9 Ways To Recruit New Players

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0360

A Brief Word From Johnn

Role-Playing Games and Kids – New Article

Teacher and RPG Club organizer Katrina Middelburg-Creswell treats us to a series of tips on how to convince parents that RPGs are fun, and how to run games in such a way that they stay appropriate for the age group you are playing with.

Roleplaying Games and Kids

Lunch Campaign Premise

A subscriber asked me about the premise of the lunch campaign I’m running at work. We are playing the mega-module World’s Largest Dungeon. I picked that module because of its varied environments, roleplaying opportunities, and easy format.

The hook I used was a bit “club you over the head”, but I wanted to waste no time and get right into things due to the time pressure of gaming at lunch.

The PCs started out as convicted felons. They had committed crimes so heinous their punishment was permanent exile and probable death via forced entry into a nearby dungeon entrance from which no exiles had ever returned.

This start let me quickly assemble a typical D&D zoo party of weird classes and character concepts and get them into the dungeon. I asked each player to determine if their PC was actually guilty, and to tell me what crime they were accused of.

All the PCs started out naked, because the guards who escorted them to the dungeon entrance had robbed them of their state-assigned prisoner packages of a blanket, flask of water, 3 days’ rations, clothes, and a dagger. I was inspired by the classic D&D module A4 – In the Dungeon of the Slave Lords.

A4 In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords

Ever thought about running a lunch campaign? So far, it’s been a lot of fun for us.


Johnn Four
[email protected]

9 Ways To Recruit New Players

Finding new gamers and groups can be tricky and is always a hot topic because people move, their game group disintegrates or isn’t a good fit, or they decide to try RPGs again after a long break.

A little while ago I received two reader requests for tips on recruiting new players. Advice and ideas on this topic appeared in the e-zine years back (see the links in the last tip) and I recommend checking those tips out. Following are a few additional ideas that hopefully will help you find new gamers.


The weekend I wrote these tips and planned to send them out to you, TreasureTables.org covered the same topic, with some overlap, lol. So, I decided to delay this article a bit to space things out. I’ve added links to TT’s excellent advice and commentary in the links tip at the end.

I hope all you questing gamers find great groups to roleplay with! If you succeed in a way not covered by these tips, please let me know and I’ll share your method with other, frustrated gamers out there just lookin’ to get some game on.

Relate RPGs To Pop Culture

Games such as Dungeons & Dragons have baggage in the media and with some people. There are a lot of misconceptions about what RPGs are, the types of people who play them, and what games are about. Even if you don’t play D&D, you might get asked, “You mean it’s like D&D?” Trying to explain to them the difference between Burning Wheel, Shadowrun – or whatever your game is – and D&D just causes confusion.

Break down these barriers by describing RPGs in pop culture terms when you chat with people who haven’t played before. Use a description that suits the interests of the person you’re talking to.

Say your game is like:

  • World of Warcraft
  • Lord of the Rings movies/books played out as a game
  • Star Wars movies turned into a game
  • A combo of improve and charades – a party game with friends
  • Miniatures gaming or war gaming
  • Interactive Monopoly 🙂

However, you broach the subject and describe your hobby, be confident. Don’t blink, flinch, feel or seem embarrassed. You are the ambassador to a wonderful and challenging pastime. You should be proud of how you spend your time. Unease makes things awkward, and you won’t have an opportunity to put your best foot forward.

This might sound silly, but if you are uncomfortable talking about RPGs, practice. Figure out what you’d like to say ahead of time. Try it out. Keep working until you are as confident talking about games as you are when playing them.

You might also put thought into a good gaming story. You can get people interested in learning more with a funny or entertaining account of some game event.

The classic mistake is to tell a story that makes sense only to gamers, or that has a lot of jargon, which will alienate your listeners. As soon as you mention hit points, armor class, and how many levels your character has, you’ve lost your audience.

The best stories focus on real people – your friends. Perhaps you have a classic story about what made you and your friends laugh so hard your sides ached that one game. Maybe you’ve got a good tale about why a player was late for game night. Or maybe you have a pet-ate-my-dice anecdote.

Recruiting WoW Players

Someone once asked me how to recruit World of Warcraft players. That’s a tough one, and I think you’ll always have a low success rate. However, with 9 million players who are now familiar with many key RPG concepts, thus saving you that work and creating common ground, even a small amount of success would reap a healthy influx of new blood into the hobby.

