Okay, I've been wanting something like this. A forum where a GM can come to ask questions of other GMs.
First question, though: Would it be a good idea to split off folks like me who have never yet attained that coveted orange badge from the people who actually know what they're talking about?
What I mean is, have a GM Beginners thread where people can ask dumb questions like "I've started six group games in the last six months and none of them has lasted more than a month, what am I doing wrong...?" or "I get loads of people telling me they're interested in my idea for a group game, but when I start it I only get two or three people actually join. Is there anything I can do about this?"
My reason for suggesting this, obviously, is that you guys who have been running games for years (in some cases) may not know all the answers (some times there are no answers), but you don't necessarily want to be bugged with the questions, and meanwhile the folk like me who are still trying to get something to work really want a thread with simple answers and don't necessarily want to wade through pages of in-depth technical discussion...
Obviously, my next two questions are the two I used as examples...
I suppose I have answers to them already, and I just want to see what the more experienced GMs think:
Why do my games fold after less than a month?
Obviously, people loose interest, but why? I think there are a number of reasons.
Firstly, the story doesn't develop the way they were expecting. This, I suppose, is down to the GM not giving enough information about their idea in the first place.
Second, the idea wasn't really that good in the first place. I've had a few of these. What works really well in your head often won't work at all when you actually type it out on a screen, and when you try and involve other people in that idea, it just falls flat.
Third, too few players took up the idea in the first place. I've learned that a really specialised idea, like a group of mercenaries for example, is best filled out with people you know will be interested. Open it to everyone to round it out but expect those players to quickly drop out as soon as they realise what the plot actually involves. Relying on having six players start and have all of them stay the course for the entire scenario is a non-starter. Three will vanish within two weeks and that leaves you with a one-on-one and a third wheel!
Lastly, bad GM-ing. This is the most difficult one for me. I don't think I'm a bad GM, but then who does? I try not to be too picky when it comes to player's characters and IC actions, but at the same time I try to keep continuity and step in where necessary to ask people to edit. I don't insist on people using a specific tense or person, although I do express a preference. I always make sure people understand certain rules of play before we start. I try to keep the game moving, both by posting myself and by PMing players who haven't posted for a while to see if they are still playing. I can't see anything I'm doing wrong in that respect...
Why do people sign up on the interest thread and then not take it any further and is there anything I can do about this?
Well the first part of that I guess is just human nature. "Oooh that looks interesting, I say I'm interested. I can always change my mind". I have to admit to doing this myself on a few occasions, however I will, generally, post to say "sorry I've changed my mind", if I remember... I suppose the only real thing that can be done about this is to make the idea so good and the interest thread so attention grabbing that people want to join up!
Of course the other problem is that if you get half a dozen people interested straight away, but you really need a dozen to make it work, by the time you get those other six, the first six have lost interest, joined other group games, moved house, got married, had kids, sent them through college... Again, the only real cure I can see is is to have an attractive thread that people look at, keep discussion going in it so it stays near the top of the first page without being "bumped", and have an idea that is good enough that people want to join up.
But the other thing I've started doing is PM everyone who posted to the thread when I'm ready to start, to ask them if they are still interested. I'm never sure if this is a good idea or not, though.
On the subject of "Bad GMing" and "What am I doing wrong", would it be a good idea to have a number of experienced GMs take on the role of "GM Mentor"? What I envisage is, someone like me is having trouble keeping a game running. So they post in a thread in this forum asking for someone to take a look at the game. One of the GM Mentors (doesn't have to be an official role or anything, just a number of folks who have kept a group game running for a couple of years or whatever) takes a look, reads through the OOC and IC threads, and basically reports back by PM as to why they think the game flopped.
Obviously a rule of this would be that the GM-Mentor's criticism must be constructive, and the player asking for help must accept it as such and not overreact.
So, two suggestions in one post. Hows that?