This last weekend, I was invited (secretly, by the wife of a friend of mine who lives a few hours away) to join them for a surprise birthday party. Unfortunately, I had prior committments related to my oldest son and his Scout Camp, so I couldn't go. However, the reason I mention this is because I also anticipated that when I get together with this guy, some awesome gaming will ensue. He's already a legendary GM, with a legendary setting under his belt, and the two of us are remarkably of a similar mind and tastes when it comes to almost everything gaming related.
And that, plus the post I made last really reminds me how important it is to find folks with whom you mesh if you want to have a good gaming experience. When I first starting playing D&D again, back in the first year or so that 3e was in print, I found a group of guys more or less my age by advertising at a Wizards of the Coast retail store (none of which still exist, I believe, although that's neither here nor there.) At the time, I was happy with that; we did some decent gaming, and it was fun to try out the new system that I otherwise probably wouldn't have been using. However, I didn't really mesh well with these guys gaming wise; I got along well enough with them otherwise, but what I wanted from the game and what they wanted didn't really intersect very well. Plus, I had to drive really far to get to the location in which they gamed. When my third kid Alexander was born, that was a good excuse for me to drop out and not end up coming back. Plus, around that time, my wife overheard some folks at church mention D&D, and the next thing I knew, I was involved with another group that was much closer to home.
This group and I also initially thrived; we got along very well as friends, but... again, I found out fairly soon that our gaming tastes were not very compatible. They tended more towards traditional high fantasy, where I was moving more and more towards a low fantasy, sword & sorcery, dark fantasy or even horror vibe. Albeit with a swashbuckling flair. Plus; they had terrible follow-through; I don't know how many abortive campaigns we started only to have them fizzle without any conclusion.
Around that time, I was stumbling into the group that I have now; a group of guys (and one lady). And while I don't know that we're all on the same page gaming wise either, at least we seem better able to rotate through styles and allow other folks to get what they want from time to time. In most respects, this is the best gaming I've ever had with these guys, and I'm glad that we all came across each other.
Now, in an ideal world, I'd find people with my exact tastes, and distance would be no barrier. The guy who's surprise party I had to miss (sorry, dude!)? He'd be in my regular group. Along with a bunch of other people spread throughout the globe who've demonstrated that we're on exactly the same page gaming wise. One way to attempt this is play-by-post. Sadly, I've only had limited successes with this medium, but with the right people, it seems a viable way to game. It's not really the same as face-to-face gaming at all, but it can still be fun.
The secret of a successful Pbp is one that I don't know for sure how you can gauge upfront though; you need people who are very actively engaged, who post regularly, and who help keep up the momentum. I've seen from sad experience that the GM cannot drive that kind of thing on his own. It simply doesn't work. Also, players who post a lot, but who do absolutely nothing to drive the game forward are also a bit deceptive (not on purpose!) in that it seems activity is going on, but in reality, the game isn't happening. I think it's a lack of social cues like you'd see in face to face that cause this problem, but you need a few people who are willing to take decisive action, who are anxiously engaged in the game, and who are willing to see it through and not lose interest after a few weeks or months. Keeping the pace up in a Pbp is very difficult indeed.
My current Pbp, which is stalled due to technical issues at the site where I run it, is basically "run" by two of the players. Most of the players are fairly active, but two of them are the ones who "drive" the game by acting decisively. I think without them, the game would really have floundered, so to you two: my hat's off. Thanks!