Twitter role playing

edited June 2009 in Story Games
I've heard some some talk of people running old school games through Twitter. Seems like a neat idea to me; does anyone care to share their thoughts / experiences with this?


  • Im trying an experiment with De Profundis using twitter, it certainly seems like letter writing in the modern age has been superceeded by insta-messaging via the net - Im still seeing if this will work. It allows for that gradual release of horror though its hard to hold back, much like the letter version of the game im sure.

    Its still in very early stages right now, but Tweet Profundis might just work! It also would allow for the spread of the conspiracy to be chaotic and strange as more players join (only have 3 players right now and ill probably keep it like that for the moment).

    I couldnt see myself using a game that required any kind of traditional mechanic with twitter, its just not set up for it.
  • I've played games over chat that worked fairly well, but I've never used twitter.

    It seems to me like twitter would be a middle ground between the thought time and posting lag of a play by post and the quick, short responses of a chat game.
  • I'm playing in an OD&D game on Twitter, and it works great (though the excellence of the GM helps a lot).

    Twitter lends itself well to certain kinds of play. 140 characters is just about the right focus for a D&D action, I find.
  • I've been tempted to try getting a Twitter Polaris game going once or twice. It seems a decent length for short but sweet conflict statements, and the "reply" functionality makes the back-and-forth negotiation seem doable. "@Ukbah BUT ONLY IF her wounds permanently scar her face."
  • De Profundis via twitter sounds interesting actually

  • edited June 2009
    Someone pointed out to me that A Penny For My Thoughts could be played via Twitter. We did several play-by-email playtests, but you could definitely work with the 140 character limit.
  • I'm the GM for the game that Tony is in, and so far I've been having great fun with it.

    I'm using Swords & Wizardy, which is a retroclone of OD&D (the little brown books). I chose it for two reasons, first because I was interested in experimenting with some of the ideas put forward by the Old School Renaissance follks, and secondly because OD&D has a rather explicit turn based structure, and a relatively low number of die rolls, which seemed compatible with Twitter as a medium.

    I decided to run the game on Twitter because I don't have time in my schedule for more sustained face-to-face gaming time, but I can find 10 minutes here and 15 minutes there to devote to it. I was also inspired by a post by the Chatty DM, who outlined an experimental Twitter RPG protocol.

    I have played PbP games in the past, and typically found that they petered out in players fell away after a fairly short time. I was curious to see if the Twitter dynamic would be any different. One of the obstacles I myself have found in the past with PbP was a bit of an issue with "writer's block" when posting, as the nature of forums tends to make you feel you need to go on at length. I was hoping the natural 140 character limit of Twitter would help avoid that, and encourage us to keep things moving.

    So far, things have gone quite well. I discovered early on that another essential tool in addition to Twitter has been Google Docs. Twitter provides chatter around the table if you will, and Google Docs provides the character sheets, loot lists, and other information you'd normally right down. The ability to create shared documents among the players is very handy. Another handy tool is Twitpic (or similar services), I've been drawing battle maps on paper, photographing them with my camera phone, and posted them to the twitter stream so that players have a visual reference when making tactical decisions.

    The general experience for me has been fairly similar to a greatly slowed down experience of face-to-face play. Because of the IM like short message nature of Twitter, the game has remained chatty, which I like. While I am personally acquainted with all the players, the players are not all personally acquainted with each other outside of the game. One of the players has commented to me on the strangeness of engaging with other peoples fictional personalities, rather than the persons themselves.

    So what are the pros and cons? Well for me the primary pro is the ability to have another game in progress that I would not otherwise be able to fit into my schedule. As the GM its also nice to have the luxury to ponder rulings without feeling like I'm slowing the game down. The main drawback I would say is the slow pace of play, although in a way that can also be a bit of a pro, in that it is fun to have this slow burn thing going on that I can dip into for a few minutes here or there throughout the day. Because I can access Twitter both from my computer and from my phone, I can check in with the game whenever I have a few free moments. Again the fact that the game materials and notes are online in Google Docs is a big win here.

