(Question)Why and why not play by post?

Basically, i am planning to start a ars magica campaign soon with some friends of mine and i wanted to know what you guys think, is it better to play on some voice-chat ( im planning to use discord) or should we play on a text-chat? What do you guys think i would gain by choosing either one or another? Thanks in advance! ( If you guys feel like it i would also love to hear about how you plan out your sessions and how is a "standard" game at your table)

I have been played ArM over VoIP (Discord/Hangout) for 3 years now, it works just fine. Having digital character sheets which are shared with the game master is very convenient for prepping sessions, and all troupe assets can also be in shared documents (vis ledger, Covenant library etc)

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Play by post and play by voice are two very different games, and each have interesting strengths.

Voice gives real time conversation with dedicated time slots. Firstly, this means that more ideas can be discussed before they are acted upon, and it is easier to make sure that everybody have their say. Secondly, the game is either on or off, and players know when to be active and when to get input, and when to do other things.

PbP is a more literary and less conversational style. It can be really good if the players write in some length, making some assumptions for the sake of flow, and avoid asking about minutiae. Even so, the intensity is variable and unpredictable. There is a risk of feeling obliged to be always on, which is exhausting, or the contrary, to forget the game and be off for too long.

I have had great fun with PbP, but over time it does not work for me. I fail to cope with the variable intensity. Some players drop enjoy it for longer than I do. Others drop even sooner. Voice, in contrast, works well for me. We have played for almost two years, with a pretty stable group for more than one year.

Voice allows you to "read the room" by listening to people's tone of voice and whether they seem engaged, struggling to come up with ideas, more interested in talking to people than doing casting spells, and so on. It also has immediacy, so people are more likely to engage.

Play by post is time-delayed and fragmentary, making it very easy for people to become less engaged and lose direction. This makes them very prone to players dropping out or the game collapsing, so you need to work at engagement in a way that is less natural than when you are playing face-to-face or by voice.

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The one major advantage to play by post is that it allows for flexible schedules, so everyone doesn't have to meet up at the same time in order to run the game. There are a lot of middle aged people in play by post, probably as an issue of who does or does not have time for live gaming.

You can also do a hybrid - the group I play with atm does a bit of both. A short session once a week over voice chat supplemented by some text channels (we use Discord) where we hash out plots play-by-post style.

To give a more concrete example in our last voice session it was two Magi and associates visiting Ashenrise in Hibernia. The main scene was a feast with a lot of conversation between various characters but one magus wanted to have a private conversation with the resident Tremere. So we'll run that conversation as play by post between it and the next session, letting us jump back in to the stuff focusing on a full cast of characters in the next voice session.

Generally we try and reserve anything with lots of player characters for voice, because it's much faster to do complex multi-character interactions over voice than text (at least for us). This is the "main story" in a sense.

Anything that involves just one or two player characters we do over text as and when we can find the time. Sometimes it's just some messages between voice sessions right up to slow burning months long play by post adventures. Things we've done using this are:

  • Two characters getting very involved in the Isle of Man/Hebrides without the other magi being aware of it.
  • Private dinners at tribunal meetings.
  • Mystery initiations and quests.
  • An expedition made by one magus to the Holy Land in search of a particular item.
  • Commissions for spells/items and correspondence with other magi.

Basically anything that needs to have an established outcome but which doesn't need the input of all the players, or which doesn't need to be resolved in a specific timeframe. It really helps us make best use of what limited regular play time we can get for a voice session. Best of both worlds in many ways - albeit with a bit of fudging needed if things don't line up perfectly timeline wise (e.g. we currently have an ongoing text adventure deciding the outcome of a tribunal case against the covenant, but the "main story" is already more than a year past the tribunal. Whoops).


My face to face group uses a Discord and shared files to handle a great many of the activities that happen in a fast time based game which would take time away from the play sessions when we are all together.

Seasonal activities such as lab work and studying, activities that would involve only the SG and one player, Covenant planning, finances and year events, etc. If it is something that does not require being played out (beyond one player and the SG), we handle it through post. This frees up as much time during out face to face sessions that we can focus on the actual role playing.

The same as Argentius pointed out, a hybrid approach in which you use the slow communication (posting, files) to cover support functions, non-time sensitive, and single character events with the fast communication (voice chat, face to face) to cover most role playing and group interactions works great.