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Combat Threads: Tips & Tricks (Player Side)

Posted August 22, 2014 at 05:21 AM by Jacob

As we're edging up on the Final Battle scenarios, most of which involve direct combat, I figured this is a good time for me to cover some tips and tricks to understand in combat threads specifically, although they can also be applicable to other moderated situations. This set is designed for players to keep in mind and are mostly valid in anything I'm handling and may not generally apply with other moderators, although they shouldn't hurt to keep in mind there either.

Tip #1: Communicate Clearly

The very first thing I am going to emphasize to anybody posting in a combat thread is that they need to take steps to communicate what it is they are doing clearly. Any other tip I can give you is irrelevant if, at the end of it all, the moderator has absolutely zero idea what you're attempting.

Some folks already go into a clean and concise mode of narration for their combat threads. This is one way to handle this: the less extraneous whatever there is going on, the less I have to sift and figure out what I need to moderate.

However, a lot of us love our prose. And that's okay. Here's my trick for you to think about trying though: in the very last paragraph of your post, summarize what you are attempting.

Bottom line: Give me something clear and straightforward to work with. A major bog-down on any kind of moderation is going back and rereading to straighten out the sequence of events and make a coherent combat round out of it. If you make that difficult for me, the moderator, expect some issues. In the worst case, I'll just make up what I think you were doing, and that generally ends poorly.

Tip #2: Pay Attention to Cues

Want to know what one of the most common moderator gripes ends up being? "I totally did everything but threw X in PC Y's face and they did nothing with it!" Of course that usually is when we get to the point where we basically write a couple paragraphs about whatever X is and do everything including align sunbeams to shine directly on X with a heavenly choir singing Handel's Messiah.

If I am going to take the time to describe and put together a scene and include specific details, they probably have some relevance to what's going on, or at the very least can be used in the scenario to do something. A tea set can become a projectile collection, stacked shelves can come down on the heads of assailants, lamps and lanterns can become sources of burning pain.

That's the bonus objective side of it. Unconventional use of the environment -- within reason -- tends to get bonus points from me. It's the difference between a judo match and watching Jackie Chan in a movie; I happen to enjoy the latter better.

Where this really kicks in, though, is take the cues on things like positioning seriously. Aelyria's magic is all PVP enabled, friendly fire is a thing, and reckless use of techniques can backfire on you and your allies if you fail to recognize that you just lobbed that fireball in your friendly party member's face.

So pay some attention, if just to keep your hide once the scenario's over, but also because it's a great source of bonus points. You'll get plenty of time to show off those well-honed skills, but a nice tea saucer to the face has its place.

Tip #3: Accept the Results

Another moderator peeve? When they've just moderated a round and they get a reply where the player spends three paragraphs complaining in narrative about how the moderator made the round turn out differently from how they wanted it to.

In combat situations, particularly chaotic multiple PC ones, things don't always go according to plan. Deal with it. The paragraphs of angst just make you look surly and petulant and make a moderator less inclined to even want to continue with you in the thread.

Want to really deal with the issue that lead to things going awry? See Tips #1 and #2. Those are the leading causes of things going wrong. But this also leads to #4.

Tip #4: Know Your Role

If you're in a thread with a consistent group of others, take a moment in the narrative to establish what it is you're doing in that group. And then stick with that. You're the healer and you get menaced by a minion? Look for a way to step out of direct harm and let your other party members take care of it.

Want to know the worst case of this falling through that happens over and over? Mages with nukes. Not every situation requires your largest spell with the loudest bang. Ration your spells and understand that once combat is in close quarters, your big guns hurt your party as much as the enemy, if not more. Consider using smaller scope spells or spells that enhance the capabilities of your teammates, or find ways to lob those bigger things far away from where anybody in your party is.

Figuring out who gives the orders is also nice. If anything, you get somebody to blame afterwards. Be the Captain America for your Avengers, or let somebody better qualified do so.

This one is less hard and fast than the others, of course. Great hilarity can ensue from the malapropisms of an unorganized party. But recognize that that comes at some cost, too.

Tip #5: Say Something

And lastly, if all else is really off and you need to do, use the PM button and say something. Moderators are not mind readers, nor do they have access to your private calendar.

