Keeping Roleplays Alive

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Returned from the Void
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Most roleplayers and GMs have experienced the death of a roleplay, and it sucks. There's lots of causes for roleplay death, and most times it's inevitable. However there are things both GMs and players can do to prolong the life of their roleplays!

This guide assumes you want a roleplay that will remain lively and interesting for a longer time period than the average.

  • The Advertising
    Most times, it's good to clearly set up the plan and expectations for your roleplay in the very beginning. Advertise for players who plan to be in a roleplay for a while. Look also for players who want to help with the story, and are willing to contribute toward creating events and plot twists. When pitching your story, put emphasis on its potential, rather than the starting plot/scenario. Players who want to play for a long time want to see that there will always be stuff to do (We'll talk more about this in a sec). It's also a good idea not to base your idea on a passing fad while it's still a passing fad. You may get players who plan to stick around, but become disinterested when the next trend comes along. Waiting until you have a full or almost full roster can help before starting, too.

  • Be Inclusive
    Roleplays tend to attract less new players once they've already got a page or two of posts, because it's harder to enter a roleplay with a started plot and established characters than when everything is fresh and introductions are still going on. Offer to help interested players make an entrance, and pay attention to what all the other characters are doing so that you can interact with them better. Also (and this is a biggie) avoid creating Diva roleplays. Having a plot that centres on one character is almost always a bad idea; nobody likes playing second fiddle! Make sure there's room in your plot for everybody to be important.

  • Stuff to do
    A huge killer of roleplays is lack of stuff to do. This can be a tricky one, because sometimes even if you put a scenario right in front of players, all they want to do is make out in a corner, or go after personal subplots. This can be fixed to a large degree with the player selection I talked about in that first point, but an equally good way to keep your roleplay full of interesting twists is to keep tabs on the roleplay. Read all of the posts, not just the ones that involve your character, and pay attention to what the players and their characters are interested in right now. Toss characters a bone now and then with some story attention on their backstories or subplots. Remember that twists can be as small as everybody going out for pizza, to the pizza shop getting robbed and the group becoming hostages.

  • Communication is Key
    Communication is never unimportant. Talk to your players about what you've got coming up; you'll find it's a lot easier to get the players involved if they can maneuver their characters to a place where they can get in easily. You can help them come up with ways to make entrances or get involved with a twist. General OOC communication is helpful, too; this is part of the reason we separate OOC from IC on Iwaku; if there's OOC in both threads, people can miss parts of the conversation. When players are effectively communicating, they can coordinate and work together more, which can help prevent people from pairing off or sticking to themselves in the roleplay. Let your players be involved in coming up with the plots and events, creating NPCs, and all of that jazz! People almost always like being part of the process more than just being told what's going to happen.
Have any further ideas about ways to keep your roleplay thriving? Post 'em below!
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If I may, here's a little addendum:

  • Don't railroad: An addition to "Be inclusive" - it mentions to not make Diva roleplays. Thing is, there doesn't need to be a diva character for things to be boring. The best way to drive players away is to invalidate all action they take because it doesn't fit your vision of the story - you're making the story itself a diva there. A good GM is able to deal with any and all situation. Bonus points if you don't fight the use of loopholes, but instead adapt your story to make use of the loopholes. Final note - the voyage is more important than the destination, so don't be afraid to steer storylines completely away from what you first planned. You're creating a collaborative story in a universe, not writing a book that just happens to have passenger characters.
  • DON'T RAILROAD: This one ties in with "Stuff to do". If players don't see the plot opportunity or simply refuse to follow it, work around it. It's easier to make a dog listen if you give them a treat - it's easier to make players do what you want if you give them what they want once in a while. Go off on a tangent. Then, when the situation warrants it, either lure them back on track (with the illusion they're still away), or even go deeper down the rabbit hole and explore your own story's possibilities. But the important part is, don't force players down a path.
  • DON'T RAILROAD: This one ties in with "Communication is key". Don't be afraid to PM your players to enlist them in getting the story moving forwards. I've found that sometimes, players listen better to other players than to the GM. Make use of that. And be sure to listen to your players - somebody might have a worthwhile addition to the story.

But seriously though, don't railroad.
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