Update: there is a follow-up review posted 6 months later.
For those of us older than 14,1 this post is about a concept I only learned about recently, and that is playing Dungeons and Dragons via “play by post” (pbp).
Dungeons and Dragons, as a fantasy role-playing game has always been about playing as a group, preferably a group you already know and have a good rapport with (friends, co-workers, family, etc).2 When I first played in high-school in the mid-1990’s, 2nd-edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons was all the rage, and I fondly remember playing the Darksun setting for many weekend hours at my friend’s house. Sometimes we’d play for almost an entire day at a time. We’d even stay late, cook some of that awful pan-popped popcorn (more like pan-seared), and play some more.
This is D&D at its best, in my opinion.
The perennial issue with D&D, however, is getting people to coordinate on a schedule.
For some groups who already hang out anyway, this is super easy, but for everyone else, it isn’t. Playing a single “one-shot” adventure is often doable, as is Adventurer’s League (which I wholeheartedly support), but for everything else, you run into the perennial risk of D&D campaign running out of steam because someone’s schedule changes, or it just gets too hard to sustain.
This is where Play by Post comes in.
I had to stop playing Adventurer’s League late last year after the family schedule changed and conflicted with my Monday nights, and to be honest I was pretty bummed about it. I loved my local AL community. I spent most of that time focusing on personal module writing projects, which I do enjoy, but it is no substitute for just playing with friends.
Recently, one of the other AL guys had to drop out of as well due to a new baby, so he organized a private Discord channel for doing Adventurer’s League via Play By Post. The module we currently play, the venerable Bounty in the Bog, is a normally 4-hour module, but we’ve been playing for a week because we post replies and comments throughout the day, like any Internet forum you might find:
In this channel I play a new character, Fenmaer Wasanthi, a high elf cleric (forge domain) who I had originally planned to use for Season 10 AL and never got to use. Problems with Season 10 are for another day. Anyhow, I liked this character and was happy to finally dust him off and use him in Adventurer’s League, and with the PBP format, I don’t have to block out 4 hours a week away from wife and kids (always an awkward experience). It’s as easy as anything else you do on social-media so it fits into existing schedules.
Further, it allows more time to go in-depth on the role-playing side of things, which is normally hard to do in Adventurer’s League because you drop into adventures, and play under a time constraint (no time for 18-page backstories). I can think about what I want Fenmaer to do, why, and flesh out his personality a bit more.
The one challenge is getting used to the pace. Normally when you’re playing D&D, it’s an interactive, conversational experience, and now I have to get used to no updates for hours, or even as long as a day. Our DM has commitments outside of this, and may be gone a day or more, so it’s weird not keeping a consistent pace, but on the other side, knowing that I can work in my D&D game in the rest of my life seamlessly (5-10 minutes a day so far) has been really nice.
Plus, for us old timers, it kind of harks back to good old text-based games anyway. 😉
1 I have definitely reached the point in my life where my teenage daughter (known in older blogs as “princess”) has surprised my “web saavy”.
2 A friendly reminder that sometimes no D&D is sometimes better than bad D&D. Having a group of people you get along with well before you start, and regardless of whether you play D&D or not, makes a huge difference. Coming together with strangers just for the sake of D&D is a risky endeavor, unless it’s in a structured environment such as Adventurer’s League.