Tips to manage forum-based RPG games

Once an administrator has created a forum and has begun to advertise it, guest traffic to the site will begin to increase. If the site administrator communicates with these guests, often via a C-Box, the chances that the guests will register as members on the forum are increased. However, this is where many administrators set themselves up for a shock – usually not so much through ignorance but through desperation.

The most important thing for a forum administrator to realize is that although an increased member count looks attractive, illiterate and juvenile players do not. While administrators are encouraged to be friendly and helpful, they should not accept all members who apply to play on the RPG out of the sheer desire to make their game appear more active.

Screening and Evaluating Members

The best way to screen players are with written applications – biographies of characters that they wish to play. Detailed applications indicate dedicated members that will keep the forum alive and active. Be wary of minimalists. They are the ones who fill in the bare minimum required on applications – the chances are that they will put the same effort into their posts as they did their biographies. One should also consider asking for roleplay samples – these will give an administrator an idea of what to expect.

To give members an idea of what he expects, an administrator should consider posting examples of applications as well as specified guidelines to aid a new member in filling in the application successfully. Administrators should take care not to be too critical. The administrators of larger and older Role Plays, such as “And They were Marked”, offer advice to applying members, pointing out problems in their biographies before denying them.

Content Moderation and Host Terms of Service

Unfortunately preventing unsatisfactory posts through written applications are not always completely successful. This is one of the reasons an administrator must remain aware of what is posted on his site. He can do this by monitoring posts, reading threads and, once the site is more active, appointing a moderating team to read through the site content when he is unable to do so himself.

Very important for any site administrator to read are the TOS – the Terms of Service – of the forum host he is using as these containt important information regarding prohibited content. Most TOS for forum hosts, such as the Invisionfree Terms of Service, are formed around various laws – both Internet and State Related. They do this to protect themselves; should one of their users break the terms, they cannot be held liable.

An administrator should consider mentioning in the site rules that the site complies with his host’s terms of service, and perhaps add a few terms of his own, to protect himself in the same manner. Some RP’s take these terms very seriously and ban members who refuse to comply to them after they have been warned of the consequences.

General and OOC Management, and Activity

While content is the greatest issue on most RP’s, one should never forget to maintain appearance, Out of Character sections and monitor Member activity. Some role plays have taken to changing their ‘skin and layouts’ often to keep their members interested, while always using similar elements so that the relation of the skin to the plotline of the forum is not lost.

OOC, or Out of Character sections should also be closely monitored. It is here that, most often, members tend to flame one another when angered. To prevent these from becoming fully fledged fights an administrator should have rules against flaming, but also screen OOC topics to delete them once posted – and to contact the poster with a warning.

Real life has a habit of preventing players, no matter how dedicated, to role play actively. To discern amongst those who are temporarily absent and those who have left permanently, an administrator should attempt to have an activity check every three months, asking his members to post in a thread to established their continuing membership or to ask for their accounts to be removed. In doing so he prevents the forum from becoming cluttered by unappealing and old material.

Despite what many might think, managing a forum is not a game. It takes time, dedication and, at times, it demands for an administrator to be strict on his members. But a well managed RPG is one that will last.

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