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Roleplaying Tips Weekly E-Zine Issue #140

14 MUSH Tips



Contents:
This Week's Tips Summarized

14 MUSH Tips

  1. Introduction
  2. Recruiting
  3. Play With A Reasonable Number Of PCs
  4. Know your Players
  5. Require A Detailed Background And A Character Sheet
  6. Log, Log, and Log!
  7. OOC and IC
  8. Save Those Descriptions
  9. Combat
  10. Even More Description
  11. Whispering
  12. Be Tech Savvy
  13. Players: Watch your Pacing
  14. Players: Be a Writer
  15. Players: Your Handle Matters
Readers' Tips Summarized

  1. Popcorn GMing
  2. 10 Teacher's Tips That Apply To GMing
  3. Wear A Mask
  4. Choosing Party Leaders
  5. Another Good Lovecraftian Resource

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A Brief Word From Johnn

Very Brief Indeed
I'm feeling under the weather as I write this, so I'll keep my ramble short this issue. :) This week's tips are about MUSHes, an online form of roleplaying. I've never played in a MUSH but it sounds intriguing! For the readers who've been requesting MUD & MUSH tips, I hope there's an item or two of value to you here in #140.

Johnn Four johnn@roleplayingtips.com

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14 MUSH Tips

A Guest Article By Eric Olson

  1. Introduction

    Inspired by Daniel Howard's excellent article on Online Gaming, [ http://www.roleplayingtips.com/issue135.asp ] I thought I would share a few more tips of my own. I've been Storytelling WoD games online for about 18 months now. I should note that I use a MUSH environment. I have no experience with Play by E-mail games.

    MUSH (Multi-User Shared Hallucination) environments use a live chat where you describe your character as doing or saying something. Most of the MUSHes you'll find have a specific theme, such as World of Darkness or Wheel of Time. However, some allow people to use some of their space to run their own private tabletop games. I personally use a MUSH called Online Gaming Resource (OGR), which is available by connecting via telnet to eccles.tzo.net, Port 670, to run my chronicles on.

    While it's much more than just a place to run a tabletop game online, that's the aspect of the MUSH that this article applies to the most. If you're familiar with MUDs, MUSHes, and other M***s, then I suggest you check it out for the many other features it offers. I also used WebRPG for my early chronicles, but when they started to charge, I switched.

    You will have to apply to the staff of OGR for space to run your game. However, this is a very easy process and I've never been turned down. You'll also want to download a MUD client. A list of them is available on Online Gaming Resource's Webpage, located at www.ogrMUSH.com. You can go directly to their list of clients by going to http://www.ogrMUSH.com/links-clients.html.

    I personally recommend SimpleMU or zMUD myself, in that order. The client has better user interface than the telnet client that comes with Microsoft Windows. Finally, if you do decide to run an online chronicle at OGR, feel free to send me a message there (my handle there is Eustacio) and I'll be glad to help you with getting used to commands. In addition, the staff has always been willing to help with a specific problem.

    With all that out of the way, here are a few more tips for running a chronicle online, along with a few suggestions for those new to playing in an online chronicle.

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  2. Recruiting

    This can be quite a headache. You want to start a game online, but you need players. There are a few different ways to handle this. If you're a regular on a message board, float the idea by the board as a whole. If you're on a fairly large message board, you might want to send out e- mails to people who you think you would like to game with. Otherwise, you could have twenty people saying they want to play, which is too many.

    You can also advertise on the MUSH itself. For example, OGR has a message board that is dedicated solely to the games run on their MUSH where you can post advertisements to.

    After your initial recruitment, you'll find that recruiting for additional PCs or new chronicles goes much easier the second time around.

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  3. Play With A Reasonable Number Of PCs

    This may sound obvious, but people tend to think that since the chronicle is going to be run online you can handle fifteen different player characters. Nothing could be further from the truth for most Storytellers. I've found my personal limit is six players and I prefer to run chronicles with four to five players. Don't fall into the temptation of allowing every good character concept into your game. You may have to reject excellent ideas because you don't have space. Most players are understanding when you include in the rejection, "I simply don't have enough space in this game. However, I'll certainly contact you when we start a new chronicle".

