How Do I Headwiz?

  • Creator

    I wanted to make a separate post for this, outside of my MU thread. I want to create a general discussion for headwiz knowledge and wisdom.

    What do you wish you knew before you opened your first game? What do you think are the main challenges for being a headwiz?

    For people who have never run a game but want to participate, what do you think are important traits for a headwiz? What do you think makes someone a bad headwiz?

    You're free to add any advice and thoughts beyond those.

  • Pitcrew

    1. Opening the game is only 10% of the work, tops, and that is if you put a LOT of work in your game to begin with.

    2. No matter what you do, people will say you are this or that, that you are doing it wrong, and that you are worst than Hitler (tm). If you can't take that, do not open a game.

    3. That people you thought were friends are going to go haywire on you for decisions you make you hope will benefit the whole game. If you can't take that, don't open a game.

    4. Advice: Experimenting is more than fine. Don't be afraid to test stuff out just because other MUs don't.

    5. You must stay on the ball at ALL times. One week drama coincides with you being under the weather can be the perfect shitstorm.

    6. Making a good game doesn't equal having lots of logins. Having a lot of logins doesn't equal to having made a good game.

    7. "Good Game" is the white whale of MUdom. Make a game you are proud of. That is all you can really do.

    8. People get SUPER invested in games they play. Be ready to meet people halfway, and knowing when to push forward based purely on gut feeling. Be ready for 2) either way.

    9. Advice: Don't do a game for anyone other than yourself, and hope others will like it.


  • Pitcrew

    @SunnyJ covered most of it. The most important advice I can give you is that you can't please everyone. No one has ever been able to, no one is currently able to, and no one will ever be able to. Therefore, whatever you do, it's important to keep to your vision and to your target audience. Don't try to needlessly widen the game's scope to appeal to every genre of role-player. Have an experience that's as pure to what you want to do as you can make it; if you dilute it too much, it'll do more harm than good.

    It's better to bring joy to twenty-five people than to bring a so-so experience to fifty.

    • Do not be afraid to tell people no. "No, but" is okay if you have good alternatives but sometimes a bad idea is just a bad idea.

    • Do not violate the vision of your game for the sake of others.

  • Creator

    Actually creating my game feels pretty doable, due to having laid out every single step that needs to be taken, so that it's not so overwhelming. But the day to day of how to keep a game from going up in flames definitely feels like something that isn't easily observed, even if I've played as many MUs as I have.

    I'm also considering various things about building staff teams. Like, building a team always felt like a can of worms, and it's something I haven't even really been thinking about until now.

  • Pitcrew

    Write a staff ethics policy and make sure your staff understands it. Also, make sure they understand what is expected of them AND what will not be tolerated from them. It is good to staff with people you like, but sometimes staffing with a friend hurts a friendship.

    Don't do it all yourself. While important, you should be able to leave the game for a few days and trust it will be okay. You WILL need to step away from your own game from time to time. Like children, it's okay if you want to murderize your players. It's okay to take a 'parent' time out. It's okay.

    You aren't going to get along with everyone. It's okay to ask a person to leave the game if they are not meshing with theme/players.

    Please attempt to go for visibility in decisions, rulings, etc. If you start the cloak and dagger method of 'they don't need to know' it will be hard to come back from.

  • Creator

    @Catsmeow I generally believe strongly that transparency is important.

  • @HelloProject So long as you don't confuse transparency with democracy. Often you will have to make decisions that will upset some people - vocal people. Do not fall into the trap of trying to appease them by weakening whatever it is you want to do. You're in charge.

  • Creator

    @Tinuviel Oh no, by transparency I mean that I don't believe in making decisions and having players be like "Well wtf", because I think it inspires a lack of trust.

    While I believe that a MU should be a community that people feel a sense of investment in, I also don't necessarily believe that a MU can be pure democracy and also have a cohesive and focused vision.

    This is a part of why I plan to go by the title of "director", because I believe that directing things like a production is artistically important, so that things aren't a total mess and there's a sense of focus and quality.

  • Just a few things to add, really.

    1. No matter how many things you plan for, expect to find ten more you didn't foresee as you work on getting those things done. This will continue for the duration of the game, no matter how well you've planned. This is OK. If you want to knock it down to nine more of these things the next time, keep notes on the things you forgot/overlooked/did not foresee this time. (This will continue for the duration of, well... life.)

    2. Be prepared to deal with more irrational behavior than you expect. We all expect some, but there is always more than that.

    2a. You will be tempted to think that reasonableness, understanding, and transparency will resolve this. Sometimes, it will. Sometimes, it will help a little. Other times, it won't, and anything you do or say will be twisted into something horrible. This will be frustrating and you'll feel helpless to 'fix' it. This is because you actually can't fix it; like politics, the same basic, harmless statement or event can become a firestorm through convoluted interpretations alone. You can try. You just need to accept that no matter how hard you try, it isn't necessarily going to work. The best you can do at this point is to recognize that this is not really about what you're doing, and try not to take it personally for that reason. The tl;dr of this is: you can only discuss what you've actually said or done; there's only so much you can do regarding what somebody thinks you have said or done.

