Maintaining a creative atmosphere and inspiring players
The roleplaying games that stand the test of time are those that can maintain a creative atmosphere and keep their players inspired. There are times when a mission seems to stall for one reason or another and posting rates seem to drop. If left unchecked the game’s players will start to get bored and eventually leave. There are several things that can be done in-game and as a group to keep players interested and inspired in the long term.
It all begins with mission planning and looking at the crew and the strengths they have. By thinking hard about players’ capabilities it is possible to find more creative and interesting ways to include them in missions. For example finding interesting ways for pilots or combat orientated characters to participate in ground based diplomacy missions may take a bit more thought, but the payoff is worth it. All players should have something important to contribute to the mission because if they feel like they’re just tagging along they will likely not contribute much to the plot. A plot can be too well planned can cause players to feel reluctant to contribute; they may worry about ‘breaking’ or ‘derailing’ the plot. Whereas if players have lots to do, feel important and are given some creative freedom they will be more active; there may even be an increase in the quality of their writing as they feel more inspired and motivated to do well.
The players themselves are as different as the characters they write for and will prefer some types of missions to others. If there’s a long on-going war where neither side ever seems to make progress, or every mission is similar it runs the risk of becoming repetitive and stale. Take a look at recent missions where participation has been high and low. Talk to players and find out what they liked about a particular mission. The results may be surprising allow more informed choices to be made when planning future missions. There are so many mission types to try including diplomacy or trade, disaster relief, a medical/scientific/crime based mystery or combating an enemy force that there should always be something different to try.
Another thing to try is running some challenges and/or competitions. Inviting players to submit a story to a themed challenge and allowing them some freedoms is a great way to let them try different things, encourage creativity. Consider allowing them to write entries from different points of view. So instead of it needing to be from the point of view of their main character, they might enjoy writing for a different character, perhaps a new original character made up just for the challenge. A similar idea involves allowing players to nominate their favourite post(s) from a mission and hold a competition to determine the best post of the mission. It’s a nice way of recognising and encouraging good writing.
So in short keeping players inspired and maintaining a creative atmosphere involves making missions varied, keeping players involved by giving them something meaningful to contribute and giving them room to be creative. Fun competitions and challenges can give players the motivation and opportunity to try new things.