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Don't Panic! The Truth About Your Roleplay
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  • Opening a new board is hard. It's easy to feel like what you're doing is somehow wrong, or that you could be getting more traffic if you just did this one other thing. Or like your board is a complete failure. Before you give up, here are some hard truths about running your own forum... and when you should really throw in the towel.
    Type: Admining

Let's face it. Running a roleplay is hard. Getting a new RP off the floor, whether it's your first, fifth, or forty-fifth is always going to be a struggle. The only difference is the matter of experience you have, and how you react to the bumps along the way.

This documentation is here to reassure you of the reality of running a roleplay, and hopefully - to help you not give up when the going gets tough!


There's a great misconception that more activity equals more success. It's just not true. A successful board is measured by the fun members are having, not by any number of members, posts or threads you have.


  • My board is a week old, and so far we only have ten members. It must be failing.
    No, it's not. Relax. Boards take some time to get off the ground, it takes much longer than a week for you to get the word out. Many boards take three to four months to establish a normal routine. Don't be put off by that - just keep trucking. The trick is to keep playing yourself, find some members you can thread with and enjoy yourself. Guests are more likely to join boards where it looks like people are already having fun. So get in there, and make some awesome!
  • I've posted adverts everywhere and still I'm getting no members. It must be my skin.
    Have a look around at other successful boards. While people are largely attracted to boards that are pretty, the majority of highly successful websites are actually not all that flashy. People will join sites that appeal to them, regardless of looks. It is always worth considering readability and load times - but it's nothing to be obsessed over. If you're truly worried about how your board looks, ask for a proper analysis  before you give up. You might find out some interesting facts on how others see your forum.
  • If I change x, that will be sure to get people here and posting more often!
    If there's one golden rule about administration, it's that you do not change anything you're not comfortable with changing. It's perfectly fine to grow your board, and incorporate features that members will like and appreciate, but be careful of how far you go to pander to your members. If you don't like it, don't do it - there will be people out there who appreciate the way you wish to run your board, and those are the members that will best see the visions you have for your roleplay. The minute you start creating a board that you don't believe in, the fun is sucked out - and it becomes a chore. Always keep your board true to your own visions, it's yours for a reason.
  • My genre is too narrow - I can't advertise anywhere and my board is doomed to fail!
    False. General rule of the internet states that if you've thought of it, someone else wants it. If your genre/idea is so unique that it's hard to find a market for it - then it is your duty to shove your board under as many noses as possible until it gains the fanbase it deserves. Unique isn't a disability, it's an opportunity. If you believe in it, stick with it until you are genuinely bored with the idea. Don't give up because you think no one else is interested.
  • I have advertised everywhere and still no members. This is the end.
    Only if you say it is. When someone says they've advertised everywhere, that's a big call. The internet is a big place, and (though it came as a shock to me) there's more than just RPG Initiative out there. It's incredibly important these days to be listed with search engines, find absolutely any directory you can, frequent the forums of your hosting provider, your software provider, get your friends, advertise on guest friendly forums of all softwares, use plugboards, yahoo groups, livejournal, heck -- make business cards and drop them in random places. If you believe, then believe it's not over.
  • People suddenly stopped posting. I guess that's it, right?
    Not at all. Real life gets in the way frequently, and as anyone who has run a forum for more than a year or so will tell you, inactive periods come and go. Be conscious of exams and holidays across the world, know your audience and expect things to drag during those times. Keep in contact with your members via bulk email, let them know you're still out there and active, if it remains quiet - change things up a bit. A new skin, a new plot line, generate new interest in the board. Never take an inactive spell as a reason to close, unless (and here's the key line) you want it to.

As admins, we're overly conscious about how our roleplay presents to guests and members. If there's any big message that this documentation should give, it's that what you want and what you're comfortable with is perfectly okay - but just in case you wanted it all in dot points...


  • I should have created my roleplay on Jcink/other popular host. Then it would be popular.
    Hush your mouth. Jcink, while it is a fine and respectable host, is not the be all and end all of roleplay. Being on Jcink doesn't automatically make your roleplay more appealing. Like any other "physical" aspect, it is something that members can and will adjust to if they're truly interested in your game. If you're more comfortable with Proboards, stick with Proboards. If you're curious about phpBB3, SMF or anything else -- go with it! There are tonnes of successful roleplays out there on all softwares, you're guaranteed not to be alone. Never make the mistake of taking your possible membership too much into account. Too many administrators find themselves in situations they don't like that way, and at the end of the day -- members only need to be able to post to play. For all forum softwares, posting is a pretty straightforward business. So go with whatever you like.
  • I didn't hire enough staff when I opened. That's why my board is failing.
    Staffing is a funny thing in boards. There seems to be a misconception that a full team is needed before a board can open is completely false. Some boards open very successfully with just one, or two staffers present. If you don't have a lot of time on your hands but are dedicated to your idea, definitely - go and find some trusted friends to help out. But a board that is crying for staff will undoubtedly be a busy one, and the best thing about busy boards is that they have a whole lot of potential staff members. Employment topics are great, but ultimately - take from your dedicated members. They're the best and most likely to stick around.
  • I'm the administrator. I'm not allowed to relax with my members.
    Baha! Get over yourself. Seriously. Administrators and moderators are there to have fun just as much as the members are. Ice Administration died out in 2006 (I hope) and it's pretty well known now that a friendly atmosphere and open staff is the best way to help your members feel comfortable on the board. Get in there, and tear it up with the kids. That's why you made the place, right? To have fun? So go ahead and DO it!
  • I'm not good at graphics and I can't skin. My board is doomed.
    Still with the obsessing over appearance? The best thing about the roleplay world right now is that you don't need to be good at any of that. With the amount of skins available, and the talented graphics artists around... all you need is an idea. Exercise your creativity, write to your hearts content and find the pretty that you need here. You don't need to make all of it. It certainly doesn't doom your board.

