tibiotarsus
 member, 17 posts
 Hopepunk with a shovel
Thu 29 Nov 2018
at 21:09
Advice: Long-running niche games and the ol' RPoL Vanish
So.

My main game somewhat resembles Frankenstein's monster, in that it's a large homebrewed patchwork thing occasionally engaging in surprisingly literary dialogues (also intermittently prone to brutal violence). I presently have three core players/three and a half if counting one who has been open about hiatus times and will hopefully return, but my comfort level as GM really wants four in there, maybe even five. I've been fishing through the Wanted forums several times and although it's turned up some great players with excellent characters, they've consistently done the RPoL Vanish.

Now, I know rl issues > rp commitments - earlier this year I unavoidably vanished on a game myself for the first time in nearly a decade on this site and when things got slightly better a month-odd later was too ashamed to go back - but probably it's something I'm doing/not doing, too. A player who did give me some indication of why they were leaving, rather than simply vanishing, said that they felt they weren't able to immerse coming in partway through a story that was clearly well-developed, and I suspect this may be the case for others, too.


GMs of niche, rare and semi-sandboxy games who've recruited people partway through, how do you get players to settle in and really feel part of what's going on, when there's no typical 'party structure'?

GMs generally, any tips on immersion or dealing with the RPoL Vanish in a more socially- than combat-weighted game?

pnvq12
 member, 72 posts
Thu 29 Nov 2018
at 23:18
Advice: Long-running niche games and the ol' RPoL Vanish
So I don't have any exacting experience with this sort of situation but on a smaller scale I've recently begun doing collaborative background creation with my players. Essentially you create a fictious background that brings the character into the fold and they begin play with this history established.

For your new character it might be good to accept them and then have them work with your players to create a fiction within your game world. Maybe they have always been around in some fashion: an old enemy, an estranged friend, an ex-lover, a resurrected favorite pet, etc.
nauthiz
 member, 588 posts
Thu 29 Nov 2018
at 23:49
Advice: Long-running niche games and the ol' RPoL Vanish
You might try working them in gradually rather than letting them wade into the deep end right off the bat.

Don't present them with hundreds/thousands of back posts of story that they might feel obligated to read through, even if it's not required (and I mean that literally, use Groups to present to them something simple and easy to wrap their hands around when they log onto the game).  Don't present them with a lengthy "the story so far" wall of text and expect that will be all they need.

Present them the world as you did to your initial players when the game was just starting.  Give them some basic information on it, things an average character would know from having grown up in the world.  Work together to develop an interesting character that would be existing in this world for them to play, or even just an interesting thing their character would be doing.

Then let them be that person or do that thing and discover the world organically, either alone, or with other players that are starting from the same place they are in relation to the world/game that you've built.

Then at some point, try and integrate them into the main story.  They should, hopefully, have learned some things naturally through their own gameplay about what has been going on.  Other things can be discussed, in game between characters that said characters would think is important for getting everybody on the same page.  Other things can just never be brought up because, frankly, they're likely details and minutia that likely aren't important to players/characters that weren't there at that moment experiencing those things.

Yes it'll mean more work on your part, and might not even be successful.  However there's a reason why long format media still occasionally does recaps and taps into other conventions designed as "jumping on points" for people who might be interested but don't have the time/inclination to start all the way from the beginning, even in our current culture that's more likely to accept the need to binge on something to get up to speed with what's happening currently.
tibiotarsus
 member, 18 posts
 Hopepunk with a shovel
Fri 30 Nov 2018
at 00:15
Advice: Long-running niche games and the ol' RPoL Vanish
@ pnvq12 - Part of my RTJ process requires this, since the game is kind of like The Walking Dead in terms of following a close-knit community across a post-apocalyptic landscape...I've found that the problem comes in as you can only allow so much of a connection without having known a player to be reliable.

e.g. if someone wants to play a PC/important NPC's sister/best friend/dog, does it for a bit and then vanishes, it's a lot harder to send them to the land of Over There Somewhere, and I wind up doing extra work keeping the abandoned character as important as they're supposed to be. Yes, I could easily get them out of the way by deliberately having them eaten by monsters, but that would be traumatising to the remaining characters and effectively punishing them for someone else going missing (naturally/non-deliberately having them eaten by monsters is a different matter).

What I'm after is...like, if there's an ongoing story, and you come in in the middle with just what I've summarised for you and the connections you've made on paper, what kind of thing would make you really want to play the carpenter's lover or the burglar's mule or whoever? Should there explicitly be an impending personal event baked in there I should add to my RTJs, like "do you think the carpenter will propose to you in the next few days?"/"what will you do if the hay ration halves and you're tethered next to a smaller but more dominant horse?"

That's the only idea I had, but I'd be pleased to hear others!

Advice on making things compelling in general is also appreciated.




@ nauthiz:
Hmmm...I'm loath to hide lots of groups since I have a couple of offsite lurkers, but I hadn't considered that the sheer intimidation factor just looking at the thing might be an issue at all, so thanks for drawing that to my attention. I'll think further on that.

