Welcome to Gming 101, a how to guide on how to run an RP here on the forum as the Game Master. Now before I begin please know this is not the only way to run and RP. This is just my personal process. There is no one right way to run an RP and actually no wrong way either. There are just different ways and you will have to find what works for you personally. In here you will find some questions as well as some tips and tricks to not only creating an RP, but running it as well as how to keep it going. Take what works for you and leave the rest. Shall we begin? Let's.
Now before you begin on even what story line you want to Gm, you need to ask yourself - What type of GM am I? This can be a bit harder to answer than you may think and trust me it will change over the years as you gain experience. For me, I am known as one of the more....Bitchy GM Overlords to put it nicely. I have a long list of rules I put out there, I have extremely detailed CS's sheets, and frankly I GM with an Iron fist. I even kick people. Granted I wasn't always this way. When I began Gming I was pretty much a laid back anything goes type of gm. Maybe 1 or 2 rules, make your own cs, everyone join up, post whenever. But that didn't work for me and I found myself frustrated to no end. That way may work for you, more power to you.
So how do you determine what type of Gm you are? Start with the following questions and see how you answer them.
- How in-depth and detailed are your own posts? (Are you Free, Casual, or Advanced as an Rper - this will help you determine which section you will want to host Rps in.)
- How much does it bother you if people don't post? (Are you cool with people just replying whenever or do you want regular posting?)
- How thick skinned are you? (Being a Gm means you will get lash back at points, the more rules, the more you enforce them, the more backlash you will receive. Like it or not, people will complain and they will even spread bad about you via pm's to others. You would be shocked by the screen shots I have received of things said about me. The stricter you are the thicker skin you need.)
- How well do you take rejection? (Being a Gm means that you will have people that won't like you idea, like 99.9% of the time things just won't take off like you had hoped or they will die quickly. Be ready for this and don't take it personally.)
- How much time do you have on your hands? (Gming takes work no matter how simple the tale or light the rules are. How much DAILY can you invest?)
- Are you a leader or a follower? (Leaders make great Gm's, they can take control much easier than a follower can. That isn't to say followers cannot be great Gm's but they tend to need a co-gm to help back them up a bit.)
- Do you have a partner in RP? (Gming is trying and Co-Gm's can make it easier, if you have someone you trust by all means, see if they will be your Co, it can make your life easier.)
- How detached can you remain? (This goes back to being thick skinned. Remember, what happens in Rp isn't personal and you need to treat it as such even if others don't. Again the stricter you are the more detached you need to remain; especially if you plan on rules that include booting people out for rule violations.)
- How good at crowd control are you? (Reason I ask this is simple, it will give you an idea of how many people you can handle in an RP, more than that how many characters you can control. Start off small and work your way up as you get more and more experience.)
- Can you remain neutral towards all? (Being a Gm means you need to give everyone a level playing field. This means it doesn't matter if your worst enemy and your best friend join your RP - you have to treat them the same in the RP. So even if your enemy follows the rules and your best friend breaks them you have to be able to boot your best friend.)
Now that you have thought about this you can decide which of the following Categories fit you best. This is not a complete listing of the types of GM's but it is basic "stereotype."
- Laid Back Larry: Larry is your anything goes GM. Rules are limited, the story line is open, Cs's are pretty much anything. Not much is expected of the group except to post from time to time. It is all about just being there for Larry. To see where it goes. If it takes of great, if it doesn't no skin off Larry's back. Just start another and try again. (Can usually be found in the Free section)
- Simple Standard Sally: Sally has a few rules and such but they really aren't enforced. She may have a basic story line laid out and have a minimal CS sheet for you to fill out. She is pretty easy going but she wants you to post more regularly and keep up to date on things. She wants this to take off and has put in some work but if it ends up failing she will just take what she learned and try again. (Can usually be found in the Casual Section)
- Advancing Amy: Amy is all about the story line and moving the plot forward but she wants you to really put in the work. High End Cs's, in depth background, and long posts. She wants that flourish and expects the best from those that post in her RP. Two-three para's wont cut it. We are talking two to three pages. Collabs are usually a must but don't worry, she is pretty lax about when to post. Figuring she would rather have perfection in each post than a post every week. She is even willing to wait up to a month to get a post from you as long as it is top notch. (Can usually be found in the Advanced Section)
- Nations Rule Nat: Nat is all about the in depth story lines that have to do with Nation RP. The Background story is long and detailed and he is all about the numbers and the mechanics. Nat is in a world of his own and one he is proud of. Maps are posted, troop movements are noted, working with your fellow Rpers is a must. (Can be found in the Nations Section)
- Over Reaching Olivia: Olivia is a master at coming up with story lines that draw people in. Rich stories with great casts of characters. She has so many stories, you never know when she will start another RP. Posting requirements aren't really an issue but she will usually have the most in-depth CS sheets and story kick off. (Can usually be found anywhere from Casual to Nation)
- Table Top Timmy: Timmy is old school and has a set of books sitting next to him at all times; ready to pull them out and tell you if you can do this or not. Cs's and game play is based on the dice rolls. You wait for him to let you know what succeeded and what didn't before you post. (Can usually be found in Table Top but can also be found in Advanced and Casual)
- Evil Gm Overlord: These assholes are the worst of the bunch. They have a long list of rules for you to follow and they enforce them without biased. They are known for in-depth story lines, heavy Cs's sheets, rules, kicking folk, collabs, and even reviewing others they RP with. They leave nothing up to guess work but they have been known to employ tactics of randomization and even character deaths. Tread carefully. (Can be found anywhere on the forum)
Now, like I said there are many other types of Gm's and there are numerous combinations of those above. These are just the basics. Me personally? Yeah, I'm that Evil Gm Overlord. But it works for me so I stick with it. Will it work for you? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on who you are and what your personality is. You have to learn what works for you.
