Advanced Advertisement Techniques
Writing a Game Ad
The game ad is the first presentation of your game to prospective players. It's how you attract players. If it's sloppy, disorganized, and disjointed, that what kind of players you'll attract, if you get any interest at all. The game ad is not something to just crank out in five minutes. It's something to take time with, proofread, spellcheck, rewrite, and proofread again.
The goal of any game ad is to attract players who will enjoy the game, and that you will enjoy gaming with. To do that, you need to display your writing style, offer information about your play style, and clearly explain the parameters of the game. If a player is looking for one thing and you're offering another, neither of you will be happy in the same game together. Conversely, when everyone is looking for the same thing, you're all much more likely to enjoy it. The way to make this happen is through communication.
Although a game ad often needs to contain a large amount of information, break it into small pieces where you can, using fieldset and spoiler tags, as well as bold text for section headings. Large walls of unrelieved text are generally intimidating, especially to newer players.
Game Advertisement Format
This section assumes you're writing an ad for a new game. If you need to recruit new players into an existing game, you'll need some additional information, noted below. Also, this format is only a guideline. Your particular ad might benefit from a different arrangement of some of the elements, or for some of them to be combined, split into parts, or even excluded. Element names, except for the first two (which are coded into the ad form), should be considered entirely optional for inclusion, and feel free to rename them. For example, instead of putting in 'Game system used: M:tA', you could just declare 'M:tA'.
- Title: Name your ad something memorable that conveys the type of campaign or adventure you wish to run. This is only the title of the game ad, and will not affect your game forum name or any thread in your game. Indicating some of the mechanical information, like level/points, tone, or genre isn't required, but can draw in people who might ignore a purely fluff thread title.
- Estimated members requested: How many players do you want? Most games run with 3-6 players. Larger and smaller games both exist, but are less common for a variety of reasons. For new GMs, a party size of 4-5 typically works the best.
Begin the actual text of the ad with some kind of attention-getter. Use an excerpt from a fictitious book from the game world, a scene from the backstory of your campaign, quotes from major or historical NPCs, or anything else that offers some insight into the tone and subject of the campaign, as well as showing your writing style. Put such text in italics, as is often done with quotes or book excerpts. This is also a good place for one or two images, such as a picture of the starting location or an NPC that will be a major part of the game.
Offer a little bit about yourself as a GM. Spend a paragraph discussing your GMing style, the tone you want for the game, how long you've been GMing, and anything else you think it's important for players to know, besides the mechanics of the game. Does something in particular irritate you? Say so. Tell the players about pet peeves that will automatically disqualify them.
Explain your expectations for the game, in terms of amount of role playing (RP) vs. roll playing and general type. If you want heavy RP in a court intrigue game, that's a much different game than a low RP dungeon crawl, a 50/50 puzzle and skill challenge, or any other type. Also note whether PvP will be allowed/encouraged or not. If it isn't already clear from the system and setting choice, characterize the overall feel of the game, such as 'Depression era Lovecraftian horror', 'traditional high magic fantasy', or 'four color superheroes'.
- Background requirements: If the PCs need to have some particular element in their background, such as having been hired by a particular NPC for some particular purpose or being from a particular town, explain that and provide information about it. Also discuss the general theme of the game so people can make character that suit it. When a game is supposed to be about hunting undead and associated cults, or spying for the CIA, or destroying a plague of dragons, say so and you'll get characters that fit the theme. Likewise, if you're looking for any particular character archetypes, players need to know that.
- Posting Requirement: How many times a day, week, or month are your players expected to post? This is the MINIMUM requirement to post without some sort of prior notification. As a general rule, requiring more than one post per day or less than two per week causes problems of one kind or another. Very fast games may be difficult to keep up with or cause a lot of simultaneous posting issues. Very slow games may never gain any momentum and fade away. In some cases, you may wish to also add a maximum posting rate such as "no more than three posts from a player before the DM and/or all respond at least once" to make sure that everyone has a chance to respond appropriately.
- Sources allowed: List out the books and online sources players may draw from to create their characters, noting any parts you wish to exclude.
- Setting: Whatever the setting may be, note it. Published settings require nothing more than an indication of which part you intend to use. For a homebrew setting, offer a brief description of it with a link to your world's information. If you have an image or music to help convey the feel of the setting, include them here.
- Character Creation Rules: This will vary drastically from system to system, but explain the parameters that the players are expected to operate within while generating their characters, including level/points, score generation methods, and anything else your system requires. List out which source materials are allowed. If you are disallowing anything in those sources, be explicit about what cannot be used.
- House Rules: List out any House Rules in effect for your game. If you have a lot of house rules, or your house rules are extensive, a link to a "house rules" thread in your game forum or page in your world wiki is sufficient.
- Miscellaneous: Anything else that doesn't fit into the other categories and only needs a sentence or two to explain, drop into a section for miscellaneous information. This is a good place for relevant links that don't fit the other categories.
- Submissions: Explain exactly how a player should submit an application for the game. If you want a particular format to the submission, indicate it. Indicate whether a completed character sheet is required as part of a submission, and if you have any kind of character and/or player questionnaire, include it here, spoilered.
If you're recruiting people for an already running game to join existing players, include two more things: a summary of the game so far, and a general explanation of the existing characters. Additionally, if you are going to let your existing players have a say over who gets in and who doesn't, let everyone know about it.
The 'game so far' should be a basic explanation of what's happened in the game already - the Cliff's Notes version. The purpose of this is to reduce the time investment for new people by making it unnecessary for them to read the game prior to writing up an application. You can still require them to read the game before joining, especially if it's not very long, but expecting people to read even five pages of posting just to decide whether they want to write up an application or not is unrealistic. Give them enough of a taste to determine if they really want to spend the time to read it before they click the link to do so.
