How To Use E-Mail As A Super Campaign Management Gm Tool

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0038

A Brief Word From Johnn

Kenneth Gauck treats us this week with some excellent ways to use e-mail to help your campaign. One of my goals when I GM is to get the most out of the few hours my group has to play each game night. It takes quite a bit of energy sometimes to co-ordinate player schedules, organize a session and prepare for it; so it makes sense to squeeze in every second of play that we have available.

Kenneth’s tips are great because they’ll help us get more gaming done each session by using e-mail to take care of many things that can wisely be done away from the game table–thus leaving more time for gameplay.

I’d like to thank all of you who voted in last week’s poll regarding readers’ tips. The votes are still coming in so I’ll have the final results tabulated and summarized for you next week.

Also, I’m very excited with your great response for props and quirks suggestions. There were so many ideas I had not thought of and I can’t wait to share them with you to help your GMing jobs. I’m busy putting them together, editing and formatting them. I do not foresee finishing this task by next week, but I will update you here when your props & quirks resources are ready.

Thanks again,

Johnn Four
[email protected]

Send Descriptions, Rumours & Tales

Describe things the characters were not witness to. This includes rumours and anecdotes as well as game session notes that some players may have missed.For example, if the players meet Sir Howard in the gaming session, you might add a rumour, that they hear later about him, in an e-mail.

[Johnn: here are other topics for descriptions, rumours & tales, that you can send by e-mail, from Issue #7 – Campaign Newsletters:

  • game world facts
  • NPC profiles
  • legends and lore (story hooks)
  • rumours, gossip and things of note
  • monster lore
  • magic item lore]

Describe Character Research Efforts

Players often end gaming sessions interested in researching new spells, identifying items of treasure, or seeking other kinds of information. You can, at your leisure (as opposed to during valuable game time) devise a well thought-out and well described response.Some HTML-capable mail even allows stationery or exotic fonts to be used. Consider, a player finds a sheet of vellum with archaic script on it during an adventure.

He tucks it away safely and later, when he’s safely away from harm, he asks, “What is it?” By e-mail you describe, or even provide, the document.Perhaps its meaning or use is still unclear. The player replies that he’d like to visit a nearby sage. In a second e-mail you describe the encounter with the sage, briefly formulate the question, and provide the reply.One advantage of doing this by e-mail is that other players, whose fun is not had visiting sages, don’t fall asleep at the gaming table.

A second advantage is that the player who sought out the information controls it himself. This allows him to be the authority he should be. If everyone is present when a text on a magical item is described, everyone now knows this, even if only the wizard actually read the document.

If information is provided by e-mail, only the player himself knows what was said, and he can share (or not share) as he chooses. The player of a wizard or priest (or any learned character) who returns at the next game session telling his comrades, “I have investigated that sheet of vellum I found, and this is what it means …” will more likely be treated like a knowledgeable figure in the game.

[Johnn: wow, there were several excellent tips just in that point alone. GMs: do you have sneaky players in your group? If so, feel free to use the Bcc: (blind carbon copy) field in your player e-mail replies to secretly send successful efforts to the spying PC. Watch the play unfold at the table now as player secrets are surprisingly divulged by others!

Another trick: send the research e-mail to the player but also put in a dummy e-mail address in the CC: (carbon copy) field. The dummy e-mail will harmlessly bounce back to you, but it will drive the player nuts trying to figure out the identity of the other person “in-the-know”.

Also, we have a Reader’s Tip this week about not forgetting the quiet players in your group. However, these one-on-one type of e-mails can really help keep your quiet players interested and feel important in the game.

I game mastered a very quiet player in high school, but he was always happy to sit back and mostly watch during sessions because we would often cover things in phone conversations afterwards. If only I had e-mail then!]

Start A Discussion About the Campaign & Sessions

Sometimes further e-mail discussion of information from recent gaming activity allows the players to give you advance warning about what they want to do next time. This allows you to prepare with a greater degree of certainty.