Do you think some kind of personal prelude thread where new folk would go over their daily life/trade before the game proper started for a bit would help? That sounds like a really good idea, honestly.
Winter51
 member, 139 posts
Fri 30 Nov 2018
at 00:27
Advice: Long-running niche games and the ol' RPoL Vanish
The preceding are both great bits of advise. I would add that integrating a new player into an existing world can be both frustrating and unrewarding, however, it can be done. I've had to do the embarrassed drop a few times, my real life career took a weird left turn a few years back and I rarely know what's coming these days so this game is different. In my current game I rely on the simple fact of memory loss.

The game is completely plug 'n play. The characters were captured and interrogated by an evil wizard then sent on a "mission" to win their freedom. During the interrogation, their memories were largely wiped. Some of the players have insisted on creating elaborate backgrounds but I've largely ignored that in favor of the main story line.

I have had one veteran (really good) player rtj this past week and simply got the character together and dropped him in ice cold. No need to read anything, just post "WTH?" and a description of the character to the others. They don't really know what's going on, just what they've been told after all.

My usual style is to encourage the players to come up with a background then discuss it, moderate it and incorporate it into the story. I have had one game where three of the players inspired 50% of the game's side quests and lent it some real depth and color. In interests of preserving games, however, I've found that inserting characters from other worlds, areas and even amnesiacs allows the existing players to have a chance to get him or her up to speed and aids in integration. Since there are a lot of players and GMs here who will vanish without a trace or any warning, a simplified integration is a must.
Knight_Vassal
 member, 425 posts
Fri 30 Nov 2018
at 08:34
Advice: Long-running niche games and the ol' RPoL Vanish
  I see the problem in the general sense.

Think of it this way. You just made friends with some guys or girls who go back to high school and you go on a camping trip and barely know them. Now all the little things that folks who have been gaming together for a bit take for granted you don't know so there is that factor as well. For instance I know Luke has a day once a month where he never posts and I do mean never. Been that way for better part of a decade. But the new guy doesn't.

  Now some folks take that as a challenge and some see it as a holy crp what did I get myself into thing in retrospect. Easiest way to cope with that is likely a little more time consuming on the group's part, but would be better for the whole in the long run. Ask your players if they feel the need for more folks and if so if they as a group want to work the player in. So unimportant but always there mechanic #1 becomes Fredo the grease monkey(new PC) that they have kinda always known, but never got real chummy with. Does that make sense not really sure myself, but I chalk that up to half a sleep.
tibiotarsus
 member, 19 posts
 Hopepunk with a shovel
Fri 30 Nov 2018
at 09:28
Advice: Long-running niche games and the ol' RPoL Vanish
@ Knight_Vassal - I think I get what you're trying to say, though I don't think my players (duly consulted with) have been lax in trying to realistically integrate newcomers...is there anything in particular you've seen work, like maybe getting the characters to share food/resources or tell a joke or something likewise not plot-essential (solving survival problems of various urgency is a given) but useful in making folk 'click'? I know there's no universal solution, but more examples of things like that is more for me to work with.

@ Winter - Ironically it was the effectively amnesiac stranger PC who gave me those reasons for leaving, after completing an introduction and literally the moment before being introduced to PCs, and that's a trick you can't pull that many times in my setting. Still, if I get another who wants to explicitly jump in blind, perhaps I'll throw them in front of other PCs sooner. Having a separate place for the player settling in to the character in their pre-apocalyptic state/removed from the plot seems like it would help with that.
azzuri
 member, 359 posts
Fri 30 Nov 2018
at 09:51
Re: Advice: Long-running niche games and the ol' RPoL Vanish
tibiotarsus:
GMs of niche, rare and semi-sandboxy games who've recruited people partway through, how do you get players to settle in and really feel part of what's going on, when there's no typical 'party structure'?

GMs generally, any tips on immersion or dealing with the RPoL Vanish in a more socially- than combat-weighted game?

So.

There is really nothing that a GM of a game can do if a player 1) has RL issues, whether the game is live at a tabletop or in an anonymous setting as PbP on RPoL, or 2) if that player and the game are just not a good match.

Either player can disappear without explanation, and not come back. In 1a) if the two are in an overall social setting together, of course there is an extra incentive to give an explanation for not wishing to continue. In 1b) or 2) however, it's really just a matter of etiquette.

It can be awkward for some persons to explain, face-to-face, why they don't wish to, or can't, continue in a game. Many gamers aren't the most socially adept creatures anyway, and it's easier just to disappear.

In a PbP game, where it's anonymous (unless you should encounter that person or GM later on in RPoL, for example) it's mostly etiquette. Some people can't bother to type a sentence or two before they disappear, whether it's RL, or the player and/or the game are not a good match. It would be nice for the disappearing player to give the GM an explanation if it's RL. It would be constructive if the disappearing player were to offer reasons/criticism to the GM, if he and the game were not a good match; but then, most all players are pretty passive (and why bother?).

I've played tabletop games all my life, and RP games since they began over 40 years ago. I've been primary GM for a Freeform game for over six years on RPoL, and handled close to 200 RTJs for it in that time.

