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Advice for OSR DMs

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I wrote an introduction section that is meant for the Lair of the Lamb.  

The most interesting part for most of you will probably be the Advice for DMs section, but I'm posting the whole thing here since it's a good explanation of (a) old-school dungeoncrawls, as I see them, and (b) the style of gameplay that I'm shooting for in the Lair of the Lamb.

by Konstantin Kostadinov

What You are Reading

This text is meant to be an introduction to both the GLOG and an old-school dungeoncrawl.

The Goblin Laws of Gaming

The ruleset in this book is sufficient for the adventure in this book.  The rules will serve you well up until the last page of the dungeoncrawl.
But the GLOG that can be printed is not the True GLOG.  The GLOG is a philosophy—gather the rules that improve your game, and exile the rules that don't.  The published rules are just building blocks for you to incorporate or discard as you see fit.
There are two reasons we should shun a monolith.
First, there is no one-size-fits-all RPG.  Your game will improve after you tailor it to meet your group’s expectations and preferences.  Second, the best rules and creatures for your game will not exist in a single book--they will exist in many.  (In another book, I hope I can write about how to best make these decisions.)

An Old-School Dungeoncrawl

The players will control a group of lowly peasants who attempt to escape a dangerous and exotic underground maze.  That makes it a dungeoncrawl.
They will map the dungeon themselves, track light sources, they will rely on their wits (instead of their class abilities), and some will die.  These things make it old-school.
Level-0 Peasants
Each player will play as several level-0 peasants.  By the end of the module, each player will (hopefully) exit the dungeon with a level 1 character who has earned their hit points the hard way.  
We do this so that:
  • The players can start playing quickly.  New players are neither knowledgeable nor invested.  (Later, the surviving characters will be flesh out.  Backstories are for closers.)
  • The players can learn to play with the simplest character sheet possible.  Mechanics can be introduced one by one.
  • The players are not punished too harshly for their mistakes.  Since they have extra lives, they can move on from fatal errors.  Since the dungeon is lethal, it’s best if players are familiar with the genre before they are attached to a particular character.
  • Parts of the dungeon can be closed off to groups without particular gear.  Torches, ropes, and weapons can fulfill the role of keys.
  • The world's cruelty must be instructed.


Advice for DMs


Meaningful Choices

Give the players as many meaningful choices as you can. This means a choice where:
  • The negative outcome is known (at least approximately).
  • The positive outcome is known (at least approximately).
  • The odds are known (at least approximately).
  • The outcomes affect the game (they are not trivial).
  • The player is also free to choose not to choose (they can walk away).
Shoot for at least 4 of the 5.


Similarly, try to avoid giving players meaningless choices.  “Do you go down identical tunnel A or identical tunnel B?”

And respect their decisions.  If the players choose to avoid the ogre encounter, don’t reskin the ogres as half-giants and put the encounter in front of them again.  Conversely, if they find a way to easily kill the ogres in the first round, respect their ingenuity and allow the ogres to die (don’t give the ogres more HP on the fly, or re-insert the encounter later).

We want players to feel ownership of the results of their choices.  “I did this.”  For the same reason, players roll as many of the dice as possible. (The DM rolls as few as possible.)

Information

Part of giving the players meaningful choices is giving them the information they need to make their decisions.  They need to know what the risks and the rewards are for any decision (at least approximately).

Don’t hide information behind rolls--just give it to your players.  When in doubt, give them more information.  It is more important to inform your players than it is to find justifications for how the characters would know things.

Impact

You must allow your players’ actions to change, build, and destroy your world.

You are not a tour guide nor a train conductor.  You are the manager of a very dangerous wildlife reserve.  If your players choose to organize the leopards into a militia, tell them where they can find boots.  If your players choose to burn down the forest, let your setting burn.  Let their decisions matter.

(There is nothing wrong with scripted events or fluff encounters; just be cognizant of what they are.)

Lethality

Players in breezy games will sometimes drink random potions just to see the result, because they know that nothing truly terrible will happen.  This isn’t that kind of game.  Sometimes the strange bottle contains poison, and sometimes it kills you without a saving throw.  Don’t drink poison.

The sooner that players learn this expectation, the sooner they will thrive.  Playing multiple characters helps players learn this lesson without a tutorial section.  Do not go easy on them--if your kindness teaches them that their characters will not die even when they probably should, your kindness has become a cruelty, since it creates expectations that will be shattered much later (and more painfully).

The dungeon is not an unthinking meat grinder.  The dungeon is a test, where wrong answers are penalized.  Skilled players will be able to navigate the dungeon without any deaths, while fools will TPK in the first few rooms.

Combat is a little different, since the chaos of d20 rolls means that the weaker party sometimes triumphs--which is why risk-averse players should also be combat-averse players.

Fair Deaths

Players should die, but they should die as the result of bad choices.

A player that dies shouldn’t feel angry at the injustice of it all.  Ideally, they should sigh, shrug, smile, and say “yeah, I kinda figured that might happen.”

Bad: “You walk into the room.  Rocks fall.  Everyone roll a Dex save or take damage.”

