Friday 13 May 2011

Running a Call of Cthulhu pbem - Part Seven

One of the main components of a pbem is of course the e-mail system itself. One thing a Keeper is going to have to be prepared for is the fact that the e-mail folder is going to get very big, very quickly. My adventure, which ran from July 2010 to February 2011 had, at the last count, over two thousand e-mails. Even assuming that some of those were duplicates – and I’m pretty assiduous at deleting earlier versions of threads – the total is still pretty big.

Simple e-mails from the Keeper rapidly become threads which can run and run. Strategic deletion of earlier versions of threads is a necessity but beware getting too over-enthusiastic with the delete button – with multiple players may come replies to earlier e-mails that contain important information not held elsewhere and these replies may be mistaken for part of the thread. If your e-mail system allows you to file e-mails into individual folders, it may be a very good idea to allocate each player a folder into which their communications can be put. Of course, even Windows Mail can sort by sender, meaning that finding a particular e-mail is never a wholly impossible task (unless you’ve double-deleted it).

As we’ve previously covered, the e-mail means that individual players can have bulletins updated to their own character’s adventure requirements – if three people are in a room and each is talking to a different person, this is easily handled.

Of course, e-mail is not just words – pictures can be added to the e-mail and this heightens the flavour and atmosphere considerably. Vintage maps, drawings of sinister runes, charms, sigils and the like can be inserted, rather than being described, with the possibility of misinterpretation. Even different typefaces can be used if required to give an authentic feeling to e-mail communication. Handwriting fonts are available for letters, gothic or Olde English lettering for antique manuscripts, something functional and stark for newspaper stories…

And speaking of pictures, I’ve discussed before, in The Links Effect about tracking down photo archives from the period. A Keeper should start to build up a collection of pictures before they start the adventure, preferably whilst doing the research for their adventure ideas. There are a lot of 1920s resource sites out there, some of which I’ve listed on the post referred to, but you may well find others in your trawl of all things eldritch on the net. Save the ones that strike you as useful to a folder somewhere – it’s a bit of work to start with but you’ll soon start thinking “Oh, I could use that for so-and-so who runs the antique shop in Boston…” which is a lot more handy than thinking, several weeks into the adventure “Oh, I wish I could remember where I saw that picture…”

Good categories into which to sort the pictures, and – from personal experience – I found to be necessary are portraits, building interiors, building exteriors, landscapes, transport interiors and transport exteriors, social images (arts, leisure, fashion, entertainment) and miscellaneous ones like foodstuffs, clothing, drinks, etc. You may find that as the weeks go on, you find an image sparks an idea for a future adventure development.

A bit of a short one this week. Next time, I’ll be discussing how to handle NPCs so that they don’t become too much trouble to handle and what to do with the GMPC to avoid them becoming a Mary Sue.

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