Your best course of action might be to get them talking about WoW and what they don’t like about it, or what could be improved. Then relate your game to what WoW isn’t, or how your game supplies whatever they find wrong or is missing from WoW.

Here are some ideas:

  • Story. There is story in WoW, and I hear Warcraft players tell tales of exciting raids and epic battles and such. However, think about the stories told in your games and the dynamic storytelling possibilities a human GM presents. Think of a couple of examples and counter the next raid story you hear with a compelling campaign tale of your own.
  • Real, live people. WoW is a solitary game. There are plenty of text and voice chat options and channels, but the game still involves each player focusing intently on their computer screen.

If you are looking for players for tabletop games, talk about how good it is to see your friends in person, and the fun of in-person gaming.

  • PvP. WoW has a few aspects that are irritating or frustrating for some players, including player vs. player behavior. High level characters can camp out and bully low level characters. There is no friendly GM to help people get along. There are ways knowledgeable WoW players can take advantage of newbies in-game.

You can (hopefully) say that your tabletop group is friendly, supportive, and works together. The GM is the only bully in the group, and the players outnumber him 5 to 1! 😛

The idea is not to say bad things about WoW. It’s a great game and lots of fun. However, perhaps the person would entertain the idea of coming out every couple of weeks for a social night with friends to play games? They aren’t quitting WoW – just taking a periodic break.

You might also mention that playing too much WoW could result in them being imprisoned in a Chinese bootcamp. 🙂

China seeks to ‘limit game hours’

Check Out Free RPG Day (June 23, 2007)

Have you heard about Free RPG Day?

“Consumers will get their hands on brand new material for a variety of RPGs – no overstock, retail-priced or dead product here. The goal is to get gamers inspired to play a new RPG, which will in turn, create sales through local game stores. (Sorry, U.S. brick-and-mortar stores only this year.)”

If you have a participating local game store, this might be a great way to get a friend involved. The store environment is public and neutral, and might be a comfortable way to watch, if not play, and learn what RPGs are all about.

Offer To Do A Single-Shot, Short, Exclusive Session

Some people might want to “try before they buy”, or be nervous gaming the first time with other people. Offer to run an exclusive game just with them for a couple hours one night. Have a pre-made character ready for them and jump right into it.

  • Avoid complex rules. If they do something tricky, just make the rules and resolution up to keep the game flow going. They won’t know the difference, and you avoid stopping the game and getting mired in rules research.
  • Start in the middle of an adventure. Get them hooked with exciting action or a great story. Skip the build-up, which can take awhile, give them a synopsis of events so far, and have them pick things up from a cool mid-point.
  • Pick a known universe. If you think the person would respond better to a well-known game world or story environment, go for it. There is lots of material out there for playing in the worlds of Song of Fire and Ice, Thieves’ World, Lord of the Rings, Wheel of Time, the Marvel Universe, Star Trek, Star Wars, and so on.

This e-zine’s sponsor, Expeditious Retreat Press, puts out great 1 on 1 adventures you could use: 1 on 1 Adventures and Pathfinder Compatible Products.

Ask A Specific Group To Play

Marketers say finding a niche is a good way to find new customers. “If you try to sell to everyone, you are likely to sell to no one.” This is good advice for finding new players. Think of a specific audience you could appeal to, and invite them to try a game. The more you can figure out that audience’s questions, interests, and concerns, the more likely your offer will succeed.


  • Concerned parents. Offer to teach parents the games their children are interested in. You could try offering a play opportunity, or offering a seminar or informal information session. Most interested parents will check it out once to satisfy curiosity and address concerns, but some might be interested enough to play themselves. Be sure to put the word out that you welcome new players in your mature group.
  • Church. If you attend church, those friends might be interested to learn what RPGs are all about. Ask if you can post a sign or have an announcement delivered about an information session you’re holding for interested persons to learn about RPGs.
  • Fiction writers. Locate sci-fi, fantasy, and fiction writers’ groups and workshops in your area and post signs to advertise an opportunity to try a new creative exercise – interactive gaming.

Get A Funny T-Shirt

Hit cafepress.com and search for rpg to get a listing of funny, themed clothes. A humorous t-shirt is often a great conversation or topic starter.