Good: “The sagging ceiling seems to be held up by a spear.”

A player that dies in the first room would have good reason to feel bitter.  A player who dies in the second will only have themselves to blame.  Fair deaths result from meaningful choices.

Keep Track

Every action in the dungeon has a cost.  Searching the bone pile takes precious time.  Torches will burn down.  There is the chance that a random encounter might occur.  Searching the bone pile is a bit like a shop where items are purchased with torchlight and blood.

You cannot have a meaningful campaign unless strict time measures are kept.  The same applies to torches and rations.

HP (or the number of peasants) is another resource.  HP can be thought of as the character’s risk budget.  You spend HP on risky actions.  Characters with more HP can do more things because they can afford to take more risks.  A low-HP group is a miserable thing, crawling past the wonders of the underworld, unable to afford a taste.

Allow Failure

Your players will die: sometimes heroically, sometimes embarassingly.  Resist the temptation to save them.  This is one of the hardest things for groups to adjust to (which is why it’s so important to set expectations early).

Allow PCs to flee combat, but never fudge the dice.  After all, they chose to stay and fight.

Your players will not find all the secret areas.  Resist the temptation to drop hints.  Finding secret areas is one of the things that separates good players from novices.  Not that there’s anything wrong with participation trophies, but there needs to be a trophy for excellence, too.

After the session, resist the temptation to tell players about all of the things that they missed.  Those secrets must be purchased through cleverness and bravery, or not at all.

Allow Success

There must be rewards commensurate with the dangers.  Allow players opportunities to feel powerful.  They will sidestep your traps and one-shot your bosses; celebrate these moments with them.

They will want to make their characters cool.  Let them go buy the swordcane that they want.  The dungeon made the survivors rich--let them throw a party.

Allow Players to Pick their Genre

You cannot enforce morality on your players if they want to play as murderhobos.  Similarly, a horror game is impossible if the players keep making Monty Python jokes.  You can nudge in a direction (after all, the DM is a player, too) but you cannot require.

If you write up courtly intrigues but your players only want to kick down doors and kill things, either (a) have an open conversation about your goals for this game, or (b) give them the kind of game that they want.

Never Fudge the Dice

Better yet, roll them out in the open.

If you are adjusting the difficulty on the fly, then it’s no different than wrestling with your dad.  A mock struggle, followed by a fictional triumph.  You might as well not roll dice at all.  (It might still tell a good story, but how shallow must that victory feel, knowing that was never any other outcome.)

If a combat is too easy for the players, the monsters will flee or surrender (see Morale).

If the combat is too difficult, the players can always run away (see Pursuit).  Learning to flee a losing battle is something that many groups struggle with, which is why that is the first lesson taught in the Lair of the Lamb.


Advice for Players

Think in Terms of the Dungeon Level

Other games might envision an adventure as a series of encounters, each relatively isolated from each other.

This dungeon is not like that.  It is a single, interlocking mechanism.  Opening paths creates loops that you can retreat down.  Monsters roam from room to room.  Noticing a blank spot on the map allows players to infer the location of a secret room.  Answers to a puzzle are found in a different room.  Think globally, rather than locally.

Keep an eye on that map.

Learn Everything You Can

In the beginning, the dungeon is unknown, and peasants will die because they didn’t recognize its perils.  But eventually the dungeon will be maps and the mechanisms tamed.  You will turn the traps against your enemies.  At this point, the dungeon is no longer the wolf beyond the firelight, it is the tame dog at your side, another tool in your backpack.  Yet, the only thing that you have gained in knowledge.

Information is a precious resource that can be leveraged to gain an advantage in nearly every situation.  Your DM has been instructed to give you plenty of information in every situation, but you can always ask for more.  Try to ask a question in every room.

The more you know about the dungeon, the better you can use it to be clever.

Be Clever

Fuck your Int score.  Always be as clever as you can.  You are not wrestling with your dad; the dungeon will kill you if you let it.  

The solutions are not on your character sheet.  You do not have class abilities that you can rely on in every situation.  Look at your inventory, look at the map, look at the other players.  The rules have fuzzy edges in the GLOG--bend reality to your will by bargaining with the DM.

“Can I fill the pit with enough bones so that Akina can climb out?”

“Can I use my Butchery skill to help stabilize Goren?”

“Can I use the brightness juice to blind her?”

None of these three questions are covered by the rules, yet they are all indisputably good ideas.  A good DM will find a way to reward good ideas.

Similarly, many of the puzzles in the Lair of the Lamb are open-ended.  They have multiple solutions that I have imagined, and many other solutions that I haven’t.  Keep throwing ideas at them--eventually something will stick.

Treat the NPCs Like People

Think about what the monsters want.  Every sentient thing has a set of wants and fears, even if it’s as simple as “food” and “light”.

Likewise, no NPC has an entirely rigid response.   Enemies can become friends.  Friends can turn against you. Not because it’s scripted or because it makes dramatic sense, but because of how you treated them, and how well you fit into their wants/fears.

There are no social skills.  You’ll have to figure out what they want by asking them the old-fashioned way.

