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A Face in the Crowd

by Wes Platt

In role playing environments, especially original themes, one of the most daunting tasks beyond getting to know the new universe is getting into the mix of role playing activities.
Henry Lawson

Henry Lawson, who wrote the great poem Faces in the street.

The best bet for new players is joining an existing group within the MU**. Getting into a group puts you with active and enthusiastic players, usually with knowledge of the theme and a habit of involving themselves in role playing events. Often, groups generate their own role playing, which means they don't always rely on staffers to give them things to do.

For newcomers, joining a group is an ideal method of becoming familiar with a new gaming environment. You feel part of something, which helps build your attachment to the game, which feeds on itself and keeps you coming back for more.

Too many new players start characters with lone wolf-style backgrounds and then expect the role playing opportunities to flow their way.

Now, don't get me wrong: I don't have anything against lone wolf backgrounds, per se. But a player who assumes that staffers or other players are going to come knocking, asking them to role play, may find themselves disappointed.

It's a give and take situation.

Lone wolf characters usually work best for experienced players who already know the theme, who already know how the game works, and who already did the group thing.

In a Star Trek game, for example, if you've never really been familiar with Trek, it is usually best to join an organization such as Starfleet. In a Star Wars game, sign on with the Rebel Alliance. In an X-Files game, be an agent in a bureau of the FBI.

Join Starfleet, and you'll likely get assigned to a crew aboard a starship, with missions and patrols and other role playing options.

Join the Rebel Alliance, and you may become part of an X-Wing squadron locked in frequent battle against the evil Galactic Empire.

Join the FBI, and you may be partnered with someone to investigate the paranormal.

Original theme games are a bit more challenging. After all, you don't have to be a huge Star Trek fan to know what Starfleet is, but how many people have heard of OtherSpace's Martian Legions, Vanguard or Clawed Fist Fleet? It's humbling to admit, but impossible to do otherwise: OtherSpace doesn't have three decades or four television series or nine movies or dozens of books backing it up.

But, the opportunities exist. We've got several organizations new players are welcome to join, including:

- The Martian Legions military
- The Vanguard military
- The bounty hunters guild
- The Boromov crime family
- The Cabrerra crime organization
- The Demarian Senate
- Sanctuary's security force
- The Nall Clawed Fist Fleet

And those are just a few.

If you're reading this and you run an original-theme game, take heed: Don't underestimate the power of groups. Give people fairly easy slots to fill - the shallow end of the pool - before throwing them into the deep end. They can dive into murkier water after they learn to swim in your pond.

Provide information to new players about the opportunities that await them. Appoint newbie helpers to welcome visitors and point them toward the possibilities. Encourage group interactivity. Give them things to do as groups.

Now, one of the biggest complaints heard among newbies seeking to get into groups in any game is quite valid: Some are cliques. The members may give cold shoulders to newcomers. Don't fall for that. Don't let it stand.

Get yourself an in. Do some research, find out who's who in the group you want to join, then finagle your way into an role playing situation with them. Demonstrate that you're a player they'd want to have around, through role playing skills and enthusiasm, and you just might find yourself invited into the mix.

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.