    I can be difficult when something comes up where I need to see clarification on a statement by a player. Since not everybody is online at the same time, a request for clarification may linger for several hours before being responded to. And given the already slow pace of play, I don't wish to slow things down further. However usually generous applications of common sense help me muddle through.

    Finally of course there is the issue with any electronic medium is that you've stripped away the body language, which is an essential part of judging the other players moods in any FtF game. Fortunately, I think all of us who are playing in this game have tried to make an extra effort to communicate their feelings as player in addition to any feelings their characters may be expressing. So the characters can engage in insults and banter without this spilling over into the player space. I've also been trying to take extra effort to keep aware of where I might have accidentally stepped on somebodies fun. Twitter direct messages can help here, as an out-of-band mechanism by which I can tap someone on the shoulder and say "you okay with that?" without disrupting the main flow of play.

    Apart from that though, I am explicitly avoiding "private play", even though that might be considered easy to do in the electronic medium. Just like with a tabletop game, I want all the game knowledge to be out there for all players to enjoy, despite what their characters might or might not know.

    Oh, and one other question people might have... Dice. In this game I am handling all the dice rolls, but I do post the raw die results and any calculations resulting from them for any rolls the players would normally make. I also role some of my GM dice "in the open" posting the results. This is both so that the players can "check my work" and make sure I'm not making any mistakes (forgetting a bonus for example) and also so that players can have some mechanical feedback that they can factor into their decision making. I have been doing some "hidden information" rolls, like listening at doors, with out posting the rolls. As for the actual rolls themselves, I use, so if things go badly for the players, they will have no recourse but to understand that atmospheric noise hates them ;)

    That is my somewhat stream of consciousness experience with Twitter roleplaying, which I haven't the time to go back and edit. So hopefully some useful info in there! :)
  • @Paul: that's an interesting idea... yes, I can see it could work.
  • Paul - Penny over Twitter? This could be interesting. I played with Kevin Fitzpatrick a couple weekends ago, I may have to see if he and some others would go for a Twitter version next.

  • Wilhelm's S&W game over Twitter has been a really cool experience for me. I like having this constant little game that I can check in with.

    I commented recently that the weirdest part about this game is how much it's like playing D&D face-to-face. That came after an afternoon playing where I noticed:

    • Some people have specific character accounts and others use their normal account, so you talk to some people in character, and some not.
    • Even if you have a character account, there's a constant shift from in-character talk to not in-character talk.
    • Some people aren't bothered by this; some are real explicit about it.
    • There's funny in-party bickering.
    • There's people (me) that miss parts of a conversation and flail around in the SIS for a while.
  • Wow! Thanks for the great feedback.
  • edited June 2009
    Dev wrote a phenomenal zombie survivor horror game (for me!) called SURVIVOR: RELAY, made specifically for play over Twitter or SMS. You can find it here:

  • I have a couple of questions:
    1) Doesn't it drive other folks on your Twit-Net nuts to hear all the chatter (which is probably wildly out-of-context, if they aren't following your other players' Tweets)?
    2) What does this provide that a wiki, forum, or shared Google Doc does not provide? Forced brevity? (AFAIK, I can access any and all of those with my phone--haven't tried Google Docs, yet.)

    The idea of an ARG leveraging socnets, though... that's pretty intriguing (e.g. Survivor: Relay).
  • It's funny that you bring this up, because I've been thinking of playing Universalis using Twitter. Every tweet equals one coin.

    @Dave. That is why you might establish a different Twitter acct isn't it? So as not to annoy your regular folks with your chatter.
  • Wilhelm's point about play-by-post interests me. I've never been able to enjoy a play-by-post game. It's hard for me pinpoint why, but I think it has something to do with magnifying the importance of verbiage and making the essence of what's going on harder to find. In a PbP game with lots of ongoing description, I get lost and forget the thread of the action .That never happens in Twitter.

