Exarch #4 - Would You Like to Take a Survey?


Exarch #4 - Would You Like to Take a Survey?


Spring has sprung, juncos in my yard are giving way to swallows flitting around over the field, and I get a headache whenever I go outside the weather is beautiful. So it’s time for me to migrate back into your news feed, complete with tortured metaphors, numbers, and hot takes.

Status of Roleplaying

Pretty good.

What, you wanted an actual update? Ugh, fine…

We’ve had 87 unique participants, including multiple participants from all seven clans and the DC. Those participants have submitted 1,028,268 words of content. Neither of these counts include any of the ongoing sessions. Most of the content we’re seeing is unit-level activity, including a couple of battleteam-specific sessions (shout out to Voidbreaker and Talzin for being awesome).

The new systems are working flawlessly (thanks, James-senpai!) and people are getting used to them, so I’m turning my attention to how to support the community in the medium and long term. That may or may not involve an Exarch staff, depending on how the bosses and I scope out what the Exarch’s job will be going forward. Whatever we come up with, I want to make sure it’s responsive to the RP community’s needs, so please take a look at this survey and let me know what you want me and future Exarchs to do for you.

In RP-adjacent news, our lovely Regent has been running a competition series for people to make maps and it’s received criminally few entries. Keep an eye out for new comps here.

Run-Ons and Dragons

So I learned through the news site that I’m in charge of run-ons now.

In all seriousness, James’ announcement—particularly his comment on RP—generated some interesting discussion and I want to address it. Run-ons, cooperative fiction, and RP (and ACC, for that matter) are all situations where members come together to tell a collaborative story. They’re all on the same spectrum and the distinctions are, to some degree, a matter of opinion. However, there are a few features that I think serve as core selling points for RP as we do it here:

  • Easy: Participants can join with a button press or by being tagged in, write however much (or little) they feel like writing, and don’t have to worry about jumping through any additional hoops.

  • Non-competitive: Everybody is on the same team, there’s no pressure to maximize your rubric score.

  • Character-focused: People can be flexible with this, but generally unless you’re the organizer all you need to care about is what your own character says and does.

  • Flexible: If your group wants to make 1-2 posts a day, that’s fine. If your group wants to make 1-2 posts a minute, go nuts. A two-person RP? Sure. A 30-person RP? Great. You want to work through a bunch of different goals and plot points to tell a coherent story? Do it. You want to just all meet in a bar and see what happens? Classic.

I’ve also done a bunch of team run-ons and co-op fics for vendettas, and this is how they usually go:

  • Organized: Usually we spend 2 weeks just spitballing before someone finally takes command. We outline most if not all of the plot and start carving out portions for each person to write. The rules usually require at least two posts per team member, but they all have to be at least 250 words, and there’s a tight deadline. Alternatively, nobody steps up and we don’t finish or in some cases don’t even start.

  • Story-focused: It is almost impossible to get through a run-on without every person having to take on multiple characters, both other members’ characters (which a lot of people hate doing) and NPCs, and adding a lot of exposition and description of the environment and the circumstances.

  • Competitive: We edit the entire thing extensively before any posts go live, we try to make sure we’re doing something creative and that the plot has a good narrative arc because we want them novae and we want them participation points.

  • Intense: Don’t get me wrong, GJW/ROS vendettas have given me some fond memories and produced some of my best writing, but they stress me the hell out and usually end in frantic writing, tagging each other, and last-minute posting to make sure we don’t accidentally DQ ourselves.

Obviously, your mileage may vary here, but I don’t think my experience across the years is too out of the ordinary.

Could you recreate my RO experience using the RP system? Yeah, probably. Should you? Meh. I think the co-op fiction archetype we’ve seen in recent years is a better way of doing that sort of writing, but I’m not going to stop you.

However, not all run-ons are competitive vendetta activities. James specifically mentioned unit-level ROs, which usually take the form of an entire clan/house/battleteam getting together and improvising a story. The point isn’t to win, it’s to have fun getting to know your teammates better. My problem with these as a participant is that they tend to either fizzle out very early on or drag on for months and months—the last unit-level RO I was in that actually finished took 10 months and only finished because the BTL wrote a long post wrapping up the story after it had pretty much died off. Anyone who’s tried to run one of these knows it can be like herding cats getting members to show up and post, even if there’s not a minimum length requirement.

I think a unit-level RP (which is most of the sessions we’ve seen so far) is an excellent replacement for unit-level ROs, as they tend to move much more quickly and, because there’s a miniscule barrier to entry, more members will hop in. You could recreate a run-on experience by mandating minimum post lengths etc. but I don’t think it adds anything to the experience. The one thing I would advise summits to keep in mind is that it is immensely beneficial to have someone as a “DM,” even if you’re not bothering with dice rolls. While some RPs quickly take on a life of their own, most will need one or more people to herd cats and push the plot forward so that members have something to react to and the session doesn’t lose momentum. Compared to ROs, this is less a "keep prodding people to participate" role and more of a "make sure stuff keeps happening" role.

If anyone is interested in the idea of organizing something through the RP system and wants to talk through the logistics of it, my DMs and inbox are always open.