Avoid Combat

Unless you know you are going to win, of course.  The best combats are the ones that you have already won before they start, whether through trap, trick, poison, or fire.  Never rely on the dice--they will always betray you, in the end.

You may spend more time choosing and planning battles than actually fighting.  This is good.  And remember that running away is always an option.

And if combat is unavoidable, at least try to fall back to a more defensible position.  

Focus on the Dungeon

Right now, the real focus is the byzantine machine at the heart of the world: the dungeon itself. Quickly learn its moods and anatomies.

Keep a mind on your goals: water first, escape last.  

Look for Secrets

There at least a dozen secret areas and items to discover in the Lair of the Lamb.  Finding them will give you useful tools (and level-ups).  All of them will improve your chance of survival.

You must balance your hunt for the exit with your search for resources.  It is not easy to find a balance between these two things, and yet the best players will find a way.
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shanel
12 days ago
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So well put.
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Yes, Trump Has a Plan to Deal with COVID-19

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It’s just too monstrous for decent people to contemplate. While I realize Ezra Klein’s latest rhetorical trick is to act astonished when horrible people somehow end up doing horrible things, it becomes a real analytical stumbling block. In a recent piece, Klein argues that Trump et alia lack a plan to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic (boldface mine):

It is shocking. More than 60 days after President Trump declared a national emergency over the novel coronavirus, there is still no clear national plan for what comes next. “The lockdown is not meant to be a permanent state of affairs; it’s intended to be a giant pause button that buys you time to get ready for the next phase,” Jeremy Konyndyk, of the Center for Global Development think tank, says….

But the Trump administration wasted the pause. Over the past two months, the US should have built the testing, contact tracing, and quarantine infrastructure necessary to safely end lockdown and transition back to normalcy — as many of its peer countries did. Instead, Trump has substituted showmanship for action, playing the president on TV but refusing to do the actual job. He has both dominated the airwaves and abdicated his duties. As a result, America’s progress against the coronavirus has stalled, even as the lockdown has driven the economy into crisis.

There are, at this point, a slew of reopening plans from think tanks and academics, economists and epidemiologists, liberals and conservatives. They differ in important, controversial ways. There are proposals that go all-in on mass testing. There are others that imagine a vast architecture of digital surveillance. Some rely on states; others emphasize the federal role. And within the plans, details worth debating abound: What level of risk is acceptable? How should recommendations vary between dense cities and rural areas? Who counts as an essential worker? How do we prevent mass unemployment? What is technologically possible?

The Trump administration could have chosen any of these plans or produced its own. But it didn’t. The closest it has come is a set of guidelines for states to consult when reopening. You can read them yourself at the White House’s “Opening America” landing page….

As my colleague Matthew Yglesias has argued, the White House — and thus the country — has not even chosen a goal. The Trump administration has never decided whether the aim is “mitigation,” in which we slow the virus’s spread so the health system doesn’t get overwhelmed, or “suppression,” in which we try to eradicate the virus so as to save lives. It is possible, as Thomas Friedman writes, that the US is actually pursuing neither goal; instead, officials are following Sweden’s laissez-faire approach to the virus, and Trump “just hasn’t told the country or his coronavirus task force or maybe even himself.”

As much as it pains me to say it, Thomas Friedman is very close to being right–we’ll return to that shortly.

To me, it’s become clear during the last week that the issue isn’t solely incompetence. They are capable of competence (not perfection, but competence) when they want to do something. They have been very effective at shredding lots of regulations (the EPA is a hollow shell of what it was, at best), getting tax cuts, and funneling money to large businesses. They also have been pretty good at treating immigrants like shit. They are perfectly capable of planning things they want.

So the Trump administration, along with many of its Republican collaborators, has a plan. It’s just that the plan is so horrifying that many people don’t want to believe the administration would do something like that. The plan is simple. Restart businesses, and let the American Carnage ensue. It will disproportionately affect minorities and lower-income people–and if those people were better people, they would have been wealthier and whiter, so fuck ’em anyway. I think they also believe–likely incorrectly–that the carnage will be confined mostly to urban, Democratic areas. Meanwhile, TEH STONKS! will be doing well, so all is good.

That’s the plan.

Before you make a counterargument, consider this: the Republican Party has spent the last forty years undermining worker protections and environmental protection. Why would they suddenly change their ways? This is what they do because they believe it’s the right thing to do, as horrifying as that is. Sure, this isn’t some toxic sludge, it’s a virus. But they have never cared about workers or public health, so why would they start now?

The absence of a plan to reopen safely as reasonably possible is the plan because they don’t care about your safety or health.

To claim that the scope of the crisis will encourage them to rise above their typical behavior is to make the same mistake many people made in the run up to the Iraq War. Yes, Little Lord Pontchartrain might have lied a lot about budgets and other things, but war–the Most Serious Action a President Can Take™–was too important. Surely, he and his administration wouldn’t lie about war? (narrator: they did). Meanwhile, Trump has an even more strained relationship with reality than Bush did.

That doesn’t mean Trump et alia also aren’t inept. But to lay this at the feet of a supposed inability to plan, when the administration clearly has been able to do so in other contexts, doesn’t make a lot of sense.

