How to find a gaming group

By Shamus
on Jun 27, 2007
Filed under:
Tabletop Games

Occasionally I get emails from people expressing interest in playing D&D. I’m pretty flattered that they would come to me for advice. Being well-connected to the hobby and being able to make fun of the hobby are two different things, and I have much more of the latter. I feel bad that I can’t help people more, particularly since many of them decided to try out roleplaying based on what they read here at the site.

The Fear the Boot podcast tackles this very subject this week. They are talking about gamers who have lost their existing group, but their advice works just as well for newcomers. I also stand by advice I gave a long time ago: Buy the two core D&D rulebooks – the Dungeon Master’s Guide and the Player’s Handbook. Give them a read, and have a friend roll up a character “just to help you practice”. The dice are very appealing and the process of making up a character is a lot of fun. They are very likely to become hooked right then.

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From the Archives:

  1. Mordaedil says:

    Hmm… Gotta try that with a friend of mine…

  2. MountZionRyan says:

    Or for only 10 bucks you’ll be able to buy the whole Savage Worlds core rules come August (July if you’re at Origins).
    ;-)

    I would add that when looking for other players, it is very wise to put your expectations right up front. Our group wrote out s Social Contract so that new additions know exactly what we are about. This might be somewhat extreme, but we’re all older gamers (30s) with families who don’t have time to waste gaming without joy.

  3. Corvus says:

    shameless plug

    I’m looking to put together a couple of small groups (no more than four people each) to help me the system and my theories on participatory storytelling. So if you live in the Philadelphia area and want to commit to a monthly gaming group running a homebrew system where player input actively shapes the culture and events, you could always contact me (link)!

    This would most certainly not be a typical D&D-style RPG experience though.

  4. Henebry says:

    My local gaming store hosts a bulletin board (yes, a physical board made of cork) where groups post looking for players and players post looking for games.

    And I’ve been told that Craigslist has listings of this kind, but if so I’ve not been able to find them.

  5. Winged Ignorance says:

    I can’t remember where I read this, but it sounds like a great idea to me.

    Print out a poster with a picture of a d20 on it and a way to contact you (phone number, e-mail address, etc.) and put it in a public place. In my case, come autumn, I’ll be doing that at the college to try and put together a group.

    The thing about this is that it’s just a d20, and people who don’t know what it is won’t care enough to call. The people who DO know what a twenty-sided die is used for would likely have their interest piqued, and maybe even think it’s clever.

  6. Stephen says:

    I tend to find that players looking for a group are a mixed bag. A lot are awesome gamers who moved or whose groups disbanded. Some are people that have never been able to get a permanent group because nobody wants to play with them long term. It’s often hard to tell group A from group B until you’re several sessions in.

    My impression is that the number of gamers in long-term games dwarfs the number of gamers actively looking for a group; people getting regular gaming with their friends don’t need to advertise.

    Fortunately, these groups are sometimes easy to find if you know how to look. Any acquaintance or co-worker that understands what gaming is, even if he or she doesn’t game, probably knows other gamers besides you. If the acquaintance likes you, he or she is probably happy to ask other gaming friends if they have space for one more.

  7. JagDell says:

    Another way to find a new gamers buddies is to lug around a D&D book at lunch and wait for a collegue/student to ask about it or mention something like ‘yeah I play/played that before. The ensuring discussion can turn into an impromptu interview for a potential player.

    My current gaming group is made out of 2 players that have been around since High School (20 years ago) and 3 others I picked up from places I’ve worked since.

  8. Nilus says:

    I think part of the problem is the gamer stigma. People find the idea of gaming interesting but they don’t want to talk to other people about it because about 1 in every 5 people will think they are a huge nerd(or a Satan worshipper). It makes finding a new group hard when you are new the hobby.

    Most of us get over that fear but for potential new players it can be a huge wall.

  9. Germelia says:

    I’m considering trying the idea Winged Ignorance came up with. Currently I’m in two groups, but both groups of gamers are ‘raised’ by the same person(s), being my friend and myself. It would be nice to play with more experienced and different people for a change.

  10. Basilios says:

    I tried that, with quite a few friends. Got exactly zero positives, and plenty negative answers ranging from sarcastic comments to empty looks and polite expressions of their lack of interest.

    I gave up. The DMG and the PH are gathering dust on my shelf.

  11. Dylan Zimmerman says:

    It’s an odd idea, mine, but it’s working well for me thus far:

    If you’re a transplanted player and can’t find a group, build your own.

