First Time GM is a series of articles dedicated to the newly-minted game master, making his or her first tentative die rolls behind the screen. Today’s article deals with finding a group of players, deciding on a time and a place to play, and ensuring that everyone is on the same page once the game starts.
Some GMs are lucky enough to inherit or adopt a fully-developed group of players. But some poor souls are truly at the beginning, and have no idea on what to look for in a player — or more importantly — what to look out for.
Most RPGs have a ‘sweet spot’ for the preferred number of players, generally about four to six. I strongly advise that new GMs pay attention to this number, and would even recommend that they aim for the low end of it. Your first games will be slow; more players will only make them slower. Besides, it’s easier to fill four seats than six.
One of Martin’s most popular articles on TreasureTables.org is Ways to Find RPG Players. The article and associated PDF are still excellent resources, if a bit dated. Some new options: Facebook, Twitter, and whatever forums and mailing lists that support your preferred gaming system.
New GMs may want to look for more players than they have seats, in case of scheduling or personality conflicts. If so, make sure that all the prospective players are aware that they are not guaranteed a seat at the table.
A common situation is players who try to bring friends into the game. This can help fill a table pretty quickly. On the other hand, these friends will almost certainly form a clique, and may try to dominate the table.
One school of thought on gaming groups is that you should only game with people you’d want to hang out with. There’s something to be said for this, but novice GMs probably don’t have a very long roster of potential players, and will have to pick and choose carefully.
One of the best ways to do that is the player interview. Also on TreasureTables.org, Martin Ralya wrote a nice article about that, as well. I would add that gamers should clearly define their terms when discussing gaming, as not everyone has the same definition of ‘cinematic’.
Once you’ve got a list of prospective players, either start a Yahoo or Google group, join Obsidian Portal, or just start a mass email, and start looking for a time to play. Resist the temptation to accommodate everyone, and make sure that your players are truly available at the agreed-upon times; “getting off work at 6:00” does not mean “available to game at 6:00”.
Four hours makes for a good session, but the whippersnappers among us can handle far more. I prefer to play on Thursday nights, as it’s easy to make it through Friday if the session runs late, but you’re not interfering with weekend plans.
I have found it easier to schedule if everyone is roughly the same age or has roughly the same job. This is not a necessity, but college kids can game all night; professionals can handle 6:30 to 10:30; waiters can game on Monday; etc.
Finding a Place
If “the kitchen/dining room table at my place” isn’t an option, check with your players. If they can’t host, try your local gaming stores. If they can’t work with you, perhaps a library or local college has rooms available. If that’s not an option, coffee shops are a possibility, but remember to tip heavily; consider it “rent” for their table. Heck, some gamers play without a table! (But others may differ.)
Once you’ve found a place to play, and have a few sessions under your belt and a better idea of who your players are, consider the seating arrangements. Small changes in the seating can make drastic changes in the atmosphere.
Did I miss anything? Got any more ideas for finding players, scheduling a time, or finding a place to game? Sound off in the comments and let us know!
Up next: Establishing the Ground Rules