I made my first forum 8 years ago on Ezboard and it was a play by post multi genre which we called “Nightmare of the Phoenix”. At the time I had only RPed a little known fandom, Legacy of Kain, and I knew next to nothing about the Internet. Yes. The Internet! I was clueless and could barely use MSN. Yet somehow we ran this board for six years and had some great times there and made some awesome friends which we are still in touch with today! During that time we also ran an original fantasy board for three years, but fandoms are definitely our area of expertise and we love them!
Why did we choose Dragon Age then? Why this particular fandom? Well, for me it has everything I want in a fantasy world. Humour, drama, romance, grit, horror, politics, and DRAGONS. The fantasy races are traditional with Bioware’s awesome twists and I simply adore Thedas and the scope we have had to play with.
In this blog I want to go into the three important aspects of running a fandom forum, using Dragon Age and CoT as a reference.
This may sound simple but there are actually various ways to do this. Cad and I went with the “use the wiki and make some characters and evolve the board according to plot”. Now, it’s not the best way for some people since it means you have to generate the templates first and then write lore and board specifics as you go.
Decide on the premise. Are you AU? Canon based? Canon characters? Partial AU? Set int he future? The past? Do you have a fixed date? Are you following the lore to the letter? Do you need a guidebook or wiki? How much lore will you generate yourself?
The look of the forum is important, but the organization is the top priority. Never sacrifice navigation for aesthetics!
Make it simple to begin with, then evolve the forum. This kind of project is a work in progress and a collaborative effort, so do not panic if every single aspect of the forum is not perfect and “finished”. Nothing is ever truly finished and the whole point of this hobby is to have and to write with others! So do not micromanage or over-analyse, simply get to it!
I believe that too many people overlook this aspect of running a forum. They seem to think that being open 3 months is an achievement and that all they need to do is be open and people will post for them. This may be a hobby but as an admin it’s the kind of hobby that takes effort and the more effort you put in the more efficient and enjoyable your forum and experiences will be!
Recruitment – vary how you recruit. Do not keep going to the same pool because eventually it will run dry. New blood is essential for any forum, since it generates new ideas and gives fresh enthusiasm to the current membership.
Forum maintenance – doing the “boring” or “dirty” jobs is simply a part of being an admin. If you do not enjoy this then do not run a fandom community.
Progression of plot and development of characters – so many forums stagnate and this is one of the main reasons why. Your “muse” cannot afford to go AWOL for three months, your forum relies on the staff to move it forward. Brainstorming is essential in keeping the creative juices flowing the excitement level high – do this continuously whether it is as a staff team or as a community (plot forums help with this, I do not recommend the cbox since most cbox conversation is too easily lost and forgotten. You are running a forum not a chat RP).
Advertising – remember that most forums only retain about 10% of their registered members in the long-term, so the more you draw in the more staying power your community will have!
Evolution – do not be afraid to make changes! Do not be constrained by your own success or your own ideas! Adapt and survive!
Feedback and adjustments – listen to your members but do not be owned by them. Adjust things for the majority and in a way which makes YOU happy. Bend but to not break.
Partaking and Participating
Finally, you made this fandom board to RP at – SO ROLEPLAY! Do not get caught up in everybody else’s needs and wants. If the staff are unhappy and bored the community will be disinterested.
Participation of staff IC is vital, they are the constants and fulcrum upon which the rate of play is balanced.
Enjoy your fandom and enjoy your writing. This is a hobby and it should be fun!