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Long term GM with a new player problem: how to build a group

Derrick Kapchinsky

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*shrugs* I wouldn't say I can run whatever I want whenever I want and for whomever I want. But whenever I or someone else in my group has talked to one of our non-gamer friends and said, "Hey! My friends and I really like doing this and think it's a lot of fun, and I think you might also enjoy it. Do you want to try it out?", they've generally said yes.

But my larger point to the OP was, in my experience, non-gamers are less likely to balk at a non-D&D game than people who already play. I do not believe that there are all that many people for whom a) have never played an RPG before, b) they are willing to try one out, and c) are only willing to play D&D, is all true. The most important thing is that you're excited about the game and are able to get that excitement to rub off on them. And if you're already not interested in D&D, then trying to run that is going to make it a lot harder to generate that excitement in yourself and especially in your new players.
 

vitus979

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*shrugs* I wouldn't say I can run whatever I want whenever I want and for whomever I want. But whenever I or someone else in my group has talked to one of our non-gamer friends and said, "Hey! My friends and I really like doing this and think it's a lot of fun, and I think you might also enjoy it. Do you want to try it out?", they've generally said yes.
I'd argue that the section I bolded doesn't really match what the OP is asking about. The OP is asking about building a table, not adding "one of our non-gamer friends". One new player is easy, as you say, the single new player feeds off the energy of the rest of the table. When it's all new players you don't have any of that support structure except for the GM, who is left supporting the whole crew. Thus my suggestion about falling back on something the players already know like Star Wars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Lord of the Rings.

---

That said, I re-read the OP just now myself, and I realize I didn't really answer the very last question about how to solve a scheduling slump. IMO the first thing to do is realize that November and December are always going to be horrendous for scheduling if you're gaming with adults. There have been some Decembers that my weekly group didn't meet once.

If things continue on in January and February and you want to play in-person, then your options are either limited to accepting that on some sessions you may have one or two players, or cut out the people who are the least able to game and find replacements.
 

Knaight

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You're in a bit of a dead-zone time wise. The holiday season tends to kill existing games, and trying to get a new one up is going to be difficult. Try again in January or so, have a solid pitch, emphasize the social aspect. "Playing [Obscure Game X]" sounds intimidating compared to "Trying to get some buddies together for a game night, [most general specifics possible]".

If you can pull in a party of non-gamers for an in-person niche campaign, then I applaud you for being able to do so. I either don't have your ability, luck, or location to be able to run whatever campaign I want whenever I want to. I will not run something I actively DISLIKE, but I find that I'm often stuck running a campaign that would be my third or fourth choice for system/setting in order to keep the table together.
I've found it pretty easy, which is probably a difference in circumstance of some sort. That said: D&D is also not necessarily the best system for new people to start with. It's 900+ pages of core rules, it looks like a textbook, and it's not particularly intuitive. Motivated people can still generally make a point of learning it from scratch, but it's often easier to start with something much smaller.

Extending from your earlier point of picking a well known media property, it does help to have a shared, liked, genre at least. Or a shared, liked, substantially more obscure media property. There are several people in my current group that I got into gaming long ago through esoteric games in esoteric personal settings, through the magic of being teenagers or younger at the time, who I could probably have gotten in later with the specific bait of a Water Margin game, for instance.
 

vitus979

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I've found it pretty easy, which is probably a difference in circumstance of some sort. That said: D&D is also not necessarily the best system for new people to start with. It's 900+ pages of core rules, it looks like a textbook, and it's not particularly intuitive. Motivated people can still generally make a point of learning it from scratch, but it's often easier to start with something much smaller.
I somewhat agree that D&D is not the best RPG to bring people into the hobby with, but it's the one I've found that non-gamers are most likely to be interested in trying out.

Additionally, you can just use the beginner rules to streamline things, or hand out pre-gens with pertinent information (which I do for nearly all games these days when introducing a new system anyways).
 

