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Don’t Say No, Say “Go ahead.”

Posted By Patrick Benson On November 21, 2008 @ 1:48 am In GMing Advice | 11 Comments

My group that I GM for is currently only three players and myself. Four people at the table isn’t a huge group by any means, but it is still enough people to run some very good games with and I don’t like to GM for more than five players. I’m sure given a little time, energy, and luck that we’ll find one or two more members easily.

And that is what my group wants to see happen. They want me to increase the size of the group now and recruit more players. The reason is that we have been playing D&D 4th Edition. D&D 4e plays better when your group is diverse in both roles and character classes. I know because I play 4e with another group that has five players and there is a noticeable difference to the flow of the game. I agree that more players will improve the game.

But I’m not going to recruit more players.

Although I agree that more players would improve the game, my priority right now is improving the gaming group and those tasks are not one in the same. All three of my players were found and recruited by myself, or through my efforts such as fliers and Internet postings. Although everyone gets along, there are different expectations amongst the players for the group. I have to balance these expectations and help the group to bond socially. Not because I’m the GM (or perhaps because I am?), but because I am the point of initial contact for all of the individuals within the group. Until the group members become more comfortable with each other these players will be more likely to express what they want out of the game to me instead of expressing what they want to the group. No big deal, and it will diminish with time, but for now some of my time and energy must be spent playing the middle man.

Now that we are playing a game on a fairly regular schedule I want all of the players to join a Google Group and Google Calendar that I created in order to improve our communications and our scheduling of games. The reason being that we are all busy professionals and have very busy schedules. One of us has to fly to several locations every week, and I myself am often sent with last minute notice to remote office locations. When you don’t know if you’ll even be in the country next month, these online tools make it a lot easier to communicate with the entire group quickly and to ensure that we don’t plan trips that will fall on game day.

Coordinating the group, prepping for the game as needed, and running the games is what I am focusing on at this time. Finding new players where I live can be a real chore based on my past experiences. I am not going to increase my personal workload to start actively recruiting more players right now. With what I am already doing for the group, my job, my family, and life in general I do not want any more tasks on my todo list. I’ve explained this to my group.

So I’m not going to recruit more players at this time. The players are going to recruit more players themselves.

Just because I don’t want to recruit more players doesn’t mean that I should say no to the idea entirely. And who says that only the GM can introduce new players to the group? As a player I’ve recruited for other groups in the past many a time. Plus this helps to move my own agenda forward of creating a group of peers that communicate directly with each other instead of all communication going through the GM.

If my players recruit one or two more players that will be great, and if they don’t then once I am ready I’ll go find one or two more players myself. Either way the important thing is that the option is there for the players to fulfill their own request. It may not be what the players expected, but it is certainly better than no option at all.

That is my opinion on the matter, so what is yours? Leave your comments for others to read and share your own experiences with me and other members of the Gnome Stew community. And no matter what happens, don’t forget that the GM is a player too! Have fun with it!

About  Patrick Benson

Patrick was born in 1975, and is more or less your typical American male for someone of his age. Except he is a tabletop RPG gamer and a damn fine game master! What else matters?




11 Comments (Open | Close)

11 Comments To "Don’t Say No, Say “Go ahead.”"

#1 Comment By nblade On November 21, 2008 @ 7:11 am

I think you have the right idea. If your players find other people to join, then sure let them join. Of course finding those players is just plain hard as you mentioned. I am currently in the opposite position, I have to find players. The rough work schedule for all members of my group has made it impossible to have them all play. As you note, its sometimes hard to coordinate everything. I’ve tried to use Google Calendar, but seems I’m the only tech-head. Based on schedules and other conflict, I’ve effectively losing 3 players. Then I have linked gamers, in this case a couple. If one of them can’t make it then other one will not make it. Sadly, if it wasn’t for a side group I’ve been gaming with, I’d not be gaming at all.

OK, enough of my problems, back to you.
So the answer is yes, let your players find the additional players they seek. Like all things, you should make sure the players are in sync with what you are doing. It’s said but getting new gamers is sort of like hiring new employees. There is always be an informal interview of some point. In the end both sides need to be happy, so everyone has fun.

#2 Comment By Martin Ralya On November 21, 2008 @ 7:41 am

Point your players to NearbyGamers, if you haven’t already. That plus an interview enabled my group to recruit our last player; he rocks and has become our friend, not just a gaming buddy.

#3 Comment By nblade On November 21, 2008 @ 8:14 am

NearbyGamer is a good starting point. Sadly, my area seems to have a bunch of slackers. I’ve actually had more luck using the old game store bulletin board and see who’s looking for a game.

As a side note, I’ve noticed a horrible trend in my blogs and my comments lately. Seems my fingers and brains have a slight disconnect. I’ll proof what I’m writing, only to re-read it hours later to find missing words or in some cases wrong words. So, sorry about that folks.

