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Game Recruitment: Two tales

Posted By Scott Martin On May 13, 2008 @ 7:11 am In GMing Advice | 11 Comments

Phoenix came to town and was looking for a roleplaying group. I answered his email, because I was trying to get into the wider Fresno scene, and thought it’d be a good to help a new visitor find a group. (Mine, unfortunately was full– an established group in the middle of the campaign, and I wasn’t GM.) We met over coffee (and an amusing misunderstanding). We chatted and enjoyed each other’s company, though there was a lot of awkward “interview” feeling to the talk.

I brought him back to my group on board gaming night and the interaction was a bit rough. (Let’s just say that Phoenix brought up politics and outed himself as far from most of the other players. It was awkward, especially happening so early.) Phoenix and I hung out every couple weeks after that until the end of the semester when he cleared town. Within a week or two, I stumbled on an answer to his need– a local gaming board. There were other players local to us, desperate for a GM, eager for additional players. We just didn’t find the board before he left town.

Fast forward a couple of years. I’m still enjoying games with my local group, but I’m also trying to be a better participant in the overall local gaming community. I’ve been on the gaming board for a while, and the new local shop in town uses meetup.com to organize a roleplaying meetup. I’ve been pretty excited by Spirit of the Century, but my home group is mid-campaign and isn’t looking for another game. I decide to inflict it on the meetup.

Our game is awesome. Bryan, Paul, and I have tremendous fun weaving an exciting tale. Afterwards we keep talking with each other– Bryan admits he was on the verge of burnout after some nasty group politics and a few sessions too many of d20. We chat a bit more by email and jump into each other’s games at the monthly meetups. After a few months we decided that we wanted to game more often than monthly, so we started serious discussion by email about our group and goals. Now I’m in a second group that’s interested in the same types of games– something I didn’t expect when I went to the meetup, but it’s been great.

Advice on finding groups: I have only a few stories and anecdotes, but here’s some thoughts on how to approach it.

  • First, see if there’s a local gaming board with any traffic. Search google for the largest city near you plus roleplaying. Hopefully, there’s a place out there with people already discussing games or begging for a good GM.
  • Try out other sites… I’ll let my bias show by suggesting meetup.com. Other good sites include nearbygamers.com. If you enjoy D&D, look for a local gameday on the RPGA convention calendar
  • If you’re a member of an online community already, post asking if there are any players in your area. You might already know some cool people online. I’ve seen good things come of this, but usually in larger cities.
  • The old standbys can work– if you have a friendly local game store (FLGS), see if they have a bulletin board. Add a flier for your game, or take down some numbers that are already up there.
  • Living dice recently had a post titled How to Recruit a Player. The idea of getting a referral is brilliant. Also read it to for cautionary words on random FLGS recruitment.

About  Scott Martin

Scott is an engineer turned gnome and game store owner. He lies awake at night building intriguing worlds and plotting your character's demise.




11 Comments (Open | Close)

11 Comments To "Game Recruitment: Two tales"

#1 Comment By DarthKrzysztof On May 13, 2008 @ 9:26 am

I had a hard time finding any campaigns to get excited locally, but I fell backwards into chat-based gaming on a thread over at Treasure Tables. “It’s better than not playing at all” was my initial attitude, but now I seem to -prefer- chat gaming to playing at a table.

Finding the right game to join is just as difficult, and I’m told that there are players who have trouble committing to a chat-based campaign. But it’s an option that merits consideration.

#2 Comment By Scott Martin On May 13, 2008 @ 9:39 am

You’re right. Chat’s particularly good for trying out new games; I know that the indierpgs IRC channel was a great place to try out all those games you’d bought but could never find a local group to play.

#3 Comment By sjkellyfetti On May 13, 2008 @ 11:01 am

Another resource (if people in your area are signed up on it) is the Pen and Paper Games site. I have found some prospective players in my area through it, though nothing has actually panned out yet.

#4 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On May 13, 2008 @ 12:18 pm

Now that Meetup is charging for groups, there are a lot of lapsed groups out there, but you can still browse the profiles. I got a ton of emails from “player seeking game” types after posting my actual email address on my meetup.com profile. I generally directed them towards Yahoo groups, and I know that a few found games.