So, yes, there’s a plan. It’s in plain sight, and it’s monstrous.

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CallMeWilliam
16 days ago
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The goal is to maintain power through lies and fabrication. It always has been; why would this be any different?

My mistake in February was in not thinking through how terrible the government response would be.
shanel
17 days ago
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I think their plan is to horde everything until October and then shower Red states with PPE and tests and hope people see the Dorito as their Lord and Savior.
New York, New York
popular
15 days ago
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jhamill
17 days ago
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Well, shit.
California
acdha
17 days ago
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It’s the prepper view of the world as national policy
Washington, DC

D&Dish: Questions to ask players about their character’s Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma

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Asking good questions is such a big part of being a good librarian that it was a shock when Apocalypse World first made me really think about questions as a tool at the table. Of course gamers asked each other questions before Apocalypse World; I’m not saying the Bakers invented questions or the question mark. But naming the tools in one’s toolbox makes it easier to reach for said tool and makes it easier to discuss how to use them well.

The questions here go back and forth between questions for high stats and questions for low stats. They can easily be changed a bit for the middle of the road results.

Below are the pretty versions with world bubbles and character sheets but below that is just the text.


12345

DnD Sheet Questions


Strength

Were you born strong or did you work hard to become strong?

 

What is/was the worst part about not being the strongest?

 

What feat of strength have you always wanted to accomplish?

 

How did you survive without physical strength?

 

When you locked up with the strongest person you’ve ever wrestled, what happened that made you realize they were stronger than you?

 

Dexterity

When did you realize you were faster/more graceful than everyone around you?

 

What is your worst nightmare about being clumsy?

 

What feat of grace have you always wanted to accomplish?

 

What did you almost drop?

 

Which monster was the children’s game you were so great at named after?

 

Constitution

What did being hale and healthy allow you to accomplish?

 

What was your haven during your sickest days?

 

What did you survive because you are so durable and healthy?

 

When were you most sick and who took care of you?

 

What did you attribute your great health to? Ancestors? Deities? The crystal clear water in the streams where you grew up?

 

Intelligence

When did you first realize you were the smartest person you knew?

 

How did you deal with the written word being so difficult for you?

 

What was the first problem you solved with your intellect?

 

How do you react to being called dumb?

 

What was the first problem you could not think your way out of?

 

Wisdom

What did you realize about the adults around you at a young age because of your incredible perception?

 

What problem in your community did you not see because of your lack of wisdom?

 

When did you first give wise advice to a friend and how did their problem find resolution?

 

What personal shortcoming did you fail to see until it was too late and damaged your life?

 

Which prayer has the most personal meaning for you?

 

Charisma

Who were some of the first people you remember charming?

 

How do you recover from bad first impressions?

 

When was the first time you realized the power you wielded in front of a large audience?

 

Who did your lack of charm and social grace push away that you really regret?

 

What was the best performance of your life so far?



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shanel
22 days ago
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Hmm...
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Russia Says It Will Accept Trump’s Offer Of Ventilators To Treat Coronavirus

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MOSCOW — The Kremlin says Russia will gratefully accept U.S. President Donald Trump’s offer to provide ventilators for coronavirus patients.

Trump said Wednesday the U.S. was ready to send ventilators to Russia, saying “they’re having a hard time in Moscow. We’re going to help them.” He added the U.S. also stands ready to provide ventilators to other countries, including Italy, Spain and France.

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov hailed Trump’s offer as “very positive,” saying in Thursday’s call with reporters that “Russia will certainly accept the kind offer if necessary.”

Russia has registered 27,938 coronavirus cases and 232 deaths. Officials have scrambled to secure ventilators and other essential supplies amid an exponential growth in infections.

Earlier this month, Russia sent a planeload of medical supplies, including ventilators to the United States. Moscow says the U.S. paid for half of the medical supplies, while the other half was sponsored by Russia’s state investment fund.

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shanel
46 days ago
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We don't have enough ventilators in the States, but Trump's going to send some to Russia...
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fxer
45 days ago
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Seemed a little silly Russia sent us ventilators unless they had a crazy huge stockpile (they didn’t) since the situation was worsening in both countries. The only path is building new ventilators, not shipping the same few back and forth around the world
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mareino
46 days ago
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Holy shit he just won't stop
Washington, District of Columbia

Good Article

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TPM Reader AR flagged to me this informed, cautious and insightful overview of what we can glean about COVID19 testing data in the United States – numbers of tests, the percentage of positive tests and what if anything we can infer from these numbers about the true size of the epidemic and how pervasive it is in the United States. It’s written by two people running the COVID Tracking Project.

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shanel
46 days ago
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This tracks. We've hit our testing ceiling, so the numbers seem to plateau...
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How to Vote by Mail in All 50 States

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Hours before last week's primary in Wisconsin, the state Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court commanded officials to go ahead with the election as planned. The pair of rulings—issued in both cases by courts controlled by Republican-appointed judges—meant that Democratic Governor Tony Evers' last-minute order to delay the election was overruled and a deadline for absentee ballots could not be extended. Some people who had requested absentee ballots had not received them yet due to the deluge of requests; those Wisconsinites had to choose between standing in hours-long lines to vote at an extremely limited number of polling stations, risking exposure to COVID-19, or not voting at all. In the aftermath, 14 Milwaukee voters filed a lawsuit demanding a revote and arguing that they had been effectively disenfranchised.

