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Getting a Group Together

During a recent conversation, a friend living in another city lamented how hard it has been to try and establish a regular gaming group. Despite having several people express interest in starting a campaign, she’s been unable to get anything off the ground with any consistency. Several attempts have been made at scheduling, but each time the game seems to die on the vine before it even gets started. It’s an incredibly frustrating position for a gamer to find themselves in, especially when they REALLY want to game.

A while back I talked about GMs having to take on the planning duties [1] for their gaming group to keep it going, but another aspect of that I didn’t touch on was how to get a gaming group started in the first place. Many of the same planning and coordination issues are still a problem, but you have an added obstacle in getting people to show up for that first session.  When a game exists in theory only, it’s very easy to say ‘Yeah, that sounds awesome!’ but it’s another issue entirely to get people to commit several hours of their meager supply of free time to that game.

If you’ve never been in the situation where you needed to find or found a gaming group, I envy you. My first experience with this was after my high school GM joined the reserves and disappeared, leaving me to try and find a new gaming group. Steeling my nerves, I joined a gaming club and found my college group. We had several years of sporadic awesome, but eventually adulthood responsibilities crept in and we eventually stopped gaming altogether. There was no clear line drawn for when we stopped, but eventually there was no gaming, just talk about gaming.

I kept holding out hope that the group would revive, but eventually I realized I needed gaming in my life even if my friends weren’t going to do more than talk about how awesome gaming was. My second experience trying to find a gaming group was a bit of ick combined with a bit of luck. I eventually found a game through a social networking site, but the GM was absolutely awful and very creepy for so many reasons that aren’t worth going into here. Luckily, the other players were cool and after most of us stopped showing up for the creepy GM’s game, we formed our own group. With some ups and downs, we’ve been gaming together for ten years now.

So what’s the key to getting a group off the ground? Sometimes it’s just lightning in a bottle of getting the right people together at the right time. Everything just clicks with the group and everyone is already looking forward to the next session. Other times it’s going to be a balancing act of lowering expectations combined with perseverance. For my friend, I suggested that she keep pushing to get people to commit to game nights, but to also be satisfied if she gets just a couple of committed players. Having a couple of solid players should be enough to get something started and maybe that commitment will attract other good players.

I’m honestly curious what your experiences are with this. Are you one of the lucky few that has never had to work to find a group, or are you like myself and my friend, where at one point you struggled to find a new group to keep gaming alive in your life? And if you did have to work at it, how did you get it to all come together?

15 Comments (Open | Close)

15 Comments To "Getting a Group Together"

#1 Comment By John Fredericks On November 7, 2014 @ 5:37 am

Another possibility for trying to found a FTF group might be to offer just one-shot game nights. See if folks can just come over for a party-like atmosphere. At best, it might lead people to consider committing to an on-going campaign. At worst, you get some sporadic game nights to look forward to.

I like shorter games where the characters can definitely achieve some accomplishment, no matter how small. Saving the hobbit village from encroaching orcs it great by me.

#2 Comment By Angela Murray On November 7, 2014 @ 11:38 am

I love one shots and they are definitely great for testing the water with a new group or a new player for an existing group.

#3 Comment By Scott Martin On November 7, 2014 @ 4:05 pm

A one-shot is my go to solution; it’s how I found my Hanford group. The lack of pressure encourages people–a lot like lowering the bar for a “coffee date” is less intimidating that beginning with a full weekend.

#4 Comment By Angela Murray On November 14, 2014 @ 10:13 pm

One-shots are definitely a great way to get everyone introduced and get a feel for how a group might click together. There is a point, though, when one-shots start getting a little wearisome. My friend that inspired this article has been able to get a couple of one-shots off, but she really wants to sink her teeth into a campaign.

#5 Comment By Slayyne On November 7, 2014 @ 6:59 am

I had the same problem in our area and here is how I solved the problem. Not only did I want players for a group, I also wanted to connect other players to groups. First I created a Facebook public page (Big Sky RPG). On the page, I initially just shared what I was trying to do. Once the page was up, I created a Facebook Ad campaign for $30 and let it run for a few days, targeting just the people in my immediate area. The first week, I think I received 50 or so likes.

Next I created a private group (many players don’t want to be outed to their friends, etc.) and directed traffic from the public to the private. It’s been going now for almost a year and has been a great tool in connecting players to groups. I have never wanted for players in my groups since then.

