mod, and I’m not saying that you shouldn’t, just keep in mind that not every post can hold the structure of word count, paragraph number, or sentence number. If the story goes along and one sentence long posts can actually make the story interesting, that’s fine. As long as this does not happen for long periods of time and people are getting their own post left behind in the dust, short post should not be a problem. Allow your players some leeway to have short posts, just remind them that if they do not try to make an effort their posts will be either deleted or should be edited so they are longer. You want every player to have the chance to have their post read.

Limiting them to sentence, word, or paragraph number is admirable, but sometimes impossible. This may also put some players off joining your game. This is not a bad thing either. All it means that they are not up to the challenge you present them. If you find yourself with a good game with long posts, a certain numbers of paragraph, and over two hundred word count per post, good for you. It may be a lot of reading, but you and your players obviously think it’s worth it. That is amazing! Bear in mind that not every game will be this way. Some games rely on quickness, while others take things at their own pace. Let the players decide how fast or slow the game goes. You as a mod may have a preference, but it is the players themselves who makes the game enjoyable to play. As some players may be gone for long periods, long post maybe what kills your game. Bear in mind is a lot of reading to have so many words, sentences, or paragraphs. If someone is going to be gone, you may want to keep a summary ready for them, just in case. You can always use the Summary section on the homepage of your game to help them out. Just updated every time someone says they will be gone for a day or more.

I hope you enjoyed the lesson. Three things to bear in mind: first, word count, paragraph number, in sentence number are not things to shy away from but to strive for. Second, make sure the new give a doable goal for each post is this is what she wants to strive for, this way there is the only way for your players if only a short blurb is necessar to continue the game. Third, the pace of the game is done by the players, not by the mod, though they may have a preference. Lastly, and most important, there is no homework for this week. Class dismissed!

  • Davey Jones

    I’m sorry, but there are so many problems with this mindset. First, 200 words is not asking much. That is literally one page of college-ruled paper, depending on your handwriting. Second, if you cannot abide by the rules that the mod has set- what you call ‘preferences’- then you should not be trying to join the game at all. Third, a paragraph should technically be as long as is needed to get the point across. Fourth, if a player is put off the game because of ‘preferences,’ then it’s clearly not the game for them, let them go to another one. It is called ‘RP style,’ and if they don’t enjoy playing a certain style, then it’s not my fault.

    • I certainly agree with this. Every group of people have their own preferences however. I wondered if you’d be interested in writing a counter-article to this one, which mentions your points, and suggests a different approach?

  • Kraken

    Please stop giving advice to the RP community. You obviously have too much time on your hands and too many writing errors to grace us with. Role Playing is meant to help expand your imagination and your writing skills; not deplete brain cells.

    There’s your three sentences. I believe I also met your word count limit.

    • I’m not seeing much in terms of countering the point that Emily offered in her posting though.

  • Mysthero

    ” There have you even been mods should have asked for a certain word count or even a paragraph number. All well and good. But again not every “- Emily Wake 2015
    I would like to dedicate the rest of my debate time to my opponent… they seem to be making my points for me.

  • Tiberius Creations

    I have to apologize but I really don’t find anything agreeable with this post. Ongoing Worlds and really Role Playing in general is for people to run and play games as they want, how they want, and when they want.

    One thing I want to address is that the message is really mixed I have no idea what side you are on. You begin with “How do we stop this growing trend of short blurbs for posts?” and you begin to go into a paragraph on how to expand your posts and make them longer and how people should try it. But then you talk about how players don’t need to do long posts

    Another thing, saying “You as a mod may have a preference, but it is the players themselves who makes the game enjoyable to play.” Is pretty much saying “Mods, you do nothing to help this game out and your players do all the work.” and as a mod to a few games I find that offensive. Everyone is an equal part to the game and if I feel I cannot do my part I put people in the mod position to help out because I obviously cannot. And yes, I have done that before. In Fallout: Lonestar, I appointed a new mod because I was not around a lot.

    Also, “As some players may be gone for long periods, long post maybe what kills your game” This is not true. Blue Dwarf has been around for 15 years and very rarely will people post over and over again in one day. There will be days before Blue Dwarf gets a post, and when a post is made it is usually quite long in length and no one gets left behind.

    As a closer. The game is the game and if the mod wishes to set word counts or limits, that is up to them. They assume all responsibility knowing that there might be some people that do not join the game. That is their choice as much as joining a game is to a player and we should never put a limit on that or say how it should be done. Helping is one thing, telling is another.

    • Maybe we should do a series of article about improving posts, perhaps including writing tips, and mentioning the different ways people write, and encouraging people to write better. Perhaps some of the people who’ve commented here would be interested in writing something?

  • I’m noticing the same people are making the same hostile posts towards this writer. I mean, it could be faulty pattern recognition, but still, the hostility even with the rebuttals in this comment section is problematic.