Online RPing: Getting people to show up?

mccmcc glitchRegistered User, ClubPA regular
edited October 2006 in Critical Failures
So, I have a question for anyone who has ever tried to play a tabletop game online, like in a chat room or whatever. It concerns the single biggest problem which was faced by our gaming group when I attempted to DM a running game using OpenRPG last year.

How do you get people to show up for the darn game?

I mean, from what I've experienced this is a huge problem with even real-life tabletop gaming, but it seems to be many times exacerbated when playing online. With real-life people, you can go bang on their door or call them, or at least if they stop showing up altogether you can glare at them the next time you see them or whatever. Or at least, with real life people, you can tell whether they're in the room or not; there's no analogue of IMing someone and not getting a response for 30 minutes, unless you game with stoners. With online gaming, even trying to figure out whether or not someone is online is roughly impossible, plus it's against most people's intuition to schedule going online at 8 PM every thursday. Heck, in our game, I was the DM, and I could barely remember about the game most weeks until 10 minutes before it started and I started getting IMs.

During the game, we were lucky if half the gaming group showed up any given week, and I tended to spend at least as much time running around before the game started trying to get everyone to sign on to the openrpg server as I did actually running the game. There were one or two people who were legitimately excited about the game and showed up every week, but one person didn't feel like enough to carry a game session for either me or the players and we had almost as many weeks that we wound up cancelling because people didn't show up as we did weeks where we played.

Has anyone figured out any way at all of dealing with this issue?

mcc on

Posts

  • Anonymous RobotAnonymous Robot Registered User
    edited September 2006
    All I can offer is that you should only accept players who rigidly schedule adequate time to play; ie, they know it will not interfere with their work schedule or that they will go off to a friend's house or whatever. A player who does not show up consistently, ie shows no drive to play, should not be playing.

    This is how my DnD group fell apart. One kid was always going off to his girlfriend's house without letting us know, another had to hitch a ride with the aforementioned, and one went camping randomly when his parents dragged him along, nearly every week.

    Anonymous Robot on
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  • DuoDuo Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    Setting a time and date are very important. As GM, you should have everyone's email so you can get a hold of them a day or so in advance to remind them, and see if anything has come up.

    Then it's just a matter of finding people who aren't stupid so you can play on a regular basis.

    It's a well known fact that time (or rather, the lack thereof) is the number 1 game killer. As you mentioned, this is only more true online, where you can't go physically smack people around.

    Duo on
  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    Get everyone's phone/cell number.

    Yeah, it's a pain in the ass. However, you should make a point of getting the ORPG room set up at least a half-hour ahead of time, and start calling people ten minutes before the game.

    Thanatos on
  • DuoDuo Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    Good idea, Thantos. And considering that you can skype out for free for a while, then long distance isn't even an issue!

    Duo on
  • DarkPrimusDarkPrimus premium Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    Cell phone numbers are a good idea.

    DarkPrimus on
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  • Whiniest Man On EarthWhiniest Man On Earth Registered User
    edited September 2006
    Thanatos wrote:
    Get everyone's phone/cell number.

    Yeah, it's a pain in the ass. However, you should make a point of getting the ORPG room set up at least a half-hour ahead of time, and start calling people ten minutes before the game.


    God I can't stress this enough. I wish I would've been more on top of things for our earlier Werewolf game, but things fell apart on no one's responsibility but my own. I wish, though, that for the weekly sessions I would've had everyone's phone number handy.

    I think as an online DM/ST/Whatever you really need to keep people coming back with plenty of in-game hooks as well. The OOC interaction is just as important - so you need to do your part to keep that civil and enjoyable for everyone too.

    Whiniest Man On Earth on
  • PkmoutlPkmoutl Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    Well, I really can't say.

    I run a forum-based RPG right now, and despite the fact that everyone on the forum when I came up with the idea wanted to join (and most of them did), I've pretty much lost everyone but five or six players, which is fine since the storyline is really starting to come to a head.

    Keeping people in a game, even a "post at your own pace" type of game gets forgotten and things like the real world still get in the way (I had to put the game on hiatus for a month or so when I moved, just because I didn't have the time or energy to do it). Also "at your own pace" doesn't work well if you end up getting partnered up with other players at some point. Then they and the GM are waiting around for you to post sometimes for a week or more. This causes people to drop out too.

