Storytelling and Evolution In Your MU**
On the first day, the creator came up with a theme.
On the second day, the creator acquired server space.
On the third day, the creator got a competent staff.
On the fourth day, the creator built many attractively described rooms and oversaw the coding of many magnificent toys, gadgets and gizmos.
On the fifth day, the creator issued proclamations to as many outlets as possible about the new endeavor.
On the sixth day, the creator opened the doors to the public, and they came to marvel at the creation.
On the seventh day, however, the creator wondered just how in the heck he could keep these people.
You've built your roleplaying MU**. They've come. Now you want them to stay.
Speaking from my own experience, both as a player and as a MU** adminstrator, a key to keeping people engaged in your game is a sense of storytelling and evolution.
What exactly do I mean? By storytelling, I mean more than just running occasional RP plots - although these *are* a critical part of creating an overall sense of a storytelling atmosphere. So, let's get right to what I really mean.
Let's say you've got a Star Wars-based theme, and you want to be successful and build a reputation as a roleplaying MU**. It helps if, going in, even if you are basing the MU** on the time period just after The Empire Strikes Back, you have some vision for the overall story of your MU** to follow. Just an outline is fine. Some breakdown that says during a certain timeframe, assuming the players don't spark their own spins on the original plan, you're going to have Major Events A, B, C, D, etc. occur. But be ready to spin off in new directions dictated by the actions of the players - that's vital to making them feel like they make a difference.
I'll illustrate how this works with an example from OtherSpace. We follow a series of "story arcs." If you've ever seen Babylon 5, you should be familiar with the concept. Each arc contains a series of major events that culminate with a finale. We're in our seventh story arc, closing in on the eighth, at this writing.
In the original story arc, it started with the discovery of a ship missing for 50 years and climaxed with the revelation that the missing ship - along with many others - had been stolen during the past century by a malevolent Hive Mind for use in its genocidal war against powerful alien adversaries. Along the way, the actions of the players impacted on the direction of the story. It's been that way throughout our history. That brings us to evolution.
Some might argue that change is bad. Some change certainly is. But evolution is critical to avoid stagnation. Don't keep your Star Wars game stuck in the timeframe of Empire Strikes Back. Over time, have it follow its own course - either toward events in Return of the Jedi, or create your own alternate Star Wars history. The story of your game should be like a mountain range for people to climb, with each peak in the epic a place from which they can turn and look and marvel at where they've been, and see how they've shaped it.
If you don't go into your roleplaying game with an overall vision - even a vision with built-in flexibility to shift with the maneuvers of the playerbase - then it is likely to fall by the wayside.
A word of warning: To do this right requires a great deal of foresight and imagination on the part of the chief administrator and/or their staff. But the effort can pay off for both players and staff in the long run.
Brody (Wes Platt) is the creator and chief storyteller at OtherSpace MUSH. He has been MUSHing for about six years (four as a player and two as the top staffer at OtherSpace). Although he is part of the OS staff, Brody continues to stay involved in roleplaying - he can often be found playing a variety of characters from his RP repertoire at OtherSpace. He's also responsible for the OS website (www.otherspace.org), news updates, mailing list, RP log archives, and now the new OtherSpace Originals MU** Library (www.otherspace.org/osorlib.htm). Besides that, he's writing "The Stolen Warriors" serialized novel based on the original OS story arc. Send email to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can visit the MUSH at otherspace.org:1790.