It's almost sad how roleplay has become so standardised these days, with most boards doing it much the same way. Makes it pretty hard to feel comfortable with the way you choose to run your board. At the end of the day, how you want to play is perfectly fine - and you will find other people who feel the same way.

  • I don't like play-bys. I think that's why no one's joining.
    If you don't like play-bys, there will be members out there who don't like, or aren't bothered by not having play-bys. Trust in the way you prefer to do things, and as I said above - don't let what you think people want sway you from what you feel comfortable with.
  • I went with account per player, should I have gone per character?
    Only if that's what you wanted to do. Same as above. A lot of people prefer to be on account per player for one reason or another, and as always - people will adapt if they're interested enough in the concept your pushing. Just keep pushing it, raise awareness of the way you play here on RPG-D, educate people. There's no right or wrong way to play, so help other people understand the way you do things. You never know, they might just be curious enough to try it.
  • I've been out of the game too long. I'm too oldschool. No one will be interested in anything I have to advertise.
    Pshaw. Retro is a fad. And just like 3D divs and full image maintitles - it's coming back. It's like with anything in roleplay, there are always people looking for their specific 'preferred' way to play. Some of us are oldschool, and some of us prefer the more modern style with all the new-fangled gadgets. Some of us like a mix of both. If you think something is great, make it your goal to bring it back!
  • I like wordcounts. Is that bad? Is that why no one is joining?
    You have the right to stipulate any wordcount you like. This is one of those cases where I will advise that you be aware of what's realistic to expect people to type every single time, and that you be aware of how you plan on dealing with members who don't meet your requirements - but it has never been said that wordcounts are wrong. Some people thrive with them, some people struggle. Some people struggle without them. Just be careful when you start combining your 500+ wordcount with the title 'advanced', as quantity and quality are two separate things.

So when is a board dead? When should you just cut your losses and let it go? It's a question we all face, and if you haven't come across it yet - then you're yet to pass the last test in becoming a fully qualified administrator. It's that moment where everything seems hopeless that most people turn back, close their boards and find greener pastures. But there's hope.

  • We had a good run, but when it's over - it's over.
    It's not over until you say it's over. If you've had a good run, you can continue having a good run - so long as you stick with what you've created. So long as you keep that interest in it personally, it will remain interesting to other people. Yes, it's going to be hard to keep pushing something when it's dragging, when no one seems to be joining and when your board - for all intents and purposes - looks dead as a doornail. But you can bring it back, with the right amount of love and dedication. It's only over when you give up, and that's the truth.
  • There are too many other boards of this type. We can't possibly win.
    Yes. You can. Writing as an administrator who opened a forum in a highly popular fandom, with a twist that gave it a lot of competition - both canon and non canon - I can tell you all about that dilemma. In my time, I've seen five or six Australian magical schools - but what is the one that everyone knows? It's mine. Why? Because I refused to be intimidated by other people's boards, and continued to push my board as something that other people would want to be a part of. You can be a success in any genre you choose, with two highly important factors. One is the drive to push when it gets hard, and the other is a love and belief in the type of roleplay you run. While some genres might be easier to dominate, if the love's not there - it's pointless.
  • I don't have what it takes to be an admin. I'm too...
    Whatever you are, you have it. There are all types of admins out there. Some are relaxed and laid back, some are in control of absolutely everything - and all can run successful boards. The only trick is to not let anything get in the way of the fun. If you're not having fun, then you're doing it wrong. So relax, and let your own personal style shine through - people will respect you for it more, than if you try to pretend to be someone else for the sake of how you think an admin should behave.
  • It's not fun anymore. This is the end.
    Now you're getting it! If it's not fun, if you've stopped believing, that's when it's dead. Sometimes it happens, sometimes the ideas we initially love aren't as good as we thought, sometimes things just change. Never let go if you still believe, but if you don't - it's time to move on. Never dump an active board, though - always have the consideration to leave it in the hands of someone who can look after your members. Just because you've lost interest doesn't mean your members haven't. But you don't have to chain yourself to a board you don't enjoy. Relax. Set yourself free, you can always come back later.


I hope this has helped someone, every day we see more and more administrators drop promising boards for small and saddening reasons. The moral of the story, and repeated several times throughout is that there's always hope for admins who believe in the roleplays they create. It's only when you don't want to be involved anymore that your roleplay truly dies for you.

So have hope, and keep on with it! There's nothing as rewarding as running a roleplay that people love, except perhaps having children. I hear that's pretty awesome. And Nandos.

Until next time, keep writing!

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