10 ways to keep your newest roleplayers
You’ve worked hard setting up your online roleplaying or simming community, and harder still to spread the word about it.
A stream of new players is joining, but some of them are flaking out and disappearing without a trace. How can you overcome new players’ shyness and make them feel comfortable and included in your community?
1. Don’t Ignore New Players; Welcome Them
Recognize new players. Have an introduction area where they can introduce themselves and you can greet them. Emphasize the importance of welcoming new people to your community and get all hands on deck. You want to start a bonding process. Your community is a place where roleplayers can not only flex their creative writing muscles, but one for making friends with people that share like interests.
2. Befriend New Players Meaningfully
Find out what you have in common with the new players and use that as common ground to befriend them. In Star Army, we have a lot of military veterans, and that makes for great conversations as we share “war stories” and instantly gives us something we’ve mutually endured. In Star Trek themed simming communities, this could be our love of the shows. Family, pets, and hobbies are also good bonding points. You may want to steer clear of religion and politics, though, as these can be touchy.
3. Be a Mentor to New Players
Give personal assistance by providing guidance, encouragement, and answering questions when a new player creates his/her first character. Make your expectations clear and provide suggestions without being negative. If there are issues with the character biography, instead of highlighting the problems, offer solutions (“this would fit better if…”). In general, you want to provide clear information on what a character can be and can do, rather just than a lengthy list of what is forbidden. Mentoring can continue from character creation into the actual roleplaying.
4. Emotionally Anchor Them in Roleplay
If you can give a player an emotional connection through their character to another character, that provides interest. In the first day or two, try to foster an organic friendship between their new character and at least one of the existing characters. In the simplest terms, give them something to care about!
5. Don’t Be Boring
Include their characters in your posts and give them something to reaction to or take action on. It’s the Game Master’s job to provide inspiration. Give clues and some (but not total) guidance so they can have something to build on in their next post. Things should be happening and the story should be progressing. Don’t be afraid to time-skip the unimportant stuff. For example, if your characters are having a conversation while traveling to another location, once that conversation ends you can step and say “3 days later, the ship pulled in…” to progress the story.
6. Tolerate Mistakes
After they join, new players are in a state where they’re still learning your roleplay’s norms and limitations, in addition to the local lore and canon for your shared fictional universe. We want to prevent them from feeling lost. Don’t come down hard on a new player for goofing up something. Worst come to worst, you can do a retcon and re-do that problematic roleplay. It’s a learning experience, especially for someone that might never have roleplayed before and is still absorbing the basics.
7. Avoid Cliquishness
It’s also the players’ job to inspire each other, so if the other characters in the plot aren’t interacting with the new character, message them privately to ask that they do so, and that the new player seek out and interact with others as well. When a new player feels like an outsider, they have no reason to stay.
8. Cater to Player Needs
You want your plot to reflect not only your own preferences but also those of the players. Do they want more action? More description from the Game Master? More social interaction? Collecting feedback is vital. You can start discussions on how enjoyable the players’ find the campaign. A survey after each mission or episode is also an excellent way to collect feedback in an easily understandable way. Make adjustments as needed and seek to improve the experience.
9. Maintain Contact
Follow up! Check on new players to make sure they’re “getting it” and that they’re active. If a player stops showing up, contact them via email and ask if there’s something you can fix. Whether or not they return, you will be getting valuable feedback on how to improve your community.
10. Show Your Passion
Most importantly, demonstrate you care through your actions. We roleplay and serve as Game Masters because it’s enjoyable and because we want to share the hobby and have a good time. There has to be a passion for what you’re doing. As you communicate with your players, your excitement and enthusiasm is going to spread. We want to be hosting games that are so fun that your players are going to tell their friends. These advocates are going to be your best marketers. Nothing beats word-of-mouth. But you’re only going to have this happen if you’re out there showing your passion. Players can tell.
Although attrition is natural in online roleplaying games, we can take steps to minimize it by being awesome and giving new players the support they need. Your roleplaying game may be the first of a lifetime of gaming so don’t “burn” new players. Best Wishes to all the other online roleplaying games out there bringing people together from all over the world. Never lose your imagination and dreams!
Written by Wes Davis. Wes is the founder of the Star Army Sci-Fi Roleplaying Community, a play-by-post forum RPG website established in 2003.