What Can I Do With This New
How Do I Handle Combat With My
Various Combat Suggestions
Help Files (old)
Why We Ask Players to Play Only One Character
- I realize that players are supposed to have a
minimum of two characters, one OOC and one in-game. Given that private
messages and p-mail do not show up in logs or directly disrupt any
on-going game, why do you ask for no OOC commentary sent to in-game
They do disrupt an ongoing game, though. They're interruptive
to the thought processes of the players playing and the GM running the
game. The cambots may not record it, but it definitely affects people's
concentration, to the detriment of the game.
The OOC character is used for non-game things. Sitting and shooting the
breeze, or scheduling games, or talking about new characters, or whatever,
should be done with the OOC character. It keeps the IC character from
being polluted in other people's mental images by OOC activities. As
an example, Lou's Starfall Realm character, Carroll, shouldn't appear
to know about computers or the operation of the MUCK. Lou or Lou_Admin
Have you seen Bob's example of this? What he wrote is exactly what
we're trying to prevent in an on-going game:
"If we start tonight's session with:
Lord Bothwell strides into the room in a foul mood. Throwing back
a tankard from the barrel near the door, he slams the empty cup
to the table, shaking everything nearby. "CHRIST'S WOUNDS!" he
shouts, "-traffic did suck today! Night's curse on the
wanker who tried to pass me on the exit ramp!"
...it's gonna twist my brain a bit..."
- Why are you being so anal about having only one window
at a time open when in a game? Come on, it's not that big a deal. After
all, I just leave windows open where I'm idling in.
It's a shame you think asking for this basic courtesy to others
is anal. However, leaving other non-game-related windows open splits your
focus, and that's rude to the other players. Think about it... what if you
were in a face-to-face game with me and a bunch of other folks... but I
insisted on reading a book during game time, unless someone was speaking
directly to me? Wouldn't you rightly consider that rather rude?
- It's okay, no one can tell when I'm doing that anyway. I'm
really good at doing two things at once so no one notices.
Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but has it ever
occurred to you that your friends might just be too polite to tell you
the truth? ;-)
Unfortunately, I hear all the time of folks that believe they're able to
game in two places at once, and invariably when they ask me how they're
doing I don't know how to politely tell them they're just bad
at it -- they're slow to react in game, monosyllabic, and/or missing
obvious cues and clues. It's terribly frustrating for the people that
are trying to concentrate on one game at a time, and to offer interesting
clues and concepts.
I know of two people (neither of whom I bother trying to game with
any longer) who both proudly told me how good they were at gaming in
two places at once. A friend of mine once left a (formerly intense)
three-way conversation with them, because he noticed the other two
players had started gaming elsewhere in mid-conversation. According
to him their response times lagged more and more, until it was over
fifteen minutes for either of them to reply. He noted that
at that point he got tired of waiting and just wandered off.
The really sad part is that neither player ever noticed
my friend leaving! If they missed that obvious a clue to something
being terribly wrong with their gaming style, then I'm afraid they
don't have a leg to stand on in regards to their assertion that they
can unnoticeably game in more than one place at a time.
I myself have had the horribly unpleasant experience of waiting half
an hour for one unprepared GM to get his act together and type
out a scene-setting pose. So no, you aren't hiding what you're
doing. People can tell. Don't play in two places at once. It's
disrespectful and damn rude to your friends.
- Hey, I can only sit and stare at the screen for so long until I
have something to do, or seconds are going to just creep by in ages. That,
and I'm usually not doing anything in the other windows -- just idling. I
normally have about three or four else-mu*'s open.
But if you're just idling... aren't you just staring at those
windows as well? Why not think about the game itself? And if you're
doing nothing in the other windows, why have them open at all?
- But I don't want to be bored. I hate being bored!
So do all your friends who're waiting for replies, I'm sure. ;-)
Less flippantly, so do I, believe me. I also know it took me a while
to teach myself how to concentrate fully on one thing at a time -- we're
taught all through our lives how to do several things poorly and all at
once, but we get very little training in focusing on one thing so that
we do it well.
It's been quite satisfying to learn how to do this, however. I know
I've figured out major plot-points in more than one game because I
thought about the game during the times I was waiting for folks to type,
rather than mentally wandering off to half-heartedly do something else
- Hey, I do think about things in the game. But when the
game's just creeping along, or I've been in front of the monitor too
long, I just have to get up, move around the room a little or something,
while waiting for someone to type in a pose.
That's reasonable... I get up and move around too sometimes. I
warn my fellow players first, of course, but I sometimes need to get
up and go get a drink, use the restroom, whatever... but why have other
windows open for that? If there's only one window open, wouldn't it be
easier to concentrate on just one?
- You do have a point: I have to wonder what it is that's
hitching people up sometimes -- I'd like to poke them to speed 'em
up. I've been pretty frustrated in some of my gaming sessions, until
things got organized.