    1. Do not expect that everyone will know the ins and outs of the culture of the game, or games like this at all. Newbies happen. If there's a social contract, lay it out. Nothing is so daunting to newcomers as being treated like they're horrible because they didn't realize they couldn't enter a room that was unlocked without permission if they're used to playing on games where you'd use a lock if you wanted or expected privacy, etc. Let people know what your expectations actually are, even if you think they're common sense. (What is or isn't common sense varies wildly.)

    This is all in addition to what everyone else has already said.

  • Advice for headwiz. Huh. Um... huh.

    I guess it boils down to just a simple philosophy.

    Set rules and guidelines down, set up your ethical and moral obligations that you want for the game upfront, and try your very best not to deviate from it. People loathe change. This includes good change as well as 'bad change'. Try to avoid changing once you have the rules in place. If you do change, make sure it's well documented on what changed. It's to protect yourself more than other people ;)

    People will whine regardless of what you do. Never do it to please people, it's a straw man. As mentioned earlier, build a game you want to build. Build a game that you'll enjoy. Build a game that you dream about. Then share that dream with other people.

    If other people come on and find it enjoyable as well. Awesome! You have a game to share.

    If no one comes on and no one finds it enjoyable? Awesome! You have a game that you had an absolute blast designing.

    In the end, setting up a mud is about having fun. If it's no longer fun, you don't do it.

    Wish I could help more, but it's like hunting the white stag. It's a fun chase, and a great hunt, but never expect to bag it and eventually it'll end.

    But man oh man, what a ride.

  • Make /your/ game. You won't be happy if you have to change it from what you want and this will increase your burnout.

    People who like your game will stay and play. People who don't will leave. Losing a player is not always a 'Bad Thing(tm)'. Sometimes it is a good thing.

    Make sure you have enough code in place to support the bare minimums of what you will need. There's a lot of things that can be added after the fact, or tweaked.

    Make sure all your policies are simple and laid out, /enforce them evenly/.


    I can't say this enough. You cannot be awake 24/7. You cannot be guiding everyone on the game 24/7. You have to be able to step back and just let the game roll on it's own sometimes. Unlike a tabletop game once you open the doors there's a lot of control you lose, so don't try to run it like a Table Top game.

    Learn when to say No. Do not be afraid to say No. A MU is a dictatorship, and you have to be a benevolent one for your game to flourish.

    Benevolent doesn't mean everybody will love you, but the game you built will if you're true to it.

  • Everyone's advice has been very good so far. I would add that especially at the beginning KNOW your Staff. They don't have to be friends. You've been in the community for awhile. You know the people to a degree. Know who you are hiring. Be proactive and ask people whom you feel you'll be able to trust with the opening of your game. As your game progresses, this can change as you meet new people on your game and maybe bring them on to staff. But even then ... know them. And don't put anyone in any real power on your game whom you can't trust implicitly to make the right decision should you not be there.

  • Take all advice with a grain of salt, even this. Maybe especially this, but I hope it helps.

    One of the defining factors of the medium we roleplay in is how hidden most activity will be. I'd say even on games with a culture of publicly logging everything, that still holds true, in so much that other people won't have the time to get the context from that activity. So in general, only a small sliver of the work you do will be visible and noticed, and I think a staffer is kidding themselves if they believe they know the full extent of anyone else's contributions, or if they are involved in problematic behavior, how far that goes. This makes it very, very, very easy for an awful lot of people who are receiving basically equal staff attention, to think the distribution is extremely unfair. It also makes it very, very, very easy to -give- an unfair distribution. It is likely for people not even remotely involved in the game, with not even the smallest bit of context, to shit talk you on your efforts and your choices there. They are doing so because they have spent years and years in the hobby, and desperately need to believe that gives them the experience to speak from a lofty perch and validate that time, even if they have been doing things hilariously wrong for that entire time period. Some people give good advice, but also bear in mind that it is very unlikely anyone giving you advice has kept a game running for more than a year or so. So yeah.

