Tuesday, February 11, 2014

GM's STOP killing yourselves!

Too often, the most tellingly inefficient thing about an online chat game is trying to run it in the same way you would run a table top game of 4 to 6 players. It's madness. I have seen more GM's flame out from this more than any other cause. Some don't seem to grasp that it is an entirely different dynamic. Maybe it's a matter of being unable to delegate, maybe it's down to not being able to find people who can help. Often you'll see one GM for the entire spread of a venue and as soon as school starts or the day job changes hours, the venue takes two in the head and two in the center mass. This is wrong. To my way of thinking, there are about a dozen reasons that your Storyteller staff ought to be as large as you can make it. A good game is like managing a project at work…and it is WORK, especially if you're the only one doing it. Many hands make light work.
 Your role as Storyteller is to essentially be the head writer of a writer's room for a television show. You create the setting. Maybe a few of the main problems and characters that the players will bumble into. You set the tone and determine the themes. But nobody ought to be asking you to write the whole damn series, direct it, choreograph the action sequences, and play all the bit parts. Fuck a whole bunch of that! Here's what you need:

*One executive ST:
 This would be the person who is essentially the guy who makes the big decisions. Most of his time would be spent having online meetings with the ST's who implement the decisions. Occasionally, he takes the field as a power NPC, or as some force of antagonists, but honestly, he shouldn't have to do that more than once a month at most. Also: he should be the record keeper for the venue. Or at least be able to help out with and direct the archiving of the venue. As head of the ship. It is important for the HST to communicate as much of his ideas about tone, theme, attitude, design, and philosophy as is humanly possible. The work of an HST is helping to get the entirety of the ST staff on the same page. If you can do this, trust and delegation stop becoming a problem. You must communicate, loudly, often, almost to point of annoying the hell out of your ST's because if you don't, they won't understand what you have in mind, and they won't be able to contribute. Too often, I've seen people in charge of projects, shows, games and other things that require communication and cooperation, turn into complete autists. Leaving thier staff's to try to divine the course of the thing via signs, portents, and fever dreams. Once, while i was charge of a Larp, i discovered that certain house rules had 5 or 6 iterations and NOBODY seemed to know it exactly. As a result, I instituted the Red Book of DOOM. The premise was simple: If there is a question about rules, refer to the Red Book of DOOM. If a house rule is not in the Red Book of DOOM, it is not a house rule. It is merely rumor.

 *A handful of full ST's:
 Who are entrusted with implementing the HST's Decisions, running scenes and combats, and generally creating all sorts of mayhem. Full ST's are responsible for creating the paperwork that the HST archives. They handle crafting projects, equipment requests, sheet upgrades, and keeping track of what the players are up to. And please understand, You should, as an ST, be as flexible as possible. If you're a vampire ST and you have a special flair for running Circle of the Crone, then by all means do so. But do not lock yourself into that role and fight others who might want to play in your sandbox. That's bullshit, and is less helpful to the team as a whole. You want as many full ST's as you think the venue will support, because they will help your venue be active at more times of day. Each ST ought to be responsible for running 1 scene per week unless their sole purview is record keeping. As a perk of being a storyteller, you should award your ST's banked EXP that they can use towards their next PC, Or, alternately, You might consider giving them extra EXP for a character in the venue, that is NOT a primary character. Say, if you have a Full ST for Vampire. If he's got a vampire character, such a character would not receive additional exp, but a human or ghoul PC would. I say this because you should encourage your full ST's to periodically, lay down their ST Burdens and go play in the venue and remember what it is like to BE a player again. Another alternative, would be to offer an agreed upon cost break for a particular purchase once a month. Full ST's might be offered an "Above and Beyond" bonus once a month that gives their primary or secondary character a free dot bump for something. This could even extend to a power stat if the ST chooses. Always incentivize if you can. Another job for the ST staff is to "Peer Review" content submissions like new powers or widgets. This way no one can point at the HST and say he's favoring or hating on a player. If a number of ST hold their noses and give the thumbs down, then it's hard to argue that you don't need to go back to the drawing board.

* The Goon Squad:
 There are people who are just damn fine players. They've got a proper attitude and they have a protean soul, insofar as they can put themselves into a number of different and disparate roles. You should tap such players and use them like the resource they are. Sure, give them extra points for their primary and encourage them to play that primary as often as possible. But in addition to that, hand them one of the mid-level NPC's and encourage them to walk that guy around some, with some goals and relatively vague guidelines. "Dude. Are you busy right now? Can you pull out that ancillae gangrel of ours and go throw the fear of god into those guys in that room over there?" Allow them to have as many secondary characters as possible in order to fill out your venue. As long as they keep good notes, it'll make your venue seem like it's ten times the size. Also: let them know when large events are coming up and tap them to play roles in them too. It will take some of the load off the ST staff. Even if your venue is relatively small it can benefit from a robust Goon Squad. If nothing else, you'll have plenty of people stirring the pot.

 Sono Finito.


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