One key way that Diplogames differ from standard games is the rich storyline that is written in the forums to accompany the game. Much of the appeal of Diplogames is the interactive, living story that evolves as the game does.
Stories can be used for propaganda, to explain or foreshadow in game decisions, to communicate with other leaders, and most importantly for the enjoyment of writing and reading a good story.
5.1 Stories as propaganda
Everyone in the game reads the story threads; so many players use this as a podium from which to create propaganda. Players can talk up their military capacity to intimidate their neighbors. Players in a war often use stories to tilt world opinion over to their side or cause. No one wants to be an outcast, so getting non-combatant players to side with you or remain neutral during a war is important. Also, stories can be an opportunity to spread misinformation. If you are going for a wonder and are concerned others may steal it from you, write up stories about how you are going for a different wonder to throw your competition off.
5.2 Interwoven story lines
Diplogame story writing is a group effort. Since players interact in the game, so should their stories. Have your King marry the daughter of another player's King. Have characters interact, and share story lines. This is a fine art that increases the enjoyment of all players and to do it correctly requires you to pay close attention to hints dropped by other players and openings for you to capitalize on.
Be careful though, each player has their own direction they wish to head with their stories. Your stories should compliment rather than interfere with that. Assassinating another player's character without his/her consent is very poor form.
Inserting characters into other player's storylines is greatly encouraged, but often best to make them minor characters rather than better known ones. The Chinese player may have plans for Sun Tzu, so it is best you not create that character first.
For example in History of the World 4, after a very brief exchange in King Chat during the game about Christianity, the Serbs accused England of adopting a heretical form of Christianity and King Arthur's daughter (who married the Serbian King) converted Serbia to this heresy and persecuted believers of the "true faith." The people revolted and exiled the King to England. The English player, me, welcomed the exiled Serb King onto my King Arthur's Round Table as an advisor. I then had Serbian religious fanatics assassinate their former King which sparked the need for an Ecumenical Council to decide Christian doctrine between Serbia and England. This story line was played out over several posts by both the Serbian and English players.
5.3 Visual Media
Players do a marvelous job of incorporating visual media into their stories and posts. Use a Google image search to find pictures that help illustrate and advance your story. It may slow down the load time on the thread, but it greatly enriches the story. If Ghandi is put in charge of India, post a picture of him to illustrate.
Maps help players to visualize the world they play in. Political maps are common for diplogames, showing territory owned and claimed by the world powers. By stringing together these maps in an animation, players can see the change and development of their civilizations like the replay at the end of the original Civilization. Maps are also created to show land claims and treaties. Also to illustrate battles.
Players love charts, statistics and information to compare themselves to their competitors. It is common for players to post pictures of the Powergraph, Demographics screen, Top 5 Cities or Wonders list. Also the city/unit list that is viewable at the beginning of any multiplayer session is coveted information. Using this to make graphs and charts from is a great innovation for the statistically minded.
5.5 Official communications between leaders
The story thread is used as a forum for leaders to issue demands, negotiate treaties, and other in-character discussions. In fact this was the prime purpose of stories in early Diplogames like an Open Letter to All Nations.
You can use stories to flatter or antagonize your fellow players. KenThur explains:
5.6 Using History and Literature to build a diplo story lineOriginally posted by KenThur
Talk / suck up / flatter the other rulers. Both in game chat & even better, in your posts here!
*for example: Doctor, you are one of THE smartest, sharpest, best Civ players I’ve ever had the pleasure to read here on these posts. Your magnanimous generosity & enlightened rule of your Civ is a credit to you, your dynasty, & the great citizens of ________! What a GUY! (Now, about those borders & trades we were discussing...)
Use these forum posts for the other extreme also; if U are pissed off, feel used, or just want posture yourself in preparation/justification for a war of _________. Do it or "hint" at it in the open. Give others a chance to respond... for or against. The WORST thing any ruler can do in a diplo game is SNEAK attack. Nothing else comes close to making a bunch of instant enemies & ruining the game! ):
Every story, diplo or otherwise, needs a good cast of characters. Players often use historical figures and literary characters for their diplostories. A Chinese player may use Chairman Mao, a Greek player may use Socrates, a Russian player may use Catherine the Great. The possibilities are endless and greatly enrich the story. Like playing on a real world map helps others follow along with the action, so too does using real world characters.
The real world history of your adopted nation can help drive your game play as well. If you play the Arabs you may choose to be a warlike civ and go on a Jihad once you discover Islam. A Spanish player may want to be the first to discover the New World. An English player may seek to recreate the far flung naval empire of the 19th Century British. Using history as inspiration your diplogame can take many twists that increase your interest and the interest of your neighbors. Sometimes trying to maintain historical realism becomes a more important goal than winning. For example in History of the World 4, I (as the English) want to role-play a line of English monarchs as long as I can, so refuse to switch to Republic even when it may be a better form of government game-wise.