Send Important PC Paperwork To You Before the Session

Detailed materials such as spell lists, character backgrounds, new spell descriptions and other routine RPG paperwork can be exchanged before game sessions (so some review or discussion can precede the all too precious gaming time) and in a format that is reviewable.Also, no more “oops I lost my spell list”. The player can just reprint the document. This alone has allowed me to really personalize spell lists. And spell components can be looked up and recorded away from the game session where time is, again, in short supply.

E-mail a Campaign Log

E-mail can be a record of events. Frequent use of e-mail can allow players to go back and recall what was going on, even if summaries and calenders are not being used. The more e-mail you use, the more this is so.[Johnn: according to recent player feedback from my Rolemaster campaign, the Campaign Logs I e-mail out to them are useful, helpful and always well-received.Logs can also help clear up possibly disastrous mistakes.

For example, in my Rolemaster campaign I had incorrectly credited an attack on an NPC to the wrong PC. Think of my future embarrassment when I would have taken vengeance out on the wrong character!]

Help Players Make Decisions Away From the Gaming Table

Here’s a trick I once pulled using e-mail. A character who had a leadership role in a part of my campaign world was looking for a new commander of his military. I prepared two letters apiece for four candidates. The first letter was glowingly positive, the second one was biased in the opposite direction. Reading these letters, going over them, and deciding on which man to select was best handled away from the gaming table.

[Johnn: that’s a great trick for another reason too. Think about the anguish caused to the player who had to puzzle over and decide against conflicting information. Excellent idea Kenneth!]

Deliver Additional NPC Information
Without Causing Unimportant Sidetracks

E-mail is also a handy way to deliver additional NPC information to your players. For example, a pre-game e-mail sent out a couple of days earlier in which a henchman gets into a bar fight might demonstrate what pushes this NPC’s buttons without having the PC’s either bail out the henchman or discover the hard way he is sensitive about this or that.Once, before an expert NPC gave the information sought by PC’s, I sent out an e-mail in which the sage got into a controversial debate with the local high priest.

Especially long speeches, conversations where the PC’s don’t take part, or anything that would take up more time at the gaming table than it might be worth, are all good candidates for an e-mail in between game sessions.

Hand Out Experience Points Privately

I also recommend handing out experience points through e- mail, since you have a moment to calculate the points after the adventure, and no one has a good idea of what everyone else got.

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From Kenneth Gauck

Thanks Kenneth for the excellent topic idea, tips and examples.

Making your game efficient, such as by using e-mail strategically, is very important to me because life creates a lot of time pressures on you as GMs, and your roleplaying hobby often suffers for it.

I have a couple more campaign e-mail tips but not enough for a whole issue. If you have some ideas about using e-mail to help your game away from the table please send it on in and I’ll make a second issue out of them for everyone to benefit from. Thanks.

Send your “using e-mail” tips to [email protected].

Have more fun at every game!

Johnn Four
[email protected]

Tips From Roleplaying Tips Game Masters

Have a roleplaying tip you’d like to share? E-mail it to [email protected] – thanks!

Handling Vocal Players

From Peter Whitley

Don’t leave quieter players out in the cold. More vocal players will sometimes dominate the decision-making and information-gathering process in the excitement of an interesting situation. Give all your players a chance by being attentive to this situation and taking measures to subtley balance communication.

For example, when one of the players in my group becomes excited he tends to interrupt and yell out his actions or questions. I don’t want to diffuse the level of interest but I want to give everyone the attention they deserve. Having gamed with the same group for several years, I now make it a habit of having everyone roll initiative at the beginning of each session. Then, it is quietly referred to whenever several people want to do or ask something at the same time.

Through body language I’ll firmly address the person with the higher initiative, resolve his or her questions and comments directly, then move down the list. The easily agitated player understands this process and it works out beautifully.