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How to make Pre-Game IC threads work well?

I do confess that I think it would be interesting to see a pre-game IC that precedes the actual application process. Perhaps the DM could line up story-related characters on a list and each applicant chooses from said list, then enters a role-play scenario. In this case I would still recommend at the very least splitting large pools of applicants into a group.

I envision something like a multi-party dungeon where each party is performing a part of a greater task. I believe Pathfinder has something like that that they use for Society play. If I remember correctly there was one in particular where multiple groups participated (in separate tables) with defending a city from attack, and whether or not they were successful depended on each group's ability to accomplish their said task. That'd be pretty cool.

Anyway, off on a tangent.

That seems like something more interesting, though again I feel like it would be a lot for one GM to handle. Maybe get other GMs to assist temporarily? Then after such and such has happened, you pick X amount of players and let them form the basis for your pool of applicants, then just go through everything else like normal.

This is, of course, just an example. One on one seems extremely tedious to me. I don't think anyone--especially me!--has the time to respond to 20+ people's individual role-play, even if one were to split them up over the course of a week. It's just crazy.

Originally Posted by Ravenborn View Post
I don't think anyone--especially me!--has the time to respond to 20+ people's individual role-play, even if one were to split them up over the course of a week. It's just crazy.
That's a pretty good point, I think. I'm glad I asked.

The Black Lotus is a magical narcotic flower whose fumes induce visions and extra-sensory perception while the user lies in a catatonic state. My sword&sorcery game is going to begin with all the player characters getting drugged in some way decided by each player, and then waking up at the bottom of a gladiator pit, about to face man-eating beasts. If I decide to offer pre-game roleplay, I might ask all the potential players to share their characters' hallucinations and allow them communicate telepathically with one another through the magic of the Black Lotus. The pre-game roleplay could provide creative exercise some players would enjoy, but since it is all within an intoxicated dream-state, of course a lot of it will not make any sense later. When the pre-game roleplay ends, the characters will awaken, meeting each other as strangers, and then must prepare immediately to battle the creatures that shall be unleashed upon them for the entertainment of the crowds above. Later, a couple of surviving player characters may of course come to realize that they both shared the exact same hallucinations and recognize that they had spoken to one another through the lotus-dream: an opportunity for some interesting dialogue between players maybe.

I've never been a fan of pre-game IC threads, but it might be entertaining to give the players a chance to have a "shared dream" before the story begins. What if instead of playing their own character in the pre-game, everyone gets to play an NPC in a tavern/festival/whatever and interacts with each other, only for some sort of disaster to strike as the pre-game thread closes and the game begins?

The PCs would perhaps then stumble upon the aftermath of the disaster- an abandoned tavern with disfigured bodies everywhere, or a village ransacked by your starter baddies. Might give the players a little shock when they recognize the remains of their pre-game alter ego.

On the few occasions I've needed to recruit, I gave applicants about six weeks from the time I opened the ad until the time I made my choices. That's time enough to put together a quality sheet and handle any back-and-forth Q&A, and of course there's the OOC pregame thread to get everyone talking. I'm not sure an IC thread would really help, for reasons others have stated above.

I don't usually use a pregame thread, but I've just tried one out in my latest game to see how well it works for me. I did not make it mandatory for acceptance into the game. It is still in progress, but I've gleaned the below so far:

The plusses: I can already tell some of who is invested in the game and therefore more likely to stick it out a while. I can see which players don't get along with each other and will need to be kept apart. It cuts down on the research I need to do on the applicants before deciding on who to let in the game. I can use it to dribble setting information to the players and give them some sandbox style hints on things they can pursue. It has given me some subplot ideas along the way that I can incorporate easily. Finally, it is killing time in an entertaining way for those who finish their characters early rather than make them wait out the slower applicants, many of whom will never finish their applications anyway.

The minuses: More work. Some applicants prefer not to use it, so I'm not seeing everybody's play/post style. Fortunately most of those are people I've gamed with before and have a pretty good idea of their personality. The others I will still need to do some research on.

I generally dislike pre-game threads because I think they tend to be too artificial an atmosphere to really give a good picture. If you REALLY want to know what a player is like browse some of the other games they've been in. It gives a much better picture of how capable a roleplayer they are and also tells you a lot about how they interact with a group, how reliable they are after the honeymoon phase is over, and in general what kind of behavior you can expect from them as a player in your game. I normally research the GM this way before I bother applying so I have a good idea whether or not our styles are compatible.


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