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!

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Last updated 09/02/2010.

A detailed update history can be found below.

Table of Contents

Getting Started

  1. Getting AIM: Go to to download AIM and get installation instructions.
  2. Creating a screen name: Go to and follow the directions, or click on "new screen name" on the AIM setup screen.
  3. Creating 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".

  4. Alternatively, you 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.
  5. Joining 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.
  6. Saving 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.

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  1. Create 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.
  2. You'll need to save a copy of the game log.
    1. 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.
    2. Save the log periodically during the game session.
  3. Keep as much of the action as possible in the main chatroom, not in individual IMs. This accomplishes several things:
    1. It keeps your distractions as a GM to a minimum.
    2. It keeps players involved and aware, even if their PCs aren't.
    3. 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.
    4. It keeps the resources used by your machine down, and makes for faster processing of individual requests.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Keep the game moving. This is really important in online games, where the players can't see that you're doing something.
    1. For boxed text, use the signals bt (or <bt>) for the start of boxed text, and /bt (or </bt>)for the end.
    2. 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.

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Update History

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New material copyright Maryrita Steinhour, 2007,2010 with thanks to all contributors!