    I’m fairly used to GMing, now, having been doing it for about 6 or so years, and I’m very soon going to begin playing with players who have never really played D&D or any rpg before. I’m extremely stoked about this. They’re all imaginative people who won’t be fettered by years of gaming experience telling them what the answer to any given problem “should be.”

    The reason this group came about is because last year I started University, moving to live with my Dad in a new city, leaving my wonderful gaming group behind.

    As far as getting the new players involved, all you have to do is make it easy for them. Help them with the numbers, explain everything a million times (if/when they ask), give hints, and most of all, be patient.

    If you’ve never GMed before, it’s a completely different experience, one that I think almost every player should try once, if only to appreciate what the GM does on a weekly or bi-weekly, or however often you game, basis.

  12. mneme says:

    2nd? (Just wondering if this works).

  13. Dev Null says:

    Go to your local university campus – assuming you’ve got one – at the beginning of the year, and find out when their role-playing club has its first meeting. Turn up with a couple of rulebooks, some pre-made characters, and a couple-episode adventure for them, and at the end of the meeting offer to run a quick game for whoever’s interested.

    Because the uni students are often new in town, the gamers among them wont have a game yet, so many will turn up on a lark. Sure, you’ll get 90% number-crunching powergamers but thats fine – the game is only going to run for a week or two. Then you invite the people who you genuinely enjoyed playing with to start a _real_ campaign… Mind you, I’ve never actually tried this as a GM myself, but I’ve been caught up by someone else doing it twice, and found good groups.

    Another method thats good is to find the mildly interested but non-committal non-gamer amongst your friends (you know who I’m talking about) and get them to come along to a game and play minor NPCs for the GM. No long-term commitment, no big deal if he/she gets themselves killed. Worked a treat with the old Lion Rampant Ars Magica system – get them to play grogs.

  14. oldschoolGM says:

    Well, I’ve come across and tried just about every method of finding players at one point over the years. I find that public postings can work on occasion but aren’t terribly good at matching up compatible people. Of course, sometimes an eclectic bunch of people makes for the most dynamic gaming group. Still, it’s not much fun if the players genuinely don’t care for each other in real life. The best thing, of course, is to be brought into a group by someone you know.

    A couple of quick tips:

    1. If you go to school or work at a place with a cafeteria, watch for people reading fantasy or science fiction novels. I’ve picked up a few good players just by striking up a conversation about a book we both had read.

    2. Frequent your local gaming or comic book shop, and try to get to know the proprietor. These individuals are usually plugged into the local gaming scene, and might be able to point you in the right direction.

    3. Watch for gaming conventions in your area. If you can make it to one of these, there are almost always pick-up games going on. Don’t intrude on someones ongoing game, and be polite, but don’t be shy about asking to join in if people are setting up or look shorthanded.

    4. There’s always the RPGA. I haven’t been a member for a long time, but they used to have resources for finding a group or players for your group.

  15. Myxx says:

    I was the ‘friend’ you mention, Shamus. Actually, my second roommate in college was a big gamer, and he was dying not being able to put a group together when he moved for school. So, one afternoon when we were bored, he had me role up a character. I enjoyed it, so we brought our other friends into it… and we managed to stick together playing multiple times per month, even after college and into some marriages, for about 8 years. I was very skeptical at first, but really ended up enjoying it. Most of us are still friends and in very regular contact, and it’s fun to think back to those times. We don’t play anymore though; not because of lack of interest, just the demands of life, family and work.

  16. The Pancakes says:

    I suggest the RPGA for DMs looking for Players and vice versa. I’ve always had good luck finding players and DMs there. Here’s a link to links of all the regional chapters:

    http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=lg/region/regionfind

    Show up for a game day or two. Meet some new folks and select the best candidates for your game. Or maybe get invited to someone else’s.

  17. Jeff says:

    WotC had a good “In Search of a Game” article a while back that helped me find a group.

    http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/sg/20061013a

  18. drow says:

    treasure tables (a website for GMs) also has some ideas about finding players…
    http://www.treasuretables.org/ways-to-find-rpg-players

  19. Thpbltblt says:

    I agree with the game store ideas. Check for bulletin boards, and talk to the employees/owners. Also, if you’re in the greater metro Atlanta GA area, try http://www.garpg.org. Between that and meetup.com, I’ve had great success meeting gamers and now have two regular games with different groups.

  20. Dave says:

    I found a new method during my recent move.. it’s provided a number of leads.. now I just have to follow them.

