Author Topic: A Play-by-Post Roguelike?  (Read 14530 times)

Abandoned Arts

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A Play-by-Post Roguelike?
« on: September 19, 2013, 01:40:36 PM »
Hi, temple forums.

Longtime lurker, longtime roguelike fan (embarassing fact: my first roguelike was Chocobo's Dungeon), and first-time poster.

More than those things, though, I'm also a PnP (pen-and-paper) game developer. My name is Daron, and I'm the founder and lead designer of Abandoned Arts, a small but very well-reviewed third-party publisher of tabletop games and sourcebooks. What I'm working on right now is a little different, though. Basically, I'm trying to design a (free-for-everyone) forum-based or "play-by-post" roguelike game over on the Paizo forums (which has a large play-by-post community).

If you're a fan of play-by-post games, and you're a fan of roguelikes (which you are... 'cause you're here), take a look at this thread and consider joining the discussion. I'm trying really hard to make this happen!

Thanks!

getter77

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Re: A Play-by-Post Roguelike?
« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2013, 11:31:12 PM »
Welcome out from your lurk Abandoned Arts!   8)

The idea seems like it could work, taking the cue to moreso be a dungeon dive than something more overtly P&P-like ala Conclave of late.  The content would probably have to be rather compacted/anstracted alongside ChooseYourOwnAdventure lines as there's otherwise quite a lot of "downtime" between things of note happening in the usual representations of turns in Roguelike play---I guess you need something of a literal quickened metaphor to DCSS's Auto-explore.  Using action points that can be divided up to keep pace going seems a good crack at it, as would much of the DM issues being automated.

Some sort of automated/semi-curated way of archiving the adventures in a perhaps easier to digest/approach form would also probably serve it well.

 Definitely keep us posted as you get some core defined bits summed up and beyond as it looks like things are still flowing in that long comments chain---looks to be a good sign of interest there.
Brian Emre Jeffears
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Abandoned Arts

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Re: A Play-by-Post Roguelike?
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2013, 12:56:29 AM »
An "autoexplore" function is a pretty good analogue for the system I'm working on. The flow of gameplay would be a series of encounters (usually involving the dungeon's inhabitants) connected by "exploration phases."

I'm working on a FAQ at the moment; I'll get it posted soon.

Do we have many play-by-post fans around here? Would anyone be interested in running a game, once I've got something worth playtesting?

Kyzrati

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Re: A Play-by-Post Roguelike?
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2013, 01:05:46 AM »
I highly recommend you check out the Forum Games board over at Bay 12: http://www.bay12forums.com/smf/index.php?board=15.0

There you'll find a lot of forum game players who are really into roguelikes, and will likely get a huge response compared to here, which is a pretty small community by comparison (and made up in large part by devs, compared to Bay 12 which is mostly players).

Abandoned Arts

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Re: A Play-by-Post Roguelike?
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2013, 01:17:29 AM »
Excellent; thanks for the link!

george

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Re: A Play-by-Post Roguelike?
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2013, 01:57:21 AM »
This sounds fun to me, then again I have played PbP games before so I guess that makes sense :).

By the by, you might like this silly thing, http://forums.roguetemple.com/index.php?topic=696.msg5956#msg5956

Zireael

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Re: A Play-by-Post Roguelike?
« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2013, 06:54:06 AM »
This sounds really interesting... I've played a few PbP games.

Abandoned Arts

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Re: A Play-by-Post Roguelike?
« Reply #7 on: September 20, 2013, 12:24:13 PM »
This sounds fun to me, then again I have played PbP games before so I guess that makes sense :).

By the by, you might like this silly thing, http://forums.roguetemple.com/index.php?topic=696.msg5956#msg5956

Heh; I'd totally play that.

This sounds really interesting... I've played a few PbP games.

Question for you (or anyone who cares to answer): what do you find the most frustrating about PbP games?

Another question: what would you expect from a tabletop or play-by-post game that claims to be a "roguelike?" What are your gut instincts as to what such a game would look like? Would you expect ASCII art and a real map? Would you expect a GM to "make it up as he goes along," or roll on charts and tables?

A penny for your thoughts, folks.

Zireael

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Re: A Play-by-Post Roguelike?
« Reply #8 on: September 20, 2013, 02:19:07 PM »
Quote
what do you find the most frustrating about PbP games?

Sessions dying out. Really. Not a single one of 6 sessions I participated in went anywhere. Some died after a few weeks, some after months, but all died out without any resolution.

