Do we need staff?


  • Admin

    @ganymede said in San Francisco.:

    Staff are players, and players can be staff. If you are entrusting staff with power, why not entrust players with the same?

    Well, you heard the lawbot.

    For the sake of this thread let's give up on trying to define what a "MUD" or a "MUSH" or whatever is and drill down to the essential question; can a roleplaying game be designed with little or even no staff necessary to run it?

    I don't want to limit the thread too much by explaining how this is to be done - if it's via advanced automation, if the answer is 'code' or 'people' or 'systems', etc - but I'm curious to see what you all think.

    And even if some parts of traditional staff powers do need to be in place (perhaps booting bad players out?) you can also mention that. But let's try to think outside the box here.

    One final request: Let's not romanticize the past. Yes, I'm sure we've all been in that special, unique moment in time where that one game achieved nirvana and barely needed staff at all. That's great - but how can that feat be replicated? How can we make it happen again? What lessons, mechanics, in-game functions can we reuse with a different crowd of people but expect similar results?


  • Pitcrew

    Haven RPG has a design philosophy to remove human arbitration from policy. It is a toxic cesspit but it does operate with almost no staff oversight from a rules/enforcement standpoint and only 1 story runner.


  • Pitcrew

    I like staff mostly because it gives me the illusion on a non-invite-only game that there's a chance that someone is trying to do a theme and may even have some idea of where to direct an overarching story to give some flavor to that theme regardless of participation in the game plot.

    Games where there are not people in place to provide guidance of some sort, regardless of whether they have staff in name/neglect only or if its automated tend to devolve into a shitshow of fucking and killing or OOC drama over the two. Which is great if that's your bag, but it's not mine.


  • Politics

    @arkandel said in Do we need staff?:

    For the sake of this thread let's give up on trying to define what a "MUD" or a "MUSH" or whatever is and drill down to the essential question; can a roleplaying game be designed with little or even no staff necessary to run it?

    Yes. BSG: Unification is a good example of this. Faraday ran the game herself, pretty much. Players ran a lot of the little military missions; all Faraday had to do (other than what she did do, which was above and beyond) was to simply tell the player base where they were and what sort of missions would be appropriate.

    I loved Fifth Kingdom. There was little need for staff interference or intervention, but the plots that were run were enjoyable. Even when the plots petered out, many of us still came on to have good fun with one another. The tools were all there; we were only limited by our desires.


  • Admin

    @ganymede How was @mietze's concern about thematic cohesion addressed by those games?

    For example what (if anything) prevented me from doing completely irrelevant things, going after other players just to be a dick, cause OOC drama or any of the other issues staff typically take care of in 'traditional' MU*?


  • Pitcrew

    I have played on end-of-run neglected games and had fun, but usually that's because they were small, there was no hope of xp or PC advancement (no support) so they ended up being more collaborative with PvE storytelling for existing stats. That only holds people in a certain mood (that I can dig more often than not), and tends to not have as big of an audience that the ooc drama whores need/want (or they've driven everyone else off, and you can deduce that quickly and nope out).


  • Pitcrew

    Answer:

    Depends on the type of game. Wholly, 100%. Some games are a hard yes, some are more wishy-washy, some are a 'nope, probably not'. One size does not fit all.


  • Coder

    @arkandel said in Do we need staff?:

    Can a roleplaying game be designed with little or even no staff necessary to run it?

    Demonstrably so. I've been doing it for years.

    @arkandel said in Do we need staff?:

    For example what (if anything) prevented me from doing completely irrelevant things, going after other players just to be a dick, cause OOC drama or any of the other issues staff typically take care of in 'traditional' MU*?

    This is why I think having a minimal staff is prudent. Players inevitably disagree or do dumb things (even good players sometimes) and somebody needs to keep the ship on course.