This type of chaos could be a preview of the November general election. Even if the world finds a way to get the pandemic under control, experts are predicting that the virus may come back in the fall as temperatures drop, and depending on the country's ability to test for and treat the coronavirus, in-person voting could still remain a risk. That prospect has voting reform advocates demanding that the whole country do what a few states have done already and conduct elections entirely by mail.

All states currently allow some voters to cast ballots by mail, but restrictions on who can do so vary. Many have what's called no-excuse absentee voting, meaning voters can request a mail-in ballot without having to provide a reason. The rest require you to explain why you can't vote in person—acceptable common excuses include serving in the military, having an illness or disability that prevents you from getting to the polls or working long hours on Election Day. Some states let voters over 60 or 65 cast absentee ballots without providing another reason.

Though the issue doesn't break down precisely on partisan lines, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to oppose efforts to expand voting by mail on the unproven grounds that it would make electoral crimes more common—Donald Trump recently called mail voting "corrupt" and "RIPE for FRAUD." That is disputed by reform advocates, who point to relatively fraud-free elections in all-mail states like Oregon. A slightly more complicated argument hinges on the practice of "vote harvesting," where a person gives their ballot to another person to drop off at the polling center, which Republican politicians have denounced as opening the door to mischief. Ballot harvesting is legal in California but illegal in many other states; last year a congressional election in North Carolina was thrown out after a Republican operative allegedly hired someone to harvest ballots from voters and fill them out afterward, which is illegal everywhere.

In its latest coronavirus relief bill, Congress gave $400 million to the states for election security, which could be used to expand voting by mail, and Congressional Democrats are pushing for more funding as part of the next legislative package. The Brennan Center, a law and policy institute that often covers election security and voting rights issues, estimates that securing the 2020 election against COVID-19 would cost $2 billion, most of which would go toward printing, posting and making sure voters had access to mail-in ballots.

While policymakers debate mail voting in the next seven months, individual voters can do their part to prepare themselves for a coronavirus election. Given that Wisconsin—one of the no-excuse absentee states—had such a difficult time processing all the absentee requests, it's probably a good idea to ask for such a ballot as soon as you can, said Max Feldman, counsel at Brennan's Voting Rights and Elections Program. It's an even better idea to make sure that you're registered to vote, which you can do with Vote.org's online tool.

If you aren't registered to vote right now, do it! In most states you can do it online.

"Voters should really try to be aware of the rules and deadlines that are applicable in the election, and do what they can well in advance to be prepared to cast the ballot in the midst of a crisis," Feldman said.

Voting absentee is generally less of a hassle than going to your polling place, but you should still be prepared for an annoying multi-step process. Unless you're in a state where online applications are available, you'll need to print out, sign and physically mail an absentee ballot application, and in some states you have only a specific window of time in which to apply for, receive and mail back a ballot. Some states allow you to be placed on a permanent vote by mail list, but others require you to apply for an absentee ballot for every election. In most states, you must mail your application and your ballot to your local election official, whose address you'll have to find online. Some jurisdictions cover the cost of postage for absentee ballots, but it varies state by state and county by county. (In 2018, however, ProPublica reported that it was an "open secret among election officials" that the Postal Service will deliver ballots even without stamps.)

Even if you are in a state that only gives mail ballots to those who can't vote in person, those requirements may be tweaked in light of the pandemic, with some states already saying that for spring and summer elections, being worried about COVID-19 is a valid excuse to avoid the polls. "Some secretaries of state have made it clear that for the primary, concern about coronavirus will qualify as an illness or disability or something along those lines," Feldman said. "But it's really being done on a state by state basis right now."

Here's a state-by-state breakdown of what you need to do—and when—in order to ensure you can vote by mail in November:

How to Vote by Mail in Alabama

Alabama is particularly strict about its absentee requirements. Republican Governor Kay Ivey is on the record as opposing all-mail elections even with coronavirus afoot. A law passed last year requires a copy of your photo ID to be submitted with an absentee application, in most cases you have to submit an application for each election and when you fill out your ballot it has to be witnessed by a notary or two people over the age of 18 (that's obviously a tricky requirement for anyone socially distancing).

The good news is that Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill has said that concerns about the coronavirus count as a valid excuse for the upcoming primary runoff, which has been pushed back to July 14.

Alabama's absentee deadlines: Absentee requests must be received by your county at least five days before the election, and the ballots themselves have to be mailed back the day before Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Alaska

Alaska is one of the many states where voters can receive an absentee ballot without providing a reason why they will be unable to get to the polls. The Democratic Party has made its primary an all-mail affair, but it’s unclear whether other elections will be held entirely by mail. That uncertainty is all the more reason to apply for an absentee ballot today.

