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Gaming for Grown-Ups

Building a (Better) Game Group

by Tim Kirk
Apr 04,2003


Building a (Better) Game Group

Last time, I addressed general concerns with being a grown up and gaming, and it was all too brief. Now, I'm going to specifically address the core of gaming and some alternatives. I'd intended to simply title the peace about game groups, just that--but considering the fact that I face mounting difficulties with organizing my own (herding schizophrenic cats come to mind) I'm going to go in detail about how I plan, and will eventually succeed at building a new, and better one.

First stop, should be traditionally people you know and like and who have gamed, your friends, and family members if they belong to that group, and ask if they'd be interested. I am fortunate, my fiance, younger sister, and brother in law, are all role-players, while not notably brilliant or artsy about the fact, I'm not averse to having any of them in my game group. My sister might be a problem, she's a bit on the pushy side, especially so with her own husband, so that is an issue I want to consider before asking her, and him both to join a group. I want everyone to have fun after all. Normally they are tolerable enough, but is "tolerable" what I want from a game? Is it preferable to not gaming at all? Yes, since I'm familiar with their interests and habits and know that at times they can truly shine as gamers, I'll at least put them in the "potential" column of my check off sheet.

This is where some gamers I've dealt with have issues; you can't invite everyone to every game because like all human endeavors some people just don't get along. It is best to find those who most want to play the style you want, and who can enjoy the company of the rest of the group. Part of the necessity of finding a new group other than scheduling concerns for me personally is one member of my previous group behaviors has reached intolerable levels to the majority of others in the group. Since not inviting him, probably eliminates another player, we simply decided to go the route of complete rebuilding.

After you've considered all those of immediate potential, the next stop traditionally is the game store, for me this unfortunately hasn't panned out. I suspect it was my mistake in presuming that most potential gamers would have e-mail (rather than leaving a phone number I left my e- mail addie, which hasn't changed in far more considerable time than my phone number). I noticed when leaving my note a number of hastily scribbled note for people looking for a variety of game sort groups from cards to mini, to rpg's. None of them looked interesting to me, and my full page and multicolored advertisement for a group stood out significantly, but still no responses.

My suggestion is to look at the notes of others, and try and do something if possible a little bit better, a quality, readable note for a game group shows more effort, and more desire than a badly written one on the back of an old receipt. I'm more likely to read it and contact a gamer for an invite whose spent time and effort on enticing me to play. They want it more.

Do make a notice that clearly defines your game interest, and if possible style of play. Also, when inviting the player don't invite them flat out to show up of day one of the campaign without actually conversing with them at length, and considering their likelihood of fitting with you (at least) and the kind of group your aiming for. If your invited to an established group, offer to do the same, meet the group ahead of time, try out some of the feel of the game, maybe watch but not actually play a session with them--this allows you to make your own decision, before seriously impacting a group.

Another important thing is not to overlook people you'd never considered before, that are most notably newbies, but also including players who in the past have played a time or two, but weren't up for your current campaign, that you may want to invite. Locally, a coworker whose a big fan of video games (many of the ones I also enjoy) has expressed a mild interest in gaming, he's not quite sure yet, but letting him play a test game or two with a group, or even just another player may give him enough entertainment to draw him back. The selections of game for this may be critical in teaching a newbie to play and getting them to come back.

In addition to this numerous places online offer player registries, as well as mailing lists dedicated to gamers in your area--taking a few minutes to search may turn up a whole host of potential players for harvest. My own attempts have been fruitless in this locally but did manage to locate the group I'd had in my previously location using the Internet.

Game style above and beyond the rules and setting is also important. Most GM's I've experienced usually inform the group what games they can run, and are willing too, this sometimes can be problematic if the GM has many house rules, or significant setting elements which differ from the default core game. When you do recruit players either for a one-shot, or long term lasting series of campaigns you should in general detail out this information in advance to those you are inviting.

Losing players because lack of interest in the style of game that is being run is significantly more impact than the player simply saying, "No, I can't play," at the outset of the game. This can go specifically to the nature of relationship you have with your game group. Open discussion in advance fosters cooperation, interest, and feedback that involve the entire group. Simply deciding in advance "this is what and how we will play" by the GM, or a smaller division of the entire group creates a division that I've seen wreck many a game. For example I was told in a recent game that while the default setting was being used we would be playing "rogues and scoundrels" my understanding of those words in context were that we wouldn't be "goody two shoes" style heroes, but that we wouldn't be cold blooded murderers either--the game progressed more significantly to the evil end of the spectrum, rather than just not nice guys end. I had no more interest in that game with that particular set up, and informed the GM.

Rather than wholly playing the character I envisioned and wrecking the plot by trying to counter the other player-characters, I simply had my PC depart, seeking better allies. This too could have damaged the game significantly but I approached the GM about my concern first, rather than simply leaving the game with no notice. Not all players will consider such things in advance, instead, since they aren't having fun, they will try and either make it fun for themselves, by seriously trying to derail the current direction of the game. Or choose not to show.

As addressed however if you or the GM of the group measures the general interest first, and get players who are interested in the specific game style your playing it will be much more rewarding in the long run for everyone involved.

Finally, as a last ditch effort you can always breed your own gamers, although an option not open to everyone, I'm seeing some success in corrupting my nephews and nieces into the gaming mindset (fortunately since my younger sister also games, her children though currently too young are interested.)

Next: Alternatives to Traditional Groups

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