"I Have this Great Idea for a Campaign but No Players"
The previous issues of the Spider's Den have focused on the problems of what makes a great campaign and what people are looking for in a campaign. This issue I want to focus on those people who have decided to take the next step and look for a group of people to recruit to a campaign.
Recruiting people to a campaign is actually the easiest part of the job. While it might be hard to find five other people who would enjoy playing in a particular campaign, especially if you live in a small town, the internet is filled with people who enjoy playing role-playing games. The biggest challenge with the internet is not in trying to find players. The biggest challenge is in separating out, "from the herd", the players that you are looking to find.
Can there be that many people interested in role-playing games? At the time of the writing of this article, there are over 3000 different clubs on the Yahoo club site dedicated to role-playing games. The key is either to determine which of these many clubs already has the players that you are looking for or to decide that it is better to start a new club that will attract the players that you are interested in finding.
Before you start advertising for players, you need to be sure that you are prepared to go looking for players. You need to be prepared to answer all the questions that the players will inevitably be asking you regarding setting, campaign structure, appropriate character concepts, house rules, character creation limitations, and rule systems. You should make a standard Email package that you will send out to all players or prepare a Web page with the information. This will show the players that inquire about your game advertisement that you are ready to get going and that you have invested time and thought into the campaign already. Many internet campaigns fail because the GM did not prepare a proper initial enticement to get the players attracted to the campaign. This has led to players being very jaded regarding GM's who do not have proven track records of meeting commitments.
The second step is to decide whether you are going to go looking for an exiting group of people or start a brand new group of people. Normally, it is a role-playing social etiquette to not "steal" players from other GMs. I agree fully with that you should never interfere with an ongoing group with a GM that is regularly publishing material for his players. There are a large number of clubs that are listed on the internet that have players but no GMs. Most of these started with the best of intentions by a player who hoped that one day a GM would come along and take over the group ( The if I build it he will come philosophy ) or the group had a GM that just abandoned them ( often without a word to why ). A friend of mine who is a great LARP ( Live Action Role-playing ) player pointed out to me that when he visits a new group he can quickly identify that the majority of players as non-threats because most players say they have big plans but they never really actually do much of anything. The same can be said for most of the clubs. Most of these clubs have four to ten members who mill around for a while before they getting tired of their small jokes and then leave because no action occurred. These groups are a great resource awaiting a GM to give them life and can allow you to start a campaign within a week; provided it is similar in nature to what this group was looking for in a game. Groups of this type can be identified by the activity log of messages. Look through the log of messages. If there is some talk of gaming but no one seems to be getting things organized then you can step in and organize the game. You and the players both gain from this association. Be warned that while most players will applaud your leadership, a few people will worry you are taking over their club. If there is a problem then be prepared to move on. Those wishing to role-play will follow your lead wherever you go.
If you choose to start from scratch then you will need to choose a place where the role-players will go to look for information on role-playing games. You will also need a good advertisement that will attract people to your campaign. This is where your organization will pay off as you will be able to tell players what they can expect from you and what makes your campaign special. You will then be able to direct them to your Web page or send an Email with all the information that they need to get started. A well chosen advertisement may net you ten to twenty applicants in a single day on some sites. It may also get you only one or two applicants on other sites. Remember, you should start with a pool of more players than you intend as your regular group because you will usually find that many will take a look but only a few will become regular adherents to the game. I have found that usually one in three people, unless you know them well ( and sometimes not even then ), will really become a regular player in a campaign. The rest tend to move on "the winds of the internet"; always looking for something else to sample.
Good sites that I have found for advertising games are;
There are many more than this and most people will quickly find a few favorites but these will give you a wide variety of contacts to draw upon for most of your gaming needs.
Looking at some of the gaming clubs, you will realize, despite the volume of listings, they are often filled with dead clubs and clubs that have little to do with role-playing ( in the table top sense of the word ). When I last checked the Yahoo listings, 25% of the sites were dedicated to computer RPG games like Final Fantasy or Pokemon. There are also many fan club sites that are dedicated to recreating the feel of television shows by having the players take the parts of existing characters like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Sailor Moon clubs. Most of these fan club sites do not have any rules to govern how characters interact and are closer to diceless role-playing then even the Amber system. The Amber system at least has scores for the purpose of comparison. Then there are additionally many "dead clubs" which have not had a single post for a month or more. Do not expect a quick response to any postings at these sites. This should still leave you with plenty of good clubs to explore and to work with.
While I have focused on how a GM can find players for a campaign, the same advice goes for how players can find GMs. I do not recommend that you start a new club and hope a GM will come along. The internet is full of those types of clubs. Instead, first look and see if you can find a club that already has a game that is going on and ask if the GM would take on a new player. Most GM's have space for one or two new players do to the inevitable number of players that stop gaming for one reason or another.
I do want to advice players to do two things to make the internet community a better place. The first is to be responsible for those clubs you start or web pages you create. There are far too many dead pages and dead clubs. If you have a dead club or a dead page then get rid of it unless it is serving a purpose. The second is to live up to your commitments. This last statement is as important to GM's as it is to players. When you agree to game a certain amount then, you should try to fulfill that commitment. GM's often have to hold up other players while they wait for responses from one or two players. It is understandable that from time to time you may have to give up a game you started for personal reasons or need a break for a week or two. You should wait until there is a good opportunity, like the end of an adventure or lull in the action, to quit. At the least, you should give a letter of notice to the whole gaming group. The GM will respect you more and the players in your group will appreciate you more.
The Spider's Den
PS: On a personal note, I would like to thank everyone who has written comments and sent Emails of support. I appreciate the ideas and plan to add them to a future column. I would add that I write this column often three to six months in advance of the date it is displayed on RPGnet.