Alaska's absentee deadlines: Absentee requests must be received by the state absentee officers at least 10 days before an election. Your ballot must be postmarked by Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Arizona

Arizona has something called a Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL), which allows voters to request mail-in ballots for every election going forward. You don't need a reason to get on the PEVL, and you can look up where to send the application on your country's elections department website. You can also request no-excuse absentee ballots for individual elections, and in some counties, like Maricopa, you can make those requests online.

Arizona's absentee deadlines: Requests must be received by your county 11 days before an election. Ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day. Consult your county website for more information.

How to Vote by Mail in Arkansas

Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson has adopted no-excuse absentee voting for some primaries, but despite Democrats calling for that to be expanded to the general election, no decision has been made there yet. As in Alabama, voters normally need a reason to request an absentee ballot, and it's not clear whether "I'm worried about the pandemic" will be a legal reason come November.

Arkansas' absentee deadlines: If you are applying by mail, an absentee request must be received seven days before an election. Ballots must be received by 7:30 p.m. on Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in California

Like many states, California allows everyone to vote by mail, and has been inching toward an all-mail system. (As in Arizona, voters can request to be put on a permanent mail-in ballot list.) Some counties are already contemplating an all-mail general election in light of the pandemic. For now, the normal rules apply, meaning if you want a mail-in ballot you need to request one.

California's absentee deadlines: Mail-in applications must be received seven days before an election, and ballots must be postmarked by Election Day and received three days later. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Colorado

Every registered voter gets a mail-in ballot already. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Connecticut

It's not just Republican-dominated Southern states that restrict access to absentee ballots. Connecticut has resisted liberal calls to go to a no-excuse system, and voting by mail is available only to people who have a reason to need it. (Those with permanent disabilities can be put on a permanent absentee voter list.)

Connecticut's absentee deadlines: Applications must be received by your town clerk the day before the election, and ballots must be received by the close of polls on Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Delaware

Delaware requires voters to give a reason to get an absentee ballot, but the legislature is pushing to loosen those requirements in time for November. In the primary elections—which have been pushed back to June 2—anyone can vote absentee. Delaware allows people to request absentee ballots via an online form.

Delaware's absentee deadlines: Applications must be received by the day before the election. Ballots must be in by the close of polls on Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Florida

Florida is notorious for mismanaging elections, and county officials are warning that the state isn't equipped to handle an all-mail election in November should it come to that. But at least anyone can request an absentee ballot without a reason, and those requests can be made on county websites.

Florida's absentee deadlines: Requests must be in 10 days before an election, and the ballot must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Georgia

Georgia allows no-excuse absentee voting, and Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger responded to the pandemic by mailing absentee applications to all the state's voters for the May 19 primary. The major controversy may be that like some states, Georgia asks absentee voters to pay for postage, a requirement that is being challenged in a lawsuit that claims it amounts to a poll tax.

Georgia's absentee deadlines: Applications must be received the Friday before an election, and ballots must be in by the close of the polls on Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Hawaii

Every registered voter gets a mail-in ballot already. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Idaho

Idaho's upcoming primary election will be mail-only. And though Idahoans will still have to request absentee ballots in order to vote, they can do so online via a notably sleek website. Idaho also offers no-excuse absentee voting.

Idaho's absentee deadlines: Applications must be received 11 days before the election. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Illinois

Illinois offers no-excuse absentee voting, and a record number of people in Cook County voted by mail during the March primary, offering a preview of a November election that will likely be conducted heavily through the mail.

Illinois' absentee deadlines: Applications must be received five days before the election and ballots must be in by Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Indiana

Like a few other states, Indiana has moved back its primary date to June 2 and will allow anyone to vote by mail. As of now its normal restrictions on mail-in ballots remain in place for November, meaning you'll need a reason to get one—but anyone can vote absentee in-person, which is a good option if you want to avoid the Election Day crowds.

Indiana's absentee deadlines: Applications must be in 12 days before the election, and absentee in-person voting begins 28 days before Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Iowa

Iowa is sending all voters absentee applications in advance of the June 2 primary, and the state also offers no-excuse absentee voting.

Iowa's absentee deadlines: Applications must be received 10 days before the election, and ballots must be postmarked the Monday before Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Kansas

Kansas' Democratic Party is sending ballots to all its voters and conducting an all-mail election. While an all-mail general election is unlikely, at least the state allows no-excuse absentee voting, which Kansas calls "advance voting."

Kansas' absentee deadlines: Applications must be received a week before the election, and ballots must be postmarked by Election Day and received no later than three days afterward. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Kentucky

Democratic Governor Andy Beshear has said he wants the state to consider an all-mail primary election in June. But as it stands, Kentucky voters need a reason to request an absentee ballot.

Kentucky's absentee deadlines: Applications must be in a week before the election and ballots must be received by 6 p.m. on Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Louisiana

Louisiana has been hit by the pandemic especially hard, and its election officials have reached out to their counterparts in Washington State, which already conducts elections entirely by mail, for advice on what to do. But Louisiana is a long way from being able to hold elections by mail, since it currently doesn't allow no-excuse absentee voting. (It does allow eligible voters to apply online.)