    I guess the one thing you need is commitment. You have to make the players realize that the game is still a game, but there are other people waiting or depending upon them.

    Another thing is keeping the bullshit rolling, as I like to call it. Playing a game that is forum-based, you can't really be doing anything die-heavy, or you end up waiting two days for a post that simply says "15." By that time, all the other players are pissed and are dropping like flies. I've seen it happen every time they tried to do a D&D game in SE++. Three pages of RP'ing, and as soon as they get into combat, it's two pages of people bitching at one or two people to post. You can't keep the bullshit rolling if everyone's kind of stopped dead.

    I have a friend who used to play several games over AIM and IRC with his brother and other people. That seems to go well (my wife was in their Star Wars game for a few months) from what they tell me, but again, they have to make sure the players are dedicated to logging on once or twice a week for a few hours, or they are dropped from the game after they can't make it several times in a row.

    Pkmoutl on
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  • poisnedcokepoisnedcoke Registered User
    edited September 2006
    I personally don't see the point of forum-based RPGs, if you do it online you have to get some type of instant communication. IM, IRC, Skype, Ventrillo, Teamspeak, some form of talking to everyone at once and making sure everyone is there together. Really the only purpose of doing it on a forum is to have a easily viewed and long standing log of it all.


    Edit: The above is all in my opinion of course.

    poisnedcoke on
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  • MukaikuboMukaikubo Registered User
    edited September 2006
    I personally don't see the point of forum-based RPGs, if you do it online you have to get some type of instant communication. IM, IRC, Skype, Ventrillo, Teamspeak, some form of talking to everyone at once and making sure everyone is there together. Really the only purpose of doing it on a forum is to have a easily viewed and long standing log of it all.


    Edit: The above is all in my opinion of course.

    There are other benefits to forum-based you're not considering (says the man who's had this argument three times and has had to promise not to start another flamewar!)

    On forum based, you don't have to have everyone present at once. Time zones are not a difficulty- shit, I'm in games with a few Europeans, a few Americans, and someone from Singapore all at the same time. Try doing that with a live chat without making most people play at some ridiculously inconvenient time.

    Something a bit more subtle- when you remove the time consideration (o god I have to get this action typed out in a minute or two or people will start getting annoyed at me) the RPers who also happen to be really creative, good writers can go hog wild on a post. On average, it works out the same, but when you've got a group of RPers who know what they're doing, the ceiling's higher on a forum-based game in terms of quality.

    Mukaikubo on
  • poisnedcokepoisnedcoke Registered User
    edited September 2006
    Mukaikubo wrote:
    I personally don't see the point of forum-based RPGs, if you do it online you have to get some type of instant communication. IM, IRC, Skype, Ventrillo, Teamspeak, some form of talking to everyone at once and making sure everyone is there together. Really the only purpose of doing it on a forum is to have a easily viewed and long standing log of it all.


    Edit: The above is all in my opinion of course.

    There are other benefits to forum-based you're not considering (says the man who's had this argument three times and has had to promise not to start another flamewar!)

    On forum based, you don't have to have everyone present at once. Time zones are not a difficulty- shit, I'm in games with a few Europeans, a few Americans, and someone from Singapore all at the same time. Try doing that with a live chat without making most people play at some ridiculously inconvenient time.

    Something a bit more subtle- when you remove the time consideration (o god I have to get this action typed out in a minute or two or people will start getting annoyed at me) the RPers who also happen to be really creative, good writers can go hog wild on a post. On average, it works out the same, but when you've got a group of RPers who know what they're doing, the ceiling's higher on a forum-based game in terms of quality.

    While I agree with the timezones (It's something I've honestly never considered, I've never had success in forum-based games) I don't see how giving them time to let their imagination go makes the game that much better. To me roleplaying is more fun because of the spontaneous interaction, if you give me time to think about it the over-all quality may be more flowery or in-depth, but I can't see it as more fun. The reason I enjoy doing this crap is the immersion, it lets you deal with other shit in life later while you just have fun playing make-believe. But with forum-based it always seems to me like you're in character for a minute while you type and then you go back to the rest of life untill someone else makes a post. And while it's probably a lot more convenient I don't see it being as enjoyable. But whatever works for everyone, I shouldn't have come out firing on the idea of forum-based games, so I apologize for that and any temporary derailings.


