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Author Topic: How to run a group game successfully  (Read 1850 times)

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Offline NicoTopic starter

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How to run a group game successfully
« on: January 02, 2017, 06:17:49 AM »
After someone suggested it, I've decided to make a thread about my own experiences with group games, about the mistakes I made and how to avoid them.

A very good friend of mine here on Elliquiy (you know who you are) and I have ran several groups here, and most of them failed after a very short time. Once we were at the point where we didn't want to run a group game ever again, but we two sat down, discussed about a lot of things, brainstormed and gathered ideas. In the end, we realized that we made the very same mistakes, over and over again, and they were -more than likely- the reasons for our groups to die.

It certainly is worth mentioning that the things below worked for us. If they work for other groups is up in the air, but I thought of sharing them, nonetheless.

Have fun reading and maybe one or the other idea is something you can use for your own groups. :-)



Maybe the most paramount of rules:

Make your rules - and stick to them!! No 'ifs', no 'buts', no exceptions. Yes, it might sound a little harsh, but in the end it is worth it. Be very, very clear about what you expect of your writers - and just as clear about the things that are a no-go in your group. It helps a lot to avoid wrong expectations from potential group members. It is essential to keep in mind that it is your group and your rules. Someone who comes and tries to bend them might not be very compatible with your ideas.

Which leads me to this: Accepting fresh ideas from your writers is an awesome thing! If they are compatible with the group as a whole, why not? But again, make sure it does not destroy what you have in mind or what other writers are having a good time with. It can be a thin line, but it can be walked well.

'What goes around, comes around.'



Other, equally important things to consider:

No favourism. No cliques.

You cannot please everyone. It's not possible. Compromising is the key as long as it does not destroy the integrity of your group. Bending over backwards just to make someone join is not a good thing in the long run.

Always keep in mind that it is your group game. Your setting. Your ideas. Your rules. Do not make the mistake and overhaul a whole setting/concept just for a single person, even if it is your best friend. Especially then. I am of the opinion that a good friend will not try to completely change your ideas, but add to it an make it even more awesome. Again, compromising can be an awesome thing, but there is the point where it is not compromising anymore. Keep in mind that you often spend a lot of your time on a concept - do you really want it all go down the drain just because someone is pushy?

As GM, you run your group. If you're lucky, everyone else in your group will assist you in that, communicate their ideas and add to the plots. I have this very clearly stated in my group: "Sitting around and waiting for things to happen will not get you anywhere." Communication is the key, I cannot repeat this enough. I like it when everyone in my groups is equal. We write together, we are often friends and most of all - we are all mature.

No posting stress! I think that's a very important thing to consider. Stress results in frustration. And muses are often fickle. Good things come to those who wait and if you prefer a slower pace in your group, make it clear! It is not true that a slow pace kills a group. Mine is slow as a snail at times but we run for almost 1.5 years by now. It is important that everyone involved is fine with a certain pace, that's all!

Do not let your group get too big if you cannot manage it! Make sure to have reliable people who could assist you as GM's if the need arises. Being overwhelmed is no fun, at all!

Another thing that worked very well:

Try to avoid this 'coupling-up' and/or 'love interest' thing before the game even starts. It often ends up with only pairs writing together, and that often negates real interaction with everyone else. I've noticed that too smut-heavy games often are a one-track-road right into doom (at least if you intend to make it a longer lasting game). It has little dynamic and it often ends up in people getting bored if there is nothing else. In my group, the sexy part is of course a part of the whole, but it's not the whole cake, so to speak.

Avoid OOC drama at any cost. It has nothing to do in a group game. Elliquiy has threads for that in the B&U Board. Just as important is to keep OOC and IC strictly apart, especially in games where characters might not always get along. If OOC drama flares up because of IC conflicts - it is time to nip it in the bud! Some friendly but resolute clear words really do the trick in most cases.



Something that works fantastic when it comes to characters:

Let your writers post their sheets and edit their sheets if it becomes necessary. Yes, it requires a certain amount of trust but it pays! Characters develop, they grow and expand and letting them do the changes on their own will take a whole lot of workload from you and your CO-GM's if you have any.

A characters sexual preference/kinks/etc. is half as important as that the character adds to the group as a whole. Their skills, profession, outlook in live, etc. can enrich a story and add a lot of depth to an ongoing plot. Personally, I think it is so much better to leave out kinks, fetishes, etc. on a character sheet completely. Yes, it is a part of a character but I wouldn't nail it all down on a sheet. It keeps the door open for exploration and character development!

