by Sam Jones

In this article I am going to talk about what kind of writing styles you can adopt in your press. I'm assuming you're using the DPJudge or some other Play by E-mail system, and that you don't know the people that you're playing with. The idea here is that the presentation of your ideas is equally important as the ideas themselves.

When I started to play Diplomacy on the Judge, when I wrote my press I always tried to come across as an intelligent even-minded individual who was capable of stringing lots of words together in a line. Why did I do this? I can only assume it was because I felt people wouldn't want to work with or to trust someone who came across as volatile or just plain stupid. Despite this being the style of press I see most often in my games, I'm not convinced that it's the best way to communicate in the game — in fact, I believe it has some marked disadvantages.

So, what options are available to the cunning player who wants to manipulate other players without writing long persuasive messages in Queen's English? I believe the problem is as follows: When you start the game, you want others to move as you'd like them to. To do this, you try to persuade them using the diplomatic style with long convincing presses. The problem is that all good Diplomacy players are used to this, and quite often even resent it. So you're better off not even trying to persuade people in this way. The subtelty is to get others to agree to your moves without them even realising they've been convinced. If I could do that, I'd be a master. Anyway, I'll talk about a couple of techniques that I've seen or used that are designed to avoid either or both of the above disadvantages, which are enough to kill your game regardless of what power or what plans you make.

Aside from these three techniques though, there are other much easier ways to stop yourself coming over as an old hand. Don't tell the other players what to do, but instead ask them questions. Put forward an idea and ask them what they think about it. It makes them feel like they are running the relationship between you. If another player mentions a Lepanto or ELS or a Juggernaut in their press, feel free to ask them what it is. I think you will find that in Diplomacy there is a much greater chance that people will try to take advantage of, rather than gang up on, the player who seems like he's newer to the game. And it's far better to be in a position where your ally thinks he has you sussed and will deal with you when he's got time than one who's thinking 'This guy knows what he's doing, as soon as I can spare a unit I'll have to turn on him just to save my ass'.

In short, in Diplomacy it can pay high dividends to appear like a newbie who's not really sure what he's doing. Counterintuitive, eh? There are a hundred and one ways to do this, and probably far better than what I've described, but I hope I've given you some ideas.

Sam Jones

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