Setting Up Your RP
Now that you have an idea of what type of Gm you either want to be or are, we can begin on setting up your RP. Where you should post it, how you should begin, what you need to get worked out in the beginning, and so forth. Since with every GM it is different I am simply going to list out what I do, how the Evil Gm Overlord works. The basics can be applied to most all RP's and altered to fit your unique personality and style.
- Rules: Yeah I know this may feel like it should fall further down on the list but for me I work out my rules first; at least my standard rules that I apply to every RP out there. Now everyone will have their own set of rules and my list is pretty lengthy and involved. The longer I am at this the longer the list becomes. Older I get the less I put up with basically. My rules are there so people know what I expect off the bat and that keeps me from getting frustrated down the line if people do something. If I have the rule in place than it is simple - let them go. If I don't then it is only MY fault that I am ticked off. So I suggest you at least get your basics done; Examples - Do you allow cursing? How often must they post? How much of a Cs you provide, if you provide one, do you want filled out? Can they just jump in? Do they need to apply? Minimal posting length? How long do they have to wait before they can post again? How many people you will allow into the RP? How many characters each person can RP? Can they control their own NPCs's? And So Forth
- Storyline: Now, what exactly is it that you are wanting to GM? You have had a basic idea pop into your mind but how far do you want to take it? Are you cool with just a basic outline and letting the chips fall where they may or do you also have an end game you are working towards? The more of your story that you get worked out before you begin the easier it can be in the long run since you have a path worked out. Sure you can take a fork down the road and such as people toss in their own subplots and such but you know what you are still going for. Do you want to cross over this RP to other Rp's? Is it an extension of one you ran before? How much back story do you want to put into this? Remember the more in-depth the RP story line is the more time you will need for it. So take that into consideration.
- Time: Speaking of time, how much can you invest into this? An hour a day? An hour a week? Several hours a day? This will let you know how much you want to invest into this and you need to let your Rpers know either by your reputation or by stating it out right just how much you will be around. Also, how much are you expecting from your Rpers? Let them know up front so there is no guess work.
- Character Sheets: Just how in-depth do you want these? Is a simple outline for what you are going for going to work? Or do you need more? What do you expect on a CS sheet? A description of the characters appearance? Or will an image work? Can players use previously created characters from another RP in your RP? Do they need color coding for speech? Do you want a list of skills or belongings? How about a break down of their personality? Heck, do you want to know if the character has a saying they repeat all the time? Go ahead and draw up your main character right now for this RP and make a Cs for them. Then just blank it out and post it as your Cs sheet for the RP, this can make it easier since they will be setting up their Cs layout the same as yours. You can make quicker references this way.
- RP Section: Now, where on the forum are you wanting to host this? Each area has its pros and cons. Now, most will tell you to look at the length of the posts you want and the quality of the posts you want to determine whether you want Free, Casual, or Advanced. Me, it is more of where you feel comfortable in. My Rps by their depth and posting lengths would easily be put into Advanced but I stick to casual since it gives me more people to work with and people if busy can drop back to two paragraphs quickly to get a post out if they need to. Nation and Table Top are pretty straight forward, so it is easy to tell if you need to host an RP there.
