When Things Fall Apart: Finding a New Gaming Group

From Ruben Smith-Zempel

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0236

A Brief Word From Johnn

Thanks for the ENnie votes!

Thank you very much to everyone who voted online for this year’s ENnies. RoleplayingTips.com won four awards, 2 gold and 2 silver, and your support is very much appreciated!

New Files At Mythosa

I’ve posted a couple of new files at the offsite downloads section that Bruce Gulke of Mythosa.net has kindly provided me:

  • Excel Combat Tracker by Tom Ganz
  • D&D 3.5 Rules Tracker

You can check them out at:

Have a great week!


Johnn Four,
[email protected]

When Things Fall Apart: Finding a New Gaming Group

There are few absolute truths among roleplayers, but one of them is that gaming groups can fall apart after a while. Many of us have different phases in our gaming lives, many of them starting in grade or high school, continuing into college, and then carrying on throughout our professional lives. While many of us can string together adventures at the drop of a hat, gathering a new gaming group can be quite difficult and intimidating. Following are helpful tips and hints to help you find that new group as easily as possible.

3, 2, 1, Contact!

The first step is creating a method of contact. With today’s technology this is far easier than it was in the past where we had to rely on message boards in gaming shops. The easiest method of contact for many people nowadays is through email. When gathering a new group, it’s often a good idea to procure a dedicated email account for that purpose. There are many free email providers, including Yahoo, Hotmail, and soon, Gmail. Sign up for one with a unique handle that is easy to remember, such as Save-vs-DM (my handle).

Once you have a good email address, it’s time to spread the word.Head to your local Kinko’s (or similar copy shop). Many places will produce simple business cards for very little money. Have a good 50 to 100 business cards with your name, new address, and any other pertinent information, such as what systems you play or plan to run.For example, my card reads “Name, email address, GM of xx years: now playing “list systems here,” my website address. This tells a prospective new player what you run, how much experience you have, and contact information.

The Gaming Bible (Not Found In Many Hotel Rooms)

Since we’re already at the copy shop, why don’t we cross something else off our list? Another aspect of your contact list is your Gamer’s Bible. This should be a short document that details your standard house rules, where you play, and other important information. On mine, I list that I tend to provide meals at games and that I have cats (since some folks are allergic). Generally, anything that might be a problem for another person should be on this short document.

Like, if you allow smoking or drinking at the table, possible game times, and other non-roleplaying facts.The second half of the document should detail the general tone and style of the games you run. If you like running low combat, high roleplay games with little dice rolling, be sure to include it! This is an important thing to add, as it ensures you will find gamers who enjoy your style. You might also want to list what systems you run the most often or what systems you particularly dislike.

This document shouldn’t be too long or overly verbose. You’re not writing a doctorate thesis, only providing basic facts that are important to new players. Using an outline or bullet list is fine too – the information is more important than how it is presented. Just make sure to run this thing through a spell checker and a human proofreader. Poor grammar or spelling mistakes can really turn some people off.If you’re particularly web-savvy you might consider placing this information on a website along with your contact information.

This is the method I use, and I find it to be a very effective form of presentation. While creating a website might look intimidating, it is actually quite easy to make a simple one. In fact, many of those places that you got your email address from also provide free web space! Remember that your site doesn’t have to look pretty, it just has to get your information out there. If you can read it and understand it, that’s good enough!

Once you have your contact information and game bible done, it’s time to go looking for players. But before you go searching for new players, you need to know where to search.

Your Local RPG Outlet

The first (and perhaps most obvious) place to search is your local gaming retailer. If you buy your books from a shop that is dedicated to roleplaying, begin your search here. Nearly all of them have some sort of bulletin board where you can post notices for new games. Ask the management if you can post your game bible (with contact information) on the board. If you really want to add a punch, go to Kinko’s and have a copy printed on bright colored paper (I suggest bright orange).

Generally, this is simply a post and wait process. This tends to be a good method for attracting dedicated and local players.While you’re at the shop, you can employ a sort of “guerilla warfare” approach. Take a few of your business cards and staple them to your game bible. Then stick this in the middle of the core books for the game you are running. This is quite legal to do and often has great results, as you are targeting the audience you want.While those methods are great passive techniques, you might want to try a more active approach.

Don’t be afraid to politely approach others in the store and ask them if they are looking for a new game. You probably won’t get a lot of people who are themselves looking for a game but chances are they know someone who is. Ask the guys behind the counter as well, as they tend to know who’s looking.

