Finding Your Players

AKA Gather Your Party, Part 2

Finding players for your TTRPG group can be its own adventure – one beset by perils, obstacles, and setbacks, with many opportunities to abandon hope along the way. Fortunately, you can always ask your friends for help. In fact, it might be as simple as inviting some friends to join you.

TL;DR The easiest way is to ask your friends, but you have other options, too.

Detail from a Darkest Dungeon screenshot, showing four characters exploring a dungeon
“It will be fun, he said; what could go wrong, he said. Pffffffffffffffft.”

Method 1: Playing with friends

The easiest way to build a group is to ask your friends. I suspect it’s also the most common. I’m pretty sure this is how most GMs I know got started. I ran a very short twitter poll this week, and that was by far the largest response. I also asked people about the other two methods covered below, but this really is your best bet.

Why is this the best method? Because you already know the people you’re playing with, you already share some kind of a social bond, and if you run into any difficulties, it’s usually easier to deal with as friends.

Another reason is that running games regularly requires admin. Lots and lots of admin. Specifically, organising with other people to choose a time and a venue that everyone can make. Sometimes it’s easier to do that if you’re friends.

There are a lot of reasons to play tabletop RPGs with your friends. Which makes sense, because playing an RPG around a table is inherently social. Think about it: it’s a fun activity, that you do in your spare time, and share with other people. It shouldn’t have to be any harder than meeting up with friends. (Although, obviously, it is.)

You might even teach some of your favourite people a great way to spend some time together. Or you might learn more about the people you like. At the very least, you get to hang out with friends. Winning!

Method 2: Join a gaming society

Of course, it’s entirely possible that your friends don’t share your love for RPGs. Maybe they even try a once-off or two and decide it’s not for them. That’s okay. Tabletop RPGs aren’t for everyone. (Although I like to think there is a TTRPG for most people.)

If that’s the case, you still have options. Two of them involve finding other people who are also keen to play TTRPGs. At least you can be relatively sure that you will be running games for people who want to play.

The good thing about wanting to find like-minded people is that other like-minded people also want to find other like-minded people. (You know what I mean.) You can look for groups, clubs, or societies online, or ask around, or ask your local gaming shops for advice.

Even if you decide not to run any games there, you may want to join a group like this anyway, because it’s a good place to meet people who share your interests. It might take some of the pressure off you to find people in your area who want to play tabletop RPGs if you join something called “YourNeighbourhood TTRPG Society”, for example.

I would love to say that RPG and boardgame societies are welcoming, fun places where everyone can go to enjoy themselves. Unfortunately, a lot of these spaces are openly hostile unless you’re cis, male, straight, and nerdy already. All I can tell you is that if you don’t feel welcome at a gaming society, you’re the only person who can decide whether it’s worth sticking around. (Also, I’m sorry that gamers can be rubbish.)

Basically, despite the advantages of joining a gaming group, it can still be incredibly intimidating. (Even for people who’ve played for decades.) Fun fact: when I ran the twitter poll, no one chose this option. So don’t feel bad if you decide that this option is not for you. It’s not you, it’s them.

Method 3: Join an existing group

So this final suggestion is probably going to be the longest route you can take before you get to run a game. But that’s fine, too.

If you ask your friends about who wants to play a tabletop role-playing game, chances are many of them wouldn’t know what you were talking about. Depends on your group of friends, really. Sometimes, however, you might find out that some of your friends have been playing for ages and just never thought you’d be interested.

Likewise, if you join a gaming society, you may find that you connect with one or more people there who are happy to run games outside of the society.

Either way, you may find yourself meeting and playing with an existing group of people who play TTRPGs. That’s great news. Because that means you get to bask in all of their experience. (Unfortunately it can also mean hitting your head against years of bad practices and terrible ideas.)

But assuming that you like the group, and that you agree (mostly) about what you want to do, you may very well end up playing with them for much longer.

How does that let you run a game as a GM? That depends a lot on the group you’ve joined. Some groups will be happy to switch GMs every so often, just to prevent fatigue. In other groups, the regular GM might take a break every now and again, when they ask someone to “guest GM” a one-off or two.

Whatever kind of group you find yourself in, let someone know that you would be interested in running one or two games as the GM. Even if it’s just a one-shot, or a short campaign, or a couple of sessions. (Tell them I said they should be supportive.)

As long as you can get the group to agree, try to run a game for them. It might not be with the whole group. It might not be with the same rule system. The important thing is to try it out, and see for yourself whether it’s something you would like to do more often.

A quick sign-off

I didn’t expect this particular topic to go on as long as it has, and there is still so much to talk about. A lot more. I have a whole series of these in various drafts.

Feel free to let me know if there is anything you want me to cover in more depth specifically. I’ll be updating the About page with various links soon, which should hopefully make that easier.

In the meantime, I’ve started streaming horror games for Halloween month (AKA October) over on Twitch. I’m still trying to come up with a schedule that works with all my life stuff, but you can find me over at twitch.tv/zwodderZA. You’re welcome to ask me questions about the blog stuff any time you see me on there.

Until then, I hope you have a great week. Otherwise, have a good strategy for getting through a bad one.