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Forums » RP Discussion » Pacing issues

I play in a lot of tabletop games as well as the freeform RPs I do, and I've noticed something. The TTRPGs tend to have better pacing. A few hours of game time might see us complete a few small scenes or a larger scene, but for some reason, things drag out in freeform RPs.

Some of that is the nature of PBP, where it takes a couple days for me to reply and then waiting on my partner, and it's why I've started to prefer Discord, but even when playing live, things stall out. Part of the problem is me, it takes me 10-15m to write short paragraphs (I time it because me and one of my partners only have a few hours out of the day) and sometimes one of us just cannot think of anything to say for an hour. This was never a problem for me with tabletop games and I just wonder if there's something I can do about it?

I tried getting my tabletop group to play a BOB system to solve this problem. The freeform RPers thought "yeah, I don't need this" and the people coming from crunch-heavy games didn't think it had enough rules, so it died.

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I think having a dedicated GM is what makes the most difference. Without one, players have to weave the plot and background carefully and clearly so that their ideas are better understood, and may focus on small details that might otherwise be ignored by a GM who knows that their worldbuilding won't get broken by a miscommunication (and if it does, they just get to correct it and move on without issue). Further, if things start to bog down, the GM can push to speed things back up without having to worry about speaking out of turn or skipping something another player might want to focus on - it's their story, so they get to set the pace.

The presence of mechanics also comes into play, as players are actively interested in raising their stats, getting new equipment and trying out their new abilities. There's stronger motivation for not getting bogged down in the details. Plus the gamy elements put more focus on things like combat or skill tests that often end up being largely messy or boring in freeform RP. In return, the fun of a freeform RP is usually made in the relationship building and worldbuilding, and thus things typically slow down to focus more on the gritty details of conversation, body language and background detail.

As a semi-related note, communication form can also play into things, which is vaguely relevant as ttrpgs more commonly get played via voice chat compared to freeform RPs which in my experience are almost exclusively text-only. Voice chat can add an extra layer of embarrassment and awkwardness over certain RP scenes as well as a greater speed at articulating details, thus deep emotional stuff gets foreshortened (unless your player group happens to be on par with Critical Role's, I guess). RP interaction can also get shortened if someone is playing a character that they can't do justice with their voice (as a D&D DM, I feel incredibly awkward voicing cutesy things because I figure I sound terrible trying to do it, despite the fact that I love playing cutesy characters in freeform, so I try to limit the amount of voicework I have to do for such characters).

And at the end of the day, the slower and more focused the details are, the more chance there is for burnout or running out of ways to push things forwards.
Aardbei Topic Starter

I think that makes sense. I struggle to push things forward in a subtle way sometimes, and admittedly I do feel like the 'out' of awkwardness in voice makes it so I don't have to try to play a character who I like in concept but am terrible at realizing. And maybe for me, that extends beyond voice. (I am a god awful writer.) So part of it might also just be that people 'assume' my character is what they say they are in tabletop games, but there is some burden of proof on me in RP.

Well, I say that, but the social contract of assumptions only extends so far even in tabletop games, and far as I can tell, stops applying if you actively do something outside what your character is set up to be. However, most decisions on the part of the player are simple, whereas RP requires paragraphs of staying in-character and writing characters you don't understand leads to more chances for deviations in your character to occur... Which is also probably why it takes me 3 days to write 3 paragraphs sometimes. I wonder if that experience is more common than I think...

I do really need a way to mitigate this in GMless systems though. I can't imagine it's less frustrating for everyone involved just because there isn't a GM present, so there has to be a way to deal with it. Unfortunately the best solution I've found so far is to use Discord where live chat is possible since it means feedback or requests don't take a day or more to be seen by the other participants.

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