Holy Soldier’s Game Master (GM) Guide
I decided to write this guide for those players who struggle with the Game Master role. Understand that this guide is written based on my experience, therefore, it is my opinion. I have been role playing for 16 years. The longest successful game I have ever ran was a group game with a massive amount of lore that I ran for 10 years. I currently have a solo that I have been writing with a friend since 2012. Any who, let’s get to the point. If you find this guide helpful, great. If you don’t find this guide helpful, then just move on. Please do not create drama. I am writing this because I love to write, I love role playing, and I want to contribute to its improvement. While I do GM on this site, I am also a writer who could join any of your games, and I want to see you be able to successfully get your idea off the ground, especially if I find it enjoyable. So please take the time to read this. I’ll try to keep it short, sweet, and to the point.
Part One: Creating Your Idea
a. Develop Your Idea. You just saw a movie, heard a song, read a book that has given you a rush and immediately you think, “Hey, this would be a good idea for a role play.” You have the idea, but you don’t necessarily have the story. As much as you just want to put up an interest check to see if anyone would be interested, don’t do it just yet. Stop and slow down. No one is going to steal your idea. The website isn’t going anywhere (hopefully). Just stop and take a moment to develop the idea.
b. Know the Beginning, the Middle, and the End. If your RP idea has a lot of lore or history, then you should be able to answer these questions: “Who? What? Where? When? Why? And How?” Who or what entities are involved? Who do they affect? Why is this such a big deal? Where is this story taking place? When is this story happening? Is there a fictional date or a realistic date? How did the situation end and how does it affect the players? Again, why should the players’ characters care?
(1) When you have answered those questions in the game’s history and have the world pretty developed, then you’re still not ready yet. You need to think about the player characters now. After they have learned the basic idea of your story, what are they going to do once they join? If you at least know the beginning of your game, then usually the natural plots and occurrences that happen in the beginning of the game will help push it to the middle, and hopefully, in the long-run to the end.
c. Sandbox? No sandbox? Hybrid? This is my personal belief, but I distinguish writers from role players. Writers are often people you do not have to worry about. They can detail the world around them, create NPCs, and just paint this pretty picture without any GM guidance. The role player who is pretty classic to the role players in games like D&D need to be led by a Game Master. Now that you understand these two types of writers, then you need to decide what kind of game will your game be?
(1) Sandbox. Sandbox I find easier to do in a game with either a set schedule or open world. The sandbox games require the GM to guide here and there but not full-time. A sandbox game can easily be run by a single GM no problem. Games that are often sandbox are school Rps, super hero Rps, post-apocalyptic survivor RPs, etc. Writers will thrive in these types of games. Even if the sandbox is vast, you, the GM, should never give complete command to your writers. You are still the GM and you still have a job to do. If you let the writers take the wheel, then you are giving them the power to make the game their own. If you had plans for the game to go in a certain direction, then they most likely won’t go that way anymore. Now, there is nothing wrong with player contribution. What I am saying is if you created the game, then just like gamers who purchase video games, we want to see what you have developed.
(2) GM-led/No Sandbox. GM-led games are a full-time commitment. Read that sentence three times. If you do not have time to commit to a GM-led game, then don’t make one! In a GM-led game, you will predominantly have more role players than writers. Role players need to be guided. You’re the Dungeon Master. If you don’t guide them, then they will lose inspiration and quit the game because they don’t know what to do with themselves. You have to lead the game in a GM-led game. I highly recommend that if you attempt a GM-led game that you hire co-GMs. These are assistant GMs. They should assist you with several duties such as: character sheet management, player questions and concerns, running missions/dungeons/scenarios, keeping the game drama free, communicating with the GM any concerns, problems, and absences, and finally, managing the game when the GM is not available. You will find many games where GMs just put their friends as co-GMs, and those co-GMs won’t know how to GM because they need the absent GM in order to do so. This is bad management. You need to loosen your grip on the game and be able to trust your co-GMs. You also need to select good co-GMs who may not always be your best buddies. If you don’t trust your co-GMs, then why are they your co-GMs? They play an important role in game and stress management. You all need to communicate and be a team.
(3) Hybrid: Sandbox/GM-led. Say you run a game that will have sandbox periods before a mission drops. Hybrid games cater to both types of writers. Because there are GM-led areas, then I recommend you hire co-GMs. Depending on the size of your game, the co-GMs can contribute with running scenarios for different groups and keep the game exciting for everyone. This can take stress off of you. There may be times where you don’t want to be the sole runner of scenarios and need a break. Co-GMs. You may have ideas to run multiple scenarios but you don’t want to stretch yourself thin. Co-GMs. Pick players who have demonstrated some responsibility and have a blast.
