My good friend Jonathan came up with these excellent points for the other pbp game I’m running, and they’ve served me well. My emendations are in brackets. This is all good stuff to keep in mind:
1) Keep your plot-progression expectations modest.
Bear in mind that it may take MONTHS for us to fully roleplay through [a session]. The reality is that while SOME of us could probably post several times a day, there are others who may not be able to. It is probably the most realistic to hope that we can sustain a pace of one post per day for five out of every seven days. This means that depending on our schedules, it could take over a week to have a full conversation between three people. That’s ok – provided we all understand it. [Experience has shown that a reasonably quick pace can be maintained if the GM is on his toes and understands the limitations and strengths of the medium.]
2) Short posts are the backbone of the game.
In the games I’ve played and run […] people hopped on instant messenger and hammered out long and elaborate posts with dialog between whoever could get on at the time. That’s all well and good – but I’m doubtful many of us could sustain that very long at all. Instead, simply tossing up a post detailing your character’s reactions when appropriate, or an action and line of dialog are sufficient. This is one reason the game will move forward slowly.
A good rule of thumb is the DnD 3.5 6 second combat turn. Each of us should probably stick to whatever we could accomplish in one turn of combat, even if we’re just chatting around the fire. This gives other people a chance to chime in.
[For combat it’s best to give me an idea of your general tactics/what you might do in special cases; that way I can make a combat session one long post rather than a number of smaller ones spread over a week or more. Whenever a key decision is to be made, rest assured I’ll pause things for everyone.]
3) Keep the GM/players informed of your schedule.
Going to be submerged underwater for an entire month? Going on vacation to the mainland? Getting married? Just let everyone know what’s up ahead of time. If you’re going to be away an extended time, it can be helpful to tell the GM what your overall intentions are so that he can NPC you if necessary while you’re gone.
4) Don’t leave the other players behind
It is possible that a few characters may have a back and forth conversation or series of actions in rapid succession because they are online enough to respond to each other quickly. This is probably fine, provided that other characters aren’t around to be involved. Otherwise, try to not get more than 3 or so “turns” ahead of whoever else is present. It’d be a shame for one of us to log on all excited to set up for the upcoming firefight only to find that two others have already taken care of it entirely while we were at work.
5) Be Patient!
This can be a heckuvalotta fun, but we all have to have the mindset that it’s going to move slowly. As long as we keep that in mind, there’s a real good chance of this game having a healthy long life and producing a story that will keep us talking for some time.