About the rest: well, ASCII art would be a nice touch. Rolling on tables and otherwise randomly determining what happens is a must.

Abandoned Arts

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Re: A Play-by-Post Roguelike?
« Reply #9 on: September 20, 2013, 02:56:10 PM »
Quote
what do you find the most frustrating about PbP games?

Sessions dying out. Really. Not a single one of 6 sessions I participated in went anywhere. Some died after a few weeks, some after months, but all died out without any resolution.

About the rest: well, ASCII art would be a nice touch. Rolling on tables and otherwise randomly determining what happens is a must.

I thought that'd be the first answer!

So... to counter this first and most prevalent frustration about play-by-post games, our roguelike wouldn't be an endless, campaign-driven affair; the idea is to create almost episodic, "delve-by-delve" gameplay. It takes years to bring a game of D&D or Pathfinder to a satisfying conclusion, so it's no wonder that Play-by-Post "tabletop" games very rarely finish. That's one of the main "PbP-friendly" elements of this idea... each game is finite in length, and doesn't require a lifetime of commitment from each player.

Players who ARE committed, though, have the option of carrying their character(s) over from game to game - so everybody wins. If you want to use your character to build a life-long career (until it dies, anyway), you can. If you want to play a game here and there, without committing months of your life to the game, you can do that too - and without disrupting the more invested players. If players know there's an end in sight, they might be less inclined to simply drop out.

Also, each delve is divided into encounters... and the difficulty of each encounter depends on the number of participating players. So if one player does disappear or drop out of the game, the difficulty of the next-and-subsequent encounters are adjusted, and the game can go on.

Each dungeon crawl would start in a tavern (where players can say hello, and make Lore-type skill checks to choose a quest), then proceed to the dungeon. If they do well on the Lore-type check, they might have a handful of quests (dungeons) to choose from, and a minimum of information on each. If they don't, they might be stuck with just one or two quests to choose from.

The delve represents one quest, or "adventure," and - if you survive - you head back to the tavern after you're finished. "Tavern-time" or downtime could be used to craft items, etc. You can even retire your character after a game or save it for the next game you play.

Each dungeon will have a suite of monsters and dungeon elements (types of traps, structures, interactivity) associated with it - so you won't see swamp trolls in a mountain crypt, etc. This would mean creating unique dungeon suites over time in addition to new classes, races, deific patrons, and so on. Lots of work, and part of the reason I'm eager to see this idea gain popularity. The base product would be free (forever), but that's not to say that extra content will always be.

And thus more interest justifies more effort toward this project. : )

getter77

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Re: A Play-by-Post Roguelike?
« Reply #10 on: September 20, 2013, 03:43:35 PM »
How feasible would it be to expand your GM bots to Player bots to fill empty roster spots and/or inexorably push a given campaign forward until victory or literally everyone dead to prevent things going to a standstill in a given module run of it?  Could make for some good player agency/interaction to boot---as foiling the AI, or currying favor, amidst the dungeon dive would touch tangentially on some probably interesting player/Pseudo-GM interacting.
Brian Emre Jeffears
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Abandoned Arts

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Re: A Play-by-Post Roguelike?
« Reply #11 on: September 20, 2013, 03:53:08 PM »
Unfortunately, I'm not a programmer - there'd be no bots here. Actually, the GM would be "playing to win," something I'm going to touch on in the FAQ I plan on releasing later today.

getter77

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Re: A Play-by-Post Roguelike?
« Reply #12 on: September 20, 2013, 07:12:51 PM »
Ah, well yeah, a GM functioning as something other than a rationalizing Deus Ex Machina would also net that pretty solidly.   :P
Brian Emre Jeffears
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Kyzrati

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Re: A Play-by-Post Roguelike?
« Reply #13 on: September 20, 2013, 09:11:52 PM »
One of the aspects that got me interested in that particular Bay 12 forum board I mentioned earlier was the fact that several of the games there had picked up my ASCII art editor as a way for the GM to draw maps and/or art associated with the game. Seems like an interesting concept.

Abandoned Arts

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Re: A Play-by-Post Roguelike?
« Reply #14 on: September 20, 2013, 11:11:06 PM »
Good news: our game-in-theory has a name (well, a working title) and a FAQ!

Development on GuildMaster continues, and my next goal will be to put enough content together to create an "example of play." After that, a proper playtest.

Read up, interested parties, and ask questions if you've got 'em.

