Asynchronous Plots in Ares



  • A lot of us are still adapting to what the web portal enables in Ares. It's so different from what we've done in the past.

    'Whaaat? A player can participate in an on-game scene without logging in?!'
    'So I can do my entire scene with someone much like I would in GDocs....and the log is already good to go?'

    I'm trying to take it a step further (at least for me):
    @Paradox has a difficult schedule for playing and he's been dedicating what online time he has to providing for the players (be it working jobs, running scenes, or just being present). I am a firm believer that staff should get to play, too.
    Additionally, I have some players in non-US timezones (Australia, UK, and Norway off the top of my head).

    Paradox and I happen to have a very similar schedule right now, so most 'live' scenes are going to be run starting around 7-9p CST. That's not ideal for everyone. I'll be able to run some on weekends earlier in the day, but even so.

    As such, I decided I wanted to try running a plot entirely through the portal. I made certain my 'testers' understood that it may be a full 24 hours between poses sometimes (between RL schedules, differing timezones, etc.) and that the scene will be considered to have occurred (game-time) once it's completed (for example: if the scene began on the 8th of September and finished on the 20th of September, they'd consider it as having occurred on the 20th of September).

    The reason for this is multi-faceted. Players can fold in 'current knowledge' instead of having to pretend a scene on the 10th hasn't happened because they're still RPing the 8th. Players don't have to worry about 'oh shit I got badly injured......but I RP'd a scene today that-'

    I think we can all understand the logic behind that! ;)

    I'm only a few days into the first plot run this way, but I have a few observations so far:

    Pros-

    • As the ST, I have more time to dedicate to my responses. Instead of being pressed for time after calling for an Alertness check, I can take my time to craft customized responses to each person ('Because of your background in X, you see...' 'While gazing off in <direction mentioned in PC pose>, you spot...'
    • I can spend time between ST poses/actions considering each PC, what they're doing, and how can I craft this to be poignant to them?
    • I have time to adapt my plot outline as necessary ("OK, they skipped past that which means this encounter doesn't happen now, but happens over here instead with this adjustment...")
    • I can take more extensive notes.
    • Players who don't otherwise get to be involved in plot have an opportunity (and they may also play with people they otherwise wouldn't!).

    Cons-

    • I have to take extensive notes (this is love/hate: having notes is fuckin' awesome, but if I forget to notate something the likelihood of forgetting it later increases).
    • Players might become bored and lose interest because they're waiting so long between actions.

    Learning Notes-

    • Absolutely encourage players to give you permission to roll for them. Ares makes it easy to roll for someone*, so getting this permission will help expedite things.
    • Don't be afraid to 'guide' people a bit. This is something often needed in all plots (how often do you feel like your players are meandering and waiting for someone to make a definitive decision? In case of asynch play: make it for them if they're waffling). This also includes 'tell someone what you want them to roll.' Make safe assumptions. 'I mentioned a computer present, so I'm going to ask Bob-the-Hacker to roll Computers.'
    • The sort of anxiety that comes with running scenes is gone. I'm able to take my time, focus, and think things through (vs. the pressure of 'oh god everyone's eyes are on me!' stage fright sensation). This may mean this is a method that would be fantastic for newbie STs or those who are often too nervous to ST (but want to nonetheless).

    *I will note that in the current iteration of the web portal, you cannot roll for a PC. You can roll for NPCs (providing the total ability score), but not 'roll Bob's Computers.' The game does allow this, so my workaround is to scene/join the scene in question on the game and make the roll there (roll <name>/<skill>). It'll still apply it to the log, just not as convenient as doing it from the web portal when you're already there.


    All that said, I wanted to share my concept and what I've learned after just a few days of trialing the idea. I'll likely update this as time passes with any other observations / learning opportunities, but since I have players who are really into the idea: maybe you would too.


  • Pitcrew

    @Auspice said in Asynchronous Plots in Ares:

    • Absolutely encourage players to give you permission to roll for them. Ares makes it easy to roll for someone*, so getting this permission will help expedite things.

    Do you need permission? All our STs roll for people all the time. Like, I get it from a tabletop perspective because you physically touch the dice and people have their own special dice they BELIEVE IN, but when dice-rolling is just typing in a command, do people actually get upset when someone else rolls for them? <.<

    roll Bob/Alertness is a lot more efficient than p bob=Please roll alertness. and then waiting for him to do it.