    Go to meetup.com and look for D&D groups.. they’ll likely be a “meetup” of folks.. and a forum where people can link up for actual gaming groups.

    I like the method Shamus exposed.. Any guesses if it’ll work on my wife?? She plays Magic The Gathering.. ..hmmm.. practice.. I like it.

    OldSkullGM has some tried and true methods.. and in defense of the public posting idea.. that works well if you’re gonna DM.. I’ve had it work a few times.. I suggest posting at the nearby gameshop.. and make your posting standout.. like burn the edges of it so it looks old.. and make it very clear if you are open to any players or just certain types… I suggest putting, “New Players welcome and encouraged..” that frees people from being too intimidated… of course, then you have to be welcoming and encouraging…

    Anyway.. even posting here would get you a couple of hits.

  21. Jim says:

    Pen & Paper Games has a free online player registry. Actually, I think it simply IS a free online player registry.

    http://www.penandpapergames.com/

    Also, check the site http://www.meetup.com for anyone running a D&D meetup group in your area. It’s free to join, although it’s not free to run the group, I guess.

  22. Amazon warrior says:

    Wow! Relevant topic of the week prize goes to Shamus! My boyfriend has been having a terrible time trying to find gamers for his D&D campaign in Melbourne. (Anybody from there and reading this, shout out now!) Some of these tips are worth a try, I reckon. Trouble is, we’re both new in town, so the network of potentials that we know is small. I do know for a fact that one of my co-workers is a gamer, but I also know he works late shifts. :(

    We already tried meetups, but with the dispersed Aussie population, it’s not really worked. Posting on a couple of local game-related forums didn’t really do much either, for much the same reason I think. Dev Null’s Uni idea is brilliant tho, and we’re going to try it this weekend. Cheers fot that! :)

    Also, if anyone ever finds themselves in Japan and looking for a game, I highly recommend the JIGG (Japan International Gamers Guild) yahoo group. I met some fantastic people through it, and had some really great games.

  23. stormcaller says:

    to Amazon Warrior – where in Melbourne?
    Melbourne Uni (parkville), Monash Uni (Clayton), RMIT (City) and Swinbourne (Hawthorn) all have RP clubs. – Infinite Images, Monash University Role Players, ScienceFiction and Fantasy Gamers Association (SFGA) and Swinbourne Roleplayer Society respectively.

    There is also Unicon coming up on Grand Final weekend (i know still a while off), it is at Melbourne Uni – in the Arts building

    There is also:
    http://www.mindgamesmelbourne.com/Clubs.htm
    i think the link is a little out of date but should give you a start point

  24. Cheesemaster says:

    Ohoho, more Australians? How about that. I sympathise with your situation, but even worse – I live in Tasmania – I’m willing to bet there are more gamers in a major city in America than there are people on this entire island. I’m also LFG at the moment.

    I think the d20 idea is a good one, and also the idea of posting and asking at uni (despite the only university in Tasmania having no gaming group, it’s worth a try with posters), especially since uni students are usually more open-minded than the average citizen, and more of the nerdy outcasts anyway. I’ll give that poster idea a go…

    PS, thanks for the links previous commenters.

  25. Dave says:

    G’day Aussies.. I reckon ya’ could use the DM-client in Neverwinter Nights ta’ run ya’ a game. .. it really is a good set-up for D&D via the net.. ‘specially now the gamming community has worked for 6 years on it.. That’d let ya’ game with a spread out group.

  26. Amazon warrior says:

    @stormcaller – We live in central Melbourne, Carlton to be precise, so absolutely in range for at least two Unis. Nice to know there are gamers there, so thanks for that. :) I found reference to RMIT’s gaming group on t’interweb, but couldn’t find Melbourne’s at all. We’ll probably put up provocative posters over the weekend. :)

    @Cheesemaster & Dave – Ironically, we’re not Australian at all, we’re Brits that migrated! But we’re trying to blend in. I can sympathise with trying to find gamers in Tasmania – sounds awful. Hope you find something soon! The NWN thing is interesting, but I’m not sure it’d work for our current game – I guess you’d have to arrange the game to suit. Will take a look at it, tho.

  27. Dave says:

    Amazon warrior.. you’d be suprised at all the community content for NWN.. even d20Modern.. and with the DMFI tools you can actually run a game without too much front-end work.. there’s a learning curve.. but totally doable… and you stay in character.

