The right leadership can make a difference

Akeram Mulvar
Akeram Mulvar from the USS Hartington RP

This article is written by Akeram Mulvar from the USS Hartington RP.

I can guarantee that if you’ve been RPing or simming for more than a short time, you’ve encountered some kind of drama. If you haven’t yet, you will. The internet has a lot of great stuff on it, from excellent writers who we love to work with, to various adorable kittens playing with boxes. But, there’s also bad. Many people take the anonymity, or the distance from another person, as an opportunity to let out the worse aspects of their nature. They can bully, or form cliques, and essentially be unwelcoming.

What we look for in a good RP is a community. We examine how people interact. Are they friendly with each other? Are they friendly with new members? Ultimately, no one will choose to stay in a place where they are not comfortable. I myself have left many places over poor communities.

So how do we make good communities?

The biggest challenge is for the commander to choose the correct style of leadership. If he doesn’t delegate, then any difficulty he has will transfer directly onto his players. So it is always essential that a commander surround himself with subordinates he can trust and rely on. This leads to another danger.

Friendship alone, or knowing someone personally, is not a valid enough reason to give a player authority. In Star Trek, the Federation is a meritocracy, namely a place where anyone with ability and drive can rise. That should provide us with some inspiration.

Watch your members very carefully. See who has a firm grasp of the storylines, who has engaging writing and ideas, who is always there. Then don’t hesitate to rely on those people for help. As a commander, you have the most powerful role. But you can’t do it alone.

Entropy is another factor. For those of you dozing off in physics, entropy is the principle that something will get less functional or cohesive over time. Well what starts as good may sometimes decay. Friends who help along new members may become insular and hostile to the same. Maybe staff become complacent with being unable to retain members, or with plots moving slowly.

It is vitally important to combat that.

People often have the mental attitude that it’s just a game, and that it requires no effort from them. This attitude might be fine for the casual player, but for your staff? It’s not acceptable. You need to find people with vision, who are willing to realize that while this isn’t a job, it’s still a serious commitment. There has to be a sense of unity, and it will never be easily achieved if some staff work, and other staff do not. And with that mentality in mind…

Organization creates stability. People might laugh when you have them take a personality test to determine if they’re a ‘green’ or a ‘blue,’ or an ENFJ or an INTJ. But these tests can have very practical results. If you, as the commander, go the extra mile, the results will be that much greater. I know in my experience, these tests have explained much of my difficulties. I, personally, am a green. Technical, detail-oriented, process-oriented.

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My best role is support, in the operations of a site. I can devise process, templates, layouts, and rattle off ideas all day. But, it’s not wise to put me in the position of dealing with feelings and emotions. So while I contribute in my own way, it is important to find others who contribute in their own ways.

As we look at personality types and staffs, never forget that the most fundamental basis is still having a good story. In the end, it is the actual story that will attract the most attention for new recruits. Do they like the timeline? The setting?

So to recap, the recipe for success is delegation, organization, dedication, diversity, and story. Only when you synthesize all of these elements can you succeed. It might seem daunting, but as John F. Kennedy said, “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”

The author is the member ‘Akeram Mulvar’ on the USS Hartington RP ( found at http://www.wyldling.com/Hartington/index.php/ ), he is a 4+ year veteran of roleplay/simming across  numerous sites.

  • Louis

    Good story telling is the key element. I am not belittling the other aspects, but I feel that they do not reach the level of the most important driving element which is the story.

    I have been in this genre since 1992 which is equivalent to the wild west in terms of the internet. I have seen some large club come and go. Some of those clubs are still around; their longevity more so with the fact that they have a core group of supporters. They may tout that their experience in story telling is a factor, but i need only tell you to join one of these “big groups” as a new player and find out for yourself. The group may still exist, but you will find that they are very insular. New players are akin to Soviet troops of WWII being rushed to the western front. One soldier is handed a rifle, the other an ammunition clip. The officer then tells the soldier with the ammunition clip that when his comrade in front of him falls, he can then use his weapon.

    Yes, it is a lousy analogy, but I have been wanting to use it for some time so please forgive me. It still drives the point of what I want to convey. The people at the top are secure in their world and they don’t care as long as they get some players to stick around regardless that it has taken six or seven on average to get that one person.

    But a good story, that will keep players. The bulk of my RPG’s are in small games and I will gladly face the higher ratio of failed games to successful games, lousy websites, and poor exposure to recruiting for the higher quality of stories that they tell. I am in one such game (I won’t promote it because Ongoing Worlds has a revulsion to outsiders posting their games) and it has three other members. The quality of our story telling has reached that point that I am thrilled when another member posts because I cannot wait to see what they have written. This is also comes with a dedicated GM, and a group that is very communicative. The entropy that you mentioned has actually been reversed for us several times.

    Give the player a good story, let them know that they are helping in making it a success, and they’ll come back for more.

    • Luke

      Actually that’s a very historically inaccurate analogy, popular with Americans only because they watch too many bad Hollywood movies. The USSR had far more rifles than soldiers.

      As to actual sites, they need to be well-administered. A great story won’t help if everything else is a train wreck.

      • Louie75

        I said it was a lousy analogy and it wasn’t a debate on WWII history. It served to draw a comparison as to how some clubs behave. If you want such a chat then let’s find a site where we can discuss it. You will discover your comment about Americans knowing their history by movies is a cliche’ by this particular Yank.

        As to websites, I am not arguing against them, but they are integral only as a marketing device. Once the player gets past the flashy graphics and the admins have processed their app, it still comes down to the story. If the story fails to engage the player as well as the other participants, everything else is a silk blouse on a pig.

        • Keep it civil guys, we’re all friends here!
          I do agree that story is the mist important thing to me, its what keeps me engaged. But also without someone to manage the story correctly it can break down into total chaos!

        • Nash

          I agree with Louis — story is king, as the writers and animators of Pixar will proudly echo as well. As both an animator, writer and sim genre player I can easily say I have left numerous games due to poor and meddlesome administrators, but not the case if the site had a good story.

          The Play’s the Thing as Shakespeare would write — to get King Claudius to flinch — not the Production manager, or the Patron. A good story can survive, even motivate its players to survive the train wreck of poor, absent to bad administrators, to munchkin players. The story MAKES you care more than anything else.

          In animation a show or film can have bad animation, and character designs, but if the story/concept is GOOD people will watch it. Look at the first season of the Simpsons to see what I mean. You could have the greatest team of animators, and an unlimited budget to throw into a production, but if the story is bad to mediocre no one will want to watch it. Hollywood is filled with
          such train wrecks on its wayside.

          Lipstick on a monkey doesn’t make a pretty woman, as I so often tell my students. If something is ugly to begin with — the story, no amount of lipstick — in this case administrative assistance — will make it better.