    That aside, the one suggestion I might make is to give people a "next round will start on or around date/time" heads up. Like, "I'll be planning to do the next GM emit on Tuesday at 4pm, so try to get your replies in by then!" This has been a best practice I use more and more, since some people can type a pose in 5 minutes and some want 45. It just makes it so no one is surprised.



  • @krmbm said in Asynchronous Plots in Ares:

    @Auspice said in Asynchronous Plots in Ares:

    • Absolutely encourage players to give you permission to roll for them. Ares makes it easy to roll for someone*, so getting this permission will help expedite things.

    Do you need permission? All our STs roll for people all the time. Like, I get it from a tabletop perspective because you physically touch the dice and people have their own special dice they BELIEVE IN, but when dice-rolling is just typing in a command, do people actually get upset when someone else rolls for them? <.<

    I probably do not, but I feel better getting peoples' permission. After all, they may want to argue a different route ('I'd like to use my BG skill for Cyber Security and check the computer for any notable backdoors, hacks, or stroke recorders first.').

    If they're OK with me making the 'best choice,' then I am happy to do so. But I understand some people would not want the choice made for them.

    That aside, the one suggestion I might make is to give people a "next round will start on or around date/time" heads up. Like, "I'll be planning to do the next GM emit on Tuesday at 4pm, so try to get your replies in by then!" This has been a best practice I use more and more, since some people can type a pose in 5 minutes and some want 45. It just makes it so no one is surprised.

    I do this in live events (as does Paradox). People who have been in scenes ST'd by me are likely well familiar with my 'You get 15 minutes between combat rounds to pose' and then '2 minute warning before I roll combat'.

    So far, for the portal plot, I've told people that they're free to pose 'around' someone (within obvious reason) to keep things going. I'll see how things go before I consider enforcing deadlines, but it might be a good idea.



  • Couple misc thoughts:

    • I don't feel the need to ask for permission to roll their skills for them. Sure, you can sometimes lose the nuance of the back-and-forth negotiation of what modifiers apply, etc., but I just don't care :) Keeping things moving in a scene is more important to me. Doubly so when there are lengthy delays between each query/response.

    • I've done a bunch of async RP through storium and have found that scene/move deadlines definitely help set expectations and keep things from stalling. It's just like stating the 15-minute pose rules in combat scenes, only on a longer timeframe.

    • I really don't think I'd be comfortable doing significant async RP in a mush environment unless it was a backscene where the bare sketches of the outcome were already pre-determined. Otherwise it's almost like being in a really weird time stop. How can you RP a scene on Tuesday evening with your buddies when you don't know if you died/got seriously injured/lost a friend/got captured/whatever in that adventure that ICly took place Monday night? I just have trouble wrapping my brain around how that would work, practically speaking.



  • @faraday said in Asynchronous Plots in Ares:

    How can you RP a scene on Tuesday evening with your buddies when you don't know if you died/got seriously injured/lost a friend/got captured/whatever in that adventure that ICly took place Monday night? I just have trouble wrapping my brain around how that would work, practically speaking.

    This is exactly why it's more 'forward-scening' the way I'm doing it.

    The events of the plot have not occurred yet. So if one of the PCs gets shot tomorrow in the plot, it doesn't affect the scene they're having live on-game tonight because it hasn't happened yet.

    It will be considered to have happened once it is finished. So if we finish this current scene on August 28th: the events therein will be considered to have occurred on August 28th.

    This way I don't have to tell them the outcome in advance (I'd personally not enjoy that as a player! I wanna be surprised) or be concerned with things like 'I know this happened on the 8th, but today (the 16th), I bought a brand new BG skill that applies....'



  • @Auspice Yeah I hear you. To me that doesn't really solve the continuity issues, it just shifts them. If I get shot in the scene that's live on-game tonight it disrupts the plot RP that's "pending".

    But I'm finnicky about continuity so I know my feelings are not universal. I know there are entire games run without much regard to continuity. And I'm glad to see folks trying new things. So don't mind me :)



  • @faraday said in Asynchronous Plots in Ares:

    @Auspice Yeah I hear you. To me that doesn't really solve the continuity issues, it just shifts them. If I get shot in the scene that's live on-game tonight it disrupts the plot RP that's "pending".

    But I'm finnicky about continuity so I know my feelings are not universal. I know there are entire games run without much regard to continuity. And I'm glad to see folks trying new things. So don't mind me :)

    Considering I can count the number of people I've seen rp an injury past the day it occurred on one hand...

    I'm not too worried.