Gwydion

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I somewhat agree that D&D is not the best RPG to bring people into the hobby with, but it's the one I've found that non-gamers are most likely to be interested in trying out.
It's a tough call. I think it depends somewhat on the players. D&D has a lot of advantages. It has the reputation. It's pretty straightforward what the players are supposed to do ("kill them and take their stuff"*). Moreover you can have a lot of fun for a lot of sessions without really developing a characterization beyond "dwarven fighter". I think this sort of structure is really valuable to somebody figuring out the whole "roleplaying" thing. I love rules light games and there is a certain temptation to starting new people out with simple rules ("here read this one page"). But a lot of them fall apart if people aren't getting into character right away**.

As for things like "Star Wars". It sounds great but there is a fundamental problem a lot of licensed games struggle to solve. It's difficult to run a game that really matches the feel of the movie/TV Show/whatever. I think that problem might be exacerbated with a new player. They aren't going to have as much of preconceived notion of what a D&D game *should* be link.

But my most heartfelt advice is that GMs for new player run something they are comfortable with and love. Simplify it by all means. Use pregens or other quick start tactics. But at the end of the day if you don't love it your players won't. And that is even more important when trying to sell somebody new on the hobby.
Kevin

* Yeah, I know you can do far more than that with D&D, but the classic dungeon crawl is classic for a reason.
** On the other hand, if I were getting a drama geek or writer into RPGs that would probably be the way to go.
 

Knaight

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It's a tough call. I think it depends somewhat on the players. D&D has a lot of advantages. It has the reputation. It's pretty straightforward what the players are supposed to do ("kill them and take their stuff"*). Moreover you can have a lot of fun for a lot of sessions without really developing a characterization beyond "dwarven fighter". I think this sort of structure is really valuable to somebody figuring out the whole "roleplaying" thing. I love rules light games and there is a certain temptation to starting new people out with simple rules ("here read this one page"). But a lot of them fall apart if people aren't getting into character right away**.
This does get into background knowledge a bit - though there are plenty of structurally simple rules light RPGs in the same sense of clear goals and lack of need for characterisation. New people with a theater background (and this could be as little as being in a few plays in highschool, or even on tech/costuming for them) will probably find different things easy than new people with a strongly numerical background familiar with complex games (which could be as little as a STEM student who likes strategy video games). There's more overlap in those groups than you'd necessarily expect though.
 

Terry Herc

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Hi Elms,

I've moved a few times, and I've had to rebuild my gaming group each time. I wrote a blog post about it, if you're interested in reading it. https://terryherc.wordpress.com/2017/10/07/fresh-faces-how-to-start-a-new-gaming-group/

The short version is I've had the most luck with Top Ads on Kijiji (or the Craigslist equivalent). I've made lots of new friends this way, and the investment was less than $10. If you are meeting a lot of new people, I suggest running any new folk through a one-shot, before you commit to a large scale campaign; you may discover the play styles with the new people are not compatible with your own.

Good luck
 

Elms

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Leverage your Call of Cthulhu group's system knowledge.
The most important thing is that you're excited about the game and are able to get that excitement to rub off on them.
You're in a bit of a dead-zone time wise. The holiday season tends to kill existing games, and trying to get a new one up is going to be difficult.
the first thing to do is realize that November and December are always going to be horrendous for scheduling if you're gaming with adults.
Holy smokes!

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Between the holidays and starting a new job -- and, yes, the slow halt of the campaign I was talking about -- I lost energy to check back on this and didn't realize the thread had picked up a conversation that is VERY helpful to me.

Hearing about how games slump during the holidays is helping me try to generate the energy to pick back up and be enthusiastic about gaming again. And while I don't think I can quite bring myself to play D&D -- I do think it's a very important point to pull back the throttle on the game mechanics minutiae when introducing new players -- that is, keeping the focus just on playing a fun, solid one-shot in a system I'm comfortable with and will have fun playing.
 

baakyocalder

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One really good guideline after the HackMaster Association got buried in minutia and we went to a simpler model is to focus those one-shots.

Learn rules in small chunks, so that one session you focus on ranged combat and in another you can do a lot of magic. Good handouts help.

Also, people have other activities, so while there are definitely times we all get busy with holidays and family obligations, they are choosing to make time to game. Quality players you like playing with and that like your game will put in the time and show up prepared most sessions. If they aren't engaged, they may have had a bad day.

Flaky players and those who really don't care usually show they are unprepared.
 
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