    But there are ways around even that if you're bound and determined:

    • Various games have explored having no apps at all, or community-approved apps, eliminating the need for an apps staff.
    • Full-consent games put more onus on the players to work out their issues, so they generally require little-to-no staff oversight.
    • MUDs/RPIs let the code do most/all of the arbitration, so you don't need as many humans to sort out the messes.

    Each of these has pros/cons, of course. But the point is - it can be done.



  • Minimal /staff/ with automated solutions would allow for a game that runs even when real life kicks the staff in the ass.

    Allowing PCs to spend XP, gain XP, and to automate tasks that don't REALLY need someone to manually process means players don't have to wait for manual review/setting by a person and means staff doesn't have to do /busy work/.

    That means staff can then play, or manage the game/plot and focus on problem resolution and code updates. Just like in business you want to minimize handoffs, burn out, and bad actors.

    In RP games if we could add in a system that allows for an ST to view sheets, run bots/npcs, set rooms/whatever, etc and /sessions/ with players that give consent or something like that to join a session we have less need for staff bits being required for large plots.

    For me I think an ideal game would be set up to let staff focus on keeping the game running (code, adding new features, etc.), focus on plot/story/meta for the game and running as law but only where needed.

    Players have more control/input/whatever.


  • Politics

    @arkandel said in Do we need staff?:

    How was @mietze's concern about thematic cohesion addressed by those games?

    It was addressed by players, mostly. When you have a group of players who understand the game's theme and setting well, they will generally steer the game towards what staff want to see.

    I can honestly say that theme-drift wasn't much of a problem on BSG:U or Fifth Kingdom. That doesn't mean there weren't scenes of silliness, though. On BSG:U, Auspice and I had our PCs RP through a session of Lasers and Feelings. On Fifth Kingdom, there was a memorable scene where my very masculine PC had to wrestle a pig down, but ended up getting gored in the testicles.

    I would wager that BSG:U's theme was so tight that Faraday could open it back up again tomorrow, and we could probably get the old band back together to go and fight some Cylons. She could step back, and whoever had the time to run a fight scene could, really. Part of the beauty of her code is that you really don't need staff for anything, and yet you can easily punch through a massive war scene -- 20+ actors -- in a couple of hours.

    So, do you need staff? Yes. Do you need a huge staff? No. What's the difference? Automation, good coding, and a tight, easily-understood theme.


  • Coder

    @thatonedude said in Do we need staff?:

    Allowing PCs to spend XP, gain XP, and to automate tasks that don't REALLY need someone to manually process means players don't have to wait for manual review/setting by a person and means staff doesn't have to do /busy work/.

    I think that's something a lot of folks don't get about FS3 -- The system is designed to enable games with a solo staffer. Most apps take 5-10 minutes (depending mostly on how long their background is). XP spending is automated. Combats can be run by anyone without the "but wait, how does this power work?" stuff. Sheets are public to enable PC storytellers and there are commands to roll for other people and whatnot. It's not a perfect system by any stretch, but it's really good at letting staff be hands-off about apps/skills/combat.

    @ganymede said in Do we need staff?:

    ...and a tight, easily-understood theme.

    This helps a ton too. "Here's a city - go wild!" opens up a lot more potential for player craziness than "You're all pilots fighting Cylons on a space carrier and here are the kinds of missions that you're doing right now." TGG was the same way with a laser-focused theme and tight-knit group of characters. There are tradeoffs to this in terms of pigeonholing players, so it's not for every game. But it does make it a lot easier to keep things from going off the rails.



  • I would say there is several factors that decide the size of a Staff roster on a game.

