Guide to AIM
The following is
a compilation of the basics and pieces of advice that have been floating
around for online GMs, players,
and coordinators. Thanks to everyone who contributed
to and reviewed the document!
Please send comments
to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Last updated 09/02/2010.
A detailed update
history can be found below.
Table of Contents
AIM: Go to www.aim.com to download AIM
and get installation instructions.
a screen name: Go to www.aim.com and follow
the directions, or click on "new screen name" on the AIM setup screen.
an AIM chat room: To form an AIM chat room, click on either your name in
your buddy list (yes, I recommend putting yourself in your buddy list for
just this reason) or the name of someone you wish to invite. Then, click
on People -> Send Chat Invitation. A window will pop up with three input
fields: screen names to invite, invitation message, and chat room name.
Modify any of those as appropriate, then click "Send".
can right click on a name and click on Send Chat Invitation, or click on
a screen name and hit alt-c in order to get the pop-up window.
an AIM chat room: You need to know the room name (usually supplied by the GM or con organizer), and invite yourself to the room. This process is identical to that for creating
a room, except that you must specify the room name you received from the GM,
instead of defining one.
logs: One nice thing about online games is that you can keep a record of
them via logs. To save a transcript of the session (and this works for
any AIM session, not just chat rooms), click on File -> Save and specify
the location and file name.
a screen name just for GMing - then *don't* give it out! Make it clear
to those who do know it that you won't reply to IMs during a game, unless
they're really important.
You'll need to save
a copy of the game log.
Start *now* and give
the file a name that reminds you of what you're running. Concatenating
the module name and date usually gives you a unique and findable file name.
Save the log periodically
during the game session.
Keep as much of the
action as possible in the main chatroom, not in individual IMs. This accomplishes
It keeps your distractions
as a GM to a minimum.
It keeps players involved
and aware, even if their PCs aren't.
It shows that the game
is moving along, and you are paying attention or doing something. A GM
who goes "offline" from the main window is perceived to be "gone" even
if he's furiously typing somewhere else.
It keeps the resources
used by your machine down, and makes for faster processing of individual
If you must do something
in IM, tell the players. A message like "dealing with an individual action
in IM" really helps. So does checking back with the main window periodically;
sometimes a player will post a question there you can answer quickly, and
let them have more "think time" while you're off.
When the party splits
or you're dealing with individual actions, make it clear who has the spotlight
- then switch that spotlight at reasonable intervals.
- Keep the game moving.
This is really important in online games, where the players can't see that
you're doing something.
For boxed text, use
the signals bt (or <bt>) for the start of boxed
text, and /bt (or </bt>)for
If you have a text version
of the module from which you can cut 'n' paste, 3-4 lines or 2 sentences
appears to be a good rule-of-thumb for how much AIM can handle.
AOL(R) Instant Messenger(TM)
is the platform of choice for simple setup with no hosting required, and games are run using AIM chatrooms. Download
AIM if you do not have it, and sign
up there for your screen name. Most people who play regularly online
tend to have more than one screen name - one for their "normal" AIM traffic,
and one for each PC.
People usually each
pick a different text color to make them easier to tell apart.
And my PC changes color,
her text sometimes does too.
Sometimes they pick
a new screen name for their PC, too, but it's not necessary.
The usual drill is:
Actions in between double
colons, like ::I
go up the stairs, being very sneaky.::
OOC and game mechanic
stuff is usually in double parens, like: ((BRB
-- gotta pay the pizza boy)) or
((using Sense Motive))
Anything else is dialog,
so: ::Sneak up on Vader:: Boo! ((Force
Defense: rolling now))
And to roll dice, we
(10:14:31 PM): LF Juliana rolled 1 20-sided die: 18
(10:15:12 PM): RilStendan rolled 1 100-sided die:
- Yes, you can do various
numbers and types of dice.
(10:14:31 PM): LF Juliana rolled 3 8-sided die: 8
the command //rolls-dice1-sides20
and the command //roll-dice1-sides20
are equivalent (one has "roll" with an "s" and one without); AIM accepts
- Now say you have +7
Listen, and she asks for a Listen roll.
(10:16:55 PM): LF Da'Iana rolled 1 20-sided die: 16
- ((Listen 23))
- You, too, can help the
game run smoothly and on time. Here are just a few hints for doing so:
- When a GM declares boxed
text (often by using the signals bt and /bt), let him finish
it before saying anything, unless an action is required. Certainly avoid
IC or OOC chatter unrelated to the boxed text.
- Try to avoid IM'ing
your GM unless it's really essential that you do so. Moving the GM's focus
out of the main window makes the game flow less smoothly as the GM fields
- Keep a copy of the die-bot
command on your Clipboard or in a side file so you can paste it easily.
You may also find it handy to set up some of the commands you most commonly
- Make sure your Info
or description includes the basics - gender, race/species/ethnicity, and
approximate age. Judges: note that information and remember it.
There are few things more frustrating than playing a burly, bald guy for
three hours, and then having an NPC call you "Lady." ("So THAT's why the
guards were patting me down so thoroughly. I thought they just
suspected me of smuggling.")
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New material copyright Maryrita Steinhour, 2007,2010 with thanks to all contributors!