Try A Different Gaming Medium

If you can’t find new players, try switching up mediums. There are different ways to play RPGs these days:

Advertise On Player Registries

The Internet offers a number of websites to advertise and connect with fellow gamers. Here’s my list. If you have any additional links, drop me an e-mail.

Treasure Tables has great ideas and advice for finding and gaming with new players:

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Tips From Roleplaying Tips Game Masters

Have some GMing advice you’d like to share? E-mail it to [email protected] – thanks!

Top Techniques Learned From Strategic & Historical Games

From Dr. Nik

Strategic gaming, stepping away from the tabletop.

One day at a con I realized it had been almost 10 years since I had played anything other than tabletop RPG and the occasional card flopping game. I joined back in and found that participating in the occasional strategy or board game has greatly enhanced my tabletop game master abilities. This sharpening has improved both my long term campaign and one shot scenarios. Below is my experience, which I hope helps you to achieve more great gaming.


Obvious and number one reason is terrain. Miniature strategy games tend to have much better terrain than a tabletop RPG game. I do not suggest doing this for every adventure in an ongoing campaign, but building an event display will immerse the players more. This can be applied to important character events and role accomplishments, or climatic battles complete with areas of crossfire, ambush, fortification, and escape.

Making a diorama can greatly increase the impact of an encounter for the players in any game, and can dramatically improve one-shot enjoyment. Props and terrain are physical reinforcement of the game world and make a session a home run. In addition, taking the time to build the scene or event also helps you think the encounter through. It is commonly stated that a good environment can lead to a more memorable battle.

Involved Terrain: Dwarven Forge is a great resource. Building your own is also rewarding. For starters, check out all the different PDF downloads for making various buildings, terrain, and encounters. Many sites have free downloads of terrain. I personally prefer to use MegaBlok Dragons and the cheaper Quick Terrain.

Quick Terrain:    I shop the $1 stores on a regular basis. A quick walk down the toy aisle can yield some decent finds. Bags of wood blocks, plastic figure terrain, and accessories for miniature toy cars all make great table displays with minimal paint or kit bashing. I like to use the thin, stacking Jenga style blocks as my walls when running tabletop games. I repainted the blocks with a faux stone spray paint, which greatly improved my city, dungeon and castle wall layouts. They are quick to set up and tear down and are far more durable than paper models. Plastic figure accessories are also cheap ways to have cartoonish shrubbery and extra decor.

Game System Exploration

Trying new games opens you to new ideas in collaboration and competition. This broadens your awareness and ability to weave campaigns and stories that can be seen, felt, and interacted with on multiple levels.

Board games can be won by all different means, sometimes in multiple ways for each, such as economic, political, social, and military. Playing different strategy games opens you to different ways of approaching conflict and resolution. It also sharpens your storytelling by focusing on different factors, scale, and impact.

Scenario Building

In historical military gaming, many scenarios are based on real events and have rich backgrounds rife with setbacks, delays, weather, and supply issues. These types of details help build the impact of scenarios to players and can be developed into great opportunities for role playing and NPC interaction.

Expand on things like southern farmers in the civil war who would head home to plant their crops for the year, calling war off for 2 weeks. Apply this thought on a society, regiment, group, or individual basis. Implement your discovered themes into the great orc uprising of the western fields in your world and see what happens.

In strategic miniatures and board games, the situation is always clearly defined. There is typically a set of objectives or goals that can be attempted. Goals or conditions can range from amassing points, % of opponent forces disabled, enduring a specific length of time before the reinforcements arrive, or gaining control of a certain area or object. These types of objectives provide great ideas for developing adventures and conflicts.

For example, strategic miniatures skirmish usually involve the following steps:

  • Investigate/Probe
  • Conflict
  • Attempt Goals & Objectives

These are the essential building blocks for effective scenario building. Throw in a twist, secret, or development clue and you have the building blocks of a campaign.

Foe Balancing (Short & Long Term)

Nearly all board games have balancing factors built into them; most strategic games have the ability to balance out teams as well (although battles are not always balanced). Understanding and watching how board and strategy games balance and develop the players can engage you into thinking beyond level matching or EL/CR factors. This also develops your understanding of the importance of terrain, environment, sphere of influence and their effects on conflict.