    1. system, as faraday has pointed, some systems like FS3, are intentionally designed or simple enough (Akin to say FATE Core) that the need for a Staffer that is qualified as knowledgeable enough to settle misunderstandings or disagreements is minimal.
    2. The size of the player base. This is a bit more minimal on the size f the Staff roster I believe, but does play a role in figuring out if Staff is needed.
    3. Theme, as faraday and Gany have said, the tighter and more secure a theme is for a game, the easier it becomes for Staff to let players take things into their own hands. canon based games tend to be the easiest as the forumla for the theme is presented in the media of that canon, be it books or shows, so folks kinda know what they are getting into and working towards. Systems like wod have so many aspects of theme that can have multiple levels that without Staff guidance or say so can be thrown out of whack between groups of players. One group might have a heavy gory sort of horror theme for their playsessions, another group might focus more on the psychological horror aspects, and then if/when these two groups mingle it may cause misunderstandings between players so having Staff available to kinda help mediate and place players together for the appropriate tick boxes of the types of theme that are available and run by this group helps mitigate that.

    I am biased on the idea that Staff should not just be there to facilitate +job stuff, I think Staff on a game in some way should be responsible for the theme and story telling that takes place on that platform. Also sometimes code breaks (which is a problem of many older MUDs these days that have no active Staff anymore, the systems begin to break down and no one has access to restore functionality or at least reboot the core systems or disable ones that are obviously broken and further breaking the game).

    No one in the scene feels comfortable making the rules ruling (I have seen this a few times) without some higher authority helping out even if just for a clarification rather than a hard ruling.


  • Coder

    @arkandel said in Do we need staff?:

    One final request: Let's not romanticize the past. Yes, I'm sure we've all been in that special, unique moment in time where that one game achieved nirvana and barely needed staff at all. That's great - but how can that feat be replicated? How can we make it happen again? What lessons, mechanics, in-game functions can we reuse with a different crowd of people but expect similar results?

    This seems to be the actual question of the post.

    You will need:

    • The creators and players to agree on setting and theme
    • The creators and players to want it to succeed
    • The players to accept the creator's ideas of success
    • (if the creator's idea of success it to let players define their own success, this counts)
    • The creators to enable the players who are helping their idea of success
    • The players to enable the creators to engage with them more

    Most of this has already been said by @Ganymede , as she and I have been going over this on these boards for over a decade now we are almost in confluence about these questions.

    You can't easily create a good player base. You can try. There are things that you can do in order to get one, mainly:

    • Build passion in the project

    And that's how you do it. Simple.



  • @arkandel said in Do we need staff?:

    Well, you heard the lawbot.

    For the sake of this thread let's give up on trying to define what a "MUD" or a "MUSH" or whatever is and drill down to the essential question; can a roleplaying game be designed with little or even no staff necessary to run it?

    I don't want to limit the thread too much by explaining how this is to be done - if it's via advanced automation, if the answer is 'code' or 'people' or 'systems', etc - but I'm curious to see what you all think.

    I think it might be the wrong question, since a lot of games do it, and I tend to agree with @Sunny in her post about it depends on the game. I think a better question is, "With many tools for automation available, what are the reasons people would choose to not do it, and have staff instead?" Because I think that gets to more interesting points, where you see different philosophical differences in who has control and where.

    Like my personal take would be that I only feel staff is necessary in a couple of cases:

    If you want to have an overarching, cohesive story that ties all the players together, and you don't want full narrative control completely disseminated in a way that makes it less coherent and introduces constant contradictions.

    Or if you feel code, while plentiful, is a limiting factor that can't full cover the full range of creative player responses, and you want the flexibility of an arbiter accounting for new situations on the fly that don't neatly fit scopes of rule sets, that might be too fast to be fairly handled in a crowdsourced way. This fits the point by @mietze I think.

    My personal preference is a game that could run pretty comfortably with virtually no staff and players would still have plenty to do, but then staff can help bring the game to life and move the story forward.


  • Pitcrew

    My opinion is that you can run a game with minimal staff (1-2 Staffers) so long as it's under about 40 regular players. I think that a game without staff/GM works just fine around a tabletop with the right group of people, and could work on a closed-invite online game as well (there are even systems designed this way), but for an open-invite game, it's just asking for bad actors to come in and effectively take over.

    I do think that system is very, very important if you want to have minimal staff, and I think that the importance there is simple Chargen where questions should be minimal, sheets should not be complex, and combat should be either automated or so frickin' simple that anyone can run it after trying it once (I don't know... flipping a coin to decide who wins, maybe).


