Any facilitators out there?


This is kind of odd-ball/tangential. Does anyone here work in the facilitation/change management business? I’m thinking about how as GM’s we’ve been collaborating in virtual spaces for years, and I feel like it’s time to step up and share what we know.

  • What are your best practices for GM’ing online?

  • How do you keep group cohesion?

  • How do you focus your players?

  • How do you keep it orderly?

  • What is the biggest challenge in playing online to the interpersonal dynamic?

  • What was the best online play experience you’ve ever had and why?

Thanks, y’all. I appreciate you very much.


Best practice: Clear communication of expectations upfront. Zero sessions take out a lot of the disappointment of the game not going the way a player expected. Also, having a pre-meeting meeting on game (or in your case project) parameters means that players (or team members) approach the game with the right research and focus. Everyone who has played more than a couple of games knows the frustration of coming to a ranged battle with a dagger. Or taking on a magical creature where only magical weapons work when no one thought to have a weapon with magic damage.

Group cohesion: It is the job of the GM (facilitator) to find the common threads in the group. Little reminders of the importance of each person’s role helps everyone see where they fit in the overall objective and how they can use their skill set to help each other. For example, the Meat Shield runs into the center of a group of Orcs but doesn’t take them all down. A gentle reminder of the need to keep the Meat Shield alive might motivate the Sneaky McGrabby Fingers character from wasting a turn stealthfully looking for loot and get them using that mad Sneak Attack to lighten the Meat Shield’s load. Snappy McSparkle Fingers can then be reminded of the need to prep that healing action. The very roles of a standard fantasy game play out nicely as a symbolic representation of how each person in a team can leverage very different skill sets to accomplish an otherwise unreachable goal.

Player focus: The mission needs to be planned with challenges that require the use of EACH of the core Stats. Knowing this ahead of time, players can coordinate to ensure each character addresses at least a couple of these Stats. There should be some overlap, as one player may be down or occupied while a task needs to be accomplished (Fighter is holding off guards as Thief picks lock). Hero Coin those that creatively attack problems with synergy between characters.

Keeping it Orderly: A small hourglass (30 seconds) used in turn-based order. If the action can’t be described and executed in 30 seconds, forfeit the turn and move on. Each member should have enough knowledge of their own skill set and enough focus on the action at hand to be thinking ahead of time multiple ways in which they could contribute.

Interpersonal dynamic challenge: A lot of times, and with the current pandemic more often lately, we find ourselves playing with folks who we haven’t had any interaction with ahead of time. Without that initial session to set expectations, we may miss cues to different play-styles that could greatly enhance the experience. I’ve found that, without the pre-mission meeting, having a post-mission AAR (After Action Review) gives each player the opportunity to freely discuss likes and dislikes. Incorporating the feedback of the players is what really helps GMs grow as facilitators (storytellers).
Best Online Play Experience: The absolute best experience is GMing a game of GMs who are both respectful and open with feedback.

Hope this helps.


Definitely everything Sweenie said.

The biggest thing that addresses most of your questions is clear expectations and intention. Getting everyone on the same page early pays out huge in the long run.

The other huge thing that goes a long way is the ICRPG concept of turn order. Going around (the virtual table) and giving each player a section of time to address and respond to inputs is clutch for online play. It really helps control the chaos and focus people when they may not be able to read physical cues due to the medium.

The biggest hurdle I have experienced in the last two weeks of online play is focus. It is even easier to get distracted and lose focus when you can’t see people (I run mostly with no video). My above statement addresses this very nicely.

And really the biggest thing you can do is get time in. Do it, learn it, and do so with proper intention so you can grow and make the best experiences possible for your group.


Helps a lot. Thanks for your thoughtful, thorough and detailed reply. Iots of food for thought in there.