Always keep the door open for new writers to join your group, even if the plot already has started. Yes, I know, many people are shy to join ongoing groups and I can understand why, but if you communicate that it always will be open for new writers, it should take some of that fear, hopefully! There's always ways around, already existing characters can get connections if someone new joins your group. The possibilities are endless, if you think about it.

It is fine to allow writers to write multiple characters in a group - if they are able to keep up with them. Making new characters is awesome and it often is the option to write with more people, but making characters, plotting things and then nothing happens usually leaves people frustrated. Think twice before making too many characters you cannot keep up with.



A character does not really fit into the group has been submitted. What to do?

It happens, for a multitude of reasons but don't fret - not all hope is lost. Sometimes it's just one little detail that sticks out like a sore thumb, sometimes you think that this particular character isn't what you're looking for, and sometimes it are other things.

Communication is the magic word, once again! Talk to the person, explain what doesn't work, maybe even offer a new idea, a new angle, a fresh suggestion, etc. Just talk it out, because once a character fits into the whole, everyone involved will have more fun! It often is not necessary to overhaul a whole character concept, just pushing it all into another direction often does the trick.



What to do if someone decides to cause drama in my group?

Let's face it: Causing drama for the sake of it is immature, inconsiderate and just flat out rude.

It's a sensitive topic, but it requires being direct. Beating around the bush or 'hoping that it will go away' is not going to work because once you give too much leeway - it often escalates. The only suggestion I have is: Be direct. Be very clear that it's a no-go and that it has to stop at once. Elliquiy is an adult community, and if someone can't or won't listen to a 'no', it might be better to show them the door. You have to see the whole picture, in such cases. Your writers will get fed up with too much drama, they will lose the desire to write and it will take their fun away. That really shouldn't happen, just because of one person being a pain.

Personally, I am all for giving one fair warning if something happens, but only one (maybe pointing out Elliquiy's rules as well). Also - make it clear that this will be the only warning that will happen. Joining a group game always requires being a team player and - there is no 'I' in 'team'.



Two writers in my group don't get along. What to do?

Can this be a problem? Yes. Is it unsolveable? Hell, no!

As golden rule: Do not let people use your group game as a stage for their drama.

See, it all boils down to maturity. Never make the mistake as GM and let people tell you who to let in your group. Remember - your group, your rules. ;) It is not -I repeat- not your responsibility to keep people from acting like in some Highschool clique, but it is their responsibility to adhere to Elliquiy's civility rule. As a GM, you are certainly not some babysitter.

Not everyone gets along, such is life. It is always a matter of how it is dealt with. People do not have to be buddy-buddy to write together and nobody is forced to write with someone they do not get along with. It happens. The moment more than two people get together, the possibility is there for dislikes to happen. In the end, it is how it is dealt with.

And if all else fails, take their stage away. Aka - show them the door.



One of the writers has to take a Hiatus or leaves the group! OMG! What to do now?

It sounds terrible, but it isn't really. Of course, it always sucks when someone leaves but it is not the end of the world - or of your group. ;-) If you have made it all dependant on one writer or character, then you did it wrong, anyways.

Admitted, such an instance requires good communication once again, some imagination and the willingness to work around things, maybe change already running plotline around some. Nothing is impossible. Characters still can exist, even if they get not written for a while. Just because a writer has to take a break, doesn't mean that the character(s) vanish all of a sudden. Characters can get busy all of a sudden, they can get sick, have family issues, etc. The list of options is endless, if you think about it for a moment. There is always a way to keep going, even with an important character being gone all of a sudden.

This right here is another reason why this 'pairing-up' thing should be avoided at all costs. It's not only a tad bit on the boring side, to put it mildly, it also locks characters up in a most unhealthy way. Keeping the dynamic alive is so much easier in the long run and the impact if a writer leaves is not so drastic.



How many writers to I need to make my group a success?

Not many. It's not the number of writers, but how those writers can make a world come alive. Can they write NPC's and side characters? It probably only takes three, four steady, creative and dedicated writers to make a group flourish. The more, th better, of course, but as long as you have a solid base, it's an excellent place to work from!



Gender balance & Group games

Quite often I have noticed that people strive to 'keep the balance'. This in itself can be quite restrictive.

The world does not work like this. Also - if there is this "Each character should have someone to pair up with" it quickly goes down the drain if someone leaves the group. That's usually a chain reaction. One writer leaves, the other who wrote with them leaves as well because the character their character was paired up with left. I think, this also can be a reason why games fade away. Of course, some games are geared that way but it's thin ice, however. There must be more than characters pairing up and having love interests. If you strive for a story focused game, gender really doesn't matter, don't you think?