    P.s. I'm sick as hell right now and don't feel like spelling things right so if I made any mistakes, sorry for that too.

    poisnedcoke on
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  • MukaikuboMukaikubo Registered User
    edited September 2006
    Mukaikubo wrote:
    I personally don't see the point of forum-based RPGs, if you do it online you have to get some type of instant communication. IM, IRC, Skype, Ventrillo, Teamspeak, some form of talking to everyone at once and making sure everyone is there together. Really the only purpose of doing it on a forum is to have a easily viewed and long standing log of it all.


    Edit: The above is all in my opinion of course.

    There are other benefits to forum-based you're not considering (says the man who's had this argument three times and has had to promise not to start another flamewar!)

    On forum based, you don't have to have everyone present at once. Time zones are not a difficulty- shit, I'm in games with a few Europeans, a few Americans, and someone from Singapore all at the same time. Try doing that with a live chat without making most people play at some ridiculously inconvenient time.

    Something a bit more subtle- when you remove the time consideration (o god I have to get this action typed out in a minute or two or people will start getting annoyed at me) the RPers who also happen to be really creative, good writers can go hog wild on a post. On average, it works out the same, but when you've got a group of RPers who know what they're doing, the ceiling's higher on a forum-based game in terms of quality.

    While I agree with the timezones (It's something I've honestly never considered, I've never had success in forum-based games) I don't see how giving them time to let their imagination go makes the game that much better. To me roleplaying is more fun because of the spontaneous interaction, if you give me time to think about it the over-all quality may be more flowery or in-depth, but I can't see it as more fun. The reason I enjoy doing this crap is the immersion, it lets you deal with other shit in life later while you just have fun playing make-believe. But with forum-based it always seems to me like you're in character for a minute while you type and then you go back to the rest of life untill someone else makes a post. And while it's probably a lot more convenient I don't see it being as enjoyable. But whatever works for everyone, I shouldn't have come out firing on the idea of forum-based games, so I apologize for that and any temporary derailings.


    P.s. I'm sick as hell right now and don't feel like spelling things right so if I made any mistakes, sorry for that too.

    It is a very different animal than live or chat based RPGs, that's for sure. They're so different, I don't really think it makes much sense to defend one or the other as better. Look at a decent IRC session log, then look at one of the good ongoing games on a play by post site from the same setting- you'll see so many subtle differences it's insane.

    That said, I, personally, LOVE having the time to think about what I'm going to post before I post it. And the being in character for a few minutes at a time is another plus for me. Hell, I'm in double digits of games right now, and the freakish mental agility needed to swap between character mindsets every 5 minutes to post in a different thread is really kind of fun. It also helps that I don't RP as escapism primarily, but because it's an excellent method for collaboratively telling stories- with a healthy dollop of randomness introduced by the dice.

    Mukaikubo on
  • poisnedcokepoisnedcoke Registered User
    edited September 2006
    Mukaikubo wrote:
    It also helps that I don't RP as escapism primarily, but because it's an excellent method for collaboratively telling stories- with a healthy dollop of randomness introduced by the dice.

    Oh I agree with you, I'm not saying I do this because my life is oh so tough and this is the only way to deal with it. But it does help as something fun and different. I don't like games like The Sims because I live life, if I have free time I don't wanna play at doing what I do normally. I want to play at doing things I can't do, backflips, shooting people, stealing cars, casting spells, fighting dragons and war-lords. So when I say I like the escapism I don't mean "This is my one-and-only cruical vice, without roleplaying life is just too hard for me," but I mean it's more fun to just pretend for a few hours and have a good time with it. But with forums it normally turns into short-stories where everyone is trying to tie it together. With a live-party it tends to be more of an adventure with a good story (If it's done right) and less of a good story with some adventure thrown in. Maybe I've just not experienced the right forum groups, but something about it doesn't seem right. Like I said, de-railing more and more though, sorry.

    poisnedcoke on
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  • dissolvegirldissolvegirl Registered User
    edited September 2006
    Man, people not showing up for online games is one of my biggest pet peeves, especially as GM-- I mean, usually it takes at least a week to get everyone to agree on a time to play in the first place, so it seems doubly insulting when someone just.. doesn't show.

    I don't know that I'd be totally comfortable giving out my phone number to someone whose game I was playing in, if that was the only way I knew them-- I definitely think calling is a good way to get people online when it's a game full of friends who've moved away, for example. Unfortunately, it doesn't solve the problem of calling a guy who's in the car on the way to his girlfriend's place.