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  4. Know your Players

    Recruiting players is always an interesting challenge for any Storyteller. I've found a great way to do this is to become a member on a message board and getting to know people there. You'd rather be playing with people you like, right?

    It's likely that by doing this you'll have an idea of the personalities of your players before the game even starts. Either float the idea on the message board itself or e-mail a few people who you've established an online friendship with and see if they're interested. This is also a great way of weeding out gamers whose styles don't match yours.

    If you do post on the message board, explain what the game type is and the maximum and minimum number of players you want. This means that if you cap your starting players at 4 and get 7 submissions, you can weed out the 3 that you don't think fit. Also, Instant Messenger programs are useful to chat between game sessions and get to know your players better.

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  5. Require A Detailed Background And A Character Sheet

    While this certainly applies to a tabletop game as well, this is an essential part of an online chronicle. By requiring this, you not only get a better understanding of the character and all the normal benefits of a background history, you also get a great picture of the person's writing skills.

    Since the MUSH environment requires players to spend most of their time writing/typing, knowing that your players can write well--describing events, actions, their characters--is critical for you to understand.

    For example, is the background littered with major spelling errors? Expect typos during the sessions. Are the skills justified? Did they follow the proper character generation rules? This simple step takes care of a lot of headaches down the road.

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  6. Log, Log, and Log!

    Most MUSH clients allow you to log the screen to a text file on your hard drive. This is a Storyteller's dream come true. You have a complete record of the session. That means if your players went and insulted the Prince or made a couple new contacts, you can go back and flesh them out further and bring them back later in the chronicle.

    House rules that you make up on the fly for odd events (it happens in every chronicle) can be looked at later in the week and tweaked or scrapped. It even allows for quotes to be done on a weekly basis by a player or the Storyteller without that person having to write things down every five minutes and ask, "What was that quote again?".

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  7. OOC and IC

    Most of the services at a MUSH have an Out of Character local channel which can only be heard by those in the "room" (where you're playing your game) and isn't public. Use this for Out of Character comments and questions to the Storyteller or Players.

    The In Character local channel is often distinguished by the lack of "OOC" at the beginning of the line. Most Storytellers don't like a lot of OOC Chatter, but right before a fight, you might say "OOC And the Mortal Kombat Soundtrack starts up" to indicate a fight.

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  8. Save Those Descriptions

    You can often create objects in an online game. You can describe them and keep them for later use. This means you have your Prince or Werewolf Elder's description on you, easily accessible, at all times.

    Now, most places have a limit to the number of objects you can build. A way around this is to create one object called a Description Holder and put multiple object/character descriptions on that. Then you rename one of your other objects when you need it and give it that description. Perfect for contacts and other minor NPCs who don't show up often, but are important.

    On a related note, if you're savvy enough in your descriptions, you can create an online character sheet that lists all your important abilities, attributes, and other items of note. This can be a real time saver and is useful if you find yourself losing your paper or Word copy.

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  9. Combat

    The single biggest pain of online gaming by far is the fight scene. You have to make sure the fight is challenging, but you don't want it to drag on. A twenty minute fight in a tabletop game is likely to last up to an hour or more online, simply because of players and the Storyteller describing the action, rolling online dice, and other factors.

    Speeding up combat is critical online. In general, use less numbers of opponents but make them stronger. Extra Health Levels or Armor can ensure a challenging fight while allowing all PCs a few rounds of combat.

    If you must use a lot of enemies at once, give them less Health Levels so that PCs can cut them down quickly. Also, announce the initiative order at the beginning of combat. If you have a system where you should roll for initiative every round, consider a house rule of only rolling at the beginning of combat.

    Most online gaming services have a dice rolling command, so you should be set there. Make sure your players set it to publicly roll dice so that you see the results of their rolls. It makes it very hard to cheat on dice rolling to boot, another side benefit. ;)

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  10. Even More Description

    When a Storyteller has to describe everything, it slows things down. Encourage your players to describe their attacks for you, be it a fireball, a sword thrust, or a kick to the head. It gives you something to quickly play off of after the enemy dodges or is hit and takes damage.

