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Rook

Suggestions for retaining players and to endgender political RP

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So, I have been thinking about a few things about the game, so I would like to begin some discusstion about a couple of issues: player retention and politics on the game.

Of course, as we all know, we get any number of new players to BoD that make characters and attempt to dive in. Most seem to stick around a few days and then disppear. Some of them seem very excited to play, they are fantastic with their poses, etc., but disappear in a few days. An example I can point to is our most recent Melene Tully. She and I spoke a good deal OOCly trying to get her up to speed on the Tullys, on politics in KL, and so on. The player seemed very excited that there was so much going on in our group (and the Riverlander characters in general) and had told me that they were feeling good about jumping into RP. But then the next day the character is an NPC again. The same happened with Darmen Tully as well. Of course, we can't know what RL issues a player will have that will cause them to suddenly abandon a character. So, for my purposes I will assume that Melene's case is an outlier and try to suggest a scheme to address the loss of more casual players and the lack of politics in KL.

I think the answer for both issues is the same: faction leaders. Now, in this case I do not mean players who have the ability to make OOC decisions for their groups. Obviously with the canon sensbilities that will not work. What I am suggesting is a number of characters that are at court to push an IC agenda for their region and also have a mandate to OOCly organize minor things for their region.

The latter is likely the thing that needs the most explanation: what I mean is that these characters should be the first person to contact new players in their regions once they come out of CG to help them get acclimated. I realize we already have a group of Greeters and newbiehelpers, and of course the staff does a great job of steering players through the CG process. Those people are already doing a great job and I'm not suggesting they be replaced. No, I mean things like recognizing that such-and-such Tully needs to be linked to the Tully manse and so writes a +job for the new player. They could look at a new character's public data (events, relations, etc.) and write a +job or whatever to the RP staff suggesting how such-and-such new character could be fit into current events in KL. Yes, the RP staff does this already, but they are busy and possibly don't have time to pore through every new character's data and include them in a plot on the fly. I also think that these same 'faction leaders' ought to meet with each new character ICly to discuss what they mean to do at court, what their interests are ICly, if they mean to assist their region's political interests, and so on.

So, that sounds like a lot of work. How do we know that the players of these characters will do all this? Well, obviously (to me) these characters will have to be specially chosen (the characters that ought to be doing this 'faction leader' role tend to be higher Tier anyway, so their apps are already more involved than an Open PC), by application or staff appointment and have strict activity requirements. If the player is not up to the task (because of RL or just lack of interest) then the character ought to be reopened for application (or reappointment). It seems likely that these would have to be extra characters for their players as well so they don't have to repply for a different character if their 'faction leader' character is taken away.

So, I think these 'faction leader' characters would also be useful as ways to push politics in King's Landing just by their very presence and activity at court. After all, the players of these characters would have a mandate under this scheme to push their region's agendas and organize the PCs in their sphere to assist with that.

As things stand now, I would suggest the following characters:

Arion Baratheon

Melene Tully

Ardon Tyrell (though Reyna is well-placed at court and would be a good replacement if Ardon is not likely to be around often)

Lady Arryn

Jonn Lannister

The Starks and the Greyjoys are likely too far away for anyone to care much what their agendas are (and we have few PCs from their regons), but Katla Serry or Urron Greyjoy could speak for the Ironborn if need be.

What is wrong with the way things are done now? Well, nothing is done now. Every single new player asks the same question when they come out of CG: 'how do I find RP?' They always get the same answer 'ask on channel'. If they're lucky, someone will start a scene, but that's not a sure thing. Even if they do find a scene, they're not assured a second scene anytime soon, or a third. Worse, as a new player they're still trying to understand where their character fits in, how RP works on the game, IC and OOC etiquette, and so on. If there was someone who was expected to give them a good first scene (even if it is one-on-one), new players might feel more comfortable and thus stick around. They also would feel involved immediately if they have an important PC asking them about themselves, how they want to help the Reach/Westerlands/etc. at court. As it stands now, knights want to fight but that's not allowed and the culture in KL is not conducive to ladies wandering about talking to strange men in odd corners of the Keep.

Note that I am not angling for any of these characters. These characters should be played by reliable people that the staff is sure knows the theme well-enough to direct politics in a thematic and canon-friendly way. Obviously these characters' actions are still subject to +jobs for approval just as today. I'm not suggesting that any of these characters or players have any more power ICly or OOCly than they have today. I am suggesting that there should be characters intended to initiate and further day-to-day RP while the RP staff concentrates on the big picture. Dei and Reyna and Damphair shouldn't be expected to develop plots AND be relied upon to constantly create scenes just to give people RP. They are certainly capable of doing so, but it just seems like too much work piled upon them.