    One of the best ways I've seen this solved was by having the ST email out a short synopsis of what happened the week before, reminding everyone of the amount of XP gained by everyone, a standard "how are you liking the game? If you have any questions or concerns, hit me with an email," and then a reminder of when and where the game was.

    Making sure the chat room (if you're using a chat program) is named concisely and clearly helps as well. It gets irritating when room names change every week, are long and complex and therefore easy to misword, and have nothing to do with the game itself.

    dissolvegirl on
  • AlphariusAlpharius Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    tell them that there will be punch and pie

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  • PkmoutlPkmoutl Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    Mukaikubo wrote:
    It also helps that I don't RP as escapism primarily, but because it's an excellent method for collaboratively telling stories- with a healthy dollop of randomness introduced by the dice.

    Oh I agree with you, I'm not saying I do this because my life is oh so tough and this is the only way to deal with it. But it does help as something fun and different. I don't like games like The Sims because I live life, if I have free time I don't wanna play at doing what I do normally. I want to play at doing things I can't do, backflips, shooting people, stealing cars, casting spells, fighting dragons and war-lords. So when I say I like the escapism I don't mean "This is my one-and-only cruical vice, without roleplaying life is just too hard for me," but I mean it's more fun to just pretend for a few hours and have a good time with it. But with forums it normally turns into short-stories where everyone is trying to tie it together. With a live-party it tends to be more of an adventure with a good story (If it's done right) and less of a good story with some adventure thrown in. Maybe I've just not experienced the right forum groups, but something about it doesn't seem right. Like I said, de-railing more and more though, sorry.

    I'm going to disagree with you here, because you're only looking at one aspect of RPG's, and that's the action. You can run a game without all the fighting, shooting, jumping and all that. You just have to make the game a little more cerebral. Plus, you don't get "short stories wehre everyone is trying to tie it together." That's the GM's job, to make it all come together into one story. I've been running a forum-based RPG for over a year now, and it may be slow, but like Mukaikubo says, the system gives them time to consider their actions more completely, not do everything with knee-jerk reactions. Plus, since I eliminated the dice from the system, I can determine with just a glance whether something succeeds or fails. So there's no waiting 24 hours for someone to tell me what they rolled, I can determine that myself. You tend to get fewer pat responses from people when everything isn't knee-jerk spontaneous.

    Plus, like he said, people are in different time zones and aren't available when you are all the time. I work midnights, and one of my players is in England. They can't all get together on my schedule, especially anyone who has a job or school or something like that.

    One thing that does impede a forum-based game is the use of dice. I've said it before, and I'll keep on saying it until people listen: if you are going to run a Forum-based game, you have to eliminate the dice. It slows down the game to a crawl. Find a system where you can adapt it more easily to a diceless system. For instance, I took the White Wolf system and turned it into a diceless system with very little effort.

    Plus, you have to think in character when you make your posts. Unless you're some kind of idiot, you probably would think through a situation for several minutes, given the chance. Especially if you don't know if you could die if you made the wrong choice.

    I have all my players going in one direction, for the most part, and I know where the story is generally going to bring them all together. I even have one character who is on another completely different storyline, getting it set up for after the others finish the first one. You really have to structure the game properly in order for it to work in this form, but it does work. You just don't make the game action-oriented, you make it a bit more cerebral.

    Pkmoutl on
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  • Munkus BeaverMunkus Beaver Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited September 2006
    Pk, I check the flying stove once a day just to see if the damn thing is updated. That and the comics thread are the only reasons why I go there at this point.

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  • PkmoutlPkmoutl Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    Pk, I check the flying stove once a day just to see if the damn thing is updated. That and the comics thread are the only reasons why I go there at this point.

    I don't check the Comics thread there. Is there anything interesting?

    Pkmoutl on
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  • Munkus BeaverMunkus Beaver Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited September 2006
    Pkmoutl wrote:
    Pk, I check the flying stove once a day just to see if the damn thing is updated. That and the comics thread are the only reasons why I go there at this point.

    I don't check the Comics thread there. Is there anything interesting?

    Nads posts the new SMBC it is updated, and I see a few other gems every now and then. The Webcomic thread, not the comic book one.

