Don't turn new members away!
Recruiting new members into your roleplaying game can be very difficult. Roleplaying is quite a niche hobby, and not everyone has the patience and the writing ability to roleplay properly. Also it’s sort of difficult to get your head around understanding what roleplaying actually is, unless you’ve done it before.
So you want to make sure that when someone hears about your roleplay, or visits your website, you don’t turn them off completely! You want to make sure it’s as easy as possible for them to see what your game is all about, quickly understand the world of your game, and show them how to join without much additional effort.
You should be doing everything you can to help new members join your game, and I’ve seen many roleplaying games not thinking about this. Here are some of the things that will turn people away:
Have a look at the design of your website. I hate to admit it, but people are really affected by what they see first. Have you ever heard a chef saying “the first bite is with the eye”? That’s the same with websites. If your site has pictures of cute cartoons and you want the game to be a grim horror, it’ll probably not attract the type of people you want. If you want your game to be a dark fantasy, putting pictures of spaceships all over won’t attract the right people either. The same same works in reverse, if you want people to join your Star Trek game, don’t put pictures of elves and goblins all over your site.
A complicated world
I know world building is really fun. It’s great to imagine a world from the ground up, and think about the fine details like what races are in the world, what are their beliefs or religions? What creatures and monsters do they share the world with? what do they eat? What level of technology do they have? What wars have they had? It’s great to imagine a long history of this world, but remember that your new members will have to read all this before they start – so try and make it easy for them. Why not base your game in a world people can relate to? perhaps on a world mentioned in a popular TV series, film or book?
A long complicated back-story
In my article ‘Pressing the reset button’ I talked about the dangers of a long and complicated back-story which might stop people from joining your game. People will grow to love your game, and the story you’re all creating together, but when someone is visiting your website for the first time and considering joining your game, they don’t want to read the equivalent of ‘war and peace’ before they can sign up. Most people just want to get stuck in!
No “join” button
If might seem obvious, but you need to actually give someone a way to join your game! I’ve been to websites for PBEM games and there’s no information at all about how to join the website, some don’t even let you know how the game is played at all, either by email, by forum, or something else.
Make sure you provide a clear way for someone to join (and I mean clear, not hidden away under some other links that nobody would click), you don’t want people who are desperate to join your fantastic-sounding PBEM game, but leave disappointed because they can’t.
Ignoring user’s questions
PBEM games can be very confusing, especially for someone who hasn’t ever played one before. Many people will have some questions, and want to talk to the person in charge. Make sure there’s an easy way for a new user to ask questions, either with a contact form, a thread in a forum for new members, or just an email address. Make sure you answer any questions they have, and do it politely – these people might go on to be really good members of your game.
I’ve seen games where the GM is rude to new members, making them feel stupid for asking simple questions. Just remember when you first joined up, and how confused you were! Also remember that if the process is really confusing, it’s probably not working very well. If you get the same question asked over and over again like “How do I join?” then make the join button easier to see!
The points on this list might sound simple, but you’d be surprised how many roleplaying games still get these things wrong, and then wonder why nobody joins their game.