Thursday, January 10, 2008

Roleplaying Forum System

Venura was the best roleplaying forum I had ever seen. The support for multiple characters, intuitive layout, nested forums, and the realms were all wonderful. Having started a list below, allow me to do so up here as well:

1. Multiple characters under the same account - using a drop-down menu, you could always post under your character's name in the in-game thread no matter how many games you were in as how many different characters. This also allowed a GM to post as NPCs.

2. Realms. While each realm was essentially just another subforum on the mother forum of Venura and, thus, all the customization in appearance and permissions could be duplicated on another forum system, the manner in which realms were set apart reinforced the idea that you were in a different game with different rules.

3. Subscribing to a realm. Outside of the GM assigning you a higher rank, players earn rank through post count and longevity in a realm. It duplicates a reputation system.

4. Watched threads. You click "Watch" at the end of a thread and any new post will show up as a lightbulb on your control panel. You can then jump directly to that new post and, if you are watching several threads with new posts, you can jump to the next in turn.

5. Custom titles. Forum systems tend to grant a title based on post count or show a custom title (either granted by the admin or chosen by the user). Venura does all three. You default to your reputation title in the realm (based on post count and longevity). The GM can also set custom titles but they appear in a drop menu so you can choose which to use on each post.

6. Hidden threads/forums. This is something I know you could do in EzBoard but it was difficult compared to Venura. Select a thread or an entire forum and click Hide. Now only the GM can see it. You can also set it up so only certain people can see it. I did this in my Reign of Steel realm so each player would have his own subforum.

But it did lack certain features of other, more consistent roleplaying forums (though Venura's lack of consistency was due to server trouble rather than lacking these features).

1. A built in dice roller.
2. Hidden/private text (only viewable by the GM and the intended recipient) within a thread. You could hide a particular post in a thread but only those with admin-level permission could see them. So you could not hide text for more than one person as they would be able to see each other's hidden posts.
3. Post editing.
4. Enter thread at your last post.
5. A built-in or more update-friendly map system (I ran a D&D game on Venura using the built-in image hosting for realms but that meant erasing my old map for each update; anyone reading through the game after the fact would have a link to the map from the end of the game at every combat post).

And the reason I wrote this post was an idea I had last night. We were discussing a massive play-by-post game and Kadh mentioned several ideas from his own play-by-post forum to facilitate gameplay. Rather than just an in-character and out-of-character thread, he counseled:

"a combat thread to keep track of initiative and active effects,
a spell thread to keep track of who has what spells available and how many of them have been used,
a discussion thread,
a gameplay thread,
a q&A thread so that the GM can answer questions without them filling up the gameplay or combat threads,
and a map thread if a map is hosted on some other location you'll want an easily updatable link that doesn't slow down any of the other threads."

Now, my idea stemmed from this. What about a forum where all these threads were one. I pictured the main thread being the roleplaying/"in-character" thread and being completely unmarred. You could read through it like a story without a single mention of initiative or facing or questions. Then, hidden behind or to the side, would be one or more little tabs where all the out-of-character crap would go. You read the guy's post, you need to know where he ended up after charging, so you click on the map icon on the right side of the post and the map field heads to the top of the stack. It could overtake (completely cover), overlay (partially cover), or deform (share space with) the in-game post. There would also be tabs for combat, spells, or whatever you needed. And these tabs could be configured to stay with each individual post or be thread-wide (clicking the tab changes all the posts to the appropriate tab).

This removes the need to jump from thread to thread or open multiple windows just to keep track of the entire game while still leaving the default thread an uncluttered, unbroken, in-game read.

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