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 Stand-Alone Games: Gamemaster's Manual

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Teele
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PostSubject: Stand-Alone Games: Gamemaster's Manual   Fri Nov 07, 2008 4:44 pm

Gamemaster's Manual


Hello there! This is the future home of a brand new guide to help new GMs learn the ropes of how things work around here, and to help make their experience as fun and interactive as possible.

We're currently under construction right now, and as such we'll be leaving the old guide open until these new ones are finished.

- Teele

Table Of Contents
Introduction - 2
The Idea - 3
Fleshing Things Out - 4
Submitting The Thread - 5
Acquiring Players - 6
Running The Game - 7
Finishing Up - 8
To Infinity And Beyond - 9
Back Matter - 10


Last edited by Teele on Sat Jan 24, 2009 4:44 pm; edited 3 times in total
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PostSubject: Introduction   Sat Jan 24, 2009 4:40 pm

Introduction


Welcome to Roleplayers' Central, where RPGs are the name of the game! For all who are unsure, RPG is an abbreviation for Role-Playing Game. Exactly as the name implies, it is a game in which real people take on the roles of imaginary characters.

Here's how it works: a person (let's call him Greg) gets an idea for a story that he thinks would make a really cool game. Greg puts together a bunch of background information, and assembles a basic plot. He then puts some of this introductory material into a private message, and sends it to one or more Moderators. Once the game is approved, it is posted to the Stand-Alone RPG thread (or the Game Queue, if it has to wait its turn). Other people then see it and then think up a character that would fit the story's background well, and that they think would be fun to write about. Once they have their character's basic info, they post it. When enough characters are added, the game begins! Greg will present situations, allies, and enemies for the characters to interact with, and together, a story is built!

The people running the main characters of the game are called the Players. They control the aspects of the character they create; what they look like, how they feel about themselves and others, and what special skills and abilities they have. If you're looking to be a player, check out The Players' Manual.

Greg is known as the Gamemaster (GM): he controls the overall direction of the story, and also keeps track of all the non-player characters (NPCs) that the players will interact with. If you're looking to be a Gamemaster, you've come to the right place! This guide will show you what's involved in being a GM, and give you some hints and tip to create memorable environments and adventures!

Welcome to the Games...


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PostSubject: The Idea   Sat Jan 24, 2009 4:45 pm

The Idea


Your game begins with an idea. It could be just about anything; an imaginary world, a futuristic setting for our own world, or just an interesting scenario set in the here and now. Once you have the basic concept, allow it to grow itself into a tale; a tale that will be large in scope and that will include the stories of several different people.

That last point is the key to moving from the realm of a good story into an RPG. Your idea should make it easy for several different characters to be a part of the tale and contribute to it.

The beauty about it is that you don't have to have every detail of your idea thought out beforehand! In an RPG, the players will work with you to help mold and create your story.

Having said that, though, keep in mind that an idea alone isn't quite enough to run a good RPG! You have a little more work to do.

Which leads us on to the next section...
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PostSubject: Fleshing Things Out   Sat Jan 24, 2009 4:48 pm

Fleshing Things Out


Once you have your idea, its time to grow it into an RPG! The first thing you should do once you have a good idea in your head is start to write background information about the world and the setting in which the story will take place. A good way to start is to start asking yourself the W5H1 questions about various things in your background:

Who
  • Who will be the focus of the game? A character of your design? The player characters?
  • Who are the major non-player characters? Are they allies? Enemies?
  • Who exactly are the player-characters? Most of these details will be filled in by the characters themselves, but your world should put certain constraints on exactly what professions and backgrounds they can have.
  • Who, if anyone, is going to die in this story?

Why
  • Why should the characters be undertaking this adventure? What's in it for them?
  • Why are the NPCs aiding/hindering the player characters?
  • Why does the world work the way it does? This question is very general, and is mainly intended to get you thinking about exact mechanics of extraordinary features of your world. Won't apply in all situations.

What
  • What exactly is going to be accomplished in this tale?
  • What kinds of obstacles will the characters have to overcome?
  • What does your world look/feel like?

Where
  • Where is the main story set within the world?
  • Where will the players have to go to complete the story? What places will they get to see before the game's done?
  • Where will the NPCs be when the meet the player characters?

When
  • When is the story set chronologically within your world? This can be in the past, present, or future if your world happens to be Earth, or in a certain era or timeframe unique to your different world.
  • How will you handle the passage of time? This isn't a 'when' question, though it relates to the topic of 'when'. Passage of time can be handled arbitrarily (you can say when night falls and day breaks pretty much when the circumstances are right), or you can develop a system to progress game time after a certain amount of real time.