    Second, the largest criteria you should judge anyone, player or staff, is by how well they handle situations that go wrong. How they deal with frustration, how well they deal with RP shut down, how well they handle a conflict with a player they don't click with, how well they handle someone else losing their temper at them, how short their own temper is, and so on. It doesn't matter a damn how nice and positive someone is when everything is going their way- most people are. All that matters is how positive a member of the community they can be when they aren't. Know that everyone will also judge you by how you deal with them based on how that person is when everything is positive and great, except if they have had personally bad experiences for it. This means staff are loathe to punish anyone that they have not -personally- had bad experiences with, and you will pretty much never, ever be lauded for protecting anyone from abuse unless other people have personally experienced that abuse. Since this is a creative hobby, and most people aren't exactly super creative and driven to create things when a ton of people who have no idea what is going on are calling them worse than Hitler, it isn't exactly a surprise that most games collapse as soon as the initial honeymoon period is done. I'd say depending on how things go, you'll have maybe 2-3 months. I lucked out imo by getting a longer period since I think original theme and interest in something much different gave me some more time- I thought I'd have the kind of rants like a month or two before I did. But I mean, someone is kidding themselves if they think it won't happen unless you keep the game tiny and with a super small circle of people you all know. Like, I also don't think there's anything -wrong- with a game only lasting during the honeymoon period when everyone is super hyped about it. As long as people have fun, it was a success. But if you wanna make something longer than that, I'd be prepared for how people will act when they start to lose interest, begin to feel bored, get frustrated with their stories and need someone else to blame for that- that'll be you.

    And it really is you. Whether the game succeeds by your own metrics will just be how passionate you are and how much time and energy you are willing to invest, how long you can sustain it, and how many like minded players and staff will share that vision, but also be willing to be reasonable when things go in a way they dislike. Building a game is not that hard and honestly a lot of fun, everyone is hyped to be working together to create things, and it is easy for disagreements to be brushed over when everyone is having fun. You just either have to be prepared for when that easy part ends, or make your peace with not going past that point- if you stop there, no shame in that. Long as you and everyone else had fun.

  • Admin

    @HelloProject You're gonna fuck up. You're gonna make mistakes. You're gonna annoy people you like.

    The least you can do is make your own mistakes and decisions while you're at it. Own the game, own your calls and whatever happens, happens.

  • @Lithium said in How Do I Headwiz?:

    A MU is a dictatorship, and you have to be a benevolent one for your game to flourish.


    The only "democracy" that exists is what you give. Reasonable players understand this.

    Own your mistakes. Credit your successes. You decided to remove a player for what you considered bad behavior. The game is successful because of the strength of its players and collaborators.

    Trust your players, but verify their claims.

    And talk to others: players and people here. I think you'll find a wealth of wisdom.

  • Creator

    This is all very great advice. There's a lot of stuff I really didn't consider, but if nothing else, I'm at least more mentally prepared for a lot of things. I'm still not deterred from making this game. Choosing staff is going to be difficult (especially choosing staff who are actually willing to be staff), but I at least don't feel so in the dark from reading all this stuff.

  • I've found it helpful to treat staffing and headwizzing as if you are in an office environment. I know there are those that decry this, but establishing a hierarchical level of respect and authority, and a well defined set of jobs for everyone down the chain of command really helps. If your staff know what is expected of them, both in behavior and game function, there will be less stress all around, and you will know where things are getting fouled up. This also eliminates issues I've seen among staff where 2 people do 90% of the work and burn out very quickly while the other ten staffers are faffing about on social media all day and then doing staff work really fast for one of their friends.

    All rules and policies should be written towards moderation. Too lax and people will take advantage of you, too tight and people will find loopholes.

    Keep some professional distance between you and your staffers. NEVER hire on someone you are in a relationship with. Only bring friends into staff if they are friends you are 200% sure can handle being disciplined, corrected, demoted or even fired without destroying your friendship.

    Make to-do lists. They are super helpful.

    Have staff meetings, if only so you can touch base with each other, address new game needs, brainstorm ideas, or go over problems together.

    Don't be afraid to shutter the game if there are more bad players than good.

    It's actually better to approach candidates for staff and ask them rather than make people staff who are seeking the position. While you will sometimes get the genuine person who wants to help you, almost every other time it's someone who is seeking power for power's sake.

    Make sure your theme isn't so niche no one will actually play it but you.

  • Admin

    @HelloProject The best piece of advice I have is unfortunately not actionable.

    Have a thick skin.

    That's it. But it's not something you can do, it's just ... developed over time. I hope for the sake of anyone staffing at all, let alone running a game, that they have it because it's an often thankless job and an endless grind which starts at 100% inspiration and creativity but ends up being 10% of that (... if you're lucky) and 90% work, maintenance, and handling people.

  • Pitcrew

    Know what keeps the most (positive) people engaged in a rp game? It's not time-to-resolution on jobs (though apps and stuff should clearly be pretty speedy). It's not a well polished set of helpfiles, though that certainly is nice to have.

    It's story. It's roleplay. Let's be brutally honest: whatever mechanics and systems you have are most likely not going to compete with even the simplest of actual video games. People play rp games to rp.

    So here, I will say the thing I always stop myself from saying to players who are complaining they can't get involved, or they can't really get motivated, or that no one wants to rp with them or come to their events.

    Be more interesting.

    Every decision you make should be with the goal of enabling interesting story for people to rp about/within.

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