Shouldn't the player base just take on more responsibility to make scenes for one another? Of course, but if there are characters with an expectation of activity and a mandate to create RP, it is more likely to happen on a regular basis.

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I definitely like this idea. It would be good to have some go to players to help the staff generate RP and get the IC politics going. I’ve been doing something similar with the Brothers of Battle and two days in, I’d say it’s definitely got the players energized. So something like what Rook described on a regional level would be great. Also, it’d be nice to see people using the forum a bit to discuss plots and connections, like the old Riverland and Westerland connection threads, to help sort out where people stand in relation to each other when they enter the game.

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Thank you for the suggestion, but I am afraid that faction leaders are not compatible with how we feel comfortable running the game.

While we agree that getting new players involved quickly is one of the keys to retention, I am afraid that we only have poor experiences personally with factions and faction leaders and this is the main reason that they do not exist on the game. We had initial discussions when we started up the game about using that approach, for example using the heads of the great houses, and we decided against it for a number of reasons.

The chief reason is that faction leaders only work if the faction leaders are extremely active and devoted. Otherwise they become a worse bottleneck than staff could ever be because they will not have access to +jobs or being able to share their duties more easily. We don't want to end up constantly having to toss players out of these roles because the OOC duties become too overwhelming.

We also do not in any way want a link between IC authority and OOC authority. That is why staff have separate staff characters rather than staff bits on their roleplay characters. With this kind of system, players would invariable assume that faction leaders have more authority. Furthermore, it is likely to create more work for staff since faction leaders would still need to pass all of their plotting through to staff for approval even while it may be assumed from other players that they have the mandate to just go ahead with regional plots.

In a sense, faction leaders would be players we'd have to be as certain about as we are about staff so our preference would simply be to have more staff, something which we have started on by taking on two new staff members. That way staff can be used to NPC characters such as house heads (which very rarely end up in play) or even work more directly with house heads that end up being in play.

We have discussed, but not had the time to implement, CGing more key court characters and having staff -- and occasionally some players -- use them for various scenes. I believe we did discuss at some meeting having a group of player helpers that have access to certain NPCs in order to setup scenes with new players and that is something we do hope to pursue. It is absolutely correct that new players can feel very ... adrift initially, unsure about their place in the game.

I think that organisations such as the jousting societies and the Veiled Ladies may be better avenues to pursue for creating IC groupings that can serve to give new players a sense of connection. That way, there's less risk of it being confused with regional leaderships. So I think discussing other approaches to grouping players than regional groupings may be worthwhile. Alternatively, maybe regional groupings that don't rely on a single leader could work -- we could discuss adding regional channels, for example.

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I should add that we definitely welcome more discussion of this particular topic and solutions to offering IC (or even more OOC, such as channels) groups for new players to fit into that do not involve creating staff-like positions for non-staff.

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I would agree that regional groups are not the way to go, not just for the reasons given, but also because not all the houses are quite fond of the leading house, as well as internal politics.

I don't know much about the jousting societies, but the huge upside to more informal groups is that they are more personal in nature, allowing people the option to "choose" to be involved. On the theme of jousting, I would suggest more "brass rings" or targets people can work towards. Politics is about who gets what, when, where, how, and why. From what I have seen there is not much to be had at this point in time. While there is relative peace in Dorne, no reason to have hawks and doves, no major rebellions, etc.

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Also It may be a good idea to maybe have teh admins or staff "cause" drama by using NPC's of house A to aggravate House B, with houses A and B being relatively major players, as determined by the admins/staff. This would also break up the peace a bit and encourage factions. The presented situation would provide faction A, faction B, and possibly the unaligned, the more important the two houses are the smaller the third group would be.

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Also It may be a good idea to maybe have teh admins or staff "cause" drama by using NPC's of house A to aggravate House B, with houses A and B being relatively major players, as determined by the admins/staff. This would also break up the peace a bit and encourage factions. The presented situation would provide faction A, faction B, and possibly the unaligned, the more important the two houses are the smaller the third group would be.

We try to do this: sometimes it works better than others. There are often political things staff try to drop clues on, but it's not always that people pick up on them! :)

-Missandei

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