13 Tips For Finding New Players

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0058

  1. Get A Business Card
  2. Advertise In Stores
  3. Go To The Library
  4. Post-It Notes
  5. Friends, Family, Co-workers
  6. Talk With Strangers 
  7. Host A Board Game Or Card Game Night
  8. Carry An RPG Book Around With You
  9. Post In Online Roleplaying Discussion Groups & Lists
  10. Contact Ex-Players
  11. Find Regional Clubs
  12. Enlist Your Fellow Players
  13. Get A T-Shirt

Readers’ Tips Summarized

  1. Recipe For A Perfect Game Table
  2. Post Character Death Ideas
  3. Roleplaying Tips Success Story

A Brief Word From Johnn

Teleconference Experience

Just before Christmas we had a session where a player could not make it because he had to work. Due to the nature of his job though, he was able to stay on the phone with us while we played.

So, we decided to try an experiment in roleplaying teleconferencing. We set up a speaker phone and put it in the middle of the gaming table. I also brought a hands-free headset and a splitter, so I could talk directly with the player hands-free.

I give the whole experience a 7 out of 10 and would definitely do it again rather than leave a player out. For one thing, when the player arrived at the session later on, after work, he already knew most of what had gone on and he could jump in immediately.

With the hands-free set, I was also able to ask the player questions privately.

Also, I trusted the player and he had his dice with him at work. So, I let him roll when needed and he yelled out his results along with the other players. It was just like having him at the table!

Finally, the phone didn’t intrude like I thought it would. And the player wasn’t drowned out by the group’s noise, like I had worried he might.

So, if the circumstances are right for player and group, I recommend this method of roleplaying.

Finding New Players Can Be Tough

The second most commonly asked question I receive is for tips on how to find new players. If you live outside of a city or feel uncomfortable about approaching people to find out if they enjoy the same hobby that you do, it can be tough.

Here is a list of ideas that I came up with, some old and some new. I hope you find one or more that works for you. And I hope you find new players.

Also, if you have found a player through a method not on this list, please write in and I’ll add it. We’ll make a master list that GMs everywhere can reference from the web site for when they’re stuck finding a new gamer.


Johnn Four
[email protected]

13 Tips For Finding New Players

Get A Business Card

I can already hear a few chuckles out there about this tip. But I put it at the top of the list because it’s a nice and easy tool which can be used in every tip described below.

I recently went to Staples, a large stationery store, to get a quote for a RoleplayingTips.com business card. To my surprise, I found out that I could get 500 plain text cards for just $14CAN/$10US.

I immediately thought that the cards were so cheap they would be a great way to spread the word that you’re looking for new players.

You can also get business card stationery for printers and print up your own for under $10.

So, please consider this tool seriously.

I would get cards printed with:

  • Just your first name
  • An anonymous email address (i.e. Hotmail)
  • 1-2 line description (i.e. you are the GM, games you play, why you play, preferred game style, etc.)
  • Perhaps an interesting quote from someone/thing famous in the genre (i.e. Conan, Gygax, Dragon Magazine)
  • A declaration that you’re always looking for new players, or that people new to the hobby are welcome, or that you welcome all questions.

Carry a few cards with you wherever you go. If you meet someone who’s interested, give them your card so they know how to contact you.

Advertise In Stores

Going to game stores and posting Player Wanted notices is an old tip (and still effective!), but try these new twists:

  • Ask the owner if you could place a few of your business cards beside their cash register or under their counter glass. Use a highlighter on the “new players welcome” part to catch people’s eye.
  • Some game stores allow you to display painted figures for fun. If your local store does, bring some in and ask that your business card be put beside them (or perhaps glue your figs to the cards).If you don’t have cards, just put a note on a coloured slip of paper “painted by: Johnn Four 2001. Looking for new players immediately: [email protected]”.
  • Slip your business card or a small note into a store’s RPG books. Don’t damage the books in any way though (i.e. by using tape).
  • If you have RPG items to sell, and your local store buys used items or offers consignment, write your first name, email address and “players wanted” request inside each product’s cover.
  • Consider alternative types of stores that gamers might go to in your neighbourhood:
    • Book stores, new and used
    • Comic stores
    • Traditional game stores
    • Hobby stores
    • Any news stand that carries Dragon Magazine, White Dwarf, etc.

