Can I Post Yet?

Here's a situation that can often crop up in a play by email RPG:

​You're in a scene with five people. Yesterday, you answered all of your tags. Today, you've seen that only one of the other people in the scene has moved. What should you do? Should you wait? There's a rule that says you have to wait, right?

Nope! The simple answer to this question is that you should write whenever you want to write. The only time that it's better to wait is when no-one has answered their tags. To provide a little more clarity on this, let's look at the difference between waiting to post, and leaving time before assuming answers to someone's tags.

Throughout this, bear in mind that the usual required posting rate for the Outpost Eden Star Trek RPG groups is to move your character on 3 days each week.

A Good Rule of Thumb

If you're in a large scene, and everyone always waits for everyone else to move before they post, a situation arises where scenes begin to drag if there are more than 2 or 3 players involved. This can then have an impact on the mission, in that people can get bogged down in minutiae (imagine spending 2 weeks trapped in a briefing!). It also means that if someone loses their internet connection and isn't able to warn us about the down time, everything could stall out.

Equally, if if you're the person whose net does go down in that situation above, and you log in to find everyone's posting within 2 minutes of each other, you'll find it very difficult to get back into the RPG as you'll be spending hours in your email client desperately trying to catch up on an every-growing stack of tags. Fortunately, there's a way of working that allows leeway to people who have not posted, but lets you move, and it's this:-

Post whenever you want. Tag the people who have no open tags.

It might not always make sense not to tag a certain character, in which case do, but keep their tags to a minimum if they haven't moved yet. In some situations, it might make more sense to wait to post, which is also fine. But if you want to move and you have open tags, you don't have to sit around! Using the above as a general mentality means you could post every single day in a month if you were so inclined without anyone else in your scene ever getting swamped to a point where they can't cope.

Waiting to Post vs. Assuming Responses

One of the most common reasons that people believe there is a set amount of time to wait before you post is that there is a certain amount of time after which you can assume a player's responses. If someone in your scene has not moved for 48 hours and hasn't dropped in a note on the OOC list to say they're temporarily delayed, you can assume that they do or do not act in a certain way to allow the scene to carry forward, as long as you're not moving past a command decision or making some kind of a major decision for their character.

An example where this is OK is if you ask someone during leave if they'd like to join you at the bar, or during a mission you ask if they have found something specific when taking a scan (you may be fed information by your command staff when assuming responses, otherwise keep things vague to allow them to say what they actually found later on). Obviously there are many different situations where this may become necessary but always use your common sense. How would you feel if the tables were turned? Always be as vague as possible to allow leeway and if in doubt, contact your CO or FO for advice. It's also important to note that you should never write any lines of dialogue for anyone else or specifically write them as taking a certain action - it's up to them to move their character, you're just free to take action to make sure you don't get held up if they go dark out of the blue.

A Quick Example of Assuming Responses

On Tuesday, Ensign Thomas sends in a post. He's been ordered to beam down to a planet as part of an away team with Ensign Jefferson and Ensign Davis. He included the lines:

Thomas: Hey, Jef - can you pick up the medkit? I have my hands full.

Jefferson: ?

Thomas: Did you have a chance to find out what the weather is doing on the planet?

Jefferson: ?

Three days later, there's been no movement from the player behind Jefferson. Davis has moved and answered other tags in the scene, and Lieutenant Viola is clearly trying to push the scene on. A situation arises where the medkit needs to be used, and it becomes relevant what the weather is doing. The options are to wait on Jefferson, even though there's no sign of him, and let the scene stall out, or to assume a certain set of conditons, being as they don't compromise Jefferson's character. Thomas decides it's raining heavily, and that Jefferson was able to take the medkit, neither of which are unreasonable.

Of course, if he decided that Jefferson had been unable to take readings on the planet's meteorology because he was incompetent, and that he refused to carry the medkit, slapping him in the face in the process, that would be a quick way to create friction.

Another three days later, Jefferson mails the OOC to let everyone know that he'd been drafted into the city's bowling team, and that he had to log emergency practice time, but now that they've won the cup he's free to post again. When he reads back through the posts, there's nothing for him to take issue with, unless he really wanted it to be snowing, in which case all he can do is rue a missed opportunity and look for a chance to make the temperature drop later on...

Summing Up

So - don't get confused between waiting before you assume someone's responses and having to wait before you're allowed to post. If you have open tags, they are always fair game. Just remember - it's best practice not to shower tags on someone who hasn't moved in a while. That allows them to get caught up nice and quickly if they've been forced into any down time.

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