I’m curious what people’s experiences with this style of play have been. There are two general things that I think would be interesting! I personally for various life reasons just can’t really get a live game going, and I’m not really in a great position to do one shots (and honestly, I don’t love one shots…I like campaigns). I’ve been interested in trying to delve into async play, but it seems like it’s not a super popular niche. Still, I’m curious to discuss!
First, what systems/games do you think work particularly well for this sort of play? Or particularly poorly. I’m also interested in perhaps like tweaks to games that make them work better with this style of play, though ideally without sort of hacking them into something that is unrecognizable (I’ve seen a number of PBF “tweaks for PBF” that end up streamlining them into…a freeform rpg).
Second, I’m curious about what sort of new game oriented towards PBF might be interesting, but sort of make the most of the format. I generally like crunchier games, which often…don’t work great async, because of the back and forth required. For example, I think Burning Wheel would be hard to run async without some real tweaks to skills rolls, because the game generally requires some back and forth between player and gm around what happens if there’s success, failure, applicable supporting skills etc.
----- (now my own thoughts)
From the systems I know, I think something like Dungeon World would be fine, since it’s already pretty streamlined. I just don’t find DW super interesting. Still, I know many people who’ve run it successfully.
I think D&D can get pretty slow online…combat just has lots of little steps. In general, I think a good async game is one that minimizes the amount of back and forth. It’s not that players can’t interact, but I think it just needs to minimize how much negotiation, rolling, etc is necessary for a particular action. A mechanic I think would be interesting is sort of, letting players speculatively do things. In a play by forum context, the player could say “assuming players B and C agree…” then spoiler the rest, and then if they get the agreement it becomes canon. The tricky part of this is that it requires players very willing to invest in and then potentially throw away stuff.
I think Ars Magica’s system is actually incredibly well suited to this, though I’ve never actually run it. The game is built around each player having an ensemble, and everyone being in the same place is quite rare. This is perfect for async play, as it means each player can sort of do their own thing.
I’m waiting for the finalized rules to come out, but I think Hearts of Wulin might be a pretty good fit (and hope to try an online async game when the finished rules come out). The key is that they really streamlined combat, and the focus on melodrama I think plays to the strength of async play, where players can really think through and ham up their posts.
I actually think Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish Granting Engine would make a great async game, it’s just hard to find people willing to invest in the weird rules and the weird system. But the mechanics of the game line up very nicely with online play, I think. You say what you want to happen, and it largely does. The game is sort of built around people creating and narrating scenes that help them and the group achieve goals. I would also love to try and get a pbf of chuubo’s off the ground, though past attempts failed.
Still, I’m curious about games that play to the strengths of async play, especially more mechanically rich ones. I’m really interested in the game Lancer, for example, but given it’s built around tactical mech combat…will probably suffer from the same issues that D&D does.