How
  • How does your world work? If this is simply the real world, that's all the answer you need. If you add special abilities/embelishments to the world, or if you create a completely new world, you'll have to define exactly what's possible in the environment.
  • How did the player characters get to where they are? This is a more specific background question from which the players will base their own characters' backgrounds.

Note that you may not have to answer all the questions above. Many time, answering these can also lead to more questions that you'd like to answer. The world can essentially be as detailed as you like, as long as it can get players interested and allow them to participate in a large way.

Once your idea is fleshed out, and you know a little bit of how the game's going to work, you can put together the Thread!


Last edited by Teele on Sat Jan 31, 2009 2:31 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostSubject: Submitting The Game   Sat Jan 24, 2009 4:52 pm

Submitting The Thread


Okay! So, your world is built, you know what's gonna happen, you've got a slew of good and bad guys to work with, some amazing locations, and a few surprises in store. Now then. How exactly do you get this party started? Well, you begin by sending a PM to one of the Mods (Teele (me), Foxee, or Gloom). Okay, so, what do you put in this message?

The very first thing should be the name of the RPG, which should be placed both in the 'Title' box of the message editor, and in big, bold text on the message body itself.

After the title is done, you can include a couple of minor details, like the genre of the game, and your screen name, specifying you as GM.

After that, its time to set up the background. You should write one or more paragraphs that will introduce your game world and draw the players in. There are no restrictions on length, other than the maximum post length imposed by the forum software, but try to keep it appropriately short and gripping.

Below this, you may have a few additional headings. One common addition is a heading called "The Game" where you explain a little bit about the goal of the story, and exactly who the player characters are and what roles they will fill in this great big world.

If your world is large and expansive, you might want to create another heading for "The World" or something of the sort. Here, you can put more detailed information about locations, people, special equipment or powers, or basically anything unique to your world that the players should know about.

Now, if your world is HUGE, you may want to consider different methods so that the players don't have to read through a mile-long post. One popular option is to detail and categorize world information in a thread on the Worldbuilding forum. You can then make a link on your RPG's thread to this thread, and the players can follow the link to read more.

The next thing you're going to want is a "Character Sheet" or "Character Template" heading. Here, you give the categories that you want the players to fill out for their characters. here are the common ones:

  • Name:
  • Age:
  • Gender:
  • Appearance:
  • Background:
  • Personality:
  • Weapons/Gear:

You can subdivide these any way you like, and exclude any that don't fit with your concept. You can also add more; and this is recommended if characters in your world have special properties.

Finally, you'll want to include a "Rules" heading. Here, you can place any rules that are unique to the RPG, like those governing the use of powers. You can also copy or paraphrase my rules from The New Player's Guide. They're repeated here for your convenience:

  • No god-moding: no invincibility or abilities that allow you to accomplish monumental tasks with little or no effort. This is just plain no fun.
  • No controlling other players' characters: Unless you have permission to do so, don't make another players' character do anything, especially something major.
  • Read all posts: Read everything done by all players and the GM, so that you can obey the next two rules.
  • The GM's word is Law: Read every GM post VERY CAREFULLY, and do not contradict the GMs ruling. Also, if you make a post that has your character do something, and the GM didn't want it done, and he/she asks you to fix it, fix it.
  • Refrain from post-stomping: if someone said in a previous post that something happened, it happened. You can't override it with your own post. Thankfully, the forum has a method that helps prevent post-stomping. If someone has made a post while you were building yours, the forum will let you know before it posts your message, and you can edit accordingly.
  • Advance the plot: your posts should advance the plot of the story in a meaningful way. Your character should be doing something in every post you make.
  • Give other players time to react: Don't solve all the game's problems by yourself. Allow some time between posts for other players to have their own characters to add to the tale.
  • Make your posts a decent length: No one-liners, and no essays. Keep your word count within a good range: 40 to 300 words is fine. If you're at a loss for more to write, think about what your character is getting from all his/her senses, not just sight. Also, giving your character some interesting mannerisms can help add a bit to your posts.
  • Limit fighting amongst characters: Unless it is the point of the game in question, players should generally refrain from having their characters fight amongst themselves. If it is done, the two players should work out a result via PM, so that both players are satisfied with it.
  • NPCing inactive characters: if a player is away, his character can be temporarily made into an non-player-character, controlled by the GM. The GM may also allow the player characters to use the character in minor ways.
  • Be active and contribute: If you weren't planning on participating, you shouldn't have joined. Try to be active in the RPG as much as possible, and make sure to tell everyone when you'll be away for a while.
  • Stay in-character: Your character should stick to the nature you have given him or her unless he or she has a valid reason to do otherwise. Don't have the character be cruel and heartless one second, and then gentle and compassionate the next (unless schyzophrenia was part of your character concept. Wink). Note, however, that it is understood that your character is dynamic, and will probably change as the story unfolds. This is excellent, and is certainly encouraged, but the change should generally not happen in an instant.