    Also, I have a busy, but flexible schedule. A couple of action tweets a day is the perfect pace for me. I'm pretty happy to be able to scratch my old-school itch a little every day in Wilhelm's game.

    I have an ongoing question about the skills involved. What makes for good Twitter play as opposed to bad? Wilhelm raised the point of in-vs-out of character tweeting, which wasn't even on my radar. I also highly recommend having a dedicated Twitter account for your character. It adds to the overhead of logging in and out, but it makes it much easier to organize things and avoids spamming your followers with non sequitur game posts.

    Trevis: Universalis by Twitter's a pretty interesting idea... I'd like to see it.
  • If you use a Firefox plugin like TwitterFox, switching accounts on-the-fly is a breeze.
  • Each tweet being a Coin might get really annoying unless you broadened the concept of what a Fact encompasses. But that would be a pretty easy dial to establish I think.

    Can you do formatting (like bolds and italics) in Twitter? If so, scrolling through and looking for bolded items would be an easy way to search for established Traits.
  • Posted By: Trevis Martin@Dave. That is why you might establish a different Twitter acct isn't it? So as not to annoy your regular folks with your chatter.
    DUH. I coulda thought of that eventually.

    I've gotten SO totally away from handles and multiple IDs online that I've forgotten how easy it is to make them purpose-built.

    And, well, my socnet hate is showing. HATE 'em. AOL all over again, and no one even realizes it..
  • Regarding driving your tweeps nuts, for that very reason most the participants in my game have created dedicated accounts for their characters. Those that did not were those who didn't have twitter accounts to begin with, or had accounts that they weren't really using anyway.

    As to what Twitter provides vs other similar electronic mediums, for me the biggest feature has been that Twitter has the conversational feel of IM, but without requiring all the participants to be connected simultaneously. Twitter's not perfect at this, getting the setup just right means every player account and the GM account all have to be following each other, but once we worked out the logistics, it's actually be quite smooth.

    In contact to other mediums: Wikis lack an obvious linear structure, which I think is essential for carrying the main thrust of play. With Twitter you've got an obvious timeline. Now I imagine a Wiki could be useful for holding the supporting documents (character sheets, notes, loot lists, etc), but Google Docs was handy, didn't require me to set up any software, and all the free wiki hosting sites I'm aware of are noisy and overfeatured by comparison.

    As to forum posts, I can only report my own experience, which is that play in those formats drifts toward long descriptive posts, and then at some point I start feeling writers block, so I stop posting for awhile, and the loose the habit, forget to check in, and other people do the same, an the game grinds to a halt. I think format of Twitter is such that you don't feel intimidate to throw off a quick response, when you check in there isn't pages of stuff to read, so you check in fairly frequently, and the whole energy of the thing stays high. Again, the IM like experience.
  • Valamir: Twitter doesn't support formatting, the twitter equivalent would be to have a short glossary of hashtags that could be used to mark tweets with game specific meta info... So #trait for example.

    For those who are not of the body: a hashtag is a convention that arose on twitter that has since been enshrined by the software. It's simply prepending a # (the hash mark) to a word, and then using that unique string as a search key.
  • The downside I can see to hashtags is that they eat into your 140 characters.

    So far people have mentioned OD&D(-ish), Universalis and a few others. What other games make good Twitter fuel? Or, what makes a game better suited for Twitter play?

    This thread has been enough to inspire me to try a game. We'll see how it goes.
  • The key constraint is the low speed of the interaction loop. That is, the delay between the time Player A asks a question, and Player B responds. As a result, mechanics which require rapid iteration between players (typically the GM and a player, but also player to player) would be problematic.