- RP Tags: You have your story line and where you are hosting your RP, so you have your two starter tags. You can put up to 5 tags total, so which other three do you want? Think of your setting, is there magic, is it more realistic, do you welcome romance? Think on these to see which tags you want to use. Try to use all that you can because the more you have the better. It gives people a better idea at first glance to what they expect.
- Interest Check: Alright, you have your story line, your rules, your CS, which section you will post in, and your tags. Now it is time to see if you can get any biters. You need to create an Interest Check for your RP now and place it in your chosen sections Interest Check Tab. Now, there are a couple of ways to do this. You can just give people a summery and see if anyone posts interest or you can go ahead and make your full OOC and post it. (I tend to post a full OOC complete with rules and CS sheet so people can know what they are getting into before anything happens.) Please note that while people will post interest it does not mean they will join.
- OOC: Okay, you the amount of people interested in your RP that you think you have enough to put your OOC up. If you made your Interest Check the same as your OOC, a simple cut and paste into the RP section of your choice will work. If not you will need to make your full OOC now. Things to include: Storyline, maps if you have them, list of accepted characters you can edit in later, rules, Character Sheet, Relations Sheets, and anything else you may want to include. When you create your OOC you will be given the option to add in your tags, if your RP is jump-in, apply, or full (which can be changed at anytime), as well as if you are assigning a Co-Gm (again, can be changed at anytime) - Once you have your OOC posted, go back to your Interest Check and post - tagging everyone that showed interest - and link them to the OOC so they can find it. Also, edit your original post in your Interest Check to put the link at the top for quick reference in case others want to join later. (Also, make sure you are subscribed to your Interest Check even after you are done with it. You may want to promote the Rp later on to draw in new people. Make it easier on yourself by keeping it in your subscriptions.)
- People Joining: Now, you have your OOC going, people have been tagged and you are waiting for their character sheets to see if you are going to let them in or not; depending on your standards. Go ahead and post your main characters CS in the CS tab. It will let people see what you are shooting for and may answer questions they have. Also, you may want to add in alternate characters you plan to use - go ahead and get them worked out for ease later on. Have NPC's you will be using a lot? Draw them up a quick modified CS if you like and post that as well. The more you get done before the IC goes up, the less work you have to do later on.
- The First Post: Alright. You are ready to kick this bad boy off. Fuck! What do you put as your first post? Yeah, this is one of the biggest pains I have run into and I tend to follow a quick system to make it easier. Instead of focusing on my main character to start I try to give people an idea of what they are walking into a lot of the time. What time of day is it? What time of year? What does the location look like? How is the weather? What about the various people milling about? Now I can add in how my character is reacting to that. Giving people this basic information to start will help them figure out their own first post and give them things to respond to.
Keeping Your RP Going
Okay, this can be the hardest thing to do as a GM. You have created a great story line, drummed up a lot of interest, got it off the ground and then suddenly - EVERYONE VANISHES! OMG! You sit there banging your head against your screen. What in the heck went wrong? Was it something before it even got off the ground or did something happen after you started to cause it die like so many others and be buried in the RP Graveyard. (It's a big graveyard, massive...) - Let us look at some things that can cause your RP to die and how to fix that. It won't always work but it can help.
- People Lose Interest: Top reason that Rp's die is just that people lose interest. Call it a human condition. It's like watching a Tv show and in the middle of it saying - Screw it, what else is on. There really is nothing you can do about this other than screening your Rpers before you let them join. (Which is tedious, I know I do it, and it doesn't always work) Best you can do is be prepared for it. Sometimes this is just what happens. If you have one person that is willing to stick it out in the RP, think about changing it to a 1x1 or reopening your interest check and seeing if you can pull in new people.
- Enforcing Your Rules: A lot of the time if you enforce your rules it means that you will eventually have to kick someone. Sadly it happens but it can kill an RP. Thing is it that it can also save an RP. If a person is causing problems or holding up people from posting, then you have to do something as a GM. Don't let the whole thing die because of one person. IF people have real world stuff come up, let them drop or go on hiatus for a bit but keep moving your story forward. They can catch up.
- Not Enforcing Your Rules: You laid them out, told people when they need to post, how to post, etc. Then suddenly they are not following them. Do NOT feel bad if you have to nudge people to post, enforce your rules. You didn't type them out just to do something. You have them there for a reason. Remember staying detached? This is one of those reasons you need to.
