Finding a Gaming Group

by Zachary Houghton

This week’s article comes to us from Zachary Houghton, who is a freelance RPG writer and proprietor of the gaming blog RPG Blog 2. He lives just outside Indianapolis, Indiana with his lovely family, where he waits all year for Gen Con to come back around. You can visit him at www.rpgblog2.com, or email him at mail.rpgblog(at)gmail.com.

So you’ve just had another gaming group end in failure. Perhaps you had too many no call/no shows, perhaps players drifted away, or perhaps the same old incompatibility issues sunk your campaign for the umpteenth time. There’s nothing more frustrating as a Game Master than to see poor group cohesion tank a campaign in which you had invested a massive amount of time.

Let’s face it: as our hobby gets older and our outside obligations and responsibilities increase, it becomes important to maximize our gaming time. All too often, we ignore one of the biggest reasons for a failed campaign: our group isn’t up to the challenge, or isn’t what we need for what we’re trying to do.

Of course, forming a solid gaming group is easier said than done, isn’t it? Often times, especially in small-town life, we have to work with what we have. We don’t have a large gaming network to pull from, or at least that’s what we think. That’s because we often ignore all the resources we have in finding and forming a new group.

I found myself in a similar predicament not too long ago. My buddies and I had just seen a campaign crash and burn very early on. There were chemistry issues, and we felt that new blood was needed—it wasn’t that we didn’t like the rest of our group, just that we all had different expectations and wants from our gaming.

We could have gone back to the same well we’d been going to for several campaigns. But frankly, it wasn’t working. We’d been in the same small gaming circle for so long, we’d stagnated. A small remnant of us decided we needed a new core. Over coffee one night, we discussed how to find more gamers. We knew they were out there, but how to reach them?

We decided on a “blitz” strategy. We didn’t know which approach would be successful, so we tried them all. We printed up fliers and hung them up at the library. We registered on online sites such as Meetup.com and Nearby Gamers. (Editor’s Note:We also have a resource here at Obsidian Portal you might like to try.) We slid fliers into RPG books on the shelves at Borders and Barnes & Noble. We put out the word on various social networking sites. We ended up receiving at least one inquiry from each method tried! If you were trying to get word out about a new product, you wouldn’t just use one medium, would you? Why should recruiting for a RPG campaign (a definite exercise in salesmanship) be any different?

From this, we received a number of interested parties. But how do we figure out if we’d all play well together? Well, email was our first way of communicating, which was good for getting an idea of their likes and dislikes. But I’m a firm believer that a face-to-face meeting can be important. So we didn’t waste their time or our time in a gaming relationship that may not work, we scheduled an informal meeting over coffee and bagels one night. We all showed up in a stress-free environment, and were all to talk about gaming, our hobbies, our schedules, our expectations—all things that may not have otherwise happened. More importantly, it was an excellent icebreaker and allowed us get into a comfort zone with one another earlier on in the subsequent campaign.

Admittedly, the group still could have had issues—that didn’t happen, but it’s important to remember that recruiting and meeting before your game isn’t a magic wand; it’s risk management. Treat it as such, and you should be fine.

Once you have the group, it is up to the Game Master and players to provide the continued momentum and dedication to make your campaign successful. But you need to start off on the right platform.

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