The existing characters are the people the new characters have to play with. New players need enough information to create characters that don't step all over the already occupied niches in the game, and to avoid basic, fundamental personality clashes. Provide a paragraph or two about each character, discussing mechanical niche, general personality, and role in the party. To save yourself some work, you can ask your existing players to provide this themselves.
For a Live Example, go HERE.
Most GMs with good ads are faced with having a large pool of players to select from. These "interview questions" (which you may wish to include in your ad or discuss privately) are designed to help you find the right players for your game.
- Game-Related Questions
What makes you want to play in this game?
How much time and energy will you put in this game?
How many posts can you make per week/day?
What will this game's priority be to you?
What do you expect from this game?
Why should I accept you in this game?
- Free-form Gaming Questions (specific to free form systems)
Define what "free-form" is to you, please.
Have you played free-form before?
If yes, how was that experience? If no, how do you think this one will go?
What do you expect from a free-form game?
Do you feel comfortable role-playing most possible situations that may come up in a game, or do you have any topic restrictions?
How do you interact with opposing characters?
How do you deal with opposing players?
In your opinion, can you separate what is in-character and what is out-of-character well?
Do you have any writing samples or other RP games (free-form or any system) here on MW or another site so I can check your posting style?
- Personal Questions
You can decide not to answer any of the following
How old are you? (Age is not an arbitrary gauge on maturity, but it helps.)
Where do you live? (It's important to know in which time zones everyone is located in.)
Is English your first language? (You can be proficient with English even it not being your first language, but it helps knowing.)
Tell me something about your life. If we are to game together for the following months, we will inevitably create bonds and get to know each other a bit better, so why not start now? By knowing a bit about your life, I'll know about your possible schedules and what makes a game interesting for you, making the experience better for everyone.Discuss whatever you like about you, though it is good to know what you do for work/study.
- Character Questions
You may also wish to ask specifics about the character concept, build, primary motivation or otherwise, but which information you request will vary drastically from system to system.
Selecting Your Players
Selecting players for your game is a complex process and will vary drastically with every game. It's also a skill that takes time and experience to really hone. Don't be discouraged if it seems impossible to choose or your choices turn out poorly. Make the best choices you can and re-recruit later if you need to. Most games get many more applications than needed to fill out the game. Those applying know this, and there won't be any hard feelings from those you don't accept.
- Know what you need. If you need a party with a particular composition, then make sure that's what you pick. Don't be afraid to sacrifice your desired composition or take on an extra player because of a really excellent application, but generally, you should stick to your plan.
- Do not accept players who don't read your game ad. These are the people who ask questions that have clearly already been answered, request things that violate the terms you already set out, or ignore your submission format. If they can't pay attention to the ad, they likely won't pay close attention to your game.
- Do not accept players that seem disruptive or "irk" you. If they annoy you from the start, it will only go downhill from there.
- Watch out for cheese. Character builds that you aren't willing to deal with shouldn't be accepted, but don't reject it out of hand. Explain your objection to the player. Often, you'll find they're completely willing to change it.
- Know what you're getting into with newbie players. New players have to start someplace, but it doesn't necessarily have to be your game. Consider whether you have the time or patience to help them through the mechanics or through the basics of PbP gaming before taking on new people. Generally speaking, new players will do just fine with a small amount of help.
- Check posting histories. This isn't helpful for new players, but anyone who's been around the Weave for a little while has a history. Read posts from their existing games, look for consistency of posting from timestamps, and pay attention to where they post. The posts per day statistic isn't terribly helpful, as it just divides total number of posts by total number of days since joining, so don't accept or reject someone based solely on that number.
- Trust your gut. When you get a bad feeling about a particular player, don't accept them. Better to part ways now than invest tons of time and effort in the player and enable them to single-handedly destroy your game. Conversely, if you have a good feeling about a player, give them a shot. Largely this is a trial and error endeavor and it may take a while to get a solid group together.
- If your ad doesn't attract enough players to fill out your game, that doesn't mean you have to take everyone who applied and run the game anyway, especially if you're not happy with the interest you got. You can shut down the ad to rework the game idea, rewrite the ad, and/or change your policies. Offer to inform the interested players when you reopen applications for it. Try reposting the ad in the GM Workshop, asking for help fixing it up.
Inviting Your Players
Before inviting new members, get your game forum set up and ready to be viewed by your players. You only get one chance to make a first impression. That subject is discussed here: Setting Up Your New Game Forum
When the deadline for applications passes, put a new post in your game ad announcing that recruiting is now closed. If you already know who you wish to accept at that time, say so. You can list out the accepted people by username, but this isn't required. If you haven't made those decisions yet, let everyone know how long you expect to spend deliberating and set a deadline for yourself to post that. Once you've made the decisions, close the ad and send out game invites to the accepted players.
- Click on the Game Profile link. This takes you to the page that describes your personalized game. There are also other administrative functions here.
- Click on the Invite link. This opens up a private message email with a prefilled invitation message in the body. You may wish to customize your message, such as to direct the player to introduce themselves in the OOC thread or review a particular page or thread of house rules, etc.
- Type in the username of the person you wish to invite. This field does not have autocomplete, so you need to know exactly how to spell it.
- Press Send. Repeat the process for each player. Pending invitations are shown on the Game Profile Page. It is recommended that you also visit your Game Control Panel and set your game to 'Closed', which means users cannot send game requests. If you want people to be able to apply as Readers without asking first, leave it on 'Accepting'.