  • Coder

    @seraphim73 said in Do we need staff?:

    I do think that system is very, very important if you want to have minimal staff, and I think that the importance there is simple Chargen where questions should be minimal, sheets should not be complex, and combat should be either automated or so frickin' simple that anyone can run it after trying it once (I don't know... flipping a coin to decide who wins, maybe).

    ... and maybe more than 1-2 staff so when the 1-2 staff have family emergencies, RL emergencies, RL important circumstances, or heaven forbid family vacations or even waking up one morning saying 'I think I'll go walk in the park instead of logging in', that people who think their online personas and players are special little snowflakes don't feel enraged that someone dared think real life had a higher priority than a game.

    Sadly yes, I'm speaking from experience of having delt with people like this. They're eventually on every game. Kinda like a disease.


  • Pitcrew

    @ashen-shugar People that don't do as much as me are lazy, people that do more have no life.


  • Coder

    @seraphim73 said in Do we need staff?:

    My opinion is that you can run a game with minimal staff (1-2 Staffers) so long as it's under about 40 regular players. ... but for an open-invite game, it's just asking for bad actors to come in and effectively take over.

    I think it's more about game setup than size. Multiple factions going in different directions, players expecting to be spoon-fed individualized plots, a work-intensive plot or clue system, PvP... those sorts of things require more bandwidth than a minimal staff can sustain.

    But for a game like TGG or BSGU, where you can toss out a single self-contained mission once or twice a week and entertain a dozen players at once? Or a Wild West game where it's pretty much "do your own thing" apart from the occasional bank robbery or blizzard? A single staffer can support a much larger population, and there are ways for the players themselves to mitigate the bad apples.

    @ashen-shugar said in Do we need staff?:

    maybe more than 1-2 staff so when the 1-2 staff have family emergencies...people who think their online personas and players are special little snowflakes don't feel enraged that someone dared think real life had a higher priority than a game.

    That's never been an issue for me. Those people are just being unreasonable. If you build a game that requires minimal staff intervention, you can miss a couple days and generally nobody's going to notice or care. As long as you're responsive the rest of the time, most players understand.

    Sure, there's the possibility that something horrible explodes the one weekend you went to the beach or whatever, but on the flip side - I've had plenty of cases where a game had a half-dozen staffers and it still took a week to get an answer back on something. It's all relative.


  • Pitcrew

    Storytellers are more needed than staff. A game can run without staff as long as a system is set up that allows players to manage their own rp, stats, etc etc. So yeah like a mud.

    With the amount of drama that comes from staff ran games especially in the WoD sphere, a game that offers less staff involvement is ideal. No one wants to staff for you folks. There's a dwindling interest in staffing a game when folks have a myriad of tastes that they want catered to.

    Has this been done before? Could it work? Possibly. I should probably post up my idea involving a WoD Sandbox that is an ST playground.


  • TV & Movies

    It obviously really depends on the game. People have given single parameters in some case (size, genre, level of conflict, etc) but it's really going to be a mix of all of these, sometimes.

    The traditional Pern games had massive player counts in their heyday and ran 99% on player faction leaders. Some of these were naturally wizard alts but on those games, the wizbits were really there for code reasons and nothing else. This included the dragon-getting process which was ridiculously drama-filled. Still, all handled at a PC level. Everyone kept to (an albeit thin) theme, but they were also low-conflict close to nearly full-social games.

    A raw PvP-fest game could be run with little to no staff at basically any size if combat was automated. See the standard MUD/MMO model.

    WoD is kind of the perfect storm of being shitty for this, though. It's high conflict but generally can't be automated because it's a fundamentally exception-based rules system with tons of separate moving parts. It risks a lot of thematic drift because while it has source material, the abundance of crazy power shit perfectly well lets someone play out their RapeOtter fantasies as if it was FurryMUCK.