Newbie McGM - Why the hell did we let Dem Taqat name the thread?

- Keep your resources organized. Excel spreadsheets are best. A simplistic IOT doesn't require much to track, but most people won't enjoy them compared to the Multipolarity and other series' going on. My own Era IOT series is about as simple as they can get.

Things have changed a lot since this was posted, especially the way we actually approach running games. Every IOT, at its heart, is defined by the moderation system it uses. The moderation system is how disputes and final rulings are reached in the IOT. For IOTs such as Rebuild of Revolution, the moderation system is heavily determined by complex formulas that take into account numbers spread out over five or six sheets.

However, a game doesn't actually need to have complex formulas. On the other end of the spectrum is a moderation system that favors GM rulings. Instead of the GM merely handing down verdicts after consulting a rulebook he or she him/herself has writtien, the GM...well, consults an unwritten rulebook and hands down a verdict on a case by case basis.

Most games don't actually go for one extreme or the other, nor should they really. A game that is entirely dependent on player-supplied inputs being entered into a machinesheet that pumps out an update output can get wonky when the inputs are unique. Nothing sucks more than telling a player they can't do something because you actually have no good way of modeling something in the sheets. For example, Ailedhoo's attempt in RoR to directly invest (government) funds into a foreign private sector.

On the other hand, going off to the end of ruling completely by GM fiat has its own problems. In theory, anything is "possible" within the defined guidelines laid out by the GM. However, players have a habit of doing things the GM doesn't understand, or can't. When a player is pulling off funky monetary policies and you don't know a lick of monetary policy, your only options are to roll a dice, consult the dreaded Wiki, ask for help, or just go with your gut, and none of these options are without fault, but at least the wiki offers a chance to grow.

So, most games I see these days have a system of underlying, formula/number based rules that just happen to be flexible enough to allow for a wide number of actions. For example, near the beginning of Rebuild of Revolution, Polyblank had a great idea of using leadership points for university support. The word university never comes up in the rules, mind you, but instead of telling him, "No," I found a way and did it and the gameworld is better for it.

Players want to build. They want to feel their actions have weight on the world. They want to be challenged as well. Whether the game be pure Risk or something painfully complex such as ATEN, a game needs to give players the impression that their policies and actions are having an effect.

Even if they don't know how good or bad the effect is, at least.

- Make sure you know how you're going to calculate everything BEFORE you actually start. Many times I've come up with my setting and rules, but left two or three things undecided, figuring I'll get to them later. THIS IS NOT HEALTHY, as eventually you'll be forced to make something up on the spot when a player needs to know.

Yes. Everybody should at least know how they will run combat before a game starts. Do not bother running a game if you don't have the combat system finalized on your end.

- Let players know what they need to know. Don't be all mysterious about how important systems work. If you think they'd need to know it to be effective, let them know.

Emphasis on "need to know".

Imagine if I showed you a game mechanic that says trade has positive and negative effects, but don't actually give you examples. That can be pretty problematic and lead players to playing the game in bizarre ways.

You don't need to tell players "signing a trade agreement with the Dutch increases your production by 2.5%" or anything specific like that. Rulesets have to walk a line between being vague and being specific. Too vague, and nobody knows what to do. Too specific, and players feel trapped, and some players start trying to minmax the system, which makes non-Risk games worse off for everybody.

- If you include random events, make sure that at least two or three different ones hit every turn, and the same power does not get the same event twice running. You might even want to say that a nation cannot get any event two times in a row!

If you're given a choice between 5 really good and interesting events, and 10 meh "baby boom" events, choose the former. If events are actually random, make sure the players who get them are random. However, if events aren't based on RNG anyway and are just being winged on your end based on diplomacy, roleplaying, and just plain opportunity for something interesting, then don't feel bad about giving a player an event every turn.

That is why Cived gets like, a half a trillion events for his country and its dominions every year.

- Advertise it on chat and in the IOT organization and dev threads, but don't go overboard. Many people here will see excessive advertising as a turn-off. Mention it to the people you know, and generally plug it a few times, but don't spam links.

You don't actually have to do this. Anybody going to the Org or Dev thread are probably going to see. If anything, linking your game to the Org and Dev threads without comments is just plain annoying. The org thread is, at least, understandable, though somebody reading that thread would probably want a description. Just posting a link in a dev thread is awful since the thread is for development.

- Play an IOT of the general type you're thinking of hosting before you do. You might get inspiration from there. If that's not possible, try to find an older game - almost everything has been tried, so you can at least see some past attempts.

When in doubt, steal from LH.

- [DO NOT] Tell the players anything they don't need to know. The IOTMAD subseries of the Era games comes with a significant minor detail that is currently unrevealed to the players, and I will tell them nothing until circumstances crop up where it is activated. Some surprises can be good in a game!