Bummer about the politics thing. Some folks either never received or can’t understood the “don’t discuss politics or religion among new friends” advice.

#5 Comment By Omnus On May 13, 2008 @ 9:14 pm

My group just recently semi-fragmented, giving me an open night of gaming every other week. I went ahead and recruited one of my players and the group he gamed with, as well as another interested friend. Though we’ve only had one play session together, and things have been solid so far, this blog reminds me of my standing rule with new folks. All newcomers, regardless of pedigree or my personal relationship with them, are on a strictly probationary basis until three play sessions, after which time I decide whether or not to keep them (with the advice of the other players, of course). You can’t get too enamored with a new player that you can’t see friction forming within the new group.

From the other side, I guess I’d suggest putting out feelers through friends first. Gaming is no longer the hobby people are ashamed about. With friends, you have the luxury of starting out with some familiarity. Lots of people “know someone who plays”.

#6 Comment By oddysey On May 14, 2008 @ 12:23 am

On a similar note as Omnus, I’ve had a fair amount of success recruiting existing friends for games. Not everyone’s going to be interested, but I’ve found that the people I get along with best tend to be fairly open to gaming. Mostly because I’m actively weird, and attract people based on that quality, but you never know who’ll say, “oh, yeah, D&D, I always wanted to try that.”

#7 Comment By Hautamaki On May 14, 2008 @ 2:59 am

Out of all the people I’ve ever played with in my life, only one of them had ever played an RPG with anyone else ever before; I pretty much recruited exclusively from my own friends. Some of them didn’t like it much and didn’t play for more than one or two campaigns and that’s cool, but a lot of them have become life-long gamers. Personally I’d feel pretty uncomfortable about finding some random stranger to sit down and play D&D with. To me it’s a very personal experience and something I really only feel comfortable doing with people I already like and trust on a personal basis.

#8 Comment By Martin Ralya On May 14, 2008 @ 2:39 pm

I’ll second your recommendation for NearbyGamers — I love that site. My group fund our newest player through NBG.

Prior to that, our best luck came from fortunate stumblings online, and of course the holy grail of player recruitment: the personal reference.

#9 Comment By Scott Martin On May 14, 2008 @ 3:30 pm

Omnus and Oddysey: Your suggestion is excellent. If there’s someone around who you’d enjoy roleplaying with, ask them. Even if they’ve never gamed before, a lot of people are up for trying new things. (Though I’d put in more effort prepping for completely new players– particularly in handouts– to help them acclimate.)

As Stephen Colbert and Wil Wheaton prove, you never know who used to play D&D when they were younger. Nostalgia or curiosity might deliver a new gamer to your table– and without all those assumptions to unlearn.

#10 Comment By zacharythefirst On May 14, 2008 @ 7:49 pm

I find one of the issues with a lot of sites like Nearby Gamers and FindPlay (and others that have tried for the same thing) is that folks will sign up, full of good intentions, then just not respond to messages/emails or not check up on it. Which might just be a sign it wasn’t meant to be, I guess. :)

meetup.com can be handy, though ours is dominated by D&D and not particularly active.

You know, I have my RPG books across several bookshelves in my office/front room. I’ve had a few folks comment on them when over–a few that I never would have guessed were gamers, and a few who wanted to give it a try! I guess you never know. If you don’t mind having Geek Pride, you can always leave out a book, coffee table style when friends are over.

That Living Dice article is a good link! Thanks!

#11 Comment By BryanB On May 16, 2008 @ 11:14 am

I was tired of group politics and nothing but D&D for several years. I like D&D but I want a change of game now and then. My group had collapsed from petty group politics and stagnation. We hadn’t gathered in nearly six months when I decided to become more proactive about finding new people. I attended a Meetup group in Fresno.

Meetup groups, RPGA events, and public gaming venues (FLGS) are excellent ways to meet and play with new people. You can see what a person is like before you commit to any group activities. You get a good idea about what kinds of games people are looking for or what a person’s playstyle is. Having similar interests or compatible playstyles is a huge factor in gaming group success. By playing in public, you get to know someone before you play in each other’s homes. It helps everyone relax and have fun. Now I am enjoying my gaming again and I am in a group that will try new games or strive to make the traditional games even more worthwile. You can’t ask for anything more.


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