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GM Resources, Procedures, and Guidelines (GMs Please Read)

PostPosted: 21 Jun 2011, 02:36
by AlphaTangoEcho
Last Updated: August 12, 2014

Greetings current and prospective GMs,

Below are some things to consider when GMing a game of Mafia. These come from our personal experiences GMing games, as well as the experiences of others.

- Get some PlayDip experience. If you have never played a game here, consider playing in a game or two before attempting to host a game here, so you can learn how games are run on this site. Even if you have played mafia on other sites and in real life, by playing a game you establish connections with other players; the same players you are likely going to want to join your game.

- Consider having your game peer reviewed. Before posting your game in the "Pending Games" subforum, consider having your game looked over by a moderator or another experienced GM who will not be playing in your game. When you post your game in the “In Development” subforum, some players may provide some feedback, however, they will not be able to see any hidden mechanics of your game. A second, experienced eye can help spot problems with the secret aspects of your game, such as balance issues or possible paradoxes.

- Ideas are welcome here. If you have an idea for a game, but you can't GM it or you don't know how, post the idea anyways. Someone else may think your idea is good, and will help you develop the game, GM the game or offer to run it themselves. Please post these ideas in the “In Development” subforum.

- Post a complete set of rules. Don't neglect to write rules because you think they are obvious. Don’t make the rules an afterthought. A player doing something illegal that he thought was legal because of incomplete rules can ruin a game. Mafia games here vary widely, so be wary of assuming "standard" rules. People like to understand the game they are signing up for. It's nice to have an idea of where you are going or the general idea, it's better to have a well defined set of rules. Games with a well-defined set of rules are more likely to fill quickly.

- Consider carefully how many hidden mechanics you include. If it is your first time GMing, a common mistake is to include a host of mystery mechanics. Mystery mechanics are fun, add interest, and can be balanced. However, in the end a lot of people underestimate how much of an advantage they are for the mafia. Pro-town roles are easy to over-estimate the value of to the town. In a low information game where the roles in play are a mystery, they can even hinder the town indirectly at a certain point.

- Consider requiring players to enable the "Hide online status" setting. This setting can be found under "Board Preferences" tab in the User Control Panel. It is a simple measure that can potentially prevent unwanted and unnecessary out of game factors from affecting the course of the game.

- Speak carefully within your game. Little cast aside comments, even if you are trying to be misleading to punish people that attempt to infer something from them, are often unacceptably game relevant. It's hard not to reply to some of the things players will say when they speculate, but in the end it is usually best not to. Only comment on what needs commenting on. Avoid remarking on other player's motivations or possible motivations when speaking to another player in the game. Players say all kinds of things, you don't need to reassure them that you randomly selected their role or other such comments...particularly in public! Just let them play. Sometimes you can't even adequately answer a concern without answering using privileged information. I (Crunkus) often find myself in a position where I can't answer the "why" to a ruling adequately within a game without revealing relevant information. Sometimes I notice where I didn't think it would matter, it ends up being relevant. In the end, players have to save certain concerns for the AAR, where you can adequately explain your actions without other concerns entering in. It can be frustrating, particularly when the player is displeased. You don't need to be rude about it, but sometimes just suggesting that you aren't in a position to adequately explain the entire reasoning until the AAR behind a decision in a fair handed way is enough.

- The GM has discretion over the game roster... during a game in progress as well. One of the toughest things to handle in game is a player who is not totally inactive, but their participation is still not at what the GM would consider an acceptable level. Inactivity and players who are not keeping up with the reading involved in the game often have a profound impact on the game. While there are some base levels that have become norms here, the general rule of thumb is substantive participation at least once every 24 hours of day time. As is the policy on most things concerning the games themselves on this site, the discretion of the GM is what goes. As the GM, your responsibility is to ALL the players in the game and not just the player with questionable activity and you can replace a player for any reason you see fit. But that being said, one of the key tools you have as a GM regarding inactive players is communication. If you feel that a player is not participating at an acceptable level, a quick PM to the player in question asking if everything is alright and offering a substitute if everything isn't often works wonders. If you do decide to replace a player, remember to notify that player via private message and instruct them to refrain from participating in the game further. It is further advised to keep such communications as positive as possible.