Yeah, pretty much. If a player asks you something very specific such as "how much more monies will I get for signing a trade agreement with the Dutch", don't answer it. Just say, "More than you have. Probably."

-[DO NOT] Change rules simply because one player makes a comment about them. I've seen plenty of new GMs do this, and I did too back when I was new. If you're confident in your rules, be confident in them! On the other hand . . .

-[DO NOT] Be afraid to change rules because players point out a real imbalance. Similarly, don't get so attached to your rules that you won't listen when such an imbalance is brought to your attention. It's your job to be a management figure and keep the game flowing in the right direction - you're not infallible, and if you work with your players that makes everyone happy. Conversely . . . .

Rulesets will change. You way of running a game will change. Don't be afraid to adapt, but ask yourself whether an extra mechanic offers more opportunities for your players than work it adds for you. It the theoretically number of actions a player can make increases by 25% because of a new mechanic, but the mechanic adds several more hours to an update interval, it probably isn't worth it.

Also, players are often wrong about what they want. They sometimes get it in their heads that they want something, but they don't actually want it.

- [DO NOT] Allow players to believe your rulings are liquid. Your players MUST know that in the end, you are the GM and your say is final. This isn't usually a problem, and hasn't really been one recently, but if you lay down the law, make it very clear that this is the way it is. If someone logically convinces you that you're wrong, by all means change it - but your Law is your Law as the GM, and whatever the players think of it, joining your game is accepting your authority.

Relevant quote.

Is there any philosophical, historical, valid claim for this? I don't think this rule has much sense unless you explain it ofc

At the end of the day, you're taking your own time to run a game, for free, for a bunch of people you will never meet and half of which you don't even like. Don't be afraid of rejecting a player's suggestion, or even join post, if it goes against the spirit of the game or, in the above case, the stated rules of the game.

- [DO NOT] Assume you know better than the GMs already here. We've been around the block a few(dozen) times, both as players and as GMs. Listen to the advice we give. If you ignore it, don't blame us for giving bad advice - but if you follow our advice and it goes wrong, most definitely do blame us.

All GMs find fault in the rulesets of other GMs.

All the time.


Always will.

We can't help us.

You can listen and attempt improvement.

Just know that we can't help it.

And for the love of all that is Mechish have a decent combat system that will work.

Once again, if your combat system can stand up to your own tests, it won't stand up to players.

I wish to add to this that a random approach is not always necessary, for the original Spirit of Man I adopted a system by which I looked at each side's RP and their respective strengths and then decided the outcome of the battle. I know many IOTers would say that that is a bad method but at the time it was better than the messed up combat system I had. And in some cases can be better representative of the combat.

And for a chunk of players, this is actually entirely acceptable. The amount some of you know about 19th century naval warfare can fit on the end of a pin and leave enough room for a ballroom of angels to dance, however. This is why there usually is a basic number system. However, if you feel competent and confident, feel free to rule by fiat.

5.) If you do a team-based IOT, it must be set up so that deadweight players that don't get in orders, or don't perform well, can have their negative impact on a team lessened. If the game is about resources, and a fourth of one time off the bat doesn't send in orders, it gives the other team a boring and unfair advantage.

Correction: Don't do Team IOTs. One team is always potato.

The trick is to make them (updates) consistent. Whether small constant updates, large updates once a month (and which you block off an entire weekend for), or whatever in between. Make it a part of your lifecycle, and you'd be more likely to succeed.


The longer the time between locks, the longer the period between lock and an update being posted, and the more simple a ruleset, the longer and better players expect the update is. Players need to actually see time investment, and numbers on Excel sheets don't cut it because "those take like, 15 minutes or something!"

You are the GM. You not only crunch the numbers and make the update, you help shape the world. You spawn revolutions and civil wars and technological breakthroughs and baby booms and political coups and electoral victories and a myriad of other potential worldchanging events. You have it in your power to show the players what effect their actions are having in a world not directly touched by the rulesets.

Players want to feel their actions are having meaning. Some players want every action they make to have a positive effect. In that case, there's nothing you can do. Other players are more accepting that they made the wrong move or that the RNG screwed them over. It is just sexier to write a story about it instead of saying "Rolled a 2: 180 factories worldwide just closed".

I have started an in-depth worldbuilding project, which is starting with the migrations of mankind away from where it evolved, and will eventually trace everything from language families and writing systems to religions and nations. I highly encourage people to help out in the current stage; it requires no commitment (no sign-up required, and you can miss as many updates as you want) at the current moment to participate.

Children of Adlivun will run uninterrupted, and still welcomes new players.
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