Sometimes the mixing of real history can lead to some interesting combinations. Julius Caesar may send Marco Polo on a journey to China, who meets Confucius when he gets there. Of course all these characters are from different time periods, but a good diploplayer can make it work.
5.7 More on Characters
You can use characters to offer different perspectives of your in-game decisions. Rather than just be a ruler with a singleminded focus, your characters can argue over the appropriate paths to take. This can also help to confuse your enemies, not knowing which path you will take when your posts seem to go both ways. Your leader could threaten war while the people have massive anti-war demonstrations and threaten to topple the government. Or King James may want to ally with the Zulus, but some in his cabinet hate the Zulus and may try to stop him.
5.8 Foreshadow or Keep Secrets?
There exists a tension between inclinations to foreshadow future decisions and keeping secrets about your game progress and decisions. Players often like to give hints in their posts on what is coming next for their civilization. This helps to move the story forward. Is a warmonger coming to power? Are the people clamoring for Democracy? Has someone stumbled upon an exploding black powder?
Other players, worried their foreshadowing could endanger their plans in game, choose to keep stuff like that secret until it has already happened or is inevitable. How much information to reveal is a decision good players have to make.
5.9 Link between game world and story world
Another tactic that players use when crafting stories is basing them directly on their game play. If your civ is fundamentalist (or fascist), roleplay as a fundamentalist. If your civ just invented The Wheel, roleplay that discovery. If you just built a city, write a story to accompany the founding of that specific city. Sometimes players will even associate characters with real units in the game. For example you may assign the identity of Sir Lancelot to your Knight unit, or Hannibal to your Elephant unit. Where that unit goes in-game so goes your character in the story. When that unit dies, so does your character in the story. If that unit wins a battle and earns veteran status, then write a story about how that character became a battle-hardened vet during that war.
5.10 Being the Bad GuyOriginally posted by The Capo
I also notice that a lot of players make the mistake of thinking that their "Monarchy" is a liberal institution, you find comments like "I do not force my people into anything" being said by Monarchs, which is all well and good since we are in America, but its no fun to deal with Monarchs that act like Presidents.
Some players like to stay good and benevolent throughout the game. Others like the fun of being a bad guy once and a while. Have Saddam Hussein or Genghis Khan come to power in your civilization and roleplay yourself as a bad guy. Put your own people to death, piss off your neighbors, and generally act like a bloodthirsty tyrant. This is role-playing and it is fun to play the bad guy every once and a while. It brings some variety and unpredictability to the game. Write stories about your leader putting his advisor to death for a small criticism, or starving peasants on a whim. Good and evil are elements to play with in a diplogame.
6. Game Play
6.1 Balance of Power
Maintaining a balance of power is very important in a diplogame. To make the game fun and playable for everyone it is important not to let anyone become too weak or too strong. Alliances, charity and war are good ways of evening things out.
6.1.1 Weak players
Very weak players often receive handouts from larger powers to help them through the game, especially if they were stunted by a bad sub or AI. Players may give tech, money or even cities to weak players to help them be competitive again. Since this game thrives on human interactions and everyone having a good time, it does no good for any player to be totally out of the game.
6.1.2 Strong players
To hem in strong players, alliances and even war should be used. No one wants to see one player run away with the game and dominate his neighbors. Other players may ally together to counter the power of that one player, and may even gang up on him to take away some territory in order to knock that big player down a few pegs. Allowing that one player to sit alone on his island building up an army will come back to haunt you later.
6.2 War Etiquette
As you may have guessed war in a diplogame is different from war in normal games. War does exist though, quite a lot in fact. The difference is it is measured, explainable and follows diplogame etiquette.
6.2.1 Wars of annihilation
Wars of annihilation are very rare and greatly discouraged in a diplogame. Do not even try it. Wars like this are very difficult as often the rest of the world will team up against you (as in WW2 against the Axis), but even if successful, wars of annihilation ruin the fun for everyone.
You must have some plausible justification for a war. You can't just decide one day to attack your long time friend and trading partner. Though I suppose you could, but you'd find it very difficult to make any friends in the future. Wars develop in diplogames like they do in the real world: competing claims for land, gradually stepped up hostilities, breaking of promises, etc. Sometimes accidents are used as justification for war. If the Germans accidentally move their ship in the wrong direction and attack a Slav ship, the Slavs can use that as justification for an invasion. There is nothing worse in a diplogame than a sneak attack. That’s a sure way to make enemies out of everyone else in the game.
6.2.3 Measured war
War must be measured. Take maybe 2-3 cities and then sue for peace. Taking capitals or major wonder cities is also very discouraged, though allowed if you intend to give them back after the war in exchange for reparations. This is where colonial territory comes in. India and China may go to war and China may capture part of mainland India and sue for peace. Rather than holding onto this important piece of the India homeland, China returns that territory and India gives up some overseas possessions. Wars should be waged for tactical gains, not to cripple an opponent.