A few additional rules apply to the fraternization in the discussion thread:
  • No nastiness: there shall be no name-calling, insulting, or flaming of any kind directed at fellow players. This is a general forum rule, and will be enforced by the mods, and can result in a ban.
  • Stay on-topic: the discussion thread is to be used for discussion the RPG. A few minor variations and rabbit trails can be fine, but try to keep things focused on the subject at hand: the game!
  • Your questions go here! If you have a question about the game, post it in the discussion thread. If you're hatching a secret and twisted plot that involves your character, and you'd prefer the other players not to know, you may PM the GM directly.


If ever you get stuck, or at a loss for what to write here, drop by the Archives for some examples of games gone by.

And that's it! You can submit the thread, and it will be sent to the moderators for approval. There is a waiting time before you'll get an approval and release, which depends on the number of games running, and the number of games queued for release.

Once your game is released, it'll be visible for all to see! The first thing you should do when you notice this is to go to the Discussion subforum and start a new thread there as well. Your title should be the name of your RPG followed by the word Discussion. This is where your players will go to talk about developments in the game. You don't have to elaborate much on the first post on your discussion thread. Basically just give a bit of an intro: "Hi, this is the discussion thread for J Random RPG! Hope you have fun!" or something of the sort.

Once these things are done, you'll start acquiring players...


Last edited by Teele on Sun Feb 08, 2009 5:24 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Stand-Alone Games: Gamemaster's Manual   Sun Feb 08, 2009 12:35 pm

Acquiring Players


Once your thread is posted, sit back and watch the 'Views' count rise! Players old and new will come by and take a look at what you have to offer, and if it interests them, they'll post a profile. Sometimes, they'll make a post saying they've simply claimed a spot, and will be back later to edit in a profile. This is fine, too.

Read through each player's character profile and make sure they've fleshed out all their details appropriately. If you have an issue with something that one of the players entered, discuss it with them. If it fits your style, you may also be watching for characters that will become especially integral to the plot in some way. Know the characters' strengths and weaknesses, and modify your plans accordingly. Often, some bit of info some player has written will inspire you to change something in your plot to make it even better.

A good guideline for numbers is 12 characters per RPG. You may decide that you want more or less. If you elect for more, understand that its a lot of work to coordinate more players, and also understand that your RPG will have to be able to draw sufficient interest for you to fill your lineup. Be careful about imposing a lower limit as well. If there are too few players, and some are inactive, the game can quickly die. Also, many players who may be interested in the game don't get a chance to play.

Once you have your players, its time to start...

_________________
- Teele
Resident Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL)

Song Quote of the Arbitrary Time Period: "I drown in hesitation, my words come crashing down, and all my best creations burning to the ground. The thought of starting over leaves me paralyzed. Tear it out again another one that got away. I wither and render myself helpless; I give in and everything is clear; I breakdown and let the story guide me; I wither and give myself away."
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PostSubject: Re: Stand-Alone Games: Gamemaster's Manual   Sun Feb 08, 2009 1:01 pm

Running The Game


Everything's set. You got the game, you got your players, and you're all itching to get started. So, now your question is; how do I run this thing and make it a winner?

Well, the first rule to making a memorable and cool RPG, you will have already followed to the letter if you followed the advice in the last few sections of this guide: preparation, preparation, preparation. Plan things out, and know at least in a general way where you want the game to go.

The second rule is simple: be active. If you show that you're interested in moving the game forward, and if you create exciting, vivid descriptions, chances are your players are going to be that much more enthralled.

Once you have these two simple rules well in hand, you can choose an exact approach to leading the game onward. There are a few different styles mentioned here, and each takes a different amount of work, and requires a certain type of GM involvement. All can work if done right.

The first approach we'll call the Open Environment approach. The GM will present an environment, a cast of GM characters, and will present new events and situations as the game goes on. Within the constraints of the environment, the players are essentially free to do what they want. The GM will handle interactions with NPCs, and will present the events that move the game forward. This is by far the most popular approach to building an RPG, and within it there are various levels of GM involvement.

The next approach is known as the Leader approach. The GM will play one or more characters that will act as a leader for the group. Most of the interaction and description that the GM presents will be based around this main character.

The final approach is Mission-Based. I have only seen this used once in its pure form but in my opinion, it is an extremely effective method, striking a perfect balance between GM leadership, and character improvisation and creativity. The GM will describe a situation and present a series of objectives that the characters must write towards. Once they finish, they'll be presented with further objectives, and so on.

These categories can overlap tremendously, and there are many variations and styles of play within each.