  • @Auspice It's been a bigger deal on many of the combat games I've been on, but injuries are just a simple example. The same can apply to literally any piece of a scene. A conversation that was had, a piece of knowledge that was gained... basically anything that can have an impact on the character's state of mind or behavior.

    It's not just a hypothetical for me; I've been in backscenes and forwardscenes and had a devil of a time dealing with stuff that occurred outside of the linear chronology in my head. But again, that's just one perspective, not meant to discourage you from doing what works for you and other like-minded folks.



  • @faraday
    Back when I used to RP Exalted on java chats there was a well established concept of the story 'bubble' where if you were taking part of some kind of storyline that took several sessions and usually several weeks to play out, then for purposes of your day to day RP on the grid those events havn't happened yet and it was only after the last of those scenes finish and the group comes back home the bubble collapses and those events become real.



  • @Groth I get the idea. But that doesn't really make practical sense. What if you were killed in your day-to-day RP? Or started dating someone? Or any number of other things that could dramatically change or invalidate any "it hasn't happened yet" RP.



  • @Tinuviel said in Asynchronous Plots in Ares:

    @Groth I get the idea. But that doesn't really make practical sense. What if you were killed in your day-to-day RP? Or started dating someone? Or any number of other things that could dramatically change or invalidate any "it hasn't happened yet" RP.

    If you do something that really bungles up the timeline, obviously you'll have to retcon something or another. Generally whatever happens on-grid has precedence so if it's something really minor like a character getting a tattoo or something, you just add that to the bubbled scene but if it's something really major like a character dying you might just have to ditch the entire scene and say it never happened. As far as retcons go it's very manageable since it wasn't considered real yet, it's just unfortunate for the participants since most people want their adventures to be impactful and real.

    However in practical terms on most MU there's not all that much happening in day to day RP, people usually don't get murdered and maimed and if a player is involved with a bubbled scene they can try to avoid putting themselves into silly dangerous situations on the realtime grid. On some games such as HorrorMux that might not be the case, but for a game like say Arx unmanageable timeline issues will be rare.

    On those Exalted games scene bubbling was reserved for plots/adventures where the timeline wasn't important and there was plenty of room to rejigger things to make the chronology make sense. In situations where the timeline was important, such as if a bunch of characters wanted to steal the big-bads mcguffin or whatever the participating characters would get locked and not allowed to RP on-grid until after the scene was resolved.



  • We'll just have to disagree, then. And I'll stand by my hope that asynchronous plots don't become the norm even remotely.


  • Pitcrew

    I'm someone who also really can't handle bending my continuity very far (I regularly get frustrated if I don't know where text scenes fit in the scheme of the other scenes I've had in a day). BUT.

    I also think that this is a really cool thing and one of the real strengths of Ares. I'd probably never run one that went more than a couple of days, where you could REASONABLY be paused if you wanted to, but we've used it to good effect to run scenes for players in differing timezones over the span of a day or two. Stuff that might take two hours in real time, but spread out.

    Also, because the portal isn't reliant on a telenet connection, you can throw up a quick pose around chores or work or kids, or even on the bus on your commute via your phone.

    I used to be someone who truly hated slow scenes - and they still aren't my favorite - but as I've gotten older and busier, I have REALLY come to appreciate the flexibility this gives me as both a GM and a player.



  • @Groth I understand the concept; I’ve been in story bubbles before. I just don’t like the experience of RP that has a higher likelihood of retcon, and I have a harder time keeping continuities straight. Like @Tinuviel I would not want it to become the norm. But async RP has always happened in MUs, and I’m glad that Ares gives folks more tools to do it.



  • @Tinuviel said in Asynchronous Plots in Ares:

    @Groth I get the idea. But that doesn't really make practical sense. What if you were killed in your day-to-day RP? Or started dating someone? Or any number of other things that could dramatically change or invalidate any "it hasn't happened yet" RP.

    The concept already depends on people being okay with finding some way to justify it. We already bend time, as Tat puts it, when we say what time of day or if something can happen after or before some other scene. We used to have “night zones” for Vampire players. Time bubbles with combat time stops (as horrible as those wretches were). We’ve gotten in some good practice.

    So if you can let go the idea that Mush time is strictly chronological, then it should be manageable in those rare times where something that divergent does happen.

    I understand your level of concern (Ares Discord is tired of mine, so boy do I understand), but I don’t think it’s worth putting too much worry into besides as a conversation piece.


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