  28. Marty says:

    I started a regional Yahoo Group (Hampton Roads, VA)

    The MeetUps in my area never seem to last long since MeetUp started charging, but people often post their emails on the “wanting to find a nearby MeetUp” list (Look for D&D, Roleplaying or Vampire MeetUps). I harvest those emails and invite them to join my Yahoo Group, “RPGHR”.

    Ironically, I haven’t had much time to play in the last year, but my Yahoo group has helped other people find gaming groups in the area, so I’m glad for that. We’re up to 47 members.

    Definitely stay tuned into your local game shop(s) and mine resources like RPG.net and SJGAMES.com for player finders.

  29. Logan says:

    It is a huge pain in the rear to find other gamers out there.

    (To anyone reading this, yes, I’ve tried the local gaming stores, etc – I’m down to working the internet angle. The internet – “It’s not just for porn any more!”

    I am posting my experiences (and what I do) in hopes that it will assist someone else with this process. Maybe someone smart out there will come up with something I haven’t been doing that I should consider doing. Don’t know.

    My experience is that you send out a few hundred e-mails.
    You get back say twenty e-mails.

    Delete all of the ones who ask “Where did you get my e-mail address” (these are folks indignant about being e-mailed – no good will come from them).

    You will get back several from people who sound *exactly like the kind of people you’d enjoy gaming with* who profusely apologize but their schedules are full – they cannot game. (They must have posted in the looking for group stuff back in the old days when they had oodles of time.)

    You will get a handfull of people who are interested.

    My next step is I give that hand full my phone number and ask them to call me to discuss the details. Some won’t. The way I look at it, if they are too scared/busy to call you, chances of them actually coming over is nil. Plus, I *want* to talk to these people ahead of time to find out if they are the kind of folks I would like to have over to my house. If they sound like ‘Bevis and Buthead’ (misspelled intentionally) I don’t want them over.

    After chatting with them on the phone and assuring myself that they seem to be reasonably normal (as much as we gamers are) I give them my address.

    You would think that all of the folks that said “I have your address, it sounds like fun, I am looking forward to it” would be there, wouldn’t you?

    No.

    About 1 in 3 or 1 in 4.

    Others forget there was a game on. Or realize that they were horribly delusional in the amount of free time they had. Or just fall off of the planet unexpectedly.

    Now, you are down to the ones that a) contacted you via e-mail AND b) passed your phone screen interview AND c) actually made it to the game.

    And you’re not done yet.

    This is the part where you get to find out ‘What does this person bring to the table?’ Sadly, the answer for some is ‘Nothing’. It takes about 2-3 sessions to figure that out. I’ve learned that it can’t be done on the first session. The new players fit into one of two types (at my game). Either the folks that are adept at having a good time, talk, laugh, perhaps fans that have listened to the show and already have an idea of ‘what’s up’. (Clarification for those who don’t know – I podcast all of my game sessions. I didn’t think anyone would be interested in listening to them but I can’t argue with thousands of downloads per month.) The other half of the new players have the same sort of expressions on their face as though they were expecting me at any moment to fly out of my chair and rip off my pants. (Being that I have a belly that puts pregnant women to shame, seeing me ‘fly’ anywhere would be quite shocking.. Those gamers look as though they will be getting a dreaded operation tomorrow and are sitting there contemplating it. The strange thing is when they show up again. And keep showing up. And loosen up. And have fun. Some people are just wired that way. Hence, I always like to have the new players in for at least three sessions (unless they are truly annoying or I get complaints from other players) before I decide whether to make them a permanent addition to the group or not.

    And out of those few left you hopefully have found someone you can game with for years.

    Clarification: When we decide ‘What a person brings to the table’ some folks may think ‘Oh, you guys are picky’. Not really. We have had lots of different things brought to the table that are useful. Maybe the person is funny. Maybe they are enthusiastic. Maybe they are good when the pressure is on. Maybe they are good at planning. But we need something.

    That’s the end of my rant – think I’m going to copy paste this into the Heroic Cthulhu boards as well. If anyone is interested in checking those out, you can find them at
    http://heroiccthulhu.proboards105.com/index.cgi

    Thanks for listening to a long rant.

  30. FlameKiller says:

    One way to entice a hesatint person in to trying is to say it is a form of gambling. you invest time and energy into creating a character and then you leave it up to the dice weather or not the character lives, and you can use it again, or it dies and your hard work goes to waste and you have to spend more time in making a new character. all it takes is one bad roll and the character is gone and the next week is looking through the books and writing up a new character sheet and the DM has to find a way to introduce the person. THE DICE ARE THE GODS OF FATE!!!!!

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