- Don't put your thumb on the scales. Let the game play out. Every game I notice things that I think are sub-optimal about my rules, but I am loathe to change rules midstream. Clarify, absolutely. Make specific what wasn't specific to begin with. But functionally change how the game works in midstream to attempt to compensate for a lack of can ruin the game more than it helps it. It happens to one degree or another, but a game without constant rules is in many ways more of a role playing exercise than anything. Don't attempt to compensate for how things are going in the game...let it play out. If it turns out you didn't balance things great, chalk it up to experience. It happens to everyone. Let the game just develop on its own terms. For every little alteration I make in my complex games like Survivor midstream there are many, many more that I would love to make midstream but do not. Some stuff you just have to remember for next time.

- Be careful with win conditions. Complicated win conditions can work, they can also be problematic to effectively enforce at times, and they can easily unbalance a game. Just consider them carefully and try to give all players a win condition in which their play is a primary contributing factor to its success.

- "Gag orders" can be a losing game. Consider carefully rules that involve "not talking about" certain subjects, apart from revealing the role PM. It is always better to build the game such that such a reveal tactic would not be advantageous or eliminating the possibility altogether, thus removing the incentive or ability for the reveal instead of attempting to legislate behaviour. It's a less clumsy and more effective solution if you want to rid your game of a certain tactic.

- Roster Management As GM you have the right to a final judgment about whether an interested player is accepted into the game, even in open game environments. We suggest keeping a very open policy for most open (non-invitational) games, but you have the ultimate right to decide that excluding a player for the right reasons, which may include past history, may be ultimately more respectful for the other players in the game. Be respectful and contact the player privately if possible. While the definition of insanity may be doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, you may decide that another chance is in order.

- Always be encouraging to new players. Open games should generally accept and encourage new players. Heck, most invitationals should attempt to cultivate new players by privately inviting players who may have not yet played mafia but who seem like well rounded game players (not difficult to find in these parts). People love playing with fresh blood, and fresh blood is good in general for the health of the Playdip mafia community. As nice as a stacked roster can be, in the end, mafia often works best with a bit of a mix of player types and experience levels.

- Reserves are very important. Just because your game is filled doesn't mean you still shouldn't reach out to players to see if they will be a "reserve" in your game. This means that if called upon, they can jump into the game as a substitute. As players can drop out of games with little to no notice, a good reserve is always helpful to keep your game running smoothly. It is also helpful to have people to agree to reserve before your game stars, so they can possibly keep up with the thread, as opposed to having to read hundreds of posts quickly if called upon to enter the game.

- Start your game at the right time. When you create a game, you obviously can't wait for it to get started. However, mafia takes a lot of time and commitment for the players, and it is hard to maintain quality play in one game, let alone multiple games. Take into account what games your players are playing in before you decide to start your game. If you decide to start a game at the end of another game, keep tabs on the game so you can get your game going within a couple days of the other game ending.

- Send out role PMs all at once, and as late as possible. As opposed to sending a role PMs piecemeal, or sending them out after you are done with a particular group, send out all the Role PMs at once, as close to the beginning of the game as possible. This allows you extra time to find typos and mistakes, clean up unclear wordings, and possibly even some last minute tweaking of the game mechanic. Also, by sending the Role PMs all at once as late as possible, you can be much more flexible with players having to drop out, etc. Sending out Role PMs officially starts your game, be sure you are 100% ready before sending them out.

- Before you start, have players confirm participation. It is very much possible for a few weeks to pass before a game is ready to begin. By requiring players to confirm participation as late as possible, right as you are ready to start, either by responding to a PM, or by replying to a post on the game thread/signup thread, you can expose these players that have disappeared, and make the necessary adjustments before the game has started. It also gives players one last chance to make sure they have enough time over the next few weeks for the game, and one last chance for the them to pull out before the game starts, and making the necessary adjustments much easier. Although you are likely very excited to get you game started, and a confirmation phase may seem like an unnecessary waste of time, the confirmations phase is absolutely crucial for helping to have best quality game possible.

