Ok, As most everyone knows I wont be having City of Arabel as my main server for very much longer. Its not that I do not like the server. Far from it. I really enjoy the server. I dont have much time in the first place to play and will have to move on to another server to do a review then eventually the next and the next while writing novels when I have inspiration and time too.
So I've seen some fretting on discord about player population but know helpful things that the staff can do to improve upon that. This thread is meant for folk that have experience to brainstorm things that you can do and weaknesses in the server itself that may be corrected to attract more players. And there is a lot CoA can do in this regard.
The first thing you have to remember is that players are your customers. And players always have lots of friends that they talk too. So reputation of the server is very important. If a player becomes disenchanted with a server they will tell all their friends exactly why they left the server. They may not say anything to you but as Dms and Admins always be aware that you are competing with 500-1000 other servers for your customers attention and not only in NWN in other games too. Always be aware of that.
One of the things that I and my wife would do back in the 2000s and being that she was also a dm on most servers I was a dm. She would create several classes of low level characters 3 to 5 per server. She became a new person liason kind of person and play with new players with low level character. Dms including myself when we saw her IG with one of these pcs would come in and run a fun adventure for the group. In this way new players would get immediate attention and feel like they were participating in the grand scheme of things. It brought them back time after time. When one of my wifes pcs would get to 7th level she would ask a dm to bring her pc back down to 3rd or 4th level so she could use it for the next newbie.
At least for me I find that a major weakness in the dms here. They tend to focus on the 7-10 level characters and forget about the 4-6 level characters. There are lots of little dm quests you can make in the 6-10 level ranges and it does not necessarily need to involve combat. you just have to think about some things you can do. An inner city thief quest. rescue people from a burning building things like that. They are still challenging for the players and there can be consequences but adding things like these suggestions will go along way to keeping your customers here on CoA.
Build doesn't usually matter on a pw when it comes to keeping players around unless the build is horrendous. CoA doesn't have many custom tilesets however its build well enough. Scripting and Dms are at least to me the two most important facets of a servers life. One of CoA's major weaknesses in scripting and minorly in build. One the build its lack of attention to detail. Just today or yesterday there was a mismarked plot flag stated on the boards. That kind of thing should not happen very often. It means the building is sloppy and there may or may not be a second set of eyes looking things over before its put in the mod. Builds should be looked at with as many eyes as possible to look for things like mismarked plot flags before being uploaded. Every builder and scripter should have test mods to plug in the said erf and look through everything before its approved.
In Scripting CoAs weaknesses seem to be mostly in the crafting system. Scripts seem to break often. It seems to me while keeping my eye on the boards that the crafting system needs to be constantly patched up for it to properly work. I would suggest find a really really good scripter, A Mermut, Micheal Darkangel, Axe Murderer or Old Mans Beard to go into it and write it so it keeps together and works 100%.
So lets get back to Dming which is usually the biggest reason people eventually leave a server.
One of the most discouraging things I've seen (its rare but I've seen it at least twice) is a dm saying on the discord general channel is something to the effect like "Im going in game now to kill some players." Now that may give good laughs and most will probably know your funning around but some will not. Imagine a new player seeing that on the channel. What do you thing is turning in their head. Many players will be off the server in a heartbeat. So if you want to joke around like that keep it to the dm channel then everyone will have a laugh and your customers/marks will be happily unaware.
If you come into a server as a dm it should be to dm or test. Dms sitting there lollygagging around the server serve no purpose what-so-ever. Make a plan You see three people on the server. You should be enough of a storyteller being a dm to find something interesting for those three people to do. They don't do what you want so be flexible have a plan b and c. if pcs dont follow your plot outlines. Be flexible to change up and work on the fly. Sometimes you'll fall flat on your face. I have apologized many times to players. "That quest didn't go well guys. I'm really sorry about that. Next time I'll think up and write a better outline." It shows the players that your human. They will be more affordable to going on adventures the next time.
Always remember that D&D is a shared experience. Dm's write the outline but its players that fill in and complete the story. Players end up being your co-authors not someone that you can pull into your story by a nose-ring. I encountered dms that refuse to alter their outlines for the players reactions many times before. I have a solution for that. I usually make a chaotic stupid thief that goes every direction but what the dm wishes. They have stolen party treasure and sold it for as little as a kiss from a succubus (intentionally) They have turned the party in every kind of direction. used their social charms on npcs to directions the dm doesnt want to go. This is all in reaction to I'm the Dm I'm god and you will follow my lead. That's not how it really works on a good server. Remember a shared experience and story that includes both the dms and players.
Another common Dm flaw and one that really drives players away from a server is intentionally overpowering them. Dm's should always carefully look at what they have as players. be aware of the players inventory, the mechanics individuals use and play by. Sometimes its hard to do and alot of work I know. been there and done that. You have to get a feel for your encounters so that they are challenging without being impossible for the players your dming to overcome. Even if you make a mistake and use an overpowering encounter make it right. bring them out of the fugue and appoligize to them.
Dms should always be prepared for their sessions and know their outline whether written or in their head up and down. Have your encounters ready in the dm encounter rings. Have your npcs in limbo. Add a few encounters if the players take you sideways. Instead of saying good grief they are doing what I want. Say oh yea now here's a challenge the players are giving me to show my imagination.
Never tell your players they will never reach their goals. You may have decided already that they wont but never tell them that. Its a sure way for a player to leave the server. Let them think they are going after their goals in life then screw them up. Telling a player you will never. you can never is very bad form. Especially when a player looks around at other players and what they have accomplished in their goals. D&D was never meant for limitations in imagination and thought. Dms may have reasons for not letting a player reach their goals but if the players here about it they are gone 99% of the time.
Its 1:30 and late. I may have other ideas to help out. I'll put them here if i come up with any other ideas. I aged Lauriella 5 years for the next server. After the next server comes back on line so that I might stop in time to time to say, "hi everyone how you doing."
Before I leave as a regular I would like to give the building team my Harvest Moon mod. Might help you with some ideas or scripting. HM was one of the most advanced servers ever created pre-beamdog. in fact we broke the aurora engine several times with our work and had to backtrack a few mods to fix things. some things do not work. Our random treasure system was a altered version of silicon scouts system but used an outside database. we have 50,000 items in random treasure. I spent months doing data entry for it. the quests also dont work because again we put all ints in the outside database so players could only do a quest one time. When a player came into the world the ints would be placed back on the pc.
I no longer have the database which used open office instead of microsoft xl. But the system scripts still work and the ideas behind them you may want to look at and see if you want them in your world. Also the general area builds are exceptional. contact me if your builder/scripter team would like it.
Thanks I'll mull over other ideas for you later. and copy this to a word file to refine and make a general dming tutorial on Harvest Moon consortium which i have wanted to do for a few years now but never had the proper motivation to finish.