Part Two: Recruitment
a. Have standards. Your game should have rules. Rules inform your players what you allow and what you don’t allow in your game. Always keep them updated. If you have to add more, then do so. The rules also should not just be a do or don’t. They should be informative for in-game situations. As a GM, will you control the bosses, villains, or minions that your players encounter or are they free to do so? I make a separate rules list for character creation which informs players what is and what isn’t allowed or any extra details.
b. Enforce your standards for everyone. If you have rules, then they should be enforced for everyone. You should follow your rules and your co-GMs should follow your rules. If you say “No God characters” and yet you or your co-GMs are playing overpowered (OP) characters, then you are wrong. If there is a player who is trying to pressure you to lift a rule for them and you don’t want to, then you don’t have to. It is your game. By applying to your game, then they are choosing to adhere to your standards. Be respectful, be fair, but don’t be a pushover.
c. Writing Categories: Free, Casual, Advanced. Specify what category your game will be with the tags. I am not going to write the definitions of the three categories because you can read them on the site. If you say your game is casual, then everyone should be writing on a casual level. If you say your game is advanced, then everyone should be writing on an advanced level. Same for if your game is free. Some players find the advanced section to be daunting. If your game isn’t that strict on grammar, lore, Character Sheet (CS) design, etc. but it still demands a decent level of writing quality, then I often find helpful tagging the game as “Casual-Advanced.” The players see Casual, and it puts them at ease a bit. Try not to cross the categories because they are there for a reason. I have had writers who were dominantly advanced and they were patiently writing with a player who I had allowed into my casual-advanced game who wrote at a free role play level. He could barely write over 300 words and the other writers were sending him posts 500-1000+ words. His responses were destroying their muse because they were not completely developed. Again, “enforce your standards” and try to avoid crossing the levels if doing so creates a problem in your game.
d. Have a CS prepared. While you are waiting for interest to gather, start building a character sheet. You can create a personal thread for yourself for keeping all of your characters, world-building ideas, and character sheet templates. Build a character sheet relevant to your game. If a history is not relevant, then don’t put it as an option in there. Take time to prepare the template and look over it because some categories are easily forgotten. Your RPers may also recommend some extra categories to add and that’s always good too, but always have one ready so you don’t keep them waiting for too long.
e. Keep your Opening Post (OP) Up-to-Date. Your players always want to be informed of any changes and links you post. Your OP is your reference. Any changes to your game, whether they be additions to the lore, character creation, links, or other information or deletions, should be kept up-to-date on your OP. An unorganized GM will discourage players from joining your game. If you demonstrate to your players that you are organized, then it shows them that you care about your role as a GM. They will start trusting you.
f. Tip 1: Make your OP your OOC. By the time you are posting an interest check, you are basically presenting your idea to the players in the same manner the OOC OP does. So your OP should be what you will copy over when you make the OOC for your game. Trust me, this saves you time and keeps you from overworking for no reason.
g. Tip 2: Work on writing the IC during Recruitment. You should work on your IC post when you get a decent amount of players whose CSes you have approved. If I get at least five players, then I normally start building the IC that way, if I am waiting for other people, by the time they are done with their CSes, I should be posting the OOC and IC. Not only is the OOC up because again, the OOC was my interest thread’s OP, but the IC goes up also. Your players are going to be very anxious to write when they sign up to your game. Do not let that excitement die because you wanted to take one to three weeks to post up an IC you should have had ready. Punctuality shows your players that you care about them.
h. Do not jump-the-gun. You just posted up your interest thread. Three people have immediately posted interest within the hour. You get excited. Two more people meaning five people have now posted interest. Now you want to go put up an OOC. Slow down. Tip 3: Drop the CS template first and have them complete it. If you have approved a decent amount of CSes, THEN make the OOC/IC. The reason why I say this is because many players will post their interest, but this does not mean that they are committed to your game. You could have 10 people post interest and only 2 of those 10 will send you a CS. Wait for CSes.
i. Don’t get discouraged. You posted your idea and it hasn’t received any interest for 5 days, 10 days, a month. Don’t get discouraged. This doesn’t mean that your idea was bad. Continue to wait, bump it if it disappears from the page, and if there is still no interest, then archive it for later. You can always revamp it at another date. Again, do not get discouraged. I have presented a few games myself that just didn’t get any bites. I just archived the idea and moved on.