The good news is that there are almost certainly others in your area who are saying the same thing.

#6 Comment By Angela Murray On November 7, 2014 @ 11:41 am

I’ve heard some iffy things about paying for a Facebook ad campaign, but it sounds like you got good results. It sounds like you hit upon a great idea for your area. And you are absolutely right… there are most likely others that are looking for the same thing. It’s just a matter of finding them. 🙂

#7 Comment By Nate On November 8, 2014 @ 12:01 pm

I’m fortunate that I have quite a few friends in the area who enjoy the hobby. The problem then becomes scheduling: I have a really weird work schedule where all my days off are in the middle of the week, and very few of said friends’ schedules are compatible.

Fortunately, my wife and I (we met playing Shadowrun) hooked up with a friend of ours who has a similarly unusual schedule, and (finally) met a new friend through the Big Sky RPG facebook page. After a personal meetup where we found our gaming tastes (and schedules) to be in pretty close harmony, we got our “50 Fathoms” campaign off the ground.

#8 Comment By Leesplez On November 7, 2014 @ 9:33 am

When I moved to NYC I had to recruit a new good for my game. I posted on Obsidian Portal, Facebook, Craigslist, several RPG forums, and Meetup. The ONLY site that worked was Meetup. I got 8 interested players, which quickly became 4 permanent players, and we’ve been playing consistently every week for 2 years now. Making a meetup group costs a little money, but it was very successful at getting people interested.

#9 Comment By Angela Murray On November 7, 2014 @ 11:44 am

I originally found the scary GM on a D&D Meetup group. While he was a bust, the people I found in his game were fantastic. It was a very long time ago, though, so I’m sure the Meetup options have changed. I would count 4 permanent players as a definite win. 🙂

#10 Comment By Leesplez On November 7, 2014 @ 1:46 pm

I’ve met a range on people on the larger Meetups like “NYC D&D,” but I created my own group just to recruit for my game.

#11 Comment By Edward On November 8, 2014 @ 10:13 am

Meetup is the most effective way to recruit quality RPG players. Previously, I struggled finding players and honestly just bumbled from group to group. In August 2013 I created a meetup group and simultaneously created a facebook page for the group. I spent several hundred bucks promoting the meetup page on facebook. Currently, we have 130 members with about 50 active members. I am involved in 2 long term campaigns and periodically play short campaigns in a variety of systems. We have a variety of hosts. I host games at my office on Sunday mornings, which is a time slot that works for me. Other hosts schedule events at other times, including Saturdays and some weekday evenings.

#12 Comment By Scott Martin On November 9, 2014 @ 10:30 pm

That’s a cool story of success. At the local game store, we’ve used meetup since before the store opened to help make those connections. We never pushed it on facebook that way and it stayed “middling”–there are more than 30 people who have attended the meetups at some point, but turnout dwindled as people flocked to home groups instead.

That’s success in my book, but it does mean that we’re usually only one table when we do meetup. We dropped meetup frequency to try to make each a bigger event, but that was probably counterproductive–meetings on a regular schedule are helpful at sustaining interest.

#13 Comment By Roxysteve On November 12, 2014 @ 8:41 pm

Meetup coupled with the playspace of the LFGS for the win. Then, getting a group together becomes a question of finding a game system and setting people are interested in playing.

Of course, over time you find the same eight people are running all the games. *shrugs*

#14 Comment By black campbell On November 8, 2014 @ 10:35 pm

I’ve only had a few times where it’s been difficulty, one of those being now. I had a long running group for about a decade or so, with a few swap-out of a player or two, until about three years ago. Since then, it’s been a real battle to get the group up to my preferred 3-4+GM. Meetup got me a couple of gamers to fill the ranks, but one moved to San Fran earlier this year, and the other is about as reliable as GM product.

Right now, the game is chugging along toward the end of the campaign with 2+GM, so I’m just sticking with that until it’s time for a new game. Then maybe I’ll look around.

#15 Comment By John Fredericks On November 17, 2014 @ 4:41 pm

Meetup.com is a great place if there is a gaming group in your area.

Also, I play via Skype, which I love. Yes, it is not really FTF, but it is helping me game with having a busy schedule, family, etc…