#4 Comment By Rafe On November 21, 2008 @ 10:32 am

I think it’s a good idea to have players recruit players, but it depends. The best group I’ve ever been in started with an Army officer (DM) putting up a flyer at the gaming store where we lived. He got a player right then and there, someone who was in the store and heard the DM asking the owner where he could put a flyer. I then got an email through accessdenied.net (.com? whatever) and said, “Sure, I’ll come meet you.” I brought in my housemate and long-time friend and the player from the gaming store brought his buddy. We then had four players and a DM. We added two more (a friend of mine and his friend) later on.

The campaign lasted over 2 years. In that time, we celebrated Easter together (we were university students with the DM the only working family man), we helped the DM build his fence and deck, and, four years later, we’re still great friends and get together when we can.

Random chance brought us together from different backgrounds (two military college students, two university students and a military officer) and we’ve been good friends for over 7 years. My point? You never know how things will work out.

#5 Comment By Scott Martin On November 21, 2008 @ 10:46 am

I’m currently in the reverse position; I joined a second cool group of gamers about a year ago and have standing requests to run games for another couple of friends who want to try roleplaying (again in one case, and for the first time in another).

In many ways, my situation comes about because I’ve pursued the player finder options in the past. I attended the monthly roleplaying meetups at a local game store (which is how I found and joined my new group) and participate in a local gaming board. It can be frustrating– I joined a game or two to be friendly and help someone establish a game, even though it wound up being not terribly fun. I guess my advice would be to play as much as you’ll enjoy– that’ll give you a large pool to pull from later.

#6 Comment By Patrick Benson On November 21, 2008 @ 11:06 am

Eek! I think I missed the mark with my intentions for this article based on the comments. It isn’t about recruiting players, it is about the GM not having to say no to the group but also not having to take on additional work when the group requests something that the GM does not want to do. The player recruiting situation was just an example of this. My bad.

But recruiting players is important too, and your comments bring up some very good points.

@Martin Ralya – I really like Nearby Gamers, but unfortunately there are not enough gamers in my area who use the site. I hope that one day it catches on big time and all gamers use it, but I also wish that all gamers would bathe and chew with their mouths closed and my last convention experience crushed that dream. Oh well, one day we’ll reach the promised land . . .

As others have said the FLGS bulletin board has given me the best results so far. I get more responses and find better candidates for the group.

#7 Comment By nblade On November 21, 2008 @ 11:28 am

@Patrick Benson – I don’t think you missed your mark. More like we strayed from your intentions.

#8 Comment By Martin Ralya On November 21, 2008 @ 6:54 pm

Straying from your intentions is my middle name, incidentally. It’s hell when I’m filling out forms, let me tell you.

#9 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On November 22, 2008 @ 4:47 pm

I completely agree with your original point – If your players want something from your game, they should be willing to shoulder at least part of the burden. The more the workload is shared, the less likely the GM will burn out (IMHO, the primary source of most aborted campaigns).

Before pregnancy, 4th edition, and my current crush on Savage Worlds, I had some plans for my next 3.5 game: One player would handle initiative with a GameMastery Combat Pad, one would track hit points, one would act as “the banker” and handle shopping chores, and one would track XP and treasure. (At the time, I wanted to use Campaign Coins and track hit points independently of the players.) If I had a fifth player he or she would take notes and publish a journal. If anyone didn’t want to take one of these chores, I was going to dock their XP. :(

Things changed: I got away from the overly-detailed approach to gaming that 3.5 follows. I fell in lust with a system that doesn’t use ’round robin’ initiative. I figured that players should track their own hit points (for simplicity, but I like the “you don’t really know your chances” approach). I still want to use the Campaign Coins, and have a good journal, but I figure we can work that out.

Oh, and my wife gave birth to our first child. Things REALLY changed, and I’m just now getting back to working on a campaign…

#10 Comment By JackSmithIV On November 22, 2008 @ 11:52 pm

I personally would use this opportunity to bring new people into the hobby. 4th Edition is a great gateway to playing tabletop RPGs. Whenever starting a new campaign, I always make sure I have one person at the table who’s never played before. Often, they’ll be the most original, resourceful, and enthusiastic.

As long as you know how to make a good pitch, bring some more people in! God knows we need ‘em…

#11 Comment By zerfinity On December 3, 2008 @ 2:36 am

I’d just like to add a brief comment from my experience. The best thing I’ve done to get my players to do more work for a campaign is to tell them from the beginning that it would be required, make clear what kinds, and then added benefits when they followed through. Get your current character wealth to me on time and I’ll stack the next bad guys with stuff you need. Help another player become familiar with the rules and I’ll add to the XP pot from your character (I use a collective pot equally distributed but with bonuses to the highest earners).

When I started running the Eberron campaign, I told the players, “Look I don’t really have a lot of time for this so I’ll be running this train on the rails and I’ll need you all to both accept and help with that.” When one player wanted to follow a side interest another player reminded him of this and I didn’t have to do anything.

So by all means, set those boundaries, make it clear that the players need to pitch in, just do it as early and clearly as possible. If you have noobs, give them links or ideas on how to do the jobs you’ve delegated to them. Then step back and accept that you’ve given up the control of that element and accept what comes.

-zerfinity
http://zerfinity.blogspot.com/


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