Lesson Learned from play-by-shared-doc

I’ve had several sessions that fall apart as Play-By-Shared-Doc right about the time we get into a Conflict. That’s not to say when the group has a disagreement, just when the PCs seem to face a scene that a Conflict will best handle it.

I might be learning the wrong lesson. That is why I need to write this to the forum.

A session can generally handle simple obstacles and complex obstacles. Sometimes a player will lose a bit of time, but they’ll be back and mostly catch up to participate.

In contrast, I’ve found that a Conflict seems to lose steam very quickly. I suspect a few factors. Here is my hypothesis:

[li]A Conflict Goal doesn’t connect (enough) with a session Goal so the player loses interest
[/li][li]A volley of Actions takes too long to adjudicate so a player loses interest
[/li][li]A character lacks the skills so the player feels disinterested or disenfranchised
[/li][li]The topic of the Conflict lacks ties to the major story threads so players don’t want the risks and compromises
[/li][li]The Friends or Enemies are not being drawn into the Conflict so players don’t see the point

So, while I like running sessions on a shared document, I’m frequently left with an impression that I’ll never have a continuous run of sessions that lead to a Winter Session. I get the feeling that I’ll never have a lengthy campaign.

I’m considering a few changes to the playstyle of running a play-by-post or play-by-shared-doc campaign. Here is what I’m thinking of:

[li]Run a solo campaign with a cadre of DM NPCs that accompany a solo Guard member
[/li][li]Replace any possible conflict with a Complex Obstacle or borrow the Linked Test concept from BWG
[/li][li]Reduce the number of untested choices; narrate freely, then place the obstacle at hand; let the player decide how to confront the obstacle
[/li][li]Always have a plan for how an obstacle can be faced; never leave an open question for players to guess; increase transparency
[/li][li]Let loose the meta of sharing the villain’s (whether animal, mice, weather, or wilderness) objectives, thoughts, feelings, or actions; let the player share in the secrets

I might still fail to keep up interest levels. Certainly, unexpected events and stress in the lives of players can derail a session. Overall, I’m most concerned that I’ve misapplied my experiences in the lesson learned.

I’ve still had this on my mind. As I’ve been thinking about the penalties created through the Hungry, Angry and Tired conditions, I realized that without using conflicts, those conditions just don’t sting.

If I reduce the number of conflicts in a play-by-whatever scheme, then I’ve got to make a fair, reasonable alteration to the conditions or I’ve got to hold on to conflicts, but alter them in a way to keep the conflict moving fast-pace.

What might you consider as penalties connected with the Hungry, Angry, and Tired conditions if you disconnected them from conflict disposition (as a GM)?

If the condition held no mechanical weight, and only mattered in respect to story, would you still feel a need to recover from conditions (as a PC)?

Without conflicts providing an arena in which the disposition were affected by conditions, can disposition be adapted to serve a function in complex obstacles or linked tests?

I’m sorta spit-balling, but a current game has the PC mouse Tired and Angry. Those only matter in the case of conflicts and story. At the moment, the story hasn’t got a conflict going, just a few tests. So, the anger and fatigue are not making an impact.

I’m fine with that right in the moment, but in the future, I’d like to reduce conflicts to keep the game moving. I want to ensure those rather light-handed conditions can still be used. If the mechanical weight is needed, I’d have to be using injury and illness far more often. I fear that would change the tone in a way I don’t want.