Alright, so, during the game, it is possible that people might lose interest and become a bit disillusioned or bored. Here are a few pointers to prevent that from happening:
  • Your players need to be guided. Never underestimate their capacity for creativity, but do not depend completely on it. A game will NEVER run itself. Make sure you are providing enough detail so the players know what they're supposed to be doing.
  • The players need interesting and intriguing situations. Unusual environments, unforgettable villains, and intense situations of peril can all be used to keep your game pulse-pounding and active!
  • Give the plot a twist every now and then. If the goals are TOO well-defined and the game looks linear, there is certainly a danger of the players becoming bored. Do something unexpected. Have an NPC reveal a piece of information that'll make the players' jaws drop and have them uttering "No. Way..."


As you go through the game, eventually you'll realize its coming to a close. Hence, the next section...

_________________
- Teele
Resident Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL)

Song Quote of the Arbitrary Time Period: "I drown in hesitation, my words come crashing down, and all my best creations burning to the ground. The thought of starting over leaves me paralyzed. Tear it out again another one that got away. I wither and render myself helpless; I give in and everything is clear; I breakdown and let the story guide me; I wither and give myself away."
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PostSubject: Re: Stand-Alone Games: Gamemaster's Manual   Sun Feb 08, 2009 1:08 pm

Finishing Up


There are two ways to end a game: you can use a planned ending, or an unplanned ending.

In a planned ending, you've been working towards a specific scenario to tie things up. You have a particular way you want the game to end, and once the conditions are right, its finished. A planned ending can be good if you've thought out an awesome twist that you'd like to put in, and it can also allow a good estimate of when approximately your game will finish up.

In an unplanned ending, the game goes on until you decide you've reached the right conditions. This can mean carrying on beyond your original plans because things are going well, or it can just mean that you want to continue until you run out of ideas and plot twists to add. This is a good strategy if you want to keep the game going as long as possible, and let the players determine where exactly the plot ends up.

In both cases (but more often in planned endings), you may decide to set up the game for a sequel by bringing it to an appropriate cliffhanger. This'll get the players stoked up for your next awesome adventure and give you some time to plan the next part of the story.

_________________
- Teele
Resident Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL)

Song Quote of the Arbitrary Time Period: "I drown in hesitation, my words come crashing down, and all my best creations burning to the ground. The thought of starting over leaves me paralyzed. Tear it out again another one that got away. I wither and render myself helpless; I give in and everything is clear; I breakdown and let the story guide me; I wither and give myself away."
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PostSubject: Re: Stand-Alone Games: Gamemaster's Manual   Sun Feb 08, 2009 1:10 pm

To Infinity And Beyond


So.........

Now what?

Go build another game, of course! Within your imagination lies a wealth of resources and ideas that you can bring to life in the form of another RPG. Whether you wish to do a sequel, or try something totally new and different, you have everything you need.

Or, if you're feeling like you'd like a bit of a well-earned break from your hard work, you can go surf about and see what other GMs have designed and implemented! Being a player is a lot of fun, too.

We hope that you enjoy your stay here on RP Central, and we also hope that you have as much fun playing as we do!

_________________
- Teele
Resident Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL)

Song Quote of the Arbitrary Time Period: "I drown in hesitation, my words come crashing down, and all my best creations burning to the ground. The thought of starting over leaves me paralyzed. Tear it out again another one that got away. I wither and render myself helpless; I give in and everything is clear; I breakdown and let the story guide me; I wither and give myself away."
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PostSubject: Re: Stand-Alone Games: Gamemaster's Manual   Sun Feb 08, 2009 1:25 pm

Back Matter


This guide was written by me (Teele). But I would certainly be an ungrateful worm if I tried to claim the credit for the entire content of this guide. So, here, I shall place the credit where credit is due:

First of all, I would like to thank WritingForums.org for giving me my start into the RPG realm, and for those first games I played there that got me hooked.

Second, I would like to thank Foxee for her undying support and the amazing friendship we have developed. If it wasn't for her interest and encouragement, this site wouldn't be here today. My thanks must also go to her for the many incredible moments we created in the games we played. Here's to many more, my dear!

Thirdly, my other right-hand lady, Gloom, deserves my thanks as well; for her friendship, for the awesome ideas we've shared, and for the many adventures yet to come.

Fourth, I would like to thank the other GMs that I've been privileged to play under, both past and present: Blossom, Darkthought, Jade, Chad, and FlakeandFins. You guys are amazing.

Finally, I would like to thank the innumerable players I've worked with in the past, certainly too many to name them all here, but certainly none are forgotten in my mind. Thanks to all.

_________________
- Teele
Resident Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL)

Song Quote of the Arbitrary Time Period: "I drown in hesitation, my words come crashing down, and all my best creations burning to the ground. The thought of starting over leaves me paralyzed. Tear it out again another one that got away. I wither and render myself helpless; I give in and everything is clear; I breakdown and let the story guide me; I wither and give myself away."
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