Staffers, what kinds of input, details, or formats make BGS more fun for you guys to write? I tend to generate a lot of it and I’d rather be submitting things that are fun for the other side of the fence…
From a strictly practical perspective, I have 3 bits of advice:
- If you are referencing a previous BGS (yours or someone else’s), please include the text of said BGS, or link it. It saves staff a lot of time going and looking it up.
You can link it by finding the old one, and copy/pasting the URL into your current BGS. It will look something like this:
Include a quick OOG note about what you are hoping to achieve (especially for more open-ended BGS)
For formatting purposes, the style guide: https://github.com/adam-p/markdown-here/wiki/Markdown-Cheatsheet is quite helpful
As for what makes a fun BGS, I always like it when players include some manner of in-game justification/direction. For example: “I spend 5 research looking up the effects of snorting ground up slugs” is easy to answer, but from me at least, you’re liable to get to “the effects are X, Y, and Z”. If you say “I write to the Royal Apothercary society to see if anyone knows what happens if you grind up and snort slugs (5 research)”, I am far more likely to write you back an incredulous letter that still mentions effects X, Y, and Z, but also adds some color to the world. It also makes it easier to write in some cases. For example: “i spend 5 research looking up that weird monster we saw last time” doesn’t give me any sense of how your character would go about doing that. “I spend 5 research digging through old folktales about things that look like [description of weird monster] or behave like [weird monster]” makes it easier to write and provide color.
I would say that you shouldn’t worry about being too wordy. I’d rather get more details and explanations of why and how you’re doing something, rather than just a one-sentence question. Often we don’t actually have an answer for your question before you ask it – we generate an answer for you. Having more context from you is helpful.
If you’re collaborating with another PC, please tell us, so we can cross-reference and give you complementary answers. We get a lot of BGS, and sometimes it’s hard to notice that two people are asking related questions. Worst case, two related BGS can get assigned to different staffers who don’t even know to consult with each other about the answer, which can be confusing for everyone.
This has been mentioned before, but it’s worth reiterating. If you’re using one BGS skill to ask multiple separate questions (for example, splitting your Research between multiple topics), please put in separate BGS entries for each. BGS is a ticketing system, and works best from our end when we can assign each ticket to one staffer who can respond to it. If you ask about topics X, Y, and Z, and each of those topics needs to be handled by a different staffer, that gets complicated. I understand that it isn’t always possible to split questions into separate entries, and your BGS will get answered anyway, but it does make it easier for us.
The only thing that I can think of that hasn’t already been covered is: be aware that if you do a bunch of things in sequence (either in one BGS, or chaining between several people), and several parts are written on the assumption that the first part goes a certain way, then things are likely to get either very weird or extremely boring.
Example 1: person A says “For my experiment, I plant a yellow rose in the skull of a revenant I killed last event, then harvest the rose now with ADDED MAGIC SKULL ENERGY and study its properties. Then I attempt to separate the MAGIC SKULL ENERGY from the yellow rose and make an elixir using only that. Then I feed it to person B”
There is no MAGIC SKULL ENERGY. The yellow rose is normal. You can’t make a potion using MAGIC SKULL ENERGY and you certainly can’t feed it to person B. So the BGS will get an answer like “You attempt to do this, but find that the yellow rose appears completely normal. Your attempts to distill the MAGIC SKULL ENERGY are unsuccessful, and you are unconvinced that MAGIC SKULL ENERGY is a thing that even exists.”
Example 2: Person X says “I am going to spend my PI telling people that that dark and creepy area of the woods is totally safe so that Person Y can hold a tea party there and Person Z can assassinate Random Socialite NPC Foo when she goes to the tea party.” Person Y says “I use my focus to hold a tea party in that dark and creepy area of the woods”. Person Z says “I attempt to sneak up on the tea party to assassinate Random Socialite NPC Foo, then steal their stuff and sell it on the black market”.
The dark and creepy area of the woods happens to be pre-established behind the scenes as the home of GIANT SPIDERS. So I answer Person X’s BGS with “You do this. People mutter a lot about spiders, but you tell them a charming tale about spider silk tea cozies and they seem to be calmed.” I want to run a mod for person Y and person Z, where person Z has to try to assassinate Random Socialite NPC Foo while the tea party is attacked by giant spiders, so I tell them both “Noted. Report to staff center at game on to be directed to the tea party.”
In both cases, the players made assumptions about what their BGS would result in, which turned out to be wrong, and thus kind of invalidate the “later” parts of their BGS. This is not a bad thing, from my perspective, but it is useful for y’all to be aware that if you write something multi-part with dependencies like that, you may get something wildly different than you asked for.
…actually I’ve thought of one more thing. If you’re researching or talking about a specific phrase, especially one that you’ve only heard once or twice in game materials, maybe mention where you heard it and some context so we know what you think you’re talking about + how much you already know about it? If someone submits “I spend my focus chasing down the package delivery mammoth”, there is a very good chance that staff will go ??? and eventually ask the person who submitted the BGS wtf they are talking about or else give them a complete nonsense answer, and it’s easier if you just give us context from step 1.
I realize these are more “this is how to write a BGS that gets you coherent answers” + “expectation setting in BGS responses” than “what makes a fun BGS” but for me, knowing players aren’t going to be totally blindsided/unhappy if things don’t go the way they expect is very useful
Instructions clear, hosted tea party for giant spiders