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Old Screeds

Running a Successful Long-Term RPG Online

You are looking for a great place to game online. There are lots of games out there, for every RPG system, but they all fail, sooner or even sooner than that. There is very very little in the way of "later" out there in the gaming net. Games may start strong, but they seldom last more than a few months, or maybe a year if you are really lucky. But you want more. You want a long-running game that will see your character really create a story, a long-running story. But finding a game like that is super hard. I suggest you consider starting one yourself.

Here is my advice for long term gaming.

To start with, play by post is the best online option. You can have a lot of fun with Skype or other real-time platforms, but you will find it harder to get everyone together at the same time than to just ask each player to post once within a 24 or 48 hour interval. That makes it easier for everyone to keep up and participate. As opposed to flaking out.

Because Everybody Flakes Eventually. EVERYBODY. Crashing a car, failing out of school, getting a new job or spouse or kid -- people die, for gosh sake. And online it is too easy to flake. (That's one reason we want real names and bios ... builds real friendships and makes it harder to flake.) Try to get to know each other. Make friends. Form a community.

So do not find one DM. If you do, eventually that DM will flake / fail / die. Then the group dies. Instead, find at least two co-DMs. And when one DM flakes, quickly and actively recruit another. Promote from within or go a-looking.

Even better, EVERYbody takes a turn in the DM chair. If a group member can't run a fight (because their rules-fu is too weak, say), let them run a puzzle / roleplay / skills-based adventure. And be forgiving of your DM -- it is really hard to DM online -- reading everybody's post, figuring out what foes choose to do, resolving actions, keeping on top of the rules ... count on an hour or two to craft a decent combat post, and at least a half hour to craft a combat post!

As important as it is for players to post on schedule, it is ten times more important for the person in the DM chair to post on time! If you cannot post, either as a player or even as a DM, try hard to have a substitute to take over for a post or two. If a DM flakes in mid-adventure, get a replacement to step in -- hopefully a Co-DM or an Assistant DM or whoever is next in the rotation, as fast as possible. I'm telling you, games that seriously lag in regular posting are almost certainly doomed.

Set a schedule. Preferably daily. Make posting a daily habit. I suggest five/week, because weekends are real life energy-sucks. Do not delay game turns for late posters ... just keep plowing along. If people cannot keep to schedule, say four out of five posts a week, or seven or nine out of 10 a fortnight, then give them three strikes and they're out. Players have to have the mindset that you are making a commitment, that others are depending on you. That expectation, that knowledge that the game depends on you, will be a strong motivator to keep people posting. To keep FRIENDS posting.

And also, try to keep your group size on the larger end. Six to ten seems reasonable. It would be too many for table-top game, but online it works better, if you limit posting to once or twice a day. (One player posting too much can make a game less fun for others.) And the prime advantage of a larger group is that the game becomes less reliant on a single player who misses a post or flakes altogether.

I will note that with a larger group, playing at lower to middle levels is easier on the DM. It becomes very hard to craft excellent adventures for larger ones. Or if you are using published modules / adventure paths, you need to scale up the encounters for a bigger group of players. And the rules options explode at higher levels, so the DM has to keep track of more and more, and know the rules more deeply.

I also suggest that you maintain that largish group size by actively recruiting! Do not wait for players to come to you. Always be seeking new blood. Browse message boards to find potential players, and then send them email or private messages invite them in. It is flattering to be asked to play! Ask your players to ask their friends to join. Put up a flier on a local game shop bulletin board. Maybe you can find enough people to start a group in the same setting, and if you keep the groups at the same level, you can swap players back and forth, or let the super-enthusiasts play in each other's games. A player might Co-DM one game and play in another, even at different levels.

Try to find an online forum that works for you. There are gaming sites that are cheap or free to join, such as those at RPG Crossing or Giant in the Playground. Heck, you can start a Blogger or WordPress site for free ... each day the DM makes a post, and each player comments to make their turn. With WordPress you could set up PC sheets as "Pages," and I think I saw a die-roller plug-in you can use. Or there are online die rollers a-plenty that Dr. Google will be happy to show you. Just make sure more than a couple of you have admin access to everything, because, again, flaking.

I hope these ideas inspire you to find more like souls, and to forge a great game together. But there are lots more ideas and resources than just these. Here are some links for you to check out.

Home | This content created 1 January 2019