Louisiana's absentee deadlines: Applications must be submitted four days before an election, and ballots must be received the night before Election Day in many cases. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Maine

Maine has yet to move back its scheduled primary, but looking ahead to November it does allow no-excuse absentee voting.

Maine's absentee deadlines: Applications must be received by the third business day before an election. All ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Maryland

Maryland's Seventh Congressional District is holding the state's first-ever mail-only election on April 28 to replace Congressman Elijah Cummings, who died in office last October. It remains to be seen if the entire state uses that system in November, but it already has a no-excuse absentee system that includes a way for people to apply online.

Maryland's absentee deadlines: Applications must be received a week before an election. Ballots must be postmarked by Election Day and received 10 days later. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Massachusetts

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has touted a plan that would require all states to move to a vote-by-mail system, but her home state has not even adopted no-excuse absentee voting. Massachusetts has passed a new law, however, that clarifies that taking precautions against COVID-19 counts as a valid reason to get an absentee ballot.

Massachusetts' absentee deadlines: Applications must be received by the day before an election, and ballots must be received by the close of the polls on Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Michigan

Michigan is a no-excuse absentee voting state, and officials are mailing absentee applications, to all registered voters in advance of a May election.

Michigan's absentee deadlines: Requests must be received the Friday before an election, and ballots must be received by the end of Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Minnesota

Election officials in Minnesota are asking the state to look at going to an all-mail system, but Republican legislators oppose expanding mail voting on the usual grounds that it will supposedly lead to increased fraud. But at least the state has no-excuse absentee voting, and also lets people apply via email.

Minnesota's absentee deadlines: Applications are due the day before the election and ballots must be received by the close of polls on Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Mississippi

Mississippi's strict absentee voting system—which doesn't allow no-excuse voting—has come under criticism before. In 2018, the state was sued for not giving voters enough time to fill out and get their ballots notarized during a runoff election. There's no sign it is moving to a vote-by-mail system in 2020.

Mississippi's absentee deadlines: Ballots must be received the day before Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Missouri

Missouri officials are discussing how they might deal with voting in a pandemic, which might include loosening its restrictions on absentee ballots. For now, you need a reason to request permission to vote by mail.

Missouri's absentee deadlines: Applications must be received, confusingly, by the second Wednesday before the election, and ballots must be received by Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Montana

Montana has made its June 2 primary an all-mail election, and it already allowed for no-excuse absentee voting.

Montana's absentee deadlines: Applications must be received the day before the election and ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Nebraska

Republican Governor Pete Ricketts has suspended in-person early voting and is encouraging Nebraskans to vote by mail in the May 12 primary, which they can because the state allows no-excuse absentee voting. Some counties have already adopted all-mail elections.

Nebraska's absentee deadlines: Applications must be received, confusingly, by the second Friday before an election and the ballot must be received by the close of polls on Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Nevada

Like several states, Nevada is conducting its June primary mostly by mail. It also has no-excuse absentee voting, and offers to put people on a permanent absentee voter list.

Nevada's absentee deadlines: Applications must be received two weeks before an election, and ballots must be in by 7 p.m. on Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in New Hampshire

New Hampshire normally requires voters to provide a reason to vote by mail, but this week officials announced that the state would allow no-excuse absentee voting in this year's elections, including the November general election.

New Hampshire's absentee deadlines: Applications must be in the day before an election and the ballot must be returned by Election Day. More information here

How to Vote by Mail in New Jersey

Democratic Governor Phil Murphy has pushed back the primary election to July 7 in part to help officials prepare for a potential all-mail election. It already has no-excuse absentee voting in place.

New Jersey's absentee deadlines: Applications must be received a week before the election, and ballots must be received by the end of Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in New Mexico

Republicans in New Mexico are suing to stop the implementation of an all-mail primary election, setting up a battle that could mirror what took place in Wisconsin. Regardless of the outcome of that court case, New Mexico allows no-excuse absentee voting, and lets people apply online.

New Mexico's absentee deadlines: Applications must be received four days before an election, and ballots must be in by 7 p.m. on Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in New York

Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo has instituted no-excuse absentee voting for June elections in response to the coronavirus—which just underscores the oddity that New York, one of the most progressive states in the U.S., had such a limited mail voting system in the first place. Its voting apparatus, which seems designed to make it hard for people to cast ballots, has been widely criticized before. Maybe the pandemic will result in lasting reforms that advocates have been asking for for years?

New York's absentee deadlines: Applications must be received seven days before an election and ballots must be received by the end of Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in North Carolina

The Board of Elections has asked lawmakers to consider measures to make it easier to vote by mail, including creating an online portal for absentee applications. Since Republicans control both houses of the legislature, it's unclear how likely changes are. The state does offer no-excuse absentee voting already, though it requires ballots to be witnessed by two people or a notary.

North Carolina's absentee deadlines: Applications must be received the Tuesday before an election, and ballots must be in by 5 p.m. on Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in North Dakota

A majority of North Dakota counties already run all-mail elections, and anyone can get an absentee ballot through an online application.