Part Three: Game Management
a. Player Activity. This should be in your rules. You should have a posting requirement. For example, if you haven’t posted in 14 days, then I will PM you to check on where you are. If a player hasn’t posted in 3 days, then you can skip him or her in the posting order. If a player hasn’t posted for 30 days, then he or she will be dropped from the game. You need to manage the activity of your players. Some players will wander off if there's ever a period where your game stalls for a few days. They may think that the game has died. Use the @Mention and draw their attention back to your game.
b. Communication. If a player is going to be absent for a few weeks or longer, then reassure the player that their absence is okay. Let them know that you will make a note next to their character in the character list in your character thread, which will remind you how long they will be gone. This reassures the player that they can still continue with the game even due to their delay. This will help retain your players. Also be sure to tell your players to keep constant communication with you. A lot of GMs make a discord chat. Not every player has discord chat so if you make a GM announcement in discord, then be sure to also make it in the OOC for those players who don’t have discord.
c. GM Absence. If you are running a game where your absence could freeze it, then you need to hire co-GMs. Co-GMs will run the game until you return. Use your co-GMs even if you normally operate independently. They are very helpful and they want to help you and the game survive.
d. Get the Post Out. If you are running a GM-led game, or if there is a scenario that you need to drop in the sandbox, then your game must take priority. Do not keep your players waiting too long for your GM post. Even if you have dedicated players, do not wait too long to get that post out. If your muse is being a pain, then you may have to force yourself to write. Usually when I “just do it,” when I start writing a bit of words on a Word document, it’ll start flowing. Limit your distractions. Perhaps cut on some music to help put you in the mood. Make your GM post your priority over any other RPs you’re involved in. Dedicate a day or a week for when the post will be due if you got to. Just get that GM post out! Again, if you are having issues, ask the co-GMs to help you. Some co-GMs will help you develop it.
e. Keep Recruiting. Players come and go for various reasons. The ones who remain in the end are your “dedicated” bunch and they will be the ones you want to keep. If Bail-Lord decides to bail on your game because he found another game to be more interesting or for an IRL situation, then do not get upset. Keep recruiting. Update your interest thread and let people know you are looking for more people.
(1) Remain Unbiased There are some very bad GMs on this website. They may have built a bias against you based on what other players have said. Very high school shit happens on this site. Do not get caught up in it. Give every player a chance to prove him or herself for they may not be what other people say they are. Remain unbiased. You should keep an open mind and make your own opinion of someone. Do not let others dictate your opinion because it could lead to prejudice and labeling. This is a small world. If you were applying to that person’s game, then you would want them to pay you the same respect. Do not get caught up in the high school shit.
f. Manage the IC. More than likely, you may need some rules for IC conduct. You may also need to create a system that allows players to keep track of the character's location, who are they talking to, what time and day it is in the game, etc. You can easily do this by creating what is called a Tag. This is a tag:
[b]Role/Rank/Position:[/b] (Warrior, Mage, Soldier, Rank, etc.)
[b]Time/Date:[/b] Fictional date or realistic date plus the time. It doesn't have to be actual time. It can be like "Early Morning, Afternoon, etc." If your game moves as a group, then this may simply be Day 1, Early Morning.
[b]Location:[/b] Where is your character at?
[b]Tagging:[/b] Who is your character directly talking to or interacting with? @Mention those involved. [b]Mention:[/b] Is your character thinking about another character or indirectly talking about him or her? @Mention the player.
Your players should post this tag at the top of their posts. This will allow them to keep track of each characters' movements and interactions throughout the game.
g. Do not be afraid to let people go. There may be a time where a player demonstrates that he or she cannot meet your standards. It may be due to drama. It may be due to reading comprehension and writing ability. Whatever the reason, do not be afraid to politely let that person go. If you keep a bad apple in the game for too long, then it can spoil the bunch. Let them go but don’t let it necessarily be permanent. You do not know what that player could have been going through. Because this site has a young population, you do not know if that player was just going through an immature period in his or her life. He or she could have been having a bad season. Let them go, and if ever they show interest in any of your future games, if they weren’t that much of a problem, then let them in. Do not facilitate a toxic trend on this site. There are already too many of them. Just don’t do it. There are way more important things IRL than some petty squabble over fictional characters and stories.
This was my GM guide. I may add more tips to it as I continue to write here on this site. Every player and every game is a new experience. I hope that those who liked this guide were able to find this helpful. If you would like some GM advice, feel free to PM me. I am all for bettering the quality of Role Plays on this site, and I hope you are too.