Any GM ought to read the help file, available from the judges, on Mastering a game. Since I assume all potential GM's will be experienced in obtaining judge files, I'll just leave this part to you (or, to make it easy on you, you could click on the hotlink found in the previous sentence)!
I first distinguish between newcomers to the game of Diplomacy, on the one hand, and newcomers to the e-mail world, on the other. If you're GM'ing a game for people who have never played Diplomacy, or who have played only a game or two, you'll need to explain a good deal more than you have to say when the players have some Diplomacy experience but are somewhat dazzled by the judges. Most of the notes below are aimed at helping newbies to the net or at least to the play of Diplomacy through it.
Personally, I like to SET ALL PRESS. For one thing, it's always fun to watch. But for a newbie game, it can be functional, too. You'll be able to keep an eye out to see whether anyone's negotiating past the deadline (which is against House Rules).
Notices of forming Newbie games should be posted to r.g.d. It would be unwise to expect newcomers to know how to list forming games from the judges. It's helpful to scan the newsgroup for recent requests from newbies, and write to each poster announcing the formation of your game. In your mail and in your newsgroup posting, include your e-mail address explicitly and tell anyone interested to write to you directly if they don't know how to SIGNON.
Explain to all interested parties just how to REGISTER, how to SIGNON, and also how to SET PREFERENCEs. Thereafter, explanations can be via BROADCAST.
Write a BROADCAST, saying hi, and explaining the basics of press. Also explain how to GET HELP (and other) files from the judge. Point out the deadline, and the period which you SET for the DEADLINE calculations for future moves.
Don't assume that anything is obvious from the help files. Newcomers to the e-mail world are going to be confused, as a matter of course, by lengthy explanations of syntax. I recommend giving short, basic introductions to the main topics, oversimplifying if necessary. For example, to explain how press works, give a very simple example of how to send press to France. I got several requests for clarification of how to send press to the GM, so it's wise to explain that too. In particular, one player thought that
press to gmwould do it. Fortunately, he realized that there was a possibility that the press would go to Germany!
A simple, basic example will get them started. Once they've internalized the simple case, the rest of the HELP file will be vastly more comprehensible.
Similar remarks apply to order syntax. Giving an example of a move order, and a convoy order, and a support order will prove much more helpful than the big help file for syntax.
Explain that the things usually come back up in a few hours.
Ask them not to send tons of mail to the judge testing to see whether it's back. When a judge goes down, it will come back up to find a very large queue of mail, and its first priority will be to empty that queue. The judge won't process moves until it gets through its mail queue. So sending lots of mail will only postpone the processing of moves. It would be just great if experienced judge-users would pay attention to this rather obvious fact. Let's try to educate a new generation, shall we?
Point out that they can continue to negotiate via direct e-mail while they await the return of the judge.
This would be a good time to spring any amusing pastimes you've saved up. I like to pose some map questions, such as the following
In a short separate contribution to this issue, I explain, in a way intended to be understandable to newcomers to the game (not merely to the net), why there is no opening theory to speak of in Diplomacy. Players in my games seemed to find this interesting. It's a good deal more controversial than the banal and mundane notes above, but I hereby release it to the public domain.
If you wish to e-mail feedback on this article to the author, and clicking on the mail address above does not work for you, feel free to use the "Dear DP..." mail interface, which is located here....