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, most of this still applies. See the next section for additional information to include.
- Title: Name your ad something memorable that conveys a great idea about 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.
Spend one paragraph explaining your expectations for the game, in terms of amount of RP 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.
- 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.
- Game System Used: Tell which system you are using (DnD 3.5, GURPS, Palladium, etc.). This is technically optional, as both your game forum and the ad thread will be tagged with the system you chose already, but it never hurts to repeat this, especially if your system of choice has subsets that need to be indicated, like World of Darkness.
- 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.
- Requested Character Type (optional): If you need a healer, a cop, a battlestar captain, or some other specific character type(s) for game balance or story continuity you should say so. If there are any premade characters or NPCs you wish to offer for players to take over, include links to them.
- 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 is sufficient so long as the thread is publicly visible.
- Special Note: Role-playing VS Roll-playing. Some Games run entirely diceless, while others may require a character to roll their sneezing skill to determine if the sneeze was successful and if so, have subcharts to determine if mucous was involved and if so, how much and what color. Most GM's and players fall somewhere in between. If you are bit more on the side of strict dice rolling or more prefer a story telling focus and limited dice rolls, let your players know that ahead of time to be sure they share similar sentiments. Providing an example on the threshold on either end of the spectrum can help you describe whether or not to roll dice in a given circumstance.
- Current PC's and NPC party members: The idea here is to get the new player to build something that will mesh well with the party (assuming there is an existing party or party patron). A holy paladin and an assassin for the dark lord are not natural fits as adventuring buddies. Telling new players a bit about the party they will be joining or patron they will be serving (if there is one yet) will help them understand what is needed and what will be a good party fit.
- Home Brew Outline: This step is not necessary for premade game worlds, but home brew worlds should explain things like the starting region, local factions, recent timeline, what magic and technology is available, and overall contribute any information you have to help paint the setting. If you have already started a wiki, providing links to relevant pages here is essential. Make your world come to life for the new player here.
- Plot/Campaign Outline: Give your players a heads up as to what to expect so they can make the right character, especially if you are adding a player to an already running game. Saying England 1930, doesn't really tell me if I should make a Paranormal Investigator for some Lovecraftian Horror or perhaps a high seas captain or an IRA spy. Guide the players here so they understand what's going on. If you have an overarching metaplot type, suggesting what that is will also be valuable information to your players. If you have an exit strategy (One Shot adventure or short series) mention that here.
- Background requirements (optional): You may request certain background information from your PC's. An example would be "1000-3000 words and a character portrait". What you require from your characters should be something you are willing to discuss with them in detail, and something that players will reasonably do. If you request so much that it becomes a chore from your players and ceases to be fun, they will likely pass on your game.
- Additional PC Requirements: Must have access to "X" books, Must have character sheet set to editable for the DM, anything else not covered above, etc.
- How to apply for this game: A post in your advert thread? A direct application to the game at the forum? A private thread per player? Expect lots of questions, so answer as many as you can in the above categories before they get asked. This will save you a lot of time as you have prepared them to prepare for your review.
- LINKS (optional): post relevant links such as free downloadable content from the publisher, a link to your game's wiki page, a link to a movie that inspired you to make the campaign, etc. Try to keep MW users on MW as much as possible though, as they quickly become tired of opening and closing lots of windows.
For a Live Example, go HERE.
Most GM's 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 as every game will have unique characters and very likely a different set of players, making this a largely subjective grey area, though there are some specific notes to keep in mind...
- Know what you need. If you need a fighter, cleric, mage, thief party, then make sure that's what you pick. If you need a cop, or everyone to be a ninja, then know that ahead of time, which should be already figured as you've already written your game ad and considered this thoroughly.
- Do not accept players that appear to not be familiar with the information you clearly posted in your game ad. If they can't pay attention to that, they likely won't pay close attention to your game. Additionally, do not accept players that cannot follow simple instructions.
- Do not accept players that seem disruptive or "irk" you.
- Do not accept character concepts you believe to be game breaking or are unwilling to deal with. Be very honest about this. You may find even the things you thought you could handle may quickly become a handful in the hands of a crafty min/max player.
- Accepting players unfamiliar with your game world or system is not necessarily a bad thing, but may cause additional challenges. Additionally it will also allow you the opportunity to help mold their experience with the system. Many GM's report that having brand new players is often very rewarding.
- As general advice, if you have a bad feeling about a player or character, go with your gut. 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.
Depending on the success of your ad you may afford to be more or less picky, though if you've done a good job with your ad and your game seems appealing you will likely have more applicants than you can deal with. This can be a bit overwhelming the first few days as you receive dozens of letters from potential candidates, but this is a better spot to be in than not having enough qualified applicants. If you only have fewer applicants you approve at first than you would like, work with them for now and begin preparing the game, you can always come back and put up another ad.
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.
From the main page of your game forum, following these steps...
- 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. Be sure to know the usernames of your friends or you might have a difficult time finding them. You must spell the username correctly.
- Press Send.
Now you have sent an invitation. Pending invitations are shown on the Game Profile Page.