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Playing-by-email

Of recent we have been considering playing this round-by-round via email due to schedule conflicts amongst the players/DM. Ethan has yet to comment on the topic but I would like this to be a discussion on who could participate like this (do you have email access most/all the time? Will you have some way of generating random numbers while out? Whats the longest time in a day between times you can get on a computer?) Think of this as a back-up method, if we are unable to find a meeting time, we can go turn by turn via email, only as fast as our slowest responder (which may still be fast if we can figure out how to link texting to email) but it will be better than nothing. Anyone who has an iPhone or simular phone with internet can get email whenever and can basically always take their turn, so I’d like to know just how fast we might be able to run this. Of course, if Ethan can’t keep up, then its scrapped.

Ethan’s (DM’s) position: unlikely to work as the primary means of play, but could be used as a backup. I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to update on some days, but we could try it – as Cadin said, it’s better than nothing.

One issue we might have: conflicting actions. Let’s say the party is sneaking up on a bandit camp. One player decides to rush in, flinging spells or steel left and right. Another player wants to be more cautious. In a real game, or even in a game using some form of chat system (IRC, AIM, Skype…), it’s easy to interrupt the reckless character – you’re right there (although the reckless player still gets grapple checks :-P). But in an emailed game, you might not notice it immediately. We’d have to figure out how to strike the right balance between fast turnaround, and not dragging the entire party into a bad situation just because everyone was too busy to object.

Random useful thought from Ethan: using Twitter could do wonders for this play-by-email/SMS idea.

BOOTS SAYS THUSLY: I won’t have access to the web all the time, and certainly not for email. I would cast my vote for having something arranged via AIM or something else that is instant and can be used as a chat room. One thing that worries me is that there is minimal expression in typing, and therefore there might be less liveliness to the game. Maybe not though..

dylanryan Just some random thoughts: It seems like people are wondering about seeing other people’s emails. First off, if everyone uses “reply-all” instead of “reply”, then everyone will get every email, so everyone knows precisely what everyone else did. Also, if people don’t like that, I am considering setting up a gmail account and have it automatically bounce emails. As an example, i might make something like “campaign-boradcast@gmail.com” (but it will be a pain to find one that isn’t taken) – then, we all email just to that account, and it automatically forwards all messages it gets to everyone except the sender. so, a simple reply always goes back to that master account, which then rebroadcasts everything. So then, all that you have to do is hit reply and everything “just works”. I am thinking of many other such uses for gmail accounts, and have invites galore if anyone wants a new email just for play-by-email purposes (to keep the game separate from other emails)

In terms of my free time, this/next week is my finals (hence my not looking at this site forever), then I have a week off. Thereafter, i basically have classes in til 3 every day, BUT i have an iPhone so I can do email/SMS any time except for 3 hours thursday morning (lab). Note that I am something of an email addict, usually my response time is in the 2-minute range, so email basically is my SMS.

My main problem is that I very likely will NOT have much contiguous free time nights, because I have a rough schedule next quarter. I can dedicate 30 minutes here, 10 minutes there, but I will rarely be able to do a 2 or 3 hour block. Friday night (or weekends) is the only time I will even seriously consider, because any other night the probability of having to bail to finish homework (there is a picture of me next to “procrastinate” in the dictionary) is insanely high.

I am also willing to do a lot of extra work to get some form of fast dataflow going (again, 20 minutes here and there adds up, and I love computer programming), including integrating email and SMS (I already know how to send an email to SMS, and theoretically the SMS reply would go to that email address). Thinking of more pseudo-hacking of gmail accounts to have a SMS broadcast account (similar to the above), so again there is just one central account that everyone sends emails/SMS to, and it deals with sending it out to everyone (I think this is vital – everyone needs to know what everyone else is doing). that also ensures there is one central log of all the events, if anyone’s computer crashes and they need to re-download something.

Twitter and the like could also work, although I’ve never used it.

I can also do AIM, or if we’d prefer I can get gmail accounts for everyone and we can use googletalk (I like google because of all their fancy filters and things, so yeah. I will push google).