Board games sometimes have developing obstacles or goals that must be met at higher levels over time. Some games will also change complexity over time as well. Developing obstacles or goals is the standard way a dungeon is set up; encounters with changing puzzles and difficulty levels is also a common dungeon delving theme.

With these elements in mind when watching games, observe for these types of challenges and obstacles. You can incorporate aspects of them into dungeon and scenario building. One board game I played recently has a predictable movement enemy. If you encounter the enemy, you will die 9 out of 10 times. In 1 square (every six turns) you can safely pass the enemy without confrontation. How would that get applied by a wizard in a tower? Or a divine protection over a sacred resting area?

Many strategic miniatures games are also campaign oriented with detailed issues of supplies, battle lines, and large scale epic battles. This type of long term campaign develops certain heroes. Through the role of the dice and good strategy, great tales can be spun. These strategic campaigns greatly develop the concept of rivalry and foe development in a professional and respectful way; interactions between generals off the field of battle is quite different than on.

If you have a war as a backdrop setting, do a little historical strategic miniature scenario research. You will come up with oodles of adventure leads, NPCs (lieutenants and higher), and a rich backdrop for your players.

Recurring Arch Foes, Heroes And Their Backgrounds

I recently played in a Civil War scenario and was surprised to find one of the Yankee Generals was named Patton. Turns out he was a forefather of George Patton. Put that type of detail into your next dwarf commander NPC or character background. Is the PC or NPC trying to live up to or escape from the burden of these great warriors that came before? What if this was a pacifist cleric human who wished to escape the cycle of violence?

Instead of a generic villain “boss” of the module, develop long-term foes and generals whom the PCs war with over time. Tie these details into character backgrounds and cultures for better world story. Applying these great connections and discoveries from our own history develops a rich backdrop to immerse the characters into. Shape the scenario how you will; where you take the details will be rich scenarios as challenging as you are imaginative.

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GM Shining Moment – No Combat

From Phil Dack

re: The Session Checklist: Ingredients To A Successful Game Session, Part I – RPT#198

  • Can you think of other examples that we GMs should celebrate
  • as shining moments?

Shining moments depend in part on the group and game style, but one for me is successfully running a session with no combats at all.

Don’t get me wrong. My group likes fights. I like fights. It’s great fun to see the blood rise in the players, the look of fear when they watch the damage accumulate. Great stuff! But, almost because combats are so much fun, I consider it a great achievement when I’ve kept my group’s attention and had an enjoyable session without once declaring for initiative.

I’ve only done it twice, but it gives a tremendous sense of satisfaction knowing that the environment and characters you have created are sufficiently fleshed out to hold your players’ interest for a full six hours without them giving in to the need to shoot something!

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GM Shining Moment – Plot Connection

From Dave Caron

re: The Session Checklist: Ingredients To A Successful Game Session, Part I – RPT#198

  • Can you think of other examples that we GMs should celebrate
  • as shining moments?

I enjoy adventures with a fairly complex plotline the players have to work at to figure out. The big shining moment for me (and they are unfortunately rare for me, I still have much to learn about GMing) is when the players pick up on a subtle hint and make the plotline connection. If they can’t get it and I have to start using obvious hints or even have an NPC drop the information in their laps, I feel that I failed to focus their attention, or emphasize key elements. When they jump to that correct conclusion, though, and start to understand the plot without a lot of prompting, that is gold. To quote the infamous Hannibal Smith of the A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together!”

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Transparencies For Maps Tip

From Marcel Beaudoin

5 years in the artillery reserves resulted in me using maps quite frequently. To plan assaults, attacks, and other assorted methods of mayhem, we often used transparencies as well. One trick I learned that makes life a lot easier is to make a reference point in two of the four corners of the transparencies that correspond to the transparencies for the maps. It ensures that, when you are using the transparencies, they can be properly aligned.

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Example Simple Excel Worksheets

From Jess Duncan

I have been role playing for a few years now but had never GMed anything until recently. I have good ideas but I always feel bogged down by all the information. Out of frustration one day I sat down and made some basic charts to fill out in Excel that now help me a lot. They are designed to help organize and keep combat running smoothly and were made for 2nd edition D&D.

Issue 360 Example Forms