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Help Bayeux weave a better GM Tapestry...

   
Help Bayeux weave a better GM Tapestry...

Hi, my name is Born on the Bayeux and I want to be a better GM.

I've started around a dozen games on this board (and others on other boards) and they have usually started well but all cratered eventually. I don't blame myself too much, most forum games fail. It's a tough medium. But still I'd like to do better. I have disappointed some great players in the past and I want to minimize that in the future. So I have taken a few months off from running a game and done some deep thinking. Now I'd like to bounce my ideas off of y'all and get your feedback. I'm hoping that, in the discussion, you can get as much out of this thread as I hope to.

My ideas:

First of all, I should run only one game at a time. Experience has taught me that I don't have the time to run more than one game at a time.

Second, for the near future, I want to run a 'gamer lab' where we try out different approaches to the game as it continues. Players will know this going in. More on this later.

Third, while I am learning more, games should have simple rules systems and accessible settings.

Fourth, I will start a prologue with players playing essential bland and similar NPCs. This is similar to stories when something happens to a group of people so the stakes are raised when the PC heroes actually show up (usually to find out what Awful Thing happened to the first group). This lets players try out the game without the work of making a full character. And I get to see their ability to adapt to a random character and how persistent they are to keep to the game (in my experience, most players that drop out drop out the first few weeks).

Fifth, I am considering scheduling fixed times for GM IC posts (say, every Sunday and Thursday nights for example). This lets the players know when their replies are due. That said...

Sixth, I don't penalize players for non-participation. Some players don't post very much for various reasons. For a lot of GMs, their motto is a player must participate. But for me, I only ask that they don't distract from the game. Should a character not be posting for awhile, that character is simply written 'off-scene' with a few sentences, easily able to return to the action with just as few sentences.

Seventh, no secrets between players. If PC #1 is about to betray PC #2, both players know about it.

Eighth, a non-action scene can be expanded by some players into a complete and personal subplot. Example, the characters get a room at an inn, having business in town the next day. This is just a simple scene but two players want to carry on a romance between their PCs that would bore the other players. Those two players can have a separate subplot (told effectively in flashback) that they can fill in later while the game continues.

Ninth, after the prologue, when prospective players can make their own unique characters, I won't put a limit on the number of applications. I realize this will result in an overcrowded game at first and players will leave because of it. But my thinking is that the players that will remain in the end are the ones that want to be in the game the most. Besides, we've all felt the pain of making a heart-felt character conception that is rejected at the starting gate. Related, I don't force players to fight for game slots. The spaceship can have more than one pilot, medic, gunner, engineer, etc. and the game can adapt to it.

Whew! That's all I can think of for now. I will post this and see what interest it generates. Thanks in advance for reading and any feedback...

Are these all maxims for ensuring the longevity of a game? Some of them I wouldn't have expected to matter and, whilst everyone's different, some I think might not actually be so helpful.

The biggest thing I can see for keeping a game alive is just buckling down and making sure you're active and don't slack off posting - as a DM, I often do that and it hurts the game. #5 will certainly help with that (this sort of thing is as much habit as it is willpower) - I used to play arena games back when WotC still had forums, and we used to run a fight each week. A lot of people ended up missing the deadline but it still kept the pace up (and I'm pretty sure I've still had more level-ups there than I have in all MW games combined over the last however-many years).

The first I can definitely see, though I think it depends on how much time and mental energy one has as a DM.

The third doesn't seem relevant to me for the longevity of a game, but it may make doing #2 easier.

I'm actually not sure that #4 is helpful. It depends, but I think that in general a PbP game really wants to get to the action quickly and keep the tempo up. A TV show might lose some people if the first episode doesn't really grab them, but others might stick it out... a PbP game, however, is already slow by its very nature. I'm just theorising wildly here and obvious it's not a hard and fast rule anyway, but I'm wondering if just cramming the thing with action isn't the best way to keep it moving. Prologues with bland PCs just feels like it might be a big bump in the road before you even get started.

Re #6, I tend not to do that myself because this is, after all, meant to be a game and fun and I'm not your boss or your mum. However slow and inactive PCs can and often will cause the game to slow down and not work as well. If the DM is active, they should at least be encouraging people to post with at least some regularity themselves.

As for #9, I like the idea of that too, but I'm pretty sure that I couldn't effectively DM a game for 20+ people. You either have huge encounters where everyone is talking at once and battles are massive, or you have to split them into groups - and I know from experience that that's a lot more work and, for me, doesn't work well at all. There's just a bit of a practicality thing there.

I think the most important thing you should do is try and figure out why those earlier games failed, and then decide on the solution(s) based on your diagnosis. The best solution will vary depending on the specifics (e.g. GM burnout, player burnout, or wrong player(s) selection should be dealt with differently, and there is no one strategy that will deal with all these issues).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Born on the Bayeux View Post
Seventh, no secrets between players. If PC #1 is about to betray PC #2, both players know about it.)
Is there a story behind this?

TheFred, I'm glad we might not agree on everything. We learn best from other points of view and if I wanted only agreement I would've just said this all in front of a mirror.

You are right that most of all (as I am learning), most of a succesful game is devoted, regular effort. So the biggest change I will make is running just one single game at a time. Better one solid game than several half-baked ideas. I do like what you have said about the WOTC forums having a fight (or action scenes in general, perhaps) once a week.

I know myself too well, I like writing more than refereeing a game (although a good game needs a balance of both). Also, different players have different facility and tolerance with complex rules.

I agree starting off 'running the redshirts' is a risk. But I've been in a few games where it wasn't right for me (and me for the game) right from the first few posts after I made all of the work of making a character. By starting out with expendable NPCs, the players get to test me out as a GM before investing too much in a game of mine (and I get to learn about them in return). But I would lose some might-be players just by trying that gambit. Still, I've got to try it once.

Yep, I don't like being a player's Mom, either. They probably get enough of that in real-life.

Ah, usually my games with a ton of players are self-correcting problems. I usually lose half of them the first week which, admittedly, may seem like a flaw.

Vladim, I agree that there are very likely specific reasons why any specific game fails. A combination of rules and setting often force a certain style that I will find out isn't right for me. But if I can locate any general reasons first, I can start correcting them for every game and think about the details each genre requires.

TheOasysMaster, nope, there is no story behind this and I hope there never will lbe. My games are generally cooperative in style and (something I forgot to list above) I rarely split the characters. It is just that one player might be hurt if their character is betrayed by another character's player. Granted, setting plays a big factor in inter-character strife, it is practically required for Paranoia.

Thanks, you guys, for your thoughts. I'm sorry I took so long in replying...








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