North Dakota's absentee deadlines: Ballots must be postmarked the day before the election and received six days after Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Ohio

Ohio is one of the states conducting an all-absentee primary; it is allowing people to pick up applications in grocery stores. It also has no-excuse absentee voting and online applications.

Ohio's absentee deadlines: Applications must be received three days before an election, and ballots must be received by Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Oklahoma

Oklahoma has no-excuse absentee voting and online applications, but it also requires ballots to be notarized or witnessed, a requirement reform advocates are trying to change as states consider voting by mail more closely.

Oklahoma's absentee deadlines: Applications must be received by the Wednesday before an election, and ballots must be in by 7 p.m. the day before Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Oregon

Every registered voter gets a mail-in ballot already. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Pennsylvania

In October, Pennsylvania passed a law reforming its election system that included no-excuse absentee voting, which turned out to be extremely timely. Even better, you can apply for a mail-in ballot online.

Pennsylvania's absentee deadlines: Applications must be received a week before the election, and ballots must be in by 8 p.m. on Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Rhode Island

Like many states, Rhode Island has pushed back its primary to June and appears to be preparing for an all- or mostly-mail election by sending a mail-in ballot application to all voters. Anyone can apply for a mail ballot in Rhode Island, but the state's application deadline is unusually long at 21 days.

Rhode Island's absentee deadlines: Applications must be received 21 days before an election, and ballots must be received by Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in South Carolina

South Carolina is reportedly considering loosening its restrictions on voting by mail for its June 9 primary, but even if it did so its unclear what that would mean for the November general election. It remains a state where only those who meet certain requirements can vote by mail—notably, anyone over 65 can get an absentee ballot.

South Carolina's absentee deadlines: Applications must be received four days before the election, and ballots must be received by the end of Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in South Dakota

Like many states, South Dakota is mailing absentee ballot applications to all voters in advance of the primary election in response to the pandemic. Its ordinary no-excuse absentee voting rules will be in effect in November even if it doesn't do something similar for the general election.

South Dakota's absentee deadlines: Applications must be received the day before the election, and ballots must be received by the end of Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Tennessee

Tennessee, which is likely to proceed with its local elections and primaries in August, is one of the states that restricts absentee access. Anyone over 60 can vote by mail, but younger voters must have a valid reason. The state does provide early voting to everyone, however, which could be a useful alternative for those concerned about the pandemic in November.

Tennessee's absentee deadlines: Requests for mail-in ballots must be received a week before the election, while ballots must be in by Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Texas

Texas state officials have been saying that local elections scheduled for May should be postponed, but not all cities and towns have done so. Meanwhile, the Texas Democratic Party is suing the state to widen access to absentee ballots, which are currently available only to voters who are 65 or older, are disabled or have another reason they can't vote in person.

Texas's absentee deadlines: Applications must be received 11 days before the election, and the deadline for ballots themselves is Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Utah

Every registered voter gets a mail-in ballot already. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Vermont

Vermont has changed its elections procedures already by now allowing candidates to run for office without collecting signatures, a tricky proposition in the age of social distancing. Officials might make further changes by November, including mailing a ballot to every registered voter. The state already allows no-excuse absentee voting and lets you apply for a ballot online.

Vermont's absentee deadlines: Applications must be received by the day before the election, while ballots are due by Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Virginia

Virginia, which only recently came under Democratic control, has just passed a suite of reforms designed to make it easier to vote. Election Day is now a holiday, and everyone can vote absentee without an excuse, though first-time voters have to cast their ballot in person. Additionally, the Virginia Department of Elections has said that concerns about coronavirus count as an excuse to vote by mail in the May and June elections. (Voters can apply online.)

Virginia's absentee deadlines: Mail applications must be received seven days before the election; ballots must be received by the end of Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Washington

Every registered voter gets a mail-in ballot already. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Washington, D.C.

The D.C. Board of Elections has been criticized for its lack of competence, but at least it is encouraging voters to cast ballots by mail in its upcoming June primary. The capital allows anyone to request an absentee ballot.

Washington, D.C.'s absentee deadline: Applications must be received seven days before the election; ballots must be received by the end of Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in West Virginia

West Virginia is among the states sending absentee applications to all registered voters. But ordinarily, the state restricts absentee access to those who can't vote in person. It remains to be seen what the state will do in November.

West Virginia's absentee deadlines: Applications must be received six days before the election, and ballots must be received by the end of Election Day or else postmarked by Election Day and received no more than five days later. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Wisconsin

Wisconsin obviously received a lot of criticism for not delaying its primary amid the pandemic, but there's still time for officials to move to a more mail-friendly system in November if one is required. At least the state allows no-excuse absentee voting and lets people apply via email.

Wisconsin's absentee voting: Applications must be received five days before the election and ballots must be in by 8 p.m. on Election Day. More information here.

How to Vote by Mail in Wyoming

The state's political parties made changes to their primary procedures to reduce in-person contact, and Wyoming already allows no-excuse absentee voting and early voting.

Wyoming's absentee deadlines: Applications must be received by the day before the election, while ballots are due by Election Day. More information here.

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shanel
48 days ago
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New York, New York
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