This is always my Step One in designing a game. That is to say this is the first step that actually requires any sort of effort on my part outside of saying, ‘You know what would be fun?’ This step is different from recruiting. A good game, whether at a table with four people or online with a dozen, always needs a good player core.
A good player, as far as my needs are concerned, have the following qualities:
- Social Willingness
Surprisingly, those qualities are ranked from least to most necessary.
Creativity is important for obvious reasons. You need to know that once a player is presented with a situation, they can come up with a response. It doesn’t have to be right, or dramatic. All it does is have to be engaging enough through either description or dialog that the scene will continue. Your basic Intro to Improv without any of that nasty ‘people’ business to deal with.
Flexibility is the reason why posting is better than chat, and why online is better than a the table. A table requires multiple people to schedule time and travel to be around each other. These sessions can’t last more than a few hours assuming you have things like a job or a family or friends. Online takes the travel factor out of that. It even opens up the avenue to meeting new people you might not have before due to distance or crippling social anxieties. It also allows one to play more than one part in a game making it feel fuller. The posting takes the scheduling problems that can still happen in chat. But there is also other areas than simply getting together where flexibility becomes key. On several occasions, I’ve played a game where a scenario was literally stopped by another player going, ‘I don’t like the way your character reacted! Take it back!’ The same has happened because an ending did not turn out quite right. Yes. Grown people will demand take-backsies. Yet, if you state it that way, they will report you to the moderator and no one will play with you. You need people who have the ability to roll with it and not have a panic attack because you were a bad puppet that didn’t play along.
Social willingness might not even be the right phrase. It’s more than manners and sensitivity, though I have horror stories about those as well. Many people with experience with these games will be resistant to meeting new people. Even when put in a game with dozens of people, the extent of their actions will be the same four or five people they talk to all the time. New people are unpredictable. They’re unknown. They might not like cheese! Whatever the reasons, they’re off-limits. A good core player will have a willingness to make them feel welcome and make sure their characters are interacted with. Any good player will take a sincere invitation and play off of the scenario. It’s like being a team player, if a team involved two people who wouldn’t necessarily know each other.
The concept of a player core simply accepts that all things are never even. Not everyone gets the same spotlight and not everyone puts in the same effort. That’s not necessarily a show stopper. A player core includes your most active players. People whose opinions you trust where you can bounce game ideas off of and who you know will make sure any player is properly connected, not because they have to, but because they want to. A player core at a table is everyone, because you all know each other. Online, it can be anywhere from four to six people, depending on who you can manage. I’ve seen many games where not just the player core but the moderators did not hit those three criteria. These are the same people who would think you can insert the latest plot from Supernatural and no one would notice. They force players to show up or horrible things will happen to their characters. They also refuse to point you in the right direction or even read your character’s profile.
A Good Core makes the flow of action possible and easy. They promote fun and entertainment within your group. They make sure people aren’t singled out. Question is… Who do I have for that?