Go To The Library

Libraries often have community notice boards. Pin up a Players Wanted notice, or just your business card.

Go to the games section and put your business card or a small note in the RPG books (if your library carries them).

Post-It Notes

Think like a guerilla game master and use post-it notes as your silent weapon. lol.

These suckers stick to all books and most walls without damaging anything. Use them to spread the word.

Friends, Family, Co-workers

Tap into your network of friends, family members and co- workers.

First, make a list of everyone you know. Don’t worry about whether you think they would know anyone who plays, just write the name down and move to the next one.

Then, go through your list and circle all the names of people who you would feel comfortable approaching.

Email or call those people and ask them if they know of any potential candidates.

This method is powerful because it gets the word out. Those people you contact will probably not be able to think of any roleplayers at the time. But, you’ve planted the seed. They may suddenly recall someone they’d forgotten about, or notice someone in their day’s travels with a book or overhear a conversation.

You never know. And by contacting a few people and spreading the word, luck starts to work in your favour.

If you are up to it, look at all the names on your list that you didn’t contact. Now that you have contacted a few people, would you be willing to call or email any of the people you first didn’t want to? If not, no big deal. But, the more people who know you’re searching for roleplaying hobbyists, the better your odds of finding a new player.

Talk With Strangers 

You never know who is a rabid gamer. The person in that suit in the desk beside you could very well be a 14th level barbarian every Wednesday night. Or the person at the bus stop might just be a Netrunner who’s doing a mental checklist for their upcoming mission.

If you find yourself talking to someone you don’t know very well, try these ways to discover if they roleplay:

  • Chat about movies. Bring up the D&D movie. Have they seen it? What did they think? Have they ever played the game?
  • Talk about books. Mention the new Dragonlance book. Have they ever tried the Dragonlance game?
  • Mention you like to write. You write interactive stories that are used for games. Have they ever tried a game like that?
  • Talk about TV. Have they ever watched “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?” Mention you are into improv games.

Host A Board Game Or Card Game Night

Try getting a bunch of people over for a 6 person Monopoly or Risk game. Or get some card playing friends of yours together. During the games look for opportunities to bring up your roleplaying hobby.

Or, leave your RPG books out for people to notice and let them bring up the subject.

Or, ask the players if they know of anyone who would like to try a new game some night…

Carry An RPG Book Around With You

This worked for me once, believe it or not. Someone noticed my D&D Players Handbook on the table at the library and we started chatting about roleplaying. He turned out to be an enthusiastic roleplayer looking for a group…

If this tip doesn’t work, it at least has the added benefit of giving you the opportunity to read your game books more often (i.e. while standing in lines, while commuting, at the coffee shop).

Post In Online Roleplaying Discussion Groups & Lists

First create a signature line in your email program that always gets appended to the end of your emails. In this signature line tell people that:

  • you are looking for players
  • your preferred game system (if applicable)
  • the city/town where you live

Then invite people to email you for more details (i.e. nights available, gaming style, and any other details that are important to you and your new player).

Next, start looking for online discussion groups and roleplaying lists that you can participate in. Look for groups by game system, geographical area or just general roleplaying.

Participate with relevant and thoughtful posts, adding to existing discussions, or start up new discussion threads of your own. Just don’t spam lists with requests for players unless that kind of post is specifically allowed.

Good places to find discussion groups and lists are:

Some newsgroups:

  • rec.games.frp.advocacy
  • rec.games.frp.dnd
  • rec.games.frp.announce
  • rec.games.frp.gurps
  • rec.games.frp.misc

This list is just a fraction of the web sites, newsgroups and discussion lists out there. The point is, start participating in online communities and spread the word that you’re looking for players.

