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Drop-in Roll20 Game - help/ideas/discussion

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
I'm about to open the floodgates on a new VTT (roll20) game - allowing random players to drop in. I figure that I can limit some of the chaos by requiring the use of pre-gens, but I still have some big questions like:

  • Should there be a story explanation for the apparent personality disorders of the recurring characters?
  • Should pre-gens drop from the story when no one chooses them for that session, or become NPCs?
  • Is it even possible to have a story, what with the above questions in mind?
  • More to follow / what am I missing?

If it helps your thinking: medieval fantasy setting, beginner-friendly rule set, weekly game, and pre-gens will use a character sheet feature that performs a roll at the touch of a button, reducing some elements to point-and-click complexity.
 

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ccs

41st lv DM
Unused characters should become NPCs.
That way you don't need to worry about explaining why they're present one session/missing another (likely at odd times).

For the p regen are you going to set their base presonalities, motivations etc? Or are you going to leave that up to whomever plays & just provide the #s?

Of course it's possible to have a story. It's a story featuring these x characters as the heros.
Who plays the heroes isn't important to the story - like in a video game. For ex; how many millions(?) Of people have guided Batman through the various Arkham games over the years & experienced the "story"? Still Batman, still the Arkham stories.

If your going to have potentially different people playing the same characters, then you'll need to track what the characters learn about the story/plot & important things they've done.
 

Sounds like an Open Table game. Lots of advice if you research that topic. I general if a player isnt there for a character then the character is not present (no significant advantage or need to convert to an NPC). Dungeon delves and task based adventures are best.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
For the p regen are you going to set their base presonalities, motivations etc? Or are you going to leave that up to whomever plays & just provide the #s? . . .

If your going to have potentially different people playing the same characters, then you'll need to track what the characters learn about the story/plot & important things they've done.
I was thinking that each pregen would have a blurb about character concept: a few sentences on identity and personality. Each would have a goal that would more or less align with the other pregens' goals. Not sure if these should be per-session goals, or a bit more broad?

Good idea about tracking character memory - if a story is going to progress, amnesiac characters (players) wouldn't help a whole lot.

Sounds like an Open Table game. Lots of advice if you research that topic. I general if a player isnt there for a character then the character is not present (no significant advantage or need to convert to an NPC). Dungeon delves and task based adventures are best.
The Alexandrian has a literal manifesto on Open Table. Some interesting points:
  • The game style should support "open group formation," which translates (loosely) to running hexcrawl exploration or guilds with busy job-boards.
  • A default goal allows the group to know why they're having an adventure.
  • A default action allows the players to know what to do, in the event of ignorance.
  • Story/plot content should be extensible, allowing the GM to prepare in a similar amount of time as that required by a new player to get rolling.

Exploration and job-boards are fine with me, but for my own interest, I'd like to have a developing plot going along with the game. That will require breaking away from the job board at some point(s). It also points toward PCs becoming NPCs when they're not utilized, unless there's a story-based reason for their absence.

One of the interesting things about the Open Table is that it can become a Permanent Table when players start showing up regularly. But...it's unlikely to happen with each player at the same time, resulting in a mix of drop-ins and regulars. Do these different types have different demands from a game, and how do you appease them? (Note: the Alexandrian's Open Table prohibits regular players. If someone was stuck on the waiting list from the previous session, they get priority seating in the next session.)
 

I don't think the Job Board precludes an over arching plot. Look at the Beyond Icespire adventures, these all basically have a set of small quests, but they fit into a larger overarching plot. In the BI case, their are two adversaries or recurring villainous groups that are causing problems that result in all the little quests the party gets presented with.

Effectively, think of 2 or 3 evil groups and what they might be doing in order to accomplish their goals. How do these actions effect the players' world? (Kidnappings, bandits, raids, summonings, storm clouds...) These then draw the players and they start to notice, 'Oh, it's more cultists of the XYZ symbol', then maybe at another location, 'Look, that XYZ symbol is tied to an old cult of the evil god Blah.' At the same time maybe you have a devil worshiper, or an ancient dragon or lich or something. You got the idea I'm sure :)
 

Oh, and you can always tie in new players with the ongoing story development by a 2 minute summary of current events in the town/location. "Rumors have it..." "Recently the bards tell tales of..."
 

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