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Combat Threads: Tips & Tricks (Moderator Side)

Posted August 22, 2014 at 08:20 PM by Jacob

The first post of this two part series was focused at PCs, and particularly at those who end up in combat threads I'm handling.

This one is a series of suggestions for moderators. I could just privately say this in coordination, but I think it could be useful for future reference, too. You may notice a certain... symmetry between the versions of these suggestions, too.

Tip #1: Communicate Clearly

Oh look, it's this one again. Yes, clear communication from a moderator is just as important as the players communicating clearly. That's why this is #1.

Moderators are the ultimate arbiters of how the playing field is laid out. War is chaos. It's the moderator's task to bring enough order to this chaos to allow the players to make reasonable decisions for their characters. The better you lay out the scenario, the more simple it is to highlight when unforced errors are causing issues.

Tip #2: Reward Attention to Detail

You've laid out the floor plan and have control of everything but the players themselves. If you've taken the time to include details, expect players to use those details to their advantage. Environments are destructable and using their scenery to tactical advantage is something to be rewarded. This doesn't mean you need to throw obvious Chekhov's Guns all over the place, but if you describe something and it gets used, conventionally or not, take the time out to acknowledge that you are being paid attention to and that players can in fact affect the shape of the battlefield through their actions.

Tip #3: Provide Causation

If you've followed the first two, this should be straightforward: telegraph why actions lead into results. Few things are more frustrating to a player than having their actions no-selled with no apparent reason. Success or failure, be sure to highlight when attacks connect and where they do, or if they've missed if it was dodged, parried, blocked, or otherwise avoided.

This is, of course, unless the no apparent reason itself is the clue. In that case, highlight that it is no apparent reason so they can investigate and attempt to figure it out.

Tip #4: Acknowledge Strategy/Tactics

Lack of handling strategy and tactics is a bugaboo of mine with combat in Aelyria in general, whether it's large scale or small scale. Of course, many character individually are simply not educated or interested in displaying skills in tactical and strategic play, and that's okay. Where I personally get hangups can be expressed in a quip I made during a campaign some years back: "Apparently Aelyrian siegecraft only has two tactics: the charge and the charge."

If somebody in the group is bucking that trend and is actually making a tactical retreat, or providing guidance in changing the playing field, or is just otherwise actually showing a better grasp of the battlefield than "we all run face-first into all their faces, and whoever has faces still standing at the end won", then reward that. If you have forces menacing a caster in melee and a fighter disengages their current melee and rushes to deflect the attention on the caster, try to understand that and not take it as a free hit on the fighter.

Tip #5: Speak Up

If there are persistent issues that are impacting your enjoyment of moderating the thread and/or impacts the enjoyment of the players in the thread, speak up about it. Surly attitudes, low-effort or muddy posting, and other issues best described as OOC should be handled OOC. If there's a bunny or a godmod, that's a breach of the OOC etiquette and should be addressed there. People will not learn better about such etiquette breaches if you keep accepting those as actual IC actions. By interacting we all improve each other here, but only if we're willing to get to the point.

Also, moderators, if you need a week or two off, or the thread's ultimately just not something you think you can stay on top of because of a change in situation, communicate with other moderators and ask for help. If you need a quick breather and can outline the current state of your thread and the next intended round or two and then step out and have another moderator handle those rounds, that is perfectly okay. Another frustration is when a thread stalls and another moderator is forced to step in and has to construct what to do by reading the entire thread: that's a serious investment of time and energy just to wrap things up.

Speak with your players, speak with other mods, better yourself and everybody around you by being willing to address issues rather than just attempt to play around them. It's better for everybody in the end.


And that's my set of basics for moderators on this. There's a lot more I can go into on moderation in particular, but a lot of that comes down to a personalized discussion and recognizing stylistic tendencies and other such factors. The best advice I can offer on those outside of sitting down and workshopping about it is to read around on other people's moderation and look and see what you can learn, both on the front of what you can improve as well as on the front of what you already do well that others may not.

This stuff of course also applies to moderation in general, but really can become important to internalize in dealing with combat, which tends to have a quicker tempo and relies more on "muscle memory" to handle at times.
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  1. Old Comment
    I had a good laugh at the Siegecraft quotes, tbh. And reading this only makes me want to further investigate tactical decision-making and planning during combat threads
    Posted August 23, 2014 at 10:11 PM by Quilantes Zil'aven Quilantes Zil'aven is offline
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