Running the Show …

So, I didn’t blog yesterday, mostly because I spent a lot of time working on two PBF board games that I inherited when the existing mod went away. I’ve moderated before, so I’m not a complete rookie at this, but for board games moderation is generally really important and also an awful lot of work. The main job of a moderator in a PBF board game is to maintain the hidden information so that the players can play as if they had a bunch of hidden cards in front of them that they can’t access until the time is right. For games that have this, it’s really important to not have the players do that themselves since they’ll always have the temptation to peek, and it would also encourage cheating. So the main role of the moderator is to basically keep a sometimes large list of information that the players can’t see until the time is right, and dole that information out as appropriate.

Keeping track of large amounts of information and making sure that you update everything so that you know what’s going on can take a lot of time, of course. And you, of course, don’t get to play in any way since you have privileged information. So it’s a lot of work for fairly limited gain.

What I’ve found — and this was the same when I played a Cylon Leader in a BSG PBF — is that when I’m not busy it’s not that bad. You can get involved in following the story of the game and working on adding flavour text and it’s fun. But when you’re busy, you don’t have the time to get involved. You just log in, move things along, update things, and log out. That’s not as much fun. Add to it that in many cases players are asking for you to do extra things and it starts to look like a lot of work for little actual gain. Which might be why moderators are often in demand for games.

That being said, on the other side of the coin as a player I understand how important moderators are, and so I do try to offload things from them when I can and allow them to tweak a game for how they feel comfortable doing it. But board game moderators are like DMs, only more so. Both are there to make it so that the players can have fun, but moderators aren’t players themselves, while DMs at least generally get to engage themselves in the game by having it be their world that the players are playing in. I think that the best moderators are those that can manage to find some fun — say, in trying to predict moves or watching gleefully for upcoming issues — in being in the privileged position of knowing everything or running everything. I’m not quite there yet.


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