I am an avid role-player. When I say “role-player,” I mean someone who plays tabletop, pen & paper RPGs. The most famous of these RPGs is Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), but there are many RPGs other than D&D on the marketplace. I started playing D&D in high school, and once I got to college I started playing other RPGs, like GURPS, World of Darkness, Star Wars Saga, Pathfinder, Savage Worlds etc.
Anyway…this post was originally titled “A Role-player’s Lament.” I had just moved to Chicago, and I was having real trouble recruiting people for my game. At first I was optimistic. I travelled to the biggest gaming store in Chicago, Chicagoland Games: Dice Dojo, which was a big help. The employees, owners, and people there was extremely nice and welcoming. They hooked me up with several online RPG groups that operate in the Chicago area to facilitate gaming. I was really excited that I now had hundreds of people I could contact, and that I could schedule gaming events they could all see online!
In an attempt to meet some people face to face, I went to the Dice Dojo’s RPG night, and this is where my lamentation began. Not because of the people there, don’t get me wrong, but because of what they were playing. They were all playing either D&D 4th Edition or Pathfinder, and they were doing “organized play.” I really liked the people I met, but I hated organized play. D&D and Pathfinder (Pathfinder is a update to D&D 3rd Edition, so I’ll just use the term “D&D” to describe them both) are already systems I don’t like, and organized play was even worse (I’ll get to why in a minute).
So at this point I was a little disappointed that D&D is what everyone seemed to be wanting to play, and not many people seemed interested in my game, which uses GURPS rules (instead of D&D rules). At this point I was still optimistic about recruiting however, seeing that I had so many resources at my hands. There were three websites I used to recruit players. One allowed me to send emails to 500+ people who play RPGs in Chicago. The other allowed me to organized events on a community calendar that hundreds of people could see. And the last was a nation wide RPG social networking site with 15,000+ members that will match people with my game depending on their preferences! These resources seemed infinite, and I was very optimistic.
However, this post would not have originally been titled “A Role-player’s Lament” if it had all gone well. Using these resources I tried to plan a preliminary game, and while about 7 people said “maybe,” no one came. I then tried for a more permanent schedule, setting up my campaign with a definitive day and time. Using the website with 500+ people, I got one reply; the website with 15,000+ people, I got one reply; the community calendar website, I got zero replies. At this point I had exhausted all my recruiting efforts, and I only had two people interested. During this time I also met a very nice gentleman on a bus (at 2:30am coming from downtown) who just happened to play RPGs and was interested, so now I had three people.
At his point I was highly discouraged, I wasn’t even convinced that these three people would actually come through and show up, but I was planning the game anyway. This is when I started writing my “lament.” In my discouragement, I was going to write a long blog post about how D&D is terrible, how it discourages role-playing and narrative building and encourages shallow stereotypes and power-gaming. I was going to write about how D&D’s rules make no conceptual sense and are arbitrary and focus only on combat while mitigating other aspects of character development. I was going to write about how “organized” play is the epitome of all the bad traits of D&D, how it felt like playing World of Warcraft and how I hated it so much I could only play 2 games before I couldn’t take anymore. Yet before I had a chance to write that post, my fortune turned around, completely.
I and another student in my graduate program created a Facebook group for the incoming students, and we had the invite to the group sent to the program list server. Soon we had over 80 of our fellow students join the group, and naturally we all started talking and getting to know one another. One person organized a contact sheet, and as people stared posting on it, one person said on the sheet that their interests include RPGs. I saw an opportunity for recruitment and sent him a message inviting him to my game. He was happy to join, and he suggested that I post an invite on the facebook page of the grad program for all the members to see.
At first I was apprehensive, thinking to myself that it wasn’t appropriate for the site of the grad program, that it would only make me look like a geek, and that no one would be interested. However, I overcame these insecurities and posted a quick, vague invite anyway.
I was absolutely shocked not only at the number of people who had played RPGs before and were interested, but also the number of people who had never played RPGs before and were still interested! As of right now I have 9 people from my program who want to play in my game! NINE PEOPLE from a facebook group with only 86 members! With my unforseen success, I created another facebook group specifically for the game, which now has the 9 people from my programs, along with the 3 original people I had already recruited (none of whom seem to be flaking on playing)!
I am almost too lucky in this regard, because anyone who has played RPGs knows 12 players is way to many. A game preferably has no more then 6 players, but in the past I’ve run games with up to 7 or 8 people. So while I don’t want to discourage people from playing, and I especially don’t want to tell people there’s no room for them, I’m kinda hoping that some people will decide not to partake once they try it, either because it’s not for them or they can’t make the time commitment. If I still have too many players, I’ll just have to run two games, rotating them every other week. That way people who can play every week can play in both games (with different characters), while those who would rather only play every other week can do so. Hopefully this strategy would make it so each game has no more then 7 players.
Regardless, I want to make sure I can accommodate all those who are interested in my game, so I’m gonna do my best! Let’s see how it goes, but I’m once again optimistic 🙂