The Internet

Once you’ve exhausted your local gaming retailer (or if you didn’t have one in the first place) it’s time to hit the web. This is usually the point when many folks get intimidated or confused, but it doesn’t have to be that way.There are basically two places you can find gamers on the web: in chat rooms and on message boards. Message boards tend to get better results, but finding the proper ones can be difficult. Generally, it’s better to stick to message boards that cater to the game system you are hoping to run.

Once you find a good message board, see if they have a game listing section you can post in. Add a listing using the information in your game bible and include an email contact. You might want to include where you live, so you get answers from those who can actually physically play with you. This method usually gets quite a few good responses.

Other Tactics

Both of the methods listed above tend to get very focused results, but they need not be the only methods you use.If you take public transportation, start reading your rulebooks on the bus. You might get some strange looks, but often times people will also ask you what exactly it is you are reading. The same goes for coffee shops and other places where you generally have time to kill. In addition to possibly finding a new player, you can brush up on the rules as well.Think about placing a small RPG-related poster, map, or other illustration where you work or on your locker.

This sometimes will gather like-minded people to you, often folks you would have never guessed shared your hobby.These methods will often work well, but they can also gather quite a few odd questions that you might not feel comfortable asking. If a method like this makes you feel uncomfortable, then just use the other methods outlined above.

The Gang’s All Here

Once you’ve found some interested parties, it’s time to find out who is going to work and who isn’t. For this process you need to meet face to face, so the first step is locating some neutral ground. The author is fond of coffee shops, but gaming stores or other public places work just as well.Arrange a time to meet the prospective players one at a time.

Give yourself a good hour of time at least. Bring along the core book for the system you are running and anything else you need. Try to get a feel for the new player and see if you get along well. Ensure your playing styles, gaming times, and other things mesh well together.

Bringing It All Together

Once you’ve met all your players and have a good idea of who you want, it’s time to bring them together. You should plan your first session as more of a meet and greet and less of a game. Have everyone create characters together and meet. Just make sure that you’ve got a group of people that get along well together.

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The Future

Congratulations, you now have a new gaming group! However, your work is not done yet. Make sure to keep in contact with those players that you didn’t have room for. This way you will constantly have a source of new players should one of your group leave again.

Happy gaming!

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Johnn: thanks for the article Ruben!

For more tips on finding players, see:

Issue #58: – RPT#58 – 13 Tips For Finding New Players

Issue #65: – RPT#65 – How To Introduce New People To Roleplaying

Readers’ Tip: Host A Murder Mystery Party

Issue #71: – RPT#71 – 5 Ways You Can Make Travel Interesting Or Important

Also, here’s my current list of online player registries:

If you know of any others, drop me a note!

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Dwarven Forge

Tips From Roleplaying Tips Game Masters

Have a roleplaying tip you’d like to share? E-mail it to [email protected] – thanks!

Bad GMs With Designer Syndrome

From Alexander Smith

I am a long time reader and huge fan of your e-zine. It has helped improve not only my GMing but also other creative endeavors by leaps and bounds in the past years.

Your recent issue about workaholic GMs struck a chord with me, as it seemed to do with many others as well. I was, and by all accounts still am, a workaholic GM, though perhaps for different reasons than some. I was inducted into the role of GM very early into my roleplaying lifespan through the unanimous decision of my friends.

I had a natural gift for story telling, though it was mostly on paper and not so much in a social setting, and I would have much preferred sitting on the other side of that screen. But, I persevered and was able to pull off some memorable campaigns for my players, or so they say, hahahah.

Unfortunately, due to my background as a writer, I found that I became a little too attached to my “campaign” worlds and almost resented the players meddling with them on some levels. Stupid, right? In any case, eventually I would seal that world up nice and tight, tuck it away in a corner, and conjure up a new one, much to the chagrin of my players. In my case, I never suffered from burn-out, but rather from too many ideas all at once, all the time.

I don’t know how many other GMs out there are like this, but as soon as I grew and fostered that attachment to a setting I would begin detailing it far more than any RPG campaign would realistically require. I stopped being a GM and became more of a designer, not that I didn’t enjoy it, of course. I love being almost completely original every time and being apart from everything I know, and that is one thing my players like about me. But constant change is never good; it ruins the fun.

In my most recent campaign, I attempted to make the quintessential, design-it-as-I-go fantasy world and had the best time ever doing it. But as things tend to go, it has now turned into my most elaborate and satisfying world design as yet. But each game in it becomes progressively less fun, dare I say ‘worse’, the more “mine” the settings and stories become.

I can see this problem quite clearly now, the more so due to the recent string of issues of this fine e-zine, and can also see some solutions to it as well. So, for those of you with this same problem.

