OngoingWorlds blog

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


Setting Expectations – the foundation of your game

floating city

Not to long ago we saw an article about Respect, while I personally found some of it to be a bit unrealistic the author touched on some very valid and real frustrations that both writers/players and moderators feel in our particular style of collaborative creativity. With that in mind I thought I might take a stab at it as well.

We have all been in one or more games where the interaction comes to a screeching halt or we go on to check posts and find we were left behind in the dirt.  It happens, all the time, even in the best of groups, and feelings get hurt, people get mad, people leave and whole games can die because of it.

So how do we try to keep the whole game from falling apart? By setting a strong foundation, this means setting the expectations as the moderator of what you expect from your players and as a writer being honest with yourself and others about how you typically write.

What is the speed of your game?

What is your speed as a writer/player?

  • Extra Fast: Each character should have a post
  • Fast: Each character should have a post  multiple times a week.
  • Moderate: Each character should post at least once a week.
  • Slow: Each character should have a post every one or two weeks.
  • Extra Slow: Each character should have a post once a month or less.

Do you as the moderator have a minimum post length you want from your writers?

As a writer what is your typical post length?

Is there a minimum post length you want from the people who write with you?

  • Very short: Less than 100 / 1 paragraph
  • Short: Less than 200 words / 2 to 3 paragraphs
  • Moderate 200- 600 words / 3 to 5 paragraphs
  • Long: 600 – 1000 words / 5 + paragraphs
  • Very Long: 1000+ words

What tense should post’ be presented in?

  • Should posts be in first person or third person?
  • Present or past tense?

How many point of views are allowed in a single post from your players?

  • Single POV: Each post has one Main character whose POV is the only one shown in the post; this means that only one character’s thoughts or feelings are expressed, the others only write actions and dialog.
  • Multiple POV: This can be tricky when dealing with co-writing, in multiple POV every character express their thoughts and feelings as well as actions and dialog in the post. Some people call this ping-pong style.  Writing this way can form bad habits for people who want to write actual fiction not just collaborative RP so watch out.

How many characters can a player have?

  • If you’re concerned about players ability to keep up with the game consider limiting them to one character, or staggering their character creation over time or number of posts.

How do you want to handle a leave of absence?

  • What do you want your players to do if they have to be gone or for some reason won’t be able to meet the expectations of post speed?
  • What will happen to their characters while they are gone?
  • What will happen to their characters if a player disappears without letting anyone know?

How do you define and deal with inactive players?

  • What criteria determines active vs. inactive players?
  • What happens to their characters if a player goes inactive?

How do you define and deal with abandoned Characters?

  • What happens to the characters when the player leaves the group and doesn’t write out or kill off their characters?
  • Specifically how long do you hold on to characters before deleting them?

Who owns the character? What do you do with characters who are central to a plot or integral to the world?

  • When the character is a key for the world and starts out created by the moderator as an NPC then the rights to the character usually stay with the mods.
  • However, if a character becomes integral through RP what do you do if the player leaves and takes the King or Queen with them?

Ranked Characters

  • Some groups deal with this by creating what they call ranked characters, cannons or key characters. These may start out as a ‘role’ rather than a named character, but the expected post speed or length may be different than for other normal characters. Typically these characters are owned by the game, not the player.

By setting out the clear understanding of conduct in the game, not just the level of maturity, you establish the foundation for mutual respect.  You can then act to keep your game moving smoothly, rather than trying to figure out what to do when a key player just up and disappears and the game comes to a screaming hault.  You are less likely to have people join the group only to find they can’t meet your expectations down the road.

You may even find that you have to change your expectations so that people want to join your group.

But enough from me for now, enjoy the food for thought and happy gaming!


Article written for us by Marian Andersen aka Nightscarling from the games Vaesallum and The Shifter’s War. You can see other articles by Marian here.