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  • 3lwap03lwap0 Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    mcc,

    You and I started our Mage games roughly at the same time as I recall, and for a while, it was good. I had random no-show's, or running lates, but I think those were the exception not the rule so much. One thing I would have changed was not run them weekly. Maybe bi-weekly, as it's easy to burn folks out, especially when they feel obligated to be there. Schedules were always tough, which is pretty much why my game tanked, I started working weekends, and that shot the whole thing down.

    3lwap0 on
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  • MukaikuboMukaikubo Registered User
    edited September 2006
    Pkmoutl wrote:
    Mukaikubo wrote:
    It also helps that I don't RP as escapism primarily, but because it's an excellent method for collaboratively telling stories- with a healthy dollop of randomness introduced by the dice.

    Oh I agree with you, I'm not saying I do this because my life is oh so tough and this is the only way to deal with it. But it does help as something fun and different. I don't like games like The Sims because I live life, if I have free time I don't wanna play at doing what I do normally. I want to play at doing things I can't do, backflips, shooting people, stealing cars, casting spells, fighting dragons and war-lords. So when I say I like the escapism I don't mean "This is my one-and-only cruical vice, without roleplaying life is just too hard for me," but I mean it's more fun to just pretend for a few hours and have a good time with it. But with forums it normally turns into short-stories where everyone is trying to tie it together. With a live-party it tends to be more of an adventure with a good story (If it's done right) and less of a good story with some adventure thrown in. Maybe I've just not experienced the right forum groups, but something about it doesn't seem right. Like I said, de-railing more and more though, sorry.

    I'm going to disagree with you here, because you're only looking at one aspect of RPG's, and that's the action. You can run a game without all the fighting, shooting, jumping and all that. You just have to make the game a little more cerebral. Plus, you don't get "short stories wehre everyone is trying to tie it together." That's the GM's job, to make it all come together into one story. I've been running a forum-based RPG for over a year now, and it may be slow, but like Mukaikubo says, the system gives them time to consider their actions more completely, not do everything with knee-jerk reactions. Plus, since I eliminated the dice from the system, I can determine with just a glance whether something succeeds or fails. So there's no waiting 24 hours for someone to tell me what they rolled, I can determine that myself. You tend to get fewer pat responses from people when everything isn't knee-jerk spontaneous.

    Plus, like he said, people are in different time zones and aren't available when you are all the time. I work midnights, and one of my players is in England. They can't all get together on my schedule, especially anyone who has a job or school or something like that.

    One thing that does impede a forum-based game is the use of dice. I've said it before, and I'll keep on saying it until people listen: if you are going to run a Forum-based game, you have to eliminate the dice. It slows down the game to a crawl. Find a system where you can adapt it more easily to a diceless system. For instance, I took the White Wolf system and turned it into a diceless system with very little effort.

    Wow. I pretty much entirely disagree with this. Also, the evidence contradicts you again, because I'm in MULTIPLE non-diceless RPGs on forums.

    EDIT: Wait, I just saw this. You mean your players don't trust you to roll for them? Of course if you have the players making all the rolls shit will bog down. That's because it's the GMs job! That way, you can just look at it, roll some die, and you know what happened! Does combat slow games down? Yes, but not as much as you'd think. Also it is an impetus for the GM to remove combats that don't serve any point other than "You guys are bored and need XP".

    Mukaikubo on
  • poisnedcokepoisnedcoke Registered User
    edited September 2006
    Uhh Pk was agreeing with you, not disagreeing.


    And I'm just gonna be fine with saying "It's not for me" and leave it at that.

    poisnedcoke on
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  • MukaikuboMukaikubo Registered User
    edited September 2006
    Uhh Pk was agreeing with you, not disagreeing.


    And I'm just gonna be fine with saying "It's not for me" and leave it at that.

    He was agreeing with me then adding something I disagreed with, which is that only diceless games can work well on forums. That is not what I think :p

    Mukaikubo on
  • Mystara DMMystara DM Registered User
    edited October 2006
    Yeah, I wish they had these online tabletop games around when I was a kid and could easily fit them into my schedule. Nowadays, it's impossible to guarantee I'll have any given night of the week always available, much less expect that of other people. Unfortunately, Play-By-Email is too slow, and those games eventually get derailed. I'm trying something new with a play-by-comment blog game that I've started up. It's kind of an experiment where the characters are collectively shared by all the readers, so hopefully the game moves along faster than pbem games, and is also flexible enough for everyones' schedules. Still trying to find enough players at the moment.

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