Just a few percent of the players will offer criticisms for leaving. Perhaps another few percent will offer that RL is the reason. Most simply just disappear.

That's not a good thing if you should meet that person again! But, as I said, many gamers aren't the most socially adept creatures. Or, they just don't think ahead.

To your first question, I, as GM, try to deal individually with each person who submits an RTJ. I try to read between the lines as well as what is written. Sometimes I initially make a mistake, and sometimes the RTJ does. As I have lots of experience, I try to recover. Good players behind their RTJs also can try to recover. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. I, as GM, have a pretty good idea what my game is about, which I try to convey to the RTJ.

Sometimes the player and I connect, sometimes it seems to be a painful process, sometimes it's pretty clear to me that the RTJ and the game are not a good match. It is best that either or both come to that conclusion before we waste much of each other's time.

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to your first question. Some players can adapt and some cannot. Some see something in your game that they like or offers inspiration/ideas, and it's too much trouble and/or work for others- and they are gone, likely without telling you why.

To your second question, it all comes down to your gut reaction: is the extra effort to keep/retain this player going to work... or not?
Waxahachie
 member, 156 posts
 The horn that wakes
 the sleepers
Fri 30 Nov 2018
at 22:03
Re: Advice: Long-running niche games and the ol' RPoL Vanish
I wrote this before even seeing who had posted the question! :)

In terms of helping people join a long-running game, I'd give careful consideration to their background and help offer suggestions that would benefit the character's integration into the world and your story in an important way.

It's possible to perhaps graft their arc into that of one of the three main characters so that they at least have someone to play against that can help lead them in. Sometimes you can find that if you ask these players, they may be comfortable helping to make that integration painless.

I might also suggest a 1v1 story arc for just that PC before even the above suggestion. Especially if your game/style is a bit strange and niche, you might try running something a bit more on the straightforward style that allows them to grasp the basic mysteries of the gam, or some of them. In fact, they could be integral to solving a particular problem.

Once you integrate them, you might for a time try to run a bit of planned story to try and see if they can feel like a part of the world with something to contribute.

This message was last edited by the user at 22:10, Fri 30 Nov.

tibiotarsus
 member, 20 posts
 Hopepunk with a shovel
Fri 30 Nov 2018
at 23:23
Re: Advice: Long-running niche games and the ol' RPoL Vanish
@ Waxahachie - Well, maybe if I get someone that seems like a keeper, I'll ask one of my three core players about closer connections than "was on the recieving end of a 'little talk' with the Cossack". ^_~

I should probably stockpile some smaller planned stories, too, that's a good idea.

@ azzuri - Certainly I don't believe I can cure all or even a high proportion of the RPoL Vanishing Syndrome, and I'll never have that many RTJs, the game's just too strange a beast. Now I've been on the other side of that, however, I know that there are little things that could help me retain players. Small stuff.

For instance, if I'd felt more welcomed by the co-GMs of the game I ditched like a Horrible Internet Person (and will probably feel bad about forever, sorry game), or like what I was offering was being valued rather than having to virtually fight my way in proving reliability inch by inch, I'd have made a bigger effort to get over myself and get back there. Likewise if I'd been able to actually drop in cold and interact with other PCs/become solidly beholden to them rather than just GMs I felt were honestly too busy to give a damson about my involvement...those are things I learned, and I'm looking for other things like that. Reasons that could make the difference between a vanishing and someone making the conscious effort to stick around. How to make those reasons, too, since that's not my area of expertise.

I won't try to hold onto every player, or bad fits, but due to the niche nature of the thing I've had some really great characters with seemingly invested players, and it makes me sad that so far they keep going *pop*.
nauthiz
 member, 589 posts
Sat 1 Dec 2018
at 08:59
Advice: Long-running niche games and the ol' RPoL Vanish
In reply to tibiotarsus (msg # 4):

In regards to groups, I believe Lurkers can be assigned to groups just like normal players, so you should be able to segment things out so existing players/lurkers have access to everything, and new players can only see what's relevant.  Assuming you don't have everything sitting in Group 0 of course.

...

I think anytime you can "teach" someone something, rather than just giving them a textbook to read, it leads to a higher level of engagement.  In this case the "teaching" is learning through actual play vs having to read a bunch of posts or background on the world/story.

Someone more engaged is more likely to go through more trouble and inconvenience to continue being engaged (e.g. Login and post even when Life has put limitations on their free time).

That said, any way you can drive engagement will probably help your retention issue.  Whether that's through a few prelude posts, or a full on mini-story arc, it can only help.  Additionally, having a player do some solo or small group play for a while helps them get a feel for things as well as get over the initial "new and shiny" hump that a lot of games in this format exhibit, where certain players are gung ho because everything about a game and a character is new, and then a few weeks in they get distracted or otherwise and then quit and/or vanish.  You can't really root those types of players out effectively during the application process so giving them a "trial" period before integrating them into the main story where their sudden loss might hamper things for others, is perhaps a worthwhile side benefit.