Friday, November 22, 2013

A Different Sort of Play-by-Post

I hope I never sound as pompous as this guy looks right now.
The Last Express
(buy it on"

I've had a lot of trouble with play-by-posts. Players drop out. I paint myself into corners and can't think of a decent resolution to the current predicament facing them. The pacing falls off the page when one player disappears for a couple weeks. Tricky, tricky, tricky.... But then I take inspiration from my own Game Translation article and decide to do a game based around the brilliant The Last Express.

Oh, by the way, I don't know about that Game Translation article but I know my play-by-post has caused the purchases of at least three copies of that brilliant and loads of gun game. It's cheap. Go and get it!

(Complete tangent: has a walking set of Doctor Who's in their image! Loved it. Can't wait to see the new Doctor. Terribly sad to see the last Doctor go.)

Anyway, onto my game which is also called The Last Express and is also set on board the Orient Express mere days before the invasion of Poland. Rather than setting everyone up in a party and splitting threads every time they split up, thus ensuring that the various players need each other to continue the game, I have split the locations into separate threads.

Each location has its own forum sub-category split as follows: Private Car, Agatha Sleeping Car, Yennifer Sleeping Car, Jeanette Sleeping Car, Social Cars, Staff Cars. It's split like that because while the sleeping cars have a multitude of compartment threads, the social cars really only need one thread apiece. The Social Cars contain a Lounge Car, Smoking Car and Dining Car. Players are discouraged from reading inside threads their character isn't currently involved in and each character is made separately from the others - with no expectation that they work together.

In fact, it's quite possible for someone to create a Mythos sorcerer with the aim of destroying the other investigators. This may, or may not, have happened. I really can't say because some of my players read this blog. What is true is that the majority of players have created investigators with interesting but not overwhelming backstories. Which is fantastic because while having one or two folks with overwhelming backstories (i.e. Deep One hybrid) wouldn't be a bad thing, it gets a bit silly when a train is populated with them.

Every Friday I update the game by fifteen minutes, whether there's been two posts or twenty. Hollywood Time is in progress here. A lot or a little can happen in that same set amount of time. This pushes me to include something interesting every week, ensures the players feel that slight bit of time pressure, and means that we don't have to worry about a dinner period lasting for several months because two players are really getting into it while a third is merely passing the time.

I've still lost a lot of players (likely due to the unfamiliar format, subtle plot lines and need to be very proactive) but the game has weathered their loss quite well. While I personally find it a shame as their investigators were all awesome, I can manipulate them out of the way of the other players so that the game can continue. This wouldn't be possible if I was running a standard format game where all of the other players would be forced to wait for the missing players to post as they'd all be expected to be together. Sure, the player attrition wouldn't be so fast or extreme (I've lost about half - normally within their first ten posts) but the game itself would be hobbled a lot more readily when even one dropped out.

And in play by post, it's very routine for at least one to drop out.

So if you would like to read the forums and take a look, you can find it here.

Alternatively if you'd actually like to play it (as reading the threads is a quick way to over-educating yourself and preventing you from playing it in future), you can read the recruitment thread over here. The recruitment thread also provides a neat summary of what the game is about.

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