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How to Keep a PBEM Campaign Running

Written by Amethyst Alliance Staff


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It can be a real Gamemasters dilemma. You have initiated an extensive campaign, sought and found players you liked and the start of the campaign was very promising. The turns and their answers nearly read like Shakespeare. And everybody agreed that this was great fun.

But now somehow things no longer run so smoothly. The inspiration seems to be gone. The turns and their answers are becoming shorter. You feel guilty for not answering messages and your players seem to have ever larger time-intervals between their answers as well. Everybody is dissatisfied. Players start leaving.

So where did it go wrong?

Unrealistic expectations
Make sure you and your players are on the same track and want the same thing out of a campaign. Detailed political intrigue or hack & slash are two different ball games. And be fair. If you have a very active social life how likely is it you will be managing to do two turns a week? More about making a good start with a pbem or indeed any other campaign can be found in the Academy section.

Communiciation
If anything changes in your circumstances make sure you tell your players. Don't leave them in the dark about why you are suddenly changing your habits. Nothing is more irritating than a gamemaster who deserts his players in the middle of a game without a proper explanation. On the same note make sure you know what is happening with your players. Is mister X just on a holiday, or is it not likely that he will return? Don't keep waiting endlessly. Make a swift judgement to dump someone if you must, but be kind to people who announce their leave of absence. Communication is the key here.

Momentum
In an ideal situation turns almost seem to write themselves, because there is a lot of input from the players, which in turns inspires the gamemaster. The game has gathered the all important momentum.

This situation is created first of all by a careful selection of the players to fill the need of the campaign. But the number of players is important as well. A Table Top party shouldn't have more than about five to seven players because the gamemaster would have trouble keeping order and raising his voice above the rattle, let alone keep track of all the different characters.

But a PBEM actually works better with ten or more people at the start. If some players are late with turns, they will be stimulated by more active members. Eventually some people may drop out, but that still leaves you with a coregroup that is functional (no strange holes you need to fill with an NPC).

Inspiration
If you fear the fault lays with the fact that you yourself had had less and less inspiration and don't know where to go with a game, it might be a good idea to have some sort of an outline before your start (including irritating and interesting NPC's and the villian of the story) as this will give you something to hold on to. Also read some books about playwriting. Don't be afraid to "borrow" some of the elements of your favorite books either. There are some excellent articles about writing PBEM's in the Academy section.

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