History of the World 2 introduced the concept of elections in diplogames. For players secure enough to trust their fate to others, this is a fascinating way to conduct yourself during the game. Start a thread (if the moderators allow it) with a poll choosing between different leaders. Other players in the game, and other non-players can vote in the poll to elect a new leader of your nation and thus decide what you will do during the next game session. Will they elect a peaceful technologist? A warmonger? Someone interested in increasing production?
This requires a great deal of trust by a player to give up control over his game, but the payoff in enjoyment is great. Be careful how the election is handled however. Ballot stuffing and election fraud is as possible in diplogames as in the real world. In History of the World 2 when the Mongol player (me) held an election, the Australian player (Deity) used multiple log-ins to manipulate the results and elect who he wanted.
6.4 Land Treaties
I will let Capo explain this aspect
6.5 Economic IdeasOriginally posted by The Capo
I think you should talk about the idea of plotting out borders early, in most of the Diplogames I have been in, everyone had made agreements such as:
France: I want to own India.
Mongolia: I want to own Indonesia.
Now neither of these civs would actually have had a stake in these areas, but they felt comfortable enough to "guarantee" them to each other in the sense that they would not interfere. Often this leads to war with each other (in this case since the territory is so close) or with outside civs, say the Persians and Japanese had previously made a similar agreement with each other, and both sides wish to hold their deals.
Some ideas for bringing more realism into a game is applying various economic actions from the real world and doing it in the game.
6.5.1 Investment & Loans
For example in EuroDip I, the Spanish were building a wonder and called on other players to "invest" in the project by giving money. After the wonder was built, the Spanish player (Moker) repaid these investments with money later. Loans like this work in the same way real world loans do. Borrow money, and pay it back with interest.
Charging tolls is another way to generate income in a diplogame. Hold a sensitive position like a canal or land bridge, and charge players gold to pass through. You can charge less for friends and allies, or simply not allow enemies to pass.
As trade becomes very important in diplogames, players may choose to place tariffs on foreign trade. A foreign caravan entering your city must pay 20 or 30% of the gold received to the host civ. This can be adjusted for friends and enemies as well. Trade embargos can be attempted between hostile civs. The possibilities are endless.
6.6 There can be only 1 top player
In a seven player game this means there will be 6 players who aren’t the best. Get used to it. Find ways to enjoy the game even if you aren’t dominating the world. And remember, positions can change over time. The puny last place civ may one day be first and the first place civ may one day be last. No one is ever totally out of a diplogame so don’t loose hope.
6.7 Other In-Game GoalsOriginally posted by KenThur
As any that followed the "Tales from the Diplo Front, Dolby Stereo" knew, i (Milo/Vikings) had one of the "puniest" civ's ever to play a Civ MP contest. This was due to: (A) starting position, (B) not knowing we were playing on "Earth", & (C) dumb initial city placements (we all have to learn, right?). But by sticking with it & realizing/admitting that I would never be the #1 power (sort of like the Swiss or Swedes will ever be"#1", I was able to have a rousing good time! All by working with, against (gr-r-r-r), & thru the parade of other players. The ultimate reward was achieved by fantastic TEAMWORK with 2 other civ's be part of the winning TEAM that provided the "surprise ending" Cap refers to above. NEVER give up & honor your commitments / promises(unless of course, circumstances change ).
Since only one player can be the biggest, it is a good idea to pursue other goals besides being the biggest and strongest. Side missions can make the game quite enjoyable. Send a ship around the entire world and be the first to circumnavigate the world. Replicate Marco Polo's journey by sending a diplomat overland to China. Build the Silk Road. Open the canals. Be the first civ to send a unit (the same unit) to both the North and South poles. Become the World Bank by lending out money to all other players. Try to create a real United Nations to solve disputes. Send a unit to explore the source of the Nile. Have a unit climb the highest mountains on every continent. These side missions may not help you win the game, but they will greatly enrich the game and make it more enjoyable.
6.8 AI & Subs
Everyone ends up missing a few sessions during long diplogames. In most cases the other players will continue on without you and find a Sub, hopefully, to take your place. If you are unlucky your Civ will just be left for the AI. This sucks, but is the nature of the game. You can role-play it when you get back as a revolution by "Arty Intelli" who ran the nation into the ground during his rule.
Originally posted by KenThur
IMPORTANT... it is a given that the AI or a sub will HAVE to take over your Civ for a number turns during a contest of this size & length. So please go into it with that understanding. But therein, lays another of the beauties of a true diplo game; your friends & allies (+ by adjusting your Civ's attitudes toward other Civ’s before leaving) will standup for & protect your long-term interests during your absence.