(As a side note, I’ll have character data up tomorrowish, having trouble thinking of a name I can live with. Long story short: female wood elf druid with a bow. So, initially she’ll be a ranged combat and support caster/healer, and when wild shape shows up she’ll start having some interesting melee options as well. Sorry, this is just a really bad week for me, I am usually insanely fast on such things)

Bootsy: I would like to see the gmail thing go through. The best part about gmail is that if someone isnt available for direct chat like AIM, they can hopefully email. if someone doesnt want to email or get on gmail, they can use aim (which connects with gmail seamlessly i believe. gmail provides two chat services, an email client, and probably other things too. also twitter is more or less king, its a giant whiteboard in the cloud. other than that tho, i dont really care what we do, as long as it allows people to talk with a degree of clarity and also emotionality.

dylanryan: I am working on making gmail do what I want it to. It looks like making it roll dice for us is out, they block javascript. But if anyone wants a gmail invite, email me at dylanryan [at] mac [dot] com, probably mention D&D or something in the subject just so that I can tell at-a-glance who you are. Ideally, we could all get [our character’s name] @ gmail or some such.

Also, just a random thought: How do we want to handle dialogue in non-Common languages? Obviously, the DM needs full english text of everything that is said, but should a player whose character doesn’t understand elvish really know what is said when two elves start talking in elvish (or two dwarves talk in dwarvish, or w/e)? They need to know that SOMETHING is being said, and an approximate length of what is being said (to distinguish between “hi” -> “hi” -> “Ok, see ya” -> “yeah, later” and a 10 minute conversation), but should they really know exactly what was said? There is an argument that they maybe should get any emotional indications (even if you don’t speak the language you can tell the difference between “Hi, how’s it going” and “i hate your guts and am going to kill you you bastard”) so we might need/want to come up with some standardized way of indicating emotions so that I can not transform those. Hypothetical example, consider something like: ((language=elvish)#angry#That guy just shot me!)” might get translated into something like ”#angry#Qdaq cub pdoq je!” for a non elvish speaker (and maybe something closer to the original if the character doesn’t speak elvish per se but does speak some other language that uses the elvish alphabet? real world example: an english speaker is more likely to catch more spanish than japanese if they do not know either of those languages)

My thought, although it is probably going to be a pain to make work, is to somehow run filters on the emails, changing something like “((language=elvish)some text)” into essentially gibberish (just a simple letter swap code probably) for any players whose characters don’t understand elvish, and leaving it as is if the the player’s character does know the language (or for the DM, who as I said really needs to know everything that is said). Problem is, I am not entirely sure how to do that, gmail is resisting my attempts to use javascript on emails it automatically forwards. So I guess the main question is, how does everyone else feel when it comes to talking in non-Common languages? If no one really cares, I’ll leave it, but if anyone else would like to see something like this (or if you have any other ideas? if we communicate entirely on things like this or twitter, I might be able to use CSS to just change to a unreadable font like Zapf Dingbats, but problem is then selecting and copy-pasting that section into a different program returns to plain english), then I’ll continue trying to set something up (I am starting to contemplate using one of my computers as a sort of relay server to handle all this editing for me – that is, we all send our email to a master account, my computer which is always on and connected to the internet checks the master account and gets the email, that computer runs any transformations necessary, and then bounces the modified email off to everyone. (well, this computer would have to keep a record of what characters know what languages, and then it sends a specifically modified email to each person so that it all works) ~1 minute latency added to all messages worst-case-scenario, adds 30 seconds on average). As I said, this week is hard due to finals, but I have the next week off and am willing to do a lot of random programming if the consensus is we want some awesome feature. It is also entirely possible that something like twitter would be more amenable to me doing javascript transforms on text, so I might be able to mess around with that, or some such. Again, I am just throwing ideas out there. I like programming and making random work for myself, so if anyone else has ideas, I’ll try and make them fly.

Also, i SWEAR I wrote this last night, but maybe not. Anyone with internet access can get decent dice rollers online (random.org is good). If you don’t have that on your phone, just about any model of TI calculator (even non-graphing) usually has a rand or randInt function (usually under probability or statistics). I bet most other brands of calculators do, as well. worst case scenario, if your phone can run java applications and you know how to install java applications on them, I can write you one. Everyone needs access to some kind of random numbers or we are well and truly screwed. (you can also click the dice icon at the top of this page – Cadin)

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Wings of Redemption dylanryan