Don't wend it into the post. That's counterproductive. Don't tell everybody but the moderator. That's unhelpful. Don't run to the Help Desk first. That's obnoxious and will get you kicked back to the moderator to talk first.

People are people. If you need a week off a round because you just don't feel in it, take the week and tell the moderator. If you feel something was really off in the last round, PM and ask the moderator, but also be willing to remember Tip #3 and remember that ultimately it's their call and all you may get is a "that's just how the chips fell this round".

And if you find yourself really worked up enough? Walk away from the computer and come back when you can make it civil. Moderators are here to have fun just as much as players are. Getting yelled at when a polite query works is not fun. We may not see eye to eye all the time, but we do need to recognize that disagreement is something that can be gotten past and that taking five minutes to also understand it from the perspective of the person who has to juggle not just your reply, but everybody else's, may change your outlook on how it ended up.


And those are my five basic tips. Communicate clearly, pay attention to the thread environment, accept the results, know your role in the thread, and say something when there's an issue. The more you can keep these things in mind, the easier and more fun a combat thread will end up. These tips also apply to other threads, of course, but may require a dollop more of creative thinking to apply, particularly on #2 and #4. =)
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  1. Old Comment
    Veleraen's Avatar
    Very good tips!

    I have learned over the years that going with the flow of the thread instead of passive aggressive 4th wall breaking complaining in your posts is a lot more conducive to better RP and results in the end!

    I also totally agree with the unconventional use tip. I love when people do something very unexpected or off the wall. I think it just adds to the craziness of it all and electrifies threads and makes them even more enjoyable for everyone (unless they are the victim of said improvisation lol). Even then, I am a glutton for punishment and abuse haha.
    Posted August 22, 2014 at 12:10 PM by Veleraen Veleraen is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Straylor Leonard's Avatar
    Definitely going to echo Tyler's sentiments here.

    Being 'true to your character' is all good and fine, but at least follow the flow of the thread. Be unpredictable and use unconventional tactics, but let's not be passive aggressive at the mods and other players in your RP

    Great tips and tricks, Jacob!
    Posted August 22, 2014 at 12:42 PM by Straylor Leonard Straylor Leonard is offline
  3. Old Comment
    Love this post! I still find my writing for combat the hardest aspect of RP, but this helps!
    Posted August 22, 2014 at 02:07 PM by Celeb'rilith Thamion Celeb'rilith Thamion is offline
  4. Old Comment
    Jacob's Avatar
    Yes, and the level of "unexpected" is in part going to be dictated by the character, I acknowledge. An example in fiction you can look to is the duel of Vardis Egan and Bronn in A Game of Thrones. Vardis went into the fight thinking it'd be an honorable affair; Bronn went into the fight with an eye to the layout of the room, the fact that Vardis was wearing heavy armor, etc. Vardis played by the honorable rules of dueling and Bronn used environmental factors. The result was Vardis chasing Bronn around shouting about it not being manly or fair and Bronn waiting for him to be tired enough to become easily stabbable. Bronn won a fight that on the surface looked like an easy win for Vardis because Bronn was more tactically aware and used that to his advantage.

    That kind of situation should be noted, particularly in dealing with characters of near skill levels. Tactical play beats having a toolkit you can't use effectively, even if it's a better toolkit. In the end, both were "true to character", of course, but it shows the perils of inflexibility.
    Posted August 22, 2014 at 07:27 PM by Jacob Jacob is offline
  5. Old Comment
    Faen is my first combat-heavy PC, so I really appreciate these tips, especially #2. In a fast paced thread it's good to stop and really consider your options. We are all busy humans and sometimes I just want to get that post out to not leave people hanging, and quality suffers. But moderators usually give your PC all the tools they need, right there. No Handel's Messiah (lol!) required. #2 is a good reminder to stop and look around before you post.

    Also, #5. I like to treat people online the way I would treat them face-to-face. There is someone behind your screen, reading what you write. That someone is taking time out of their life to play here, just as you are. Be kind!

    Thanks Jacob.
    Posted August 22, 2014 at 08:04 PM by Faengwen Tash Faengwen Tash is offline
  6. Old Comment
    I mostly agree, although personally if I'm modding a PC and they go all Jackie Chan I kind of need them to have some levels in something Jackie Chanish.
    Posted August 26, 2014 at 07:17 PM by Madelyn Twist Madelyn Twist is offline
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