For example: I have long lost the ratio in my group. I really would have to sit down and go count but that's irrelevant because it's the characters that make a group come to life - not what a character's got between their legs. Also - never forget that characters have pasts. If they do not match up now, doesn't mean they never matched up. Even gay men might have experimented in the past, married women might have been single at one point and transgendered people were at another stage at one point in their lives - and this alone opens the door for drama, background stories and good plots. Conflict and loathing can add so much to characters, after all. ;) If everything two characters keeps connected is their bedroom time - it's often doomed to fail.

It certainly is something to considerate. One writer leaving can destroy a well built up balance in heartbeat. So, I belive it is best to not have one to begin with.



[wip]
« Last Edit: October 15, 2017, 02:55:39 AM by Nico »

Offline MaverickKane

Re: How to run a group game successfully
« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2017, 10:11:00 AM »
-thumbs up- Yeah me and a friend (he knows who he is) came to the same conclusions long ago.  :P

Online RedPhoenix

Re: How to run a group game successfully
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2017, 10:41:57 PM »
Thanks for taking the time to write this. :)

Offline GnothiSeauton

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Re: How to run a group game successfully
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2017, 07:51:49 PM »
Absolutely love this thread already.

Offline Lady Sakura

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Re: How to run a group game successfully
« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2017, 08:08:50 PM »
This is perfect Nicholas. I've been considering making my very first group game and this knowledge you've shared with us is greatly appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to write it out. ^^

Offline NicoTopic starter

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Re: How to run a group game successfully
« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2017, 03:07:35 PM »
~smiles~

Thank you, everyone! I'm glad that it is useful!

Offline Jason Hunter

Re: How to run a group game successfully
« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2017, 04:31:58 AM »
Thanks a lot for this post Nic. About to try start my own group game and this advice will definitely come in handy :)

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Re: How to run a group game successfully
« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2017, 10:52:43 PM »
Thank you, Nicholas. ^^

Offline NicoTopic starter

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Re: How to run a group game successfully
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2017, 02:52:26 AM »
I've added a little bit more. :-)

Offline Lady Sakura

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Re: How to run a group game successfully
« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2017, 11:06:27 PM »
Just want to say again how much I appreciate this Nico.

Offline NicoTopic starter

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Re: How to run a group game successfully
« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2017, 01:23:48 PM »
Just want to say again how much I appreciate this Nico.
Thank you! It makes me happy!

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Re: How to run a group game successfully
« Reply #11 on: October 17, 2017, 09:47:14 AM »
I've touched on some of these same points when I did a thread like this years ago. One point where I would disagree with you is regarding the ironcladness of rules. Rules, to my mind, aren't laws. They're guidelines. A GM needs to be flexible, and if a rule is stifling a game, it needs to be reviewed. Maybe when it was first introduced there was a good reason for it, but if it's not helping the game now, why keep it?

Additionally, with system play perhaps in particular, some rules just don't work out as well in play as they're supposed to. That's the reason we house rule stuff .. to make the game better.

Offline NicoTopic starter

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Re: How to run a group game successfully
« Reply #12 on: October 17, 2017, 09:58:27 AM »
I've touched on some of these same points when I did a thread like this years ago. One point where I would disagree with you is regarding the ironcladness of rules. Rules, to my mind, aren't laws. They're guidelines. A GM needs to be flexible, and if a rule is stifling a game, it needs to be reviewed. Maybe when it was first introduced there was a good reason for it, but if it's not helping the game now, why keep it?

Additionally, with system play perhaps in particular, some rules just don't work out as well in play as they're supposed to. That's the reason we house rule stuff .. to make the game better.
Yep, that's why I have written that those things work for my group but I can't tell if they will work for others. I couldn't tell if it works for system based games at all since I have no knowledge about that dynamic. ;) However, I agree that rules might be changed, expanded upon, etc. if the need arises. Groups can be quite dynamic and it might become necessary. I wouldn't be against it, if it is for the benefit of the group in general and doesn't destroy the original premise.

I can only speak for my group, but the rules we have in place are working for us since the beginning (over two years ago) and we never had someone approach us about them in a negative way. Quite the contrary.

