Facebook, Blogs, and Illustrated Primers; Atypical Electronic Tools for GMs
I’ve sometimes had a challenging experience getting players to “buy in” to a setting or campaign as deeply as I’d like them to. No amount of handouts, props, lighting, or otherwise could get them out of the gaming room and into the experience. Then I realized I could use their foul addictions against them.
Let’s face it…the amount of time many people spend on social networking sites is obscene. Even when they aren’t on those sites, they often have their computer in front of them. I’m sure your players are no different; I know mine aren’t. What’s worse is that often they are just clicking back and forth between three or four things waiting for something to change. When I’m working on campaign material I have my laptop in front of me, and whenever I hit a wall I look up at the TV, check three or four message boards, check Gamegrene, check Facebook, then go back to what I was doing.
It’s stupid how much of my time I spend doing this, but I don’t even really notice. It just becomes part of the routine.
Using a Facebook group I could send event invites to people.
If I had something interesting to look at that was constantly updated I’d be a lot more comfortable with my online addictions. And if it was roleplaying related I’d not even consider it a shameful waste of time.
While trying to figure out the best way to get my players to think about the new setting we developed using the deconstruction process I was flipping through useless crap on my Facebook page. I started removing groups and friends that served no purpose or whom I never talked to when it dawned on me…I could be posting campaign info right here and people could look at it wherever they were.
I know the concept of having a campaign website isn’t novel or new. But using a Facebook group I could send event invites to people (for the next session so there would be no confusion on time and place). I could easily send a message to everyone in the group and *know* that they would read it. I could easily post pictures of NPCs. I could write little stories and vignettes to exemplify the settings tone and theme.
And I could do all of this without needing hosting for a website, or having any idea how to code at all. I’m not as computer literate as I should be, so this medium suited me perfectly.
It also has had the dual benefit of being useful to the players. They can access links to rules related information, write summaries of sessions from their characters point of view, etc.
A few of my players thought the idea was awkward because they didn’t want all the people on their friends list to see all the updates to the site as part of their pages news feed. Simple; make the group secret and only the members can see it. (a conversation on why they are ashamed of their roleplaying addiction is probably a topic for a future article so I won’t go into it here).
This is when the Primer concept dawned on me. Since most of my players spend such an inordinate amount of time in front of their computers anyways, I thought it might be useful to compile a huge chunk of information for them in a digital format. If you have Adobe Acrobat (not just the reader, the whole thing), then this is really easy to do, and it can be made to look pretty damn professional if you take the time to do it well.
This is when the Primer concept dawned on me.
I wrote a bunch of little stories and used them to develop iconic characters, just as most game companies do when they release a rulebook. Then I set about writing setting material in an *in character only* tone. Then, I compiled it all into one big digital handout. This then lead me to writing an *in character* description of each players Skills, Advantages, and Disadvantages; and tacking that on to the Primer as well.
Now, each player has a customized and character specific guide to the setting, complete with all the rules that are relevant to their character. All they need is to print it out, put it in a binder or duotang, and grab their dice. There’s even a printable character sheet in the document so that they can easily print a new one whenever they want and get rid of the one stained with cup rings, spilled stout, and marred by vigorous erasing.
So far, all the atypical digital elements I’ve provided have gone over like free beer. I have a Facebook group for each campaign I currently run (three in total), and have made Primers for everyone in each campaign (though they're only called Primers for the Iron & Etheria campaign.) As part of my mission to democratize roleplaying and put more control of the immersion and knowledge of the games systems and setting into the hands of the players so I’m free to just run a good campaign, this has been a great success.
You could also use this to run a play by post campaign and have all the information right there at people’s fingertips instead of them having to access multiple sources. Because most of your players are probably on Facebook anyways this puts you, them, and what they need to know all in the same place. The same thing can be accomplished with MySpace, PerfSpot, Hi5, or whatever the falvor of the month happens to be.
(Here's an example of one of the Groups. This is the setting I developed when we first sat down for the deconstruction process; there isn’t much information about the setting as it’s assumed you’ve read at least the first version of the Primer, which I can’t post here because of how much of it I took verbatim from other published materials. Still, it gives you an example of what I’m talking about. As soon as we play the first session in a week and a half the Group will take a different tack; it will be more campaign and less setting related. Also to note; I'm only leaving the Group "public" for a week or two so Gamegreners can get a look at it. then I have to switch it back to Secret or my players will start getting sore at me.)