- Not Following Your Own Rules: You know how they say a child doesn't listen to what their parents say but watches what they do? Well in this scenario you are the parent and your Rpers are your children. If you are not following your own rules, how can you expect them to? Set an example by following to the letter every rule you put forth, keep your Rpers informed, keep them in the loop.
- Your Reputation: This one will play a big role. How your fellow Rpers view you will give you a clue to how long they will stick it out with you and how much they are willing to put up with. If you have a tendency to flaking out yourself, chances are they will as well. You can have the best story line in history but if Rpers don't feel like they can count on your they won't waste their time; no matter how much they may like you personally.
- Not Listening To Your Rpers: How well do you know your Rpers? Do you know their posting schedules? If they are dealing with stuff in real life? Are you willing to work with them? Did they have an idea you brushed off? Listen to your Rpers and what advice or ideas they may have. The more you can work your Rpers subplots into your story the more likely they are to stick it out because they are personally invested into the RP and feel like they are a bigger part of it.
- You Flaked Out: As much as Rpers flake out of an Rp, Gm's flake out just as much. If you make an RP commit yourself to it! Don't go off making others if you are already spreading yourself thin. Don't focus on one Rp over another. Keep your commitment to your own Rp, chances are your Rpers will see your dedication and want to be in your Rp because they know you will stick it out. If you just can't see if your Co-Gm will take over fully and be available to update the original OOC always. If you do drop it, don't come back. Seriously. I know this may sound odd but if it is running great without you, don't just jump back in and take back over. Stick with what you are doing now if you can. If you really have to come back, come back as the Co-Gm and keep your replacement GM as the lead. They have been keeping it going, don't back hand them by taking the work they have done and making it seem like you are actually still a part of it. Once you leave at best ask for Co-Gmship, but realistically, just come back as another Rper. It's their job now, they've earned it.
- Miscommunication: Another thing that can really kill and Rp is when things get confusing. One person might read something and get a different idea than what you intended. It happens to the best of us. Thing is, you need to clarify. Don't be afraid to ask for an edit from your Rper, and if you mess up, don't be afraid to correct yourself. Much of the time this happens even before a post is made, so make sure you clarify before hand if you can.
- Bad Blood: Fights happen, and I am not talking IC. I am talking OOC. No matter how well your groups gets along there is bound to be something that sets someone off. Thing is, you have to be careful when this happens. You will need to learn when to give some ground and also when to stand firm. Do NOT let your Rpers walk all over you. If you let it continue, it WILL kill the RP. It is better to have to kick one person who refuses to stop fighting or that causes problems, no matter how awesome an Rper they are, than to let them remain and watch your RP die.
Now, this isn't a full list of why Rp's die. Some just do. It could be a combination of any of these things or none of them. Sad thing is some just were never meant to get off the ground. Maybe it was just the wrong time or you had the wrong group of Rpers for this. Maybe you went too far off your own story line. Maybe a fight broke out in OOC and people were like "screw this". Whatever the reason don't take it personally, even if it is something you did. All you can do is live and learn. Having said that, if someone takes the time to give their input to why they left the RP or why it died - LISTEN. People are usually not being cruel when they giving their opinion even if it can come off as such. People really don't like spending time telling others what they think they did wrong. So listen to them, they are trying to help. And don't just listen but learn. Change your habits or chances are, the Death of an RP will become a song you know all too well.
Well we have reached the end of this. I may add more as time goes by, I usually do with these tutorials. Some may be asking; well if you are such a pain in the butt GM overlord - how do you keep things moving for months on end? Honestly, I have no idea. I put a lot into my rp's. I devote a lot of time and effort into them. I lay out my rules before hand so people know what they are getting into and know what to expect. I dunno, maybe I am just lucky. Thing is though, I don't think it is me that keeps my Rp's going. I have the most amazing core group of Rpers that are my main RP family here on the forum. You can see many of them in more than 1 Rp I host, heck some are in EVERY RP I create. They know what I expect of them and they know I will do everything I can to work with them as long as they are open and honest with me. Maybe that is it? That we keep everything open to each other. Maybe we just are a little RP family and families stick together. Who knows. All I can say if I hope that every Gm out there is lucky enough to find a group like mine. But you can't have mine, they are my precious; though you are always welcome to join our crazy nutbar little family.
Good luck to all you Gm's out there, you are what gets the story going. Just remember the Rpers are the ones that help keep it going. For further tips and such, please refer to my Beginners Guide To Rp and my Rpers Guide To Etiquette. All my tutorials work together to help create a better Rping and Gming experience for everyone. Granted my ways may not work for you, so remember to go out there and find what works for you.