    Also, let players describe their own dwellings, their cars, and other personal items. It's one less thing you have to worry about. After all, you are logging and can look it up later if you need that information. It's rare that you'll need an exact map of a PC's house anyway. Just knowing that it has two floors and a basement with a front door and a back door into the fenced in yard is plenty for most Storytellers.

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  11. Whispering

    Daniel Howard mentioned this in his list of tips in Issue #135, but it is definitely worth repeating. Whispering, next to logging, is an incredible tool for Storytellers. Using whispers, called pages in a MUSH environment, allows you to split up the party.

    In games like Vampire: the Masquerade, where PCs often have personal agendas, it can allow a lot of development of subplots to occur. Also, you can privately page people to roll various checks and give them the information without other players knowing that something is up (aside that Player X rolled dice).

    When a player has a rules argument or is concerned about something, they can bring it up to you in a page and you can deal with it privately. However, I do suggest that you ask rules questions and disagreements to be delayed until the Storyteller can deal with them easier (the party is discussing something amongst themselves, after the session, or whenever) and that they be done in pages.

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  12. Be Tech Savvy

    When I was organizing my first online chronicle, the technical difficulties were hard to overcome--and I'm majoring in Management Information Systems! Make sure you're familiar with setting up the program, creating an account, and all of the commands you're going to need. Then make sure you're able to walk other people through the same process.

    Again, having your players talk to you via Instant Messenger programs can help you in walking them through the setup. After the first few sessions, technical problems only come up if a computer breaks down or the service you're using shuts down for some reason.

    Another common problem is firewalls. College networks are the biggest culprit here. Many colleges do not allow access to any MUSH, MUD, MOO, etc. This is because many colleges block certain ports from student use for security reasons.

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  13. Players: Watch your Pacing

    If you're gaming with people who take a minute or two to type out their responses, don't type in several character actions separately. It's difficult for other players and the Storyteller to keep up with. Instead, use a longer action to accomplish all three.

    For example:

    Bob grins.
    Bob says "Hello there".
    Bob extends his hand.

    This is frustrating to both other players and the Storyteller. You could easily combine that into one "pose":

    Bob grins, extends his hand, and says "Hello there".

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  14. Players: Be a Writer

    By this I mean writing things out instead of telling the Storyteller what you're doing. Show us, don't Tell us. Take the above example. That's a lot more interesting to read than telling the GM on the OOC (Out of Character) channel, "My character grins, extends his hand, and says 'Hello there'."

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  15. Players: Your Handle Matters

    If your name is "Joe" and your character's name is "Fred", then when you join an online chronicle, try to get the name "Fred". It allows easy character identification and adds to the overall affect. Be advised that "common" names are harder to get, just like on any major message board. If you're playing an online game, you may want to seek out an "odd" name for your character just so you can have that handle. It makes a big difference online!

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Readers' Tips Of The Week:

  1. Popcorn GMing
    From: Yettimann

    I live in a small community where there are only a few RPG players. The particular group I play with is vehemently anti-D&D 3E. All four of us are fine with this, but it severely limits our player options. To make things worse, we only have one person who enjoys being GM (the rest of us enjoy being player characters), and it's usually only possible to get two people together at a time (he's not normally one of them).

    We dealt with this problem for a while, but stumbled on a great new system: popcorn GMing. If you only have two players, each player makes two characters to control. Then each player becomes DM until he gets bored and says "your turn." We usually ended up switching off at major plot points to keep both of us guessing. The system only works if both players are willing to keep themselves from cheating, but it's also a great way to ease a player into becoming GM without putting too much pressure on him/her.

    We usually have five PCs with a two-man game. The GM's characters are only used for battle (otherwise they are used by the other player) and the extra character is always a minotaur fighter who is the pack-horse of skills. He is loaded up with the bare minimum that would be necessary to wander the world and survive (fire building, tent building, etc.) so the PCs can worry about nothing more than extras (orienteering) and whatever their class/kit calls for. The minotaur is usually a non-weapon fighter so he can participate in battles, but they can almost never hinge around him.