GuildMaster PFAQ (Presumably-Frequently-Asked Questions)

Q: What is GuildMaster?
A: GuildMaster is a roguelike-inspired play-by-post game (that you can also play at home, at the table). You will direct adventurous characters into all sorts of dungeons, trying your best to overcome various monsters and hazards in order to escape with both the treasure and your life. Like a tabletop RPG, GuildMaster features a GM (a game-master) and some number of players.

Q: What are the player’s roles?
A: You, the player, represent a sort of Adventurer’s Guild Headmaster. Your characters represent the members of your guild, and you will dispatch them (alone or alongside members of other “guilds,” or players) to conquer dungeons, bring back treasure, and gain experience. You could manage a “guild” of characters all on your own, or share characters with partners and friends, sharing a pool of characters that you and the players you include can draw from and play with.

Q: What is the GM’s role?
A: Like a GM in a traditional tabletop game, a GuildMaster GM controls the monsters and the environment. Unlike a GM in a traditional tabletop game, a GuildMaster GM is absolutely trying to kill you! Your GM is playing to win – the same as you are. The game wants you dead - just like any true-to-form roguelike would.

Q: That’s not fair! The GM controls all the monsters AND the dungeon.
A: That’s not a question! But yes; you’re right. The GM controls the bad guys, but that doesn’t mean he can always do whatever he wants with them. Dangers (along with just about everything else in the game, in true roguelike fashion) spawn randomly, and the number of resources that a GM has to play with is dependent on the number of players in the game. And if one player drops out of the game, the difficulty of the next-and-subsequent encounters are adjusted accordingly.

Q: If the GM is playing to win, does that mean that stupid or mindless creatures like ogres and zombies will be using clever and organized tactics to beat the players?
A: No. Some monsters will have restricted actions, limiting the GM to only the most obvious and predictable choices. For example, an ogre might not be able to withdraw from a melee once engaged, unless his opponent is dead. Zombies may only be able to move toward the players closest to them, and so on. The game is still very much in development, so these examples are subject to change – but you get the idea.

Q: Can’t the GM just cheat?
A: Nope! Both sides of the game are transparent, and basically cheat-proof.

Q: Alright, so what are the central mechanics?
A: Encounters are strung together by exploration phases. An encounter is a conflict or danger (usually involving monsters) that your characters must overcome in order to advance or survive (though characters built to do so may have the option of escaping or avoiding an encounter which has gone – or is likely to go – south). All characters (PCs and NPCs both) spend Action Points (AP) on their turns to perform various actions. When your turn is over, any AP that you saved contributes toward your defense – which you’ll need while the other guys are taking their turns.

Q: How does character creation work?
A: A character is comprised of five building blocks: race, class, skills, abilities, and faith. A player will create a race, class, and faith, and then allocates a few skill and ability points. Players may choose a faith as well; this choice may be of great importance (for devout characters and members of divine classes, such as priests) or of virtually none at all.

Q: How do races and classes work?
A: Your characters race and class determine your base AP, the AP cost of your “move” action, and what sorts of things your character is good at. Each race and class also offers unique skills that your character may choose to invest skill points into as they grow in experience.

Q: What sorts of races and classes will there be?
A: Well, that’s a question with a two-part answer. At release, the game will feature the basics (or the classics, if you prefer): races like humans, elves, dwarves, and hobbits, and classes like warriors, sorcerers, thieves, and preists. With those bases covered, the game will continue to develop. With enough success, GuildMaster might expand to include hundreds of races and classes for players to choose from. Troglodytes, gnomes, vampires, trolls, dragonkin, goblins, and hobgoblins. Abjurers, elementalists, assassins, hunters, bards, spies, witchdoctors, and on, and on, and on.

Q: How do skills and abilities work?
A: Skills represent how well your character performs at various tasks. Skills range from the broad and basic (like Strength, Dexterity, Exploration, Mobility, or Perception) to the very specialized and specific (like Alchemy, Blacksmithing, Locksmithing, Piety, or Stealth). As a character gains skill ranks, he or she also unlocks abilities which require various skill prerequisites. Abilities offer options and upgrades thematically related to the skills that unlock them, and may allow characters to use those skills in new ways. Strength abilities might improve a character’s damage, while Stealth abilities might offer a character new ways to gain advantages over ambushed enemies.