Contact Ex-Players

Make a list of all your ex-players and game masters and contact them to see if they know of anyone in your area who might want a game. The advantage of contacting former roleplayers is that you both know about roleplaying so you can bring the topic up without hesitation.

Find Regional Clubs

Look for regional clubs that would attract roleplayers and check them out.

Example clubs to look for:

  • Sci-fi and fantasy book clubs
  • The Society for Creative Anachronism: SCA
  • Miniatures gaming clubs (i.e. Warhammer, historical)
  • Board game clubs

Where you can find out about local clubs:

  • Local game stores
  • Local book stores, new and used
  • Do a search online
  • The library
  • Local recreation centre
  • Local newspaper (the classifieds often have club gathering announcements)

Enlist Your Fellow Players

Enlist your existing group to help recruit. Print out these tips for them and ask them to spread the word.

Get A T-Shirt

Sorry, but I couldn’t resist this one. I think the tip’s title says it all!

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Warning: There are lots of ways to anonymously put the word out that you’re looking for new players (i.e. notices, post-it notes). If you’re an adult, I would definitely put on your notes that you’re looking for gamers over the age of 18 or 21.

This isn’t because you’re not willing to play with younger players. It’s because you’re dealing with the public and your hobby often is misunderstood by the public. You don’t want to give the wrong impression about your intent.

If you ever have any doubt about placing a note or notice, err on the side of caution. Public perception may be incorrect, but it does have some power.

Tips From Roleplaying Tips Game Masters

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

Recipe For A Perfect Game Table

From Nick Kennedy

I wanted to comment more specifically on the perfect gaming table. Our play group took a sheet of plywood, approximately 4’x6? and covered it with the white hexagon paper. We then purchased a 4’x6?, 1/4? thick piece of plexiglass and screwed it onto the plywood. The plywood was then placed on top of any table for an instant makeover into a gaming table.

When there are battles and so forth, I use overhead markers to draw the dimensions of the room onto the table (which has the hex grid underneath so all of my dimensions, measurements for fireball radius etc. are completely accurate and no guessing as to what monster or PC is affected).The table is large enough that whole levels of dungeons can be written on the table, even with the players around it. This is a great advantage for DMs and players, especially in encounters when the party gets separated or party members run away.

Players don’t have to get up to move their characters, line of sight is easily determined, players can keep track of other things like spell durations or temporary bonuses right on the table in front of them.The best advantage is, of course, that when the encounter is over or the players leave the dungeon, a little windex and a paper towel and we have a clean, ready to use table for the next time. When our playing session is over we simple take the plywood off of the table and put it in the back room.

Plywood costs about $12.00 and the plexiglass could cost anywhere from $20-$60 depending on where you buy it. Don’t purchase it at one of those large lawn and garden type stores, but at a wholesaler that sells to businesses, kind of like a tool and die shop. So if you shop around you should be able to put it all together for less than $40.00. It will certainly never wear out!What I do with my players is we have a “tithe” box. Every time we play, everybody throws a dollar in or the loose change in their pockets.

Then when we need a lamp or the gaming table or whatever it may be we just use the tithe money.

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Post Character Death Ideas

From The Riftalope

Death is not the end!When a character dies it may not be dead AND gone. Let a factor of the gaming world twist simple death into something more intriguing! If a person is almost sure to be brought back to life you can have an out of body side session. Great if the death is at the closing of a session, or when combat needs a break. You could have the weapon of the attack become haunted. You could have a dead NPC haunt a player.

One of the best campaigns I’ve played in had a PC killed when she left town and then she came back for a month, months later. The GM set us up for a mummy surprise!There are so many ways to get more out of death than general emotion. I’d like more people to use them. (We had one game based on killed people adventuring to fix a broken afterlife system. It started with all of us getting killed. I was a cop hit by a subway train.) Did I mention multi- layered vendettas? The list just goes on!….