    You want something with a chunky, non-interactive mechanic where the player performing the mechanical resolution can take a bunch of input, grind through it without needing additional additional feedback at decision points (ideally there should be no decision points) and then feed the results back into the game.
  • Posted By: sageThe downside I can see to hashtags is that they eat into your 140 characters.
    You're right that it would eat in to your 140. Since my own usage has increased though, I find 140 characters to be a lot more room than I thought.

    @Valimir: Youre right that the fact thing would have to change, but I'm thinking it would work okay. You know me. I'm kinda like that friend who was trying to make a bong out of everything he could find. I'm always looking at stuff going "I bet I could play Uni with that." :-)

    I guess the thing I like about Twitter is that if you're a regular user, it's right there for you, coming to you rather than you having to go out to it. It's almost semi synchronous rp rather than asynchronous.
  • Posted By: rafial
    As to forum posts, I can only report my own experience, which is that play in those formats drifts toward long descriptive posts, and then at some point I start feeling writers block, so I stop posting for awhile, and the loose the habit, forget to check in, and other people do the same, an the game grinds to a halt. I think format of Twitter is such that you don't feel intimidate to throw off a quick response, when you check in there isn't pages of stuff to read, so you check in fairly frequently, and the whole energy of the thing stays high. Again, the IM like experience.
    I can see this point. With only 140 characters, you don't feel the pressure of making a stellar post.

    I suffer from writer's block as well, during some story driven games and a popular excuse I get from non posters or slow posters is the intimidation factor.

    This thread is very interesting! I'd have never considered Twitter as a method for text based gaming. Thanks for the education.
  • You can use a really short hashtag, something like #bh, to save on how much the tag cuts into your content. It doesn't matter whether the hashtag has ever been used, or whether it will ever be used again — it only matters that while you're using it, you're alone in the tagspace.

    If you're slick... the 140-character limit is a limit on characters, not bytes. So if you can't find a two-Latin-letter hashtag you like, why not go for two Ogham marks, or two forms from the Tengwar, or maybe one kanji and one Kannada letter?
  • So, yeah, I'm trying to start up a Twitter game, now, using Google Docs as a quick-and-dirty way to maintain game state information and Graham's, if the game system requires such.

    I have a limited library of games to play on it (without buying one specifically for it), so I'm hoping to meet up with the other currently committed player to peruse the collection and see what would fit. We're discussing the prospect with these conditions:
    * Minimal crunch and handling -- HERO System is right out.
    * Minimal back-and-forth in a conflict -- DitV seems too much, IAWA might be a sweet spot.
    * Ability to add players at will -- almost any game works, but those with Tenets or Oracles cut out some of the fun for late-comers.

    That''s actually got me thinking IAWA (though new players miss on Oracle fun) and Amber, of all things. Universalis would be a great go-to, but so much of it involves cooperative setting building that I'd be doubtful someone would jump in without that initial buy-in.

    Anyway... other ideas? Am I not thinking of something key to this sort of "bursty play"?
  • In the game that I'm starting up we've been talking about using John's Danger Patrol, but at this point it would just be a cargo-cult hack of it, since there isn't really a doc of the current game. Seems like action is well suited for 140 characters, so long as it doesn't require extended resolution.
  • edited June 2009
    I've seen what the British Twitter De Profundis guys are doing, and I think that Tweets from the Abyss are totally natural. Seriously, I'm considering starting up my own game set on the American side of the pond, since I don't really see how I am going to fit into theirs (although I've enjoyed reading it). The cool thing that totally set their game up is a photo of some graffiti that they're using as a mystic sign; I'd recommend doing something similar early on in any game done in that style.

    In fact, if anyone is interested, I'll facilitate. Whisper to me, or DM me on Twitter (@ccreitz). I'll kick off if there's any response — we'll use our regular accounts (if we like) and a short, noisy hashtag. I like the idea that the same "you" who tweets about sandwiches or funny things you see while driving occasionally writes a paranoid observation about an occult conspiracy.
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