The first step in starting an online Role Playing Game, is to seek out others who would enjoy playing. It is recommended that between six and eight players be recruited for an average campaign. Fewer players than this tends to fail in creating a fast-paced atmosphere with heavy player interaction; a larger number of players, often leads to great confusion, and an inability of the Game Master to keep track of player actions.
One way to recruit players is to advertise in an RPG or other gaming section of a system; another, is to seek out friends who might be interested, whether they have played RPGs before or not. Additionally, users who have online aliases incorporating science fiction, fantasy, or mythological names, are often easily interested in playing.
After a number of potential players have expressed interest, speak to them individually or as a group, and set a weekly time when all can be available in a live teleconference area, for a period of two to three hours without major interruption. This is the average length of an online RPG; less time allotted, tends to leave the players dissatisfied with the speed of progress through a storyline...more, and some players may have to go about other business, leaving gaps in the adventuring group.
When the players are recruited, and a weekly game time set, you are ready to proceed to the next stages.
Online Role Playing Game Action Entry Conventions
During PowerQuest or other Role Playing Games in a live teleconference area, it is helpful for all players to conform to a single method of stating the actions and words of their characters. The most useful system, is one in which all character speech is typed within quotation marks, and all character actions are embraced by two colons at the beginning, and two at the end, in the following manner:
[Adannan]* ::glances about the room, searching for anything of interest::: "Greetings! Is anyone here?" ::knocks on the nearest cabinet door:: "Anyone in there?"
This method tends to help separate the verbal and physical actions, making the Game Master's task easier. Additionally, to add to the essence of a game, it is recommended that Power Wielding attempts be stated to the Game Master in private message, allowing the Game Master to state the results.
Out-of-character comments or questions to the Game Master should occur in private message, or in parenthesis.
Structured and Unstructured Play Modes
In a live PowerQuest game played out in a teleconference, games can be fast-paced, and deeply involving for players and Game Master alike, much as a quality novel is. Due to the need for the Game Master to perform all dice rolls and other game calculations, problems do arise, however. One such problem occurs when combat or time-intensive action takes place. In this circumstance, a system known as Structured Play Mode is engaged to make things easier for the GM.
The following is an example of unstructured play, such as might occur around a campsite, at a tavern, or when exploring a new location.
Sample Game Transcript
[Adannan]* ::settles in front of the campfire, withdrawing a crystal on leather thong from the folds of his robes, gazing into it by firelight::
[Ardya]* ::pauses in stirring to fire, to look to Adannan:: "Trying to scry the Castle again?"
[Adannan]* ::nods quietly, concentrating::
[Ardya]* ::sits back, reaching into her pack and retrieving a book to read, glancing at Adannan every few minutes::
In this example, the players are free to act in any order desired, without awaiting permission from the Game Master. This makes for a more natural, easy-going atmosphere.
Upon entering Structured Play Mode, however, this changes. Structured Mode is announced by the GM. Then, the GM prompts each player in turn (order of Turns determined by character SPD, highest SPDs going first), and each player's actions are handled in that sequence until everyone has had a turn. When all players have had a Turn, the Round is completed, and a new Round declared, with each player and non-player character receiving another Turn in the same sequence. This decreases the confusion involved in a combat situation, making certain that all players have a fair chance to act.
The following is an example of Structured Play Mode.
Sample Structured Play Mode Game Transcript
[GM]* From the trees surrounding the camp, a hideous, spine-chilling wail is heard, and the shadows suddenly explode into motion as white bone gleams in the moonlight; twelve animate skeletons step forth from the trees, their hollow eye sockets gazing with deadly accuracy at you, as they approach, bony fingers and arms outstretched.
[GM]* STRUCTURED PLAY: Adannan, actions?
[Adannan]* ::stashes crystal away in robes, standing to face the nearest skeletons::aims a hand at one, Wielding Power in the form of a Sunlight Ray (10 PP).:: "Begone, creature of night!"
[GM]* Adannan sends forth a ray of brilliant golden sunlight, causing one of the skeletons to turn to white ash, blowing away on a night breeze. The others advance. Ardya, actions?
[Ardya]* ::stands, taking out bow and arrow::nocks a magic arrow, firing it at the nearest skeleton::
[GM]* The arrow misses, impacting in a tree; a flare of Power engulfs the tree, and it vanishes!
[GM]* A skeleton attacks Ardya from behind, leaving a long scratch along her arm. A skeleton attacks Adannan, missing.
[GM]* ROUND 2: Adannan, actions?
This example shows the Turn and Round principles, and how to handle and respond to player actions, then report on NPC actions, and determination dice rolls.
The Structured Play Mode has been proven by years of use in online gaming, to be a useful tool in handling intense action scenes. Nevertheless, the rules should be relaxed whenever appropriate; no one enjoys waiting in line.
NOTE: One Round is generally considered equal to one minute, and each turn carried out simultaneously during that minute.