Raleien asks: Hey Arch! With the long due retirement of Discourse, do you foresee Run-Ons via Discord overtaking RP activity?

No, for two reasons. First, traditional run-ons have been a less and less prominent part of DB life since I joined in 2015, which is a large part of why the DC pulled the plug on Discourse in the first place. Second, run-ons are a minority of the fiction content produced by the DB, and roleplaying is producing plenty of content compared to fiction. It would take a pretty major shift for ROs to overtake RP.

How Stuff Works

I’m just going to dump a semi-coherent list of info and tools in this section.

Pinning Messages: Thanks to James, the session organizer can pin messages in OOC threads by reacting to them with the :pushpin: emoji. Most sessions that I’ve seen will pin some important content and/or keep it in a Google doc linked to in a pinned message. It’s probably easiest to do both. If you have any issues with this function, you can just tag me (@Archenksov) in your OOC thread and tell me what needs doing.

Maps: Dungeon Fog is a free-ish option for building your own pretty maps, though the tilesets in the free version are somewhat limited. Draw.io is a flexible option for barebones maps. If you want to look for other people’s maps, r/star_wars_maps is probably your first stop. The Cartographers’ Guild is probably the best place online to get into mapmaking and the Sci-fi/Modern section on the forum will have plenty of finished maps. There’s a major thread just for Star Wars. Wally has used Draw.io to make tokens for each character and move them around on the map background, which is a low-maintenance alternative to using a virtual tabletop like Roll20.

Archived Threads: Threads will archive after 1 week with no posts, or within a few hours after the organizer finalizes them. When a thread is finalized, dbb0t will give you a link to a permanent transcript on the DB site. Here is an example from the latest public COU session. You can also find them through the threads menu on Discord, though the exact menu depends on what platform you’re on. You’ll need to look for archived threads, and then look for private ones. Posting anything in an archived thread will make it active again. If you can’t find the thread you’re looking for, let me know and I’ll see if I can help.

Visibility: A few people have expressed interest in what I can and can’t see. Folks with access to the Exarch bot logs (Exarch, JST, GM, DGM, and SCL) see when people join or leave sessions, changes to the session details using /rp set, and the link to the IC transcript when the session is reported. I generally at least skim the IC log to make sure everything looks good before submitting the wordcounts to Idris for CI credit. The OOC threads aren’t involved in this process at all.

The same crew, and possibly the entire DC, can see all the IC and OOC threads if we go hunting for them. I occasionally eyeball the IC threads to take a pulse check on how participation is going. I’m not monitoring what people are saying, so you’re probably able to say all sorts of mean things about me without me noticing, but if for some reason you want absolute, inviolable privacy, you might want to take it to PM.

Evil Plans

Raleien asks: Are there any thoughts of including RPs in future club-wide events as a form of non-competitive but point providing activity (i.e.: anyone who participates in an RP associated with a Feud receives X amount of points and their CIs for writing?

Bubba and I have had some very preliminary conversations about how to integrate roleplaying into club events. Right now, the only thing I can say confidently is that you should not expect to see RP as a competitive activity in this year’s vendetta. You may see RP-adjacent stuff a la Anubis’ map creation comps or the NPC creation comps we’ve seen in past events, but those would be run by the core DC so I can only speculate. Although society leaders have been involved in running GJWs in the past, I think we’re all on the same page that I’ll be a participant and not an organizer this year.

RP should be easy, fun, and collaborative. The competitive stress of a vendetta is not a natural pairing for this activity. If we can find a way to make competitive RP viable without breaking what makes RP appealing in the first place, I’m all for it. Otherwise, the best place for RP will probably be building hype and delivering lore to members in the lead-up to events.

Raleien continues: However I’ve been considering ways to include RP so that they can be incorporated into events as participation pieces. For example we’ve considered running an event long RP where any member who participates with at least one post gets 2 points (no more, no less), but the story itself is driven like a normal RP: a focus on collective experience vs winning.

I think that’s a promising idea. Let me know if you decide to try it. The early evidence is that RP’s biggest benefit to the DB is building up communities and inter-character relationships. Appius and Teebu ran RP as part of a clan event back in August/September, and while I’ll defer to them, my understanding is that it was very successful.

Wally asks: Are we going to see something resembling SA or Society write ups for RPs?

While I have a few things on my personal bucket list for this job, building out a society for RP is the one thing I’ve been explicitly told to do by the GM. So yes, you will see that. There are a lot of moving parts (Noobis’ approval for items, Idris’ approval for CS features, Rian &co for art assets, James for magic, and Evant/Bubba overseeing the whole thing) so I can’t give an ETA. I am once again asking, however, for folks to take a gander at that survey and give me an idea of what they’d want out of the Audubon Society.

Alethia Archenksova,


Second, I have bad dice rolls.

This is awesome and I love everything about it. Great work Exarch! And great work James on all of the RP Discord features!



I'm really enjoying RPs and the move away from Discourse. I also really like the emphasis on casual, cooperative fun vs competitions. Sometimes in the past it seems like this club had a fetish where everything has to be a competition, and it's pretty nice to see an entire popular section of it where that's not the case and it feels like the DJB is moving away from that in general.

Also those bot commands are super creative and useful.

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