Tuesday, 19 October 2021

What do you do with your day!? Thoughts on asynchronous play

This blog has an associated discord server: https://discord.gg/NDrtRKs and on it I run a variety of games. I very much like the idea of a open table that people from all over the world can jump in at any time and play. Additionally, because of where I live the tyranny of timezones means that I have a hard time organizing a 3 hour voice/video session online (that and general life commitments). 

This has lead to me thinking about and experimenting with asynchronous play quite a bit recently (over the last 2 years or so). By "asynchronous", I mean that the players and referee don't have to "play" at the same time. The referee can get orders and information from all of the players over a period of time (say, a day or two) then collate them all into one cohesive set of events and then report that back to the players. Repeat that process until the game is done. 

In my recently completed  "Chrorospyrog" game ( https://lizardmandiaries.blogspot.com/2021/08/chorospyrog-player-character-generator.html + https://lizardmandiaries.blogspot.com/2021/08/on-misty-mud-plain-of-fosmuck-often.html ) I formatted the request for "turn orders" to the players as "What do you do with your day?!". This worked very well with that game because I had planned for the game to run for exactly two weeks of in game time and ensured that each players did something interesting in each of those days. 

Asking the players for a days worth of orders (or a half day, or an hour, or week/month/year, etc) allows the referee to get a good idea of what each players is trying to achieve with their characters time and then can work out how all those different orders, ideas, plans and schemes all work together. It avoids one of the issues I see with gaming on discord of certain players taking up a lot of time and attention while they doing something very specific - and the other players are ignored for a period of time.  

Also, this approach eliminates the issue of players being in different timezones. If I give every player 48 hours to give me a days worth of orders for their character that is manageable regardless of your time zone (rather than logging on in during a specific 3 hour window on a weekend). 

This approach probably favors broader stroke games (two weeks in the worm tower city witnessing its civil downfall and a bug invasion for example) but you could always "zoom" in the turn order for a more granular game. Also there is nothing stopping you zooming in and out as required. 

  • During combat you might ask "What do you do with the next 30 seconds?!"
  • During dungeon exploration you might ask 'What do you with the next 5 minutes?!" 
  • During overland exploration you might ask "What do you do with half your day?!

You will get varied amount of details from players in their orders. Some players will give you very specific sets of instructions, whereas some will be happy with a simple sentence with a broad outline of what they want to achieve. Both types of instructions work perfectly well! 

Finally, I've been using freeform or ruleless approach to run these games (specifically using my d6 Kontext Spiel "protocols" inspired by the Free Kriegspiel Revolution: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/363342/Kontext-Spiel-d6 [Free, for those interested]). I'm not quite ready to do a blog post on why I think running games without rules is a incredibly fun and rewarding way to go, but I have been thinking about it of late. Regardless, using a freeform set of protocols avoids rules getting in the way of the the weird and wonderful scenarios you will be presented with from the various player instructions. Having to shoehorn player actions into stricter rules/protocols chews up a lot of time and cognitive load and gets in the way of interaction with the game world. You don't need them! I will do some contextual rolls for each player as appropriate, some get a single roll of the d6, some might get 5 or more. The other beautiful thing of using the freeform system is that I feel very liberated to tackle any type of game that comes to mind, from a skirmish game, to a massive battle between commanders with 100 units each, to single characters spending two weeks in weird decaying city, or strange mutated hobos setting fire to ruined apartment buildings as they are beset by dream spiders, without having to write a new set of rules. I've got everything I need to run any game I can think of (Which is a d6 and a willingness to consider the probability of any attempted action)! 

Give it a go, and if you run a game like this please consider giving me an invite! 

An example I am quite fond of, from the recent Chrorospyrog game: 

Note: There are two players listed here but the Chrorospyrog game had 9 players. The game was divided into a variety of different channels representing ares in the game world. This way players could pursue different goals in different places in the game world without the chat log becoming a confusing mess! 

Additional note: These events took place in the second last day of the game, so the updates were longer and more involved than normal. A referee can make the updates as long or as short as the game requires or they desire. 


  • Alegrin orders the mudmen to begin the production of crab armour for the maggots and themselves. Perhaps in another life the mudmen were smiths - because they do an acceptable job of wrapping the maggots in tooth mail coats. A large amount of arms and armour has been left abandoned in the factories - enough for each of the maggots and the mud men to be wrapped in carapace like layers of tooth mail armour. A few select mudmen and maggots receive heavier armour, plates of bronze, shaped in the vision of the glorious joyful crab! The mudmen even shape some hand armour and weld them with some pick blades to form crab claw gauntlets! The arms and armour are muddy and sooty - but crablike and hardy.... the tower remains empty the whole day - the band is not disturbed!
  • Shyknar Has no success summoning beetles...he feels the mud nearby has been emptied of beetle kind. He feels a pain in the earth. Many beetles have died recently. Though there is hope...though the nearby towers and the muddy earth have been cleared of beetles he can sense that there are others nearby. Shkynar attempts to call the beetles to him all day...but none come...