- Consider a Game Map. The first post to your game thread should be an informational jumping point for your players. You should add links to the rules, sign-up thread, and eventually the AAR at the very least. It is also useful to the players to link to the start of individual phases or even official vote tally waypoints. Game threads can be hard to navigate sometimes, especially for your reserves. Noting important game information like deadlines/current phase and a link to the current day can be helpful for your players.

- Use PMs to keep your players updated. When day phases start, consider PMing all active players so that they know to start paying attention to the game again. Other times to possibly use PMs are to remind players to submit Night Orders at the end of the day phase and to insure players see a post you made in the game thread concerning a rule clarification, substitution, or ruling is seen by active players.

- Game Numbering Protocol Games receive Roman Numerals based upon when they officially begin. Before this time, list your game as Mafia (?) and assign it the appropriate numeral at start time. Sometimes it can be unpredictable which game is going to start first. If you have a special reason for securing a numeral, consult all GM's with games in development as a courtesy. In fact, that's always a good idea anyway. Consider listing the fraction of filled positions in the title of your sign-up thread. Both AAR and Game Threads should have the appropriate game number displayed in their subject.

- GM Final Responsibilities
  • Create an AAR Thread and link it to the main thread.
  • Use this form to end-of-game information. This information will be used to updated the Playdip Mafia History.
  • You may want to ask them to lock the game thread up when you are finished with it. As well, you are expected to create an AAR thread in the appropriate place, the AAR subforum, or create a link in the AAR subforum to the end of your thread. If your game has not been moved to the Archive within a few days, please PM the mods to give them a heads up.

If you have any questions about GMing, please do not hesitate to PM one of the mafia moderators. We will be happy to answer your questions.

THANK YOU for your efforts to add to the richness of the play experiences available to the Playdip mafia community. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

-Good Luck,
AlphaTangoEcho, bkbkbk, Connect4, Crunkus, and vindictus
--the moderators here

If you have any comments, or things to add to this, post below.

Re: Tips/Ettiquette for GMing a Mafia Game

PostPosted: 21 Jun 2011, 02:41
by AlphaTangoEcho
This is a post that Ugluk had on the other thread.

Ugluk wrote:It is disturbingly natural for someone to dream up their own flavor scenario while still playing their first game. Many people want to host a game immediately. You can see it in how many games are out there now, and if you find other Mafia sites, you may find more games in the queue than there will be players for them for months.

Having played many games and hosted nearly as many, you may find these tips useful:

1. Less is more. Don't try to recruit 20+ people for your game. Each new player reduces the value of each other player. Each player also grows the post count, making the game take more effort to play, which ultimately reduces the quality, as people burn out faster.
2. Keep it relatively simple. Mafia is a game of psychology, not Team Death Match.
3. Confusion favors the bad guys. If there are too many mechanics, players give up. Too many players to observe, same thing.

Re: Tips/Ettiquette for GMing a Mafia Game

PostPosted: 21 Jun 2011, 02:49
by AlphaTangoEcho
Added a section about "The GM controls the Game Roster," Crunkus will explain when he has time.

Re: Tips/Ettiquette for GMing a Mafia Game

PostPosted: 21 Jun 2011, 03:36
by AlphaTangoEcho
Added a section about Sending out role pms, and requiring confirmations.

Re: Tips/Ettiquette for GMing a Mafia Game

PostPosted: 21 Jun 2011, 03:43
by Firestorm94
I think separating player and GM tips was a good idea. Good move. I remember seeing that post by Ugluk before. I agree with all of it, especially #2.

Re: Tips/Ettiquette for GMing a Mafia Game (GMs Please Read)

PostPosted: 05 Jul 2012, 03:49
by AlphaTangoEcho
The post had numerous edits to bring it up to date with current procedures.