Exactly. That's why I hate it when folks have other windows
open. Think about it carefully... let's say you're in a game and you
have other windows open. Someone says something in the game. Because
you've got other windows open, you don't immediately notice the new
thing that just popped up on your game-screen. Once you notice it,
you have to read it, think about it, get back into character, consider
what your character's response is, and then type it in -- whereas if
you'd been concentrating on the game you'd have noticed it at once,
and you'd already be thinking like your character.
That may be only a minute or three of wasted time... but multiply
those three minutes of lost time by five players, over five hours... and
it adds up -- that becomes seventy-five minutes of wasted time --
an hour and a quarter of gaming time stolen from the players --
That means of the original five hours you had scheduled to
play... you're now down to only three and a bit. And that's
assuming each person only wastes three minutes an hour. It's far more
likely that more time than that is being wasted by flipping through
windows and having to take extra time to remember what's going on
- But how are open windows that are basically "collecting dust"
Having windows open that are related to the game isn't a
problem. I've been in games where I had my browser open with a related
game log, another with a map, and another with a list of NPCs I needed
to have handy, along with the MU* client where the actual gaming was
occurring. But having non-game-related windows open is a distraction,
if only as you flip back and forth across them all. If they're truly
just collecting dust -- why are they open at all?
- I really don't know. But you're right, I do have to wonder why
folks are so quiet, so long... and then give such short replies after
I don't know why someone would want to be so rude to their fellow
players as to ignore them during a game, but I'm hoping it's mostly just
that they've never given it any thought. If you do the math, you can
see what a terrible waste of time it is to not pay attention in-game.
As far as monosyllabic replies only to direct questions, I'd have to
say those aren't really gaming, in its fullest sense. It's a form of
participation, but it mostly just 'takes' from the game and the other
players. It does nothing to help the game become fuller and richer
for all involved. My thought is, if you're in a game, why not try to
participate more? Why not try to ask some questions? -maybe
even to contribute to the storyline? In my experience, GMs love
As I said before, it took me a while to train myself to focus JUST
on the game... but you can do it, with a bit of practice, and I
assure you -- it makes the game far richer. And more exciting too
-- fast-paced games with deep backgrounds are much more fun!
- Well, I'll tell you, I'd give a patch of skin to speed things
up some times.
Then make things happen.
- I don't know how. People are just... being slow. It's
not the game speed, but the speed of response.
As a GM, I would suggest always that you first politely warn your
players that you'll be speeding up the game. Then I would start simply
doing so. If, at some point in the game, no one says anything within
two or three minutes (easy to check with the wa command), then
continue on. Don't let folks retroactively say they've done something
either -- be very firm about that, and include that proviso in
your initial warning. People will learn pretty darned quickly to pay
attention -- especially if there's a combat on!
- That's just rude though.
So is ignoring the game you're purportedly playing in. Especially
since by saying they'll be there, every player has ostensibly agreed to
actually pay attention and play the game!
- Yes, but this game is about their contribution. If they're
not contributing, then it's basically just me telling a story. I can't
do that during combat; people are going to get Pissed Off.
My point is simply that you should do your best to let your fellow
players know you are serious about GMing, and committed to running the
best game you can. Under those circumstances it is only basic courtesy
for them to also be committed to participating fully in your game.
In a sense, you're offering your players one of three options: 1) pay
attention, which they've theoretically already agreed to do by joining
the game, 2) have the game go on without them, with full knowledge
that their character may lose out on important information -- or even
get injured or killed -- or 3) leave the game, since if they can't be
bothered to pay attention, they obviously don't really want to play.
It's easy to pay attention once you decide to do so. Paying
attention shows you care.
- Yes, but I don't want to piss people off.
Unpleasant though it may sound, one of the most stark tenets
of leadership is that you cannot please all of the people all of the
time. Furthermore, the other players won't be pissed off if they're
paying attention -- they'll only be annoyed if they're not paying
attention, and got caught.
Think about it -- what you (or any good player) wants is dedicated
fellow-players who're willing to pay attention. Your focused
attention, your intelligent contributions to the game -- that's the
most priceless and valuable commodity anyone can offer in an on-line
game. Don't sell yourself short by struggling to game with people that
can't be bothered to return the favor.
- I'm just not seeing any opportunity to do this, or any points
when I can just leave them behind. They're constantly being asked what
to do, or going over things. I don't know when to go, 'No, you lost your
turn to speak.'
Well, let's try a simple example. Let's say the character Vane
and my female character are playing in your game -- you're the GM. You
have Basel, an NPC, ask my female character a question. I don't type in
any reply... and two minutes pass in silence.
So you type in, "(OOC) Hello? Are you typing?"
I still don't reply -- not even to type in a hasty "(OOC)
typing!" comment. So, after about three total minutes of waiting for me,
you have the NPC do the following:
Basel studies the silent woman curiously, then shrugs
as she doesn't reply after several minutes. He turns to look at Vane,
the elf, and asks the question of him instead.