    The system isn't perfect, but the plot is often surprisingly smooth, and a game can be finished in five hours with minimal planning (a dungeon here and there, and anything else either GM might have in mind).

    If you're looking to play on the road, then dice are always a problem. Find somebody in a statistics class and have them explain a "random table of digits" to you. You can find one on the internet and they are just as random as dice rolls, but don't require more space than a sheet of paper (or seven if you find a really huge one). They are also great for secret rolls - they don't make any noise.

    [Comment from Johnn: I couldn't find a decent explanation of "random table of digits" online, but this link should give you a rough idea of what Yettimann's tip is about: http://science.ntu.ac.uk/rsscse/pose/level1/book8/sectionb.htm ]



  2. 10 Teacher's Tips That Apply To GMing
    From: Geoff N.

    1. Be prepared, but be prepared to improvise.

    2. Know your audience; their taste and style should determine more about what you do than your own.

    3. Be the boss, but don't be a bully.

    4. Know your stuff, don't be afraid to admit when you don't know, but know enough that you don't have to do that very often.

    5. Learn how to discern when someone is vying for attention, and when they are genuinely distressed. Learn what to ignore and what really needs attention.

    6. Never, never forget that you are there for them. If it weren't for them, you'd be in an empty room by yourself.

    7. Stay balanced. This is not the most important thing in life, even though it will take all that you can give and then some. You can always improve, but you need a life.

    8. Take care of ground rules up front; they can only meet your expectations if they know what they are.

    9. Don't argue with them in front of the group. Chances are, you will lose. Don't force a power struggle if you can compromise or at least use reason. Nothing wrecks the show like a heckler with a bruised ego.

    10. Did I mention, be prepared? A few seconds of dead time can quickly and easily turn into minutes of problems, or more. Also, the better your preparations are, the better your improvisations will be.

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  3. Wear A Mask
    From: Damon B.

    Hello I've been reading Roleplaying Tips for over a year but this is the first time I've decided to write in. In your pokerface article I was thinking about how an inexperienced GM might have trouble with his poker face and, since it is near to Halloween I came up with the idea of wearing a mask to hide your face. There is a wide variety of masks out there and some may even work for certain NPCs or monsters. Or, you could pick an all-around GM mask for everything except for when you want your facial expressions to act out an NPC's actions and reactions. It may take a while to get used to but I think that after a few test runs players and GMs alike could begin to enjoy it.

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  4. Choosing Party Leaders
    From: Shawn M.

    One tip I've seen on choosing leaders is to let the NPCs do it based on the situation.

    In a Shadowrun campaign in which I played a decker, the GM would have the NPCs contact a PC who had the skills and reputation for the job he wanted done, and hire that character to accomplish a task for a certain amount of money. The PC would then hire the rest of us to help him.

    Sometimes they wanted a piece of data, and they hired me; then I'd cooperate with the GM by deciding what the best approach was to infiltrate the target and jack directly into their internal network instead of trying to come in through their ICE from outside. Obviously, I'd need people who could fight and people who could infiltrate silently to get me in.

    Other times, the NPCs wanted an item or a person, and would hire one of the other characters, who would hire me to help by breaking the security systems, ordering the computer to unlock vaults, etc.

    This approach had the advantage that not only did it not matter much if somebody didn't show up to play (the GM could always have an NPC decker hire the other PCs if I couldn't show up), but it clearly established the hired PC as the leader, and therefore allowed him to rotate leadership duties by simply hiring a different character.

    There are pitfalls, of course; if you hire the PC in-game, and he chooses not to pay the others an equal share, the players might be insulted by this. If you hire the PC secretly to avoid this, they might suspect this is going on. In some groups this isn't a problem, in others it is. The best solution to this is cooperative players; however, not every campaign even views it as a problem.

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  5. Another Good Lovecraftian Resource
    From: Dariel R. A. Quiogue

    For Mythos-related stories and non-Mythos fantasies with some really striking imagery, I'd like to recommend the stories of Clark Ashton Smith: http://www.eldritchdark.com/wri/

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