    That is until sunset.

    Watching the mud plains darken with the setting sun Shkynar, despondent and beetleless, feels a presence of great power...it scuttles largely towards him...The queen!

    The obsidian beetle queen has come! Enraged at the onslaught on her hive she means to bring slaughter directly to the city. She is accompanied by her royal gaurd, huge bear sized rhino beetles. She herself is glorious and huge and shining and dripping with quicksilver.  Her many mandibles drip with acid and eggs pour from her, a carpet of hatchlings behind her.

    She communicates with Shkynar with her overpowering pheromones, "Will you fight for me, Beetle Mancer? Or shall you be devoured? We will return in the morning for your answer"
  • The sun sets, the queen and her royal gaurd and brood are out there on the moon lit plains. Alegrin and Shyknar rest the evening in the factory. On the next and final day, what do they do?!

Shyknar: "I will fight to the end of the earth for you my Queen if I can be your King"

Alegrin: That night, Alegrin is struck with a vision, a vision of crab-beetle empire. (And perhaps himself as a trusted advisor, for do not all great names flourish with right hands behind the scenes?). In the morning the Crab paladins approach the beetle queen, and Alegrin raises his stone and succinctly sets out an offering of unity and marriage on behalf of his comrade-paladin Shyknar. If he's afraid of the rhino-beetles, the eggs, the hatchlings and by the Crab God the pheromones, he doesn't show an iota of it! The towers shall be Hers but also His and the Crab God's! (Of course he's backed up by the Army of the Peace Through Stone Crab God Initiative).


  • The two crab paladins Alegrin and Shyknar leave their abandoned factory stronghold. They march out onto the mudplains of Fosmuck as the sun rises, their retinue of assorted, armored beings, behind them. They march for sometime until they encounter the smell and the hatchling swarm. Treading delicately, to as not crush any royal spawn, they approach the queen in her shallow mud burrow. As they come close she pulls herself out of the earth, revealing her enormous bulk and glory! 
  • The gem of Alegrin is raised, it glows joyfully and calmly! The queen bows her head and hears the proposal of the two paladins. Silence. And then, a flooding of sweet pheromones of joy and acceptance and fertility! The queen is to be married! 
  • The rhino beetle royal guard is stand offish, fossicking their mandibles and claws brusquely...but they accept whatever decision their queen makes. The queen is to marry the half beetle half man abomination...and that is that. 
  • The ceremony is short, as there is a war to be fought, but Shkynar is made a throne of quicksilver rot and served the juiciest of beetle jelly! A feast of pheromones wafts through the air - the assorted maggots, mudmen are most intoxicated, swaying and chanting and praising the joyful crab and his holy emissary the obsidian beetle queen! Oh what glorious and holy days we live in! 
  • Words and pheromones, mud and rot, the engraving of carapace and flesh. The act is done!  Shkynar and the queen of the obsidian beetles are wed! She wishes him to climb up her carapace! A most solemn and holy act! He may fight from her back in the coming battle!


  1. I've never played games online, but what you are describing sounds a lot like the old play-by-mail (play-by-post) games, with obviously quicker pacing. You might find some inspiration there on turn-based "asynchronous" gaming. I played a few in the 80's, most were a bit more wargamey, but a few were outright roleplay. As far as system goes I would think that would be entirely your choice, from the player's end there wouldn't be as much mechanics. Regardless, it sounds fun.

    I was also curious, if there's any word on Shit Future or any other print products?

    1. Yes I've definitely got some inspiration from that style of game (just from the adverts because I've never actually seen what systems they use on the back end shown any where publicly). Apparently those type of games were huge in japan during the 80s too.

      Shit Future is going to be coming out in print! And I just put a bit of an omnibus out on Lulu: https://www.lulu.com/en/us/shop/michael-raston/the-kontext-spiel-collection/paperback/product-8q77ye.html?page=1&pageSize=4


  2. I did a lot of gaming like that too. The trick is keeping up everyone's interest. I'm hoping to run a single battle in this way, but haven't had any takers yet...

  3. I am curious, how would you handle or how do you handle, investigation/investigation missions on those types of games?

    1. I must admit I don't run a lot of games focused on investigation. I guess I would just run it the same way as outlined here. Give the players a scope of time and ask what they do with that scope of time. Investigating a room, maybe 5 minutes - what are they focusing on and then I possibly do some rolls and tell them what they found!