Playing the Game

The previous chapters explained how you created a character, and listed the available skills and powers. This chapter explains how to the play the game once you’ve created characters.

A Kalyr game can encompass investigation of dark and disturbing mysteries, deadly political and social intrigues, swashbuckling combat and arcane psionic battles, or all of these. While this game is intended to be compatible in terms of character generation with face-to-face implementations of FATE, the emphasis here is for Play-by-Email or Play-by-Message-Board gaming, two mediums which in practice are very similar. The game becomes a writing game rather than a talking game, and by necessity the structure has to be a little more formalised.

To play a PBeM or PBmB game, you need a forum in which to play. This can be a mailing list, a web- or nntp- based bulletin board, or blogging system which allows comments. There are a number of providers for these; you could even host your own, although you’re often better off joining an existing message gaming community.

Both the player and the GM need electronic copies of each character sheet, because both will need access to the character’s abilities during play.

Posts and Threads

The game is made up of posts and threads. Each individual email or message board posting counts as a post, whether it’s by the GM or one of the other players. A collection of responses to an initial post, followed by responses to those responses, is a thread. A thread should correspond one-to-one with a scene.

A thread can take one of two forms, depending on what’s happening in the game. If the players are talking or exploring, players can post in any order, and may respond to postings by other players as well as those of the GM. All actions are assumed to take place in the same chronological order as the posts took place. The GM may respond to individual player posts as and when required.

When things switch to action, especially combat, the thread becomes turn-based. Players may only respond to the GM posts, and the GM should wait until everyone in the thread has posted a response to the previous GM posting before making one response covering the next round of action.

If some players are tardy in responding, then it’s acceptable to enforce a deadline after which the GM will assume actions for the PC who’s player hasn’t responded. Depending on the normal posting frequency, this can be anything from 24 hours to a week.

What Makes a Good Post

Every player posting should end when it requires something to resolved by another player. This might be something that requires a response from another character, be it a PC or an NPC. Or it might be that the character has initiated a conflict which needs to be resolved. Or it might simply be because the player needs further information from the GM.

Likewise, every GM posting must end at a point where it requires one or more of the player involved to make some for of decision. This might be a tactical one (the goons ran away, do you chase them?)

Every player post must contain the name of the character, so it’s always clear who’s acting. It should be possible to concatenate all posts in a thread to form a continuous flowing narrative without having to refer to email headers to see who’s saying or doing what.

It also helps the readability a lot if everyone writes in the same person and tense; I find third person present works best: “Kylar draws his sword” rather than “I draw my sword” or “Kylar will draw his sword”. GM posts should take the same form: “Kylar finds himself lost in a maze of twisty passages” rather than “You are lost in a maze of twisty passages, all alike”. Dialogue should enclosed in quotes..

Private Thoughts and Game Mechanics

Players may post what a character is thinking as well as what a character says or does. While this means that those innermost thoughts are visible to the other players, it does add a lot of roleplaying depth to the game. The GM should not do the same for NPCs, since those are not point-of-view characters in the story.

I find explicit reference to game mechanics in posts containing in-game narrative rather intrusive; they disrupt the flow of the game. There are two ways of handling this:

The first is simply for the GM to handle all the mechanics aspects of the game, so the player’s contact with the game mechanics ends with character generation. This does require an element of trust, in that it’s easy for the GM to fudge things without the players being aware. I’ve never found this to be a problem, either as a player or as a GM.

The second is to handle everything mechanical using private messages. Many web boards support private messages, which can only be seen by the sender and recipient. For an email game, private message are simply emails sent direct without going through the mailing list.

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