 Q: What are faiths, and how do they work?
A: Each faith offers a small suite of faith-based skills and abilities that a character may invest ranks into. The effectiveness of these abilities are largely dependent on the user’s Piety skill. Some characters may invest quite a lot into faith-based skills and abilities, while less devout characters (characters with no use or preference for the Piety skill) will have almost no use for them.
   In addition to offering optional skills and abilities, each faith includes two rules elements: a divine bane and a divine boon. These banes and boons have relevance only to members of certain divine spellcasting classes (like priests), and modify the way certain class abilities work. For example, the divine bane for the God of Fire and Forge might cause creatures to catch fire, while the divine bane for the God of Life and Healing might cause damage to undead creatures. This would mean that when a priest of the God of Fire and Forge uses his “smite” spell to harm an opponent, that opponent may catch fire. When a priest of the God of Life and Healing uses his “smite” ability (a member of the exact same class, casting the exact same spell), the target receives extra damage if it is undead. Each god may also impose the dogma of their church on their followers, rewarding and punishing certain behaviors. Because of this, because faith-based skills and abilities will differ wildly, and because a character’s choice of deity will alter the way their divine class abilities work, priests of different deities will almost feel like members of different classes.

Q: How do combat rolls work?
A: Each character (PC and NPC alike) will have “passive” (static) and “active” (rolled) values for each of their skills. When it’s your turn to post or play, you’ll roll your “active” values, and compare them to the “passive” values of your opponents. For example, when attacking you’ll roll your attack modifier against the passive defensive value of your opponent. When your opponent attacks YOU, he’ll do the same, rolling his attacks against your defenses. This ensures that you’ll never have to wait to see whether or not your attack hits. The entire game is designed to make sure that you never have to “wait” for another poster to tell you what the results of your actions are.

Q: How do weapons and damage work?
A: Weapons have AP Costs, accuracy, and damage values. Weapons (and all other types of equipment) also have encumbrance values, which count against a character’s encumbrance capacity. The accuracy of a weapon, combined with the wielder’s skill levels with the relevant weapon skill, determine how much a character may add to his roll, when attacking. A successful hit prompts the attacker to compare his damage value to his opponent’s Endurance value. If the opponent’s Endurance value is higher, the defender receives a bruise, which effectively lowers his Endurance value. If the attacker’s damage value is the higher value, the defender receives an injury level instead (or two injury levels if the value is twice as high, three if the value is three times as high, and so on). There are six levels of health and injury: uninjured, lightly injured, moderately injured, seriously injured, critically injured, and dead.

Q: How does armor work?
A: Armor adds additional “layers” of protection over a character’s health. A character loses armor levels before injury levels. Heavy armor adds more levels than lighter armor does, but also have higher encumbrance values. A character over his or her encumbrance capacity finds the AP cost of his move action increased. Thus, a character with greater levels of protection is also slower, and has less AP to spend or save after moving.

Q: How about shields?
A: Shields have AP costs, and encumbrance and size values. A character must save an amount of AP at least equal to the AP cost of his or her shield in order to attempt to block with it, with larger shields sporting higher AP costs. Larger shields also tend to have larger size values, which is a good thing. A shield can only block a certain range of attacks; a creature’s size value (or the encumbrance value of a character’s weapon) must be equal to or less than a shield’s size value in order for that shield to stand any chance of blocking it. Thus, a light shield is easier to use, and may be used more often (because it has a lower AP cost), but cannot block attacks against large weapons like warhammers, ogre’s clubs, or dragon’s fangs. Conversely, a large tower shield might have a size value high enough to block such attacks, but the AP cost of such a shield would be much higher.

Q: What about spells? How does magic work?
A: Spells are just abilities with magical themes and keywords, and abilities can take just about any form. A warrior’s proficiencies, a thief’s thievery, a sorcerer’s sorceries, or a priest’s prayers. Spells and abilities have AP costs and varied effects. Each class will manage different resources and call upon wildly different abilities in order to survive.

Q: Is there a map, or a grid?
A: There is no grid. There might be a map, but it’s more of a flowchart than anything else. Movement is an abstract system. Each encounter will be divided into a small handful of “zones,” and any number of PCs and NPCs might occupy a zone.
   For example, the players might enter an underground graveyard. The graveyard is divided into three sections, a narrow cavern, and the eastern and western halves of the graveyard itself. The GM will announce that the narrow cavern is adjacent to the eastern yard, and the eastern yard is adjacent to both the narrow cavern and the western yard. Characters can spend AP to move from zone to adjacent zone, or to move (or attempt to move) into or out of melee with other characters in their zone. The players and GM will track and announce who is moving where, and who is in melee with whom. This system frees the players from having to rely on a graphical map (which can be difficult and time-consuming for GMs to maintain), while still providing opportunities for dynamic and tactically-interesting combats, and tactical choices related to movement and position.