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Roleplaying Tips Success Story

From Dave Schaefer

Hey Johnn,

I wanted to tell you about a very successful gaming session I ran about a month ago. I had just kicked off a new 3rd edition D&D campaign, and I tried to incorporate a few of your campaign suggestions, with some nice results.First off, I tried to make every player really get into their character’s head and think up some background. As a DM, I can’t tell you often enough how useful character background is as a tool for developing plot.

Entwining different character’s backgrounds together in different aspects of an adventure really works! I must admit though, using the same tired old cliches over and over should really be avoided. One of my players and I were detailing some aspects of his family, mother and father, and I had mentioned at some point in the conversation that this was really excellent input and I planned to incorporate his family into campaign. My friend smiled and said “yeah, sure, you can probably kill them off or something”. Heh.

I really think that the “your family’s in real trouble go help them” scenario has been overdone ;)You were also talking however, about how to get some of your more “hack and slash” loving players to start roleplaying more. Well, I can say that working alongside the player and getting them interested in their character’s background is really helpful in doing this. Since your latest letter was about setting goals, one of my “goals” is to put up a section on my website specifically devoted to my campaign.

To start I am going to type up the character’s background stories and post them there for the players to see. Hopefully this will help keep them interested in the game and contributing more ideas as we go. You could also put up descriptions and details about local towns, areas, people, and whatnot, and email your players when you updated.Not all players like to roleplay in equal amounts however.

One of my players would be quite content to just say “I’m a fighter, and I’m here, so let’s get adventuring”, while another one of my players loves to roleplay to the extreme. We spent several hours even over the phone discussing (and me scrambling to jot down all the ideas! and detailing his character’s past in quite a great deal of detail. I had roughly 6 pages both sides. Now that’s a proverbial goldmine of DM material! Interestingly, after we had finished, the player I had been working with said to me “and so, after all that, I’m finally a 1st level cleric”. Heh.

And hey, when you put all of your character’s accomplishments behind you that way, being 1st level is quite an achievement!As for the campaign, I had really liked your idea of starting things off “in media res”, or right in the middle of the action, so to speak (yes I know what the real translation is).

Between our group of 6 or 7 friends that all play D&D together, it seems that one of us is always starting a campaign to try our hand at DMing for a while, and I think everyone sort of gets bored of those first few moments of roleplaying: the part where you have to get your character somehow linked to the rest of the party so that you can all head off on the grand adventure you’re all dying to play. Sometimes it’s easy to get the party together, sometimes it’s not, but I think this method used by the DM really improves the lot by skipping past all that.

Before the session began, I had all the characters’ backgrounds more or less worked out with the players. So what I did was to cut this down into 3 or 4 sentences detailing each character (I was running this for only 4 characters/players). Then I decided where the characters would all start, what they would be doing, and why they would be together. I decided on something simple. I put them on a wagon in the forest on the way to the dungeon, being attacked by a band of orcs and goblins.

Then, I put the setting in my mind and wrote a paragraph that tried to describe it in detail (as I’ve read in your articles). Sights, sounds, smells, time of year, and so on. I was ready.So the campaign started with the infamous “roll for initiative!”. I read aloud the description of the setting, and the characters were off in a fight. I looked around and I could tell this is what the players really wanted; they all really enjoyed the battle.

After they’d killed a few goblins and settled down a bit, I went around the table and introduced everyone’s character, and explained briefly why they had come to be part of this wagon party. Then they set off together as a group, united both in storyline, and through their camaraderie after defeating the goblins.So they ran through a bit of the dungeon, had some fun fights, did some camping, some recovering, and the session went well. My players all thought that it had been a good session, and that the starting in the middle of the campaign was a good idea.

Finally, one last thing about novels for ideas. I couldn’t agree more! Most of my friends have always liked the forgotten realms series about Drizzt, though I had never read them. Recently I picked up the first in the trilogy and read through it in 9 hours. Good book! Books are great for ideas, even when they’re not suited specifically to your genre. Having one of my friend’s dad run a session for us periodically with many years of experience helps too [Johnn: thanks for the success story Dave! It’s good to hear that the tips in this ezine from me and the other game masters who write in are useful!]