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Re: How to run a group game successfully
« Reply #13 on: October 17, 2017, 10:17:01 AM »
Every group is going to be different, and what works well for the people in A could ruin a group for the people in B. A GM has to be flexible, and adjust things to what works for their group. :)

Offline NicoTopic starter

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Re: How to run a group game successfully
« Reply #14 on: October 17, 2017, 03:31:14 PM »
Every group is going to be different, and what works well for the people in A could ruin a group for the people in B. A GM has to be flexible, and adjust things to what works for their group. :)
This!

Online RedPhoenix

Re: How to run a group game successfully
« Reply #15 on: October 17, 2017, 03:49:33 PM »
I read it more as saying - think carefully about your rules and stick to them if you're going to have them.

I think it's important because I have seen many games that copy/paste their rules from another game and then don't enforce or follow them and it is frustrating when you don't really know what is allowed, expected or tolerated.

That isn't to say you can't change them, just that don't give people exceptions to rules, change them instead so that everyone always knows what the situation is.

If that makes sense.

For example if you had a rule "Your characters must be from Location X" and someone says "hey can we be from location Y?" and makes a good argument for it you could either 1) say no, that's the rule for a reason, 2) say yes and change the rule for everyone. But you shouldn't just give that person an exception because now nobody knows what the rule actually means or why one person got an exception and nobody else did. Little things like that go a long way to destabilizing a game.

I guess what I took from it is - if a rule doesn't make sense, either change it or get rid of it. Don't just decide to not use them but leave them up as rules in the game.

Offline Sain

Re: How to run a group game successfully
« Reply #16 on: November 04, 2017, 12:33:35 PM »
This is quite nice thread here ;D I think they are good points that every GM should consider regardless of whether or not they run a system game.

If it's alright I would like to bring up one major practical concern of how to run a system game in PbP successfully. There is of course a spectrum of what works and it's different for everyone, but surprisingly often I see many system games flatline because they are ran with the same mentality that one would run a regular RL system adventure.

The whole thing kind of stems from the slowed pace at which we can do GM-player back and forth on forums and the way in which these more gamy system adventures are set-up so that the GM is generally the only one who can dictate and assume something happens in narrative. It's hard to avoid bringing the GM-player mindset with us when implementing system into a PbP environment.

This is highlighted to the extreme in combat situations. Depending on the system and encounter you can usually wrap them up within 60 min, usually in much less. In PbP this can stretch over several months and devolve from an exciting dramatic build up pre-combat into one liners and be further bogged down by archaic initiative rules.

Of course, there are many ways to tackle this problem, but not infinite. I have my own tips and tricks for this, but my sample size for how many successful system games I have seen is limited and only applies to my preferred playstyle and moreover done from a player's point of view.

My general observation for slower posting people (1+ week per post) it is kind of pointless to even try run big combat scenarios with the popular system games that require a lot of GM-player interaction such as pathfinder and any incarnation of D&D or Shadowrun. In PbP these are often not the exciting action moments they are for RL RP. Why? Because these system inherently restricts the amount of action that can happen in one post to a very minimal and boring box. Often you can choose to move somewhere and cast some sort of spell or attack, and that's it. Then you wait for GM to do the same with their mooks and this will slug on for months.

I've seen two solutions to this, one with inherent strengths of a system built for abstract and narrative focused play (Nastara showed me how Dungeon World pairs amazingly well with PbP) and another with clever abstraction of a complex system (D&D 3.5, props to Zaer for how he handled system in Legendary Monsters). In both instances the players' actions in and out of combat were not limited to waiting for GM response. They knew right away what they could do after the attack and could participate in the narrative to a great extent and actively push the narrative forward rather than wait for GM confirmation.

This is the key. For people who have a slower post rate and preference for more writing per post you need a system that supports that. That can mean either some very extensive house ruling of existing favourite systems or picking one that is already compatible. Sadly, this may mean that some favourite systems may not fit everyone for their PbP needs even if they love them in general. This is an extremely important consideration. I have seen so so many great ideas with great GMs and players flop simply because the system is there. It can be bit of a shocker especially when people come to forums with a lot of GMing experience, but then suddenly find themselves unable to maintain exciting narrative the way they usually do. Worse yet is when they get demotivated to run another game and think it's their fault, when it was all because of the system.

In addition, it is generally good idea to avoid any and all random and meaningless encounters, only playing out those that will actually advance plot.

That's my observations for adapting system games for PbP environment from the perspective of a relatively slow posting player who prefers relaxed paced games. I'm sure there are others with more varied experiences and perhaps from a larger sample size. Would be nice to hear your thoughts. Perhaps we can condense the ideas into a few useful nuggets for aspiring system PbP GMs?