- Yeah, but when I start doing things like that, I'm going to
Yes, I quite understand that, and I really can't blame you. Good
GMing is not always easy -- it's hard work that takes effort and
concentration! Having players that can't even be bothered to be polite
enough to pay attention would piss me off too.
- Well, I don't know if they're not paying attention, or if
they're just slow. So I really don't have the right to bitch.
If they've got a good reason for being slow, they'll give it. If
they're having trouble with their connection, that'll show up when they
abruptly connect, then disconnect. If you're ever not sure as to what
really happened, and you feel it's important to know for sure, ask Lou
the next day to check on the machine log. Just don't do that unless you
have a compelling reason to do so... it's a pain to do. Let's face it --
any player that repeatedly and consistently claims that problem, for
weeks at a time, is someone you might want to have a serious talk with
-- about either figuring out if they really want to stay in your game,
or upgrading their machine connection.
- Someone could just be slow to type/react ICly. They don't need a
'reason' for that.
I'm in one game where one of the players tends to type long,
expressive, multi-paragraph 'dissertations' on his character's thoughts,
actions, and motivations. He's slow to react ICly, and we all know
it. However, we all know it because it was discussed ahead of time,
and everyone agreed his results were well worth the wait.
This is the most important thing to remember -- if there's going to
be a problem, discuss it ahead of time. That's the best way to
handle potentially contentious issues in a game -- to bring them out in
the open and figure out a solution together.
- Yes, but this creeps up badly during combat. I have one player
that's idled for over ten minutes several times, though a few of those
have apparently been for legitimate reasons. That is very annoying in
If I'm in a game and I have to leave the keyboard for any
reason, for any length of time... I always type in
::afks. That way people know not to ask my character questions
for the few seconds or minutes I'm gone -- and that way those few
seconds/minutes aren't (in effect) stolen unwillingly from the other
Think about it this way -- you are giving your players your valuable
time and effort. The least they can do is be there when you
do so! Someone that can't even be bothered to do that... probably doesn't
belong in your game anyway. Make it a standard practice that your player
must say when he's leaving his machine -- and make sure he knows
that if he doesn't, and you're all in combat, his character will quite
likely get hurt!
- He does when he gets back. Not when he's leaving. Combat
is slow enough. Ah, I'm bitching too much.
If these people aren't interested enough to stay present and play
in your game, or to have the utterly basic courtesy to let you know when
they're leaving the 'table' -- why do you want them in the game? Why do
you want them, in effect, wasting your time? Bitching is too much only
when you don't DO something about it.
- But isn't that a little harsh? I really don't want to bring
this game to a screeching halt.
No, it's not harsh at all, nor will it bring the game to a
screeching halt if you don't allow whining from manipulative players
to steal your limited, valuable scheduled game time. It's simple --
everyone gets three chances.
First you say, "Guys, I'm implementing a new rule, so we can all
enjoy the game more. From now on, if you're going to leave the keyboard
for any reason whatsoever, could you please let us know?"
If someone forgets to do this (a not-unreasonable occurrence, since
this is new to them), then on the second time you explain further, as
necessary: "Guys, the reason I'm asking everyone to announce when they'll
be afk (away from keyboard) is so the game will progress more smoothly. If
we know when folks are afk, then we'll know not to wait on them."
Should someone forget again, as has been known to happen, then you
give a polite, third, and final warning: "Guys, we all know why we want
to give each other the courtesy of saying when we'll be afk. I'm afraid
from now on if someone doesn't say when they'll be gone, we're going to
be assuming they're actually still there, and the game will continue on,
around their character. This includes combat. Characters can and will
get hurt in such situations, I'm afraid, if their players aren't paying
attention and haven't announced they'll be afk. I just wanted to be fair
and let you all know ahead of time."
Then you actually do what you've said you'll do. Don't waffle,
don't let yourself be talked out of it -- DO it. If you do not, you've
just taught yourself and your players that you cannot be trusted to
keep your promises. It may sound harsh... but if you can't be trusted to
actually do what you say you'll do, then why should your players
- Well, okay. It's just... well, I just feel a little mean
hitting someone that's not there to hit back. Or someone that could be
having connection problems, or whatever.
The important thing is to let people know ahead of time that the
rules have changed. Hitting them without warning is indeed mean. However,
enforcing the rules you politely and thoroughly warned them about ahead
of time is not. In fact, not paying attention to you is, to my way of
seeing it, far more 'mean' and far more lacking in basic common
Furthermore, as stated above, connection problems show up in the game,
and don't usually happen to the same player consistently, week after
week. Smart players warn others ahead of time if there's a thunderstorm
where they are, or if they're having connection problems.
The solution to almost any in-game problem is thoughtful, reasonable
communication between everyone involved. Warn people if things are
going to change, or if rules have been added or subtracted, or if you're
going to need more explanation time, or whatever. It doesn't matter if
you're the GM or the player -- always let people know what's up,
what's going to be happening. Don't take them by surprise. That's what
OOC communication is for -- to make the IC gaming run more smoothly and
enjoyably for all.
Good luck, and happy gaming!
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