Here are some hopefully helpful tips to get you back on track:

  1. Remember that it is just a game, and that by definition games should be fun, enjoyable experiences. Don’t let yourself obsess over it at all costs!
  2. If you truly love the design process, fine, set aside some other project of any size or scope for you to work on that has NOTHING to do with the current campaign you are trying to run.
  3. Improve your skills at winging games. One way to do this is to literally wing a game and setting completely for one session before settling down.Some of the best ideas can come about as a result of this.
  4. Only do the prep that is absolutely crucial to your current campaign, at least in the beginning. This prep should NOT include any mapping whatsoever and should try to stay away from detailing any seriously crucial plot points. Let the plot evolve as you play, it should relax you.Possible considerations for prep could be major NPCs and their personalities and position (no stats!), and recent events in the world along with a few major events in the past you could use as hooks.
  5. If you find yourself wanting to over-prepare for a session, take a few steps back and work on the project you set aside before to help vent some steam.
  6. As many have said before me, let your players provide you with interesting hooks and ideas. Do not let this world fall into your hands alone; it should be an effort shared between all members of the gaming group.
  7. If you begin to have second thoughts about your current campaign, ignore them. Plain and simple. You don’t want to dig yourself into yet another rut.
  8. If you begin to have ideas that you are really excited about but that wouldn’t really fit into your current campaign or setting, make them fit. Nothing is impossible and not only will this be an excellent exercise in creativity, it will also give you a better understanding of your world without a ton of extra work.
  9. Get yourself really into the game using whatever props, scenes, or other atmospheric augmentations that you need, but try to keep that passion for the game confined to only the game. Don’t let it bleed into the rest of your life too often. Not only will that hamper normal social activity, it will also lead you back into many of your old traps and possibly leech away your passion for upcoming games as well.
  10. Above all else, be flexible and be relaxed. It is just a game. This sort of ties into tip #1. If your players want to do something new and unexpected, go with it! If they want to something completely ill advised or stupid, just bear with them. The fact is, if they are enjoying themselves, chances are you will be too, and letting them evolve the plot and setting through their own actions isn’t only exciting to them as players, it should also be extremely gratifying to you as a GM! ^^

I really hope that my advice can help others the way others’ advice has helped me. The change will not happen overnight, but it will if you let it, and this will also help you with things outside of roleplaying too I think.

On another note, having a resource for random world or plot building tables can be both helpful and extremely amusing. I, myself, have the AD&D 2nd Ed World Builder’s Guidebook from my earlier years, and it has helped me come up with some interesting and surprisingly effective elements to my games.

Have more fun at every game, especially the ones you run! ?

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Use Larger Battlemat Scale For High-Level Games

From David Younce

In our high-level game, the table isn’t always big enough to handle 1 inch = 5 feet scale, and keeping track of threat ranges can be tricky with big monsters, breath weapons, large spell effects, etc. For large spaces and encounters, we use a scale of 1 inch=20 feet (one square of standard graph paper = 5 feet) and make transparency templates for monsters and their threat ranges instead of using miniatures.

We also have templates for spell effects and other areas of effect. Using these makes determining whether something is threatened easy because if the threat area on the transparency covers the creature area of the other template, the creature is threatened. In a recent game, it was easy to tell when players came within range of a dragon’s breath, then his tail, then his bite, then his claws, as they closed for combat.

In smaller encounters, we switch back to miniatures for a better look at the action, but for large areas we find the transparencies work better.

Thanks for all the tips Johnn. Hope this one helps.

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Use Labels For Fast, Computer-Generated Index Cards

From Nathan Irving

A quick point (or tip) for computer-using GMs — you can buy sheets of adhesive labels at any office supply store (and probably Wal-Mart) that are sized to fit nicely on a standard index card. Layouts for these labels are usually included in word-processing programs, or can be downloaded from the manufacturer’s website, and then it’s just a matter of cutting and pasting from your notes or stat-block generator to the label layout, print, peel, and stick! Faster and less risk of debilitating hand cramps!

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Use OpenOffice For Electronic GMing

From Brandon Blackmoor

Rather than Excel, I suggest that readers use OpenOffice. It’s free, it’s (much) more secure than MSOffice, but it can save, open, and read MSOffice files if necessary. I have been using it at home and at work for a few years now, and I wouldn’t go back to MSOffice for anything (other than Outlook, for which I have not yet found a good, free alternative). Did I mention it’s free?

Apache OpenOffice

Did I mention it’s free? [Johnn: the software looks great! I also see that it’s Windows, OS X, and Linux compatible. Wow!]

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Good Online Spacefaring Resource For Sci-Fi GMs

From Natalie Bennett

This is a handy site for a space faring campaign. It has star charts and other galactic info.