JP On Gaming

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

[Old Pro Tip] Setting up a gaming group

I have been reading across the internet "I'm a GM and I can't get a campaign going."

I was lucky to be able to travel and form RPG groups in no less than four countries (Canada, France, Ireland, and the USA). When I reached all countries but my native Canada, I was able to get a gaming group going within a month. Here are some of the lessons I learned.

- Run Short Events I cannot stress this enough. Once we leave school/college, time comes at a premium. Spouses, jobs, children, video games, professional sports, or porn: RPGs require time and you are competing with people's own time. Many WANT to play but are not ready to put the time to actually play. Running short events is a great way to do this, by focusing on a 4h "one-shot", you bring the best of the story to the table, dropping the extra fluff. It allows you to showcase your GMing style by showing off your strengths. People are more willing to devote 2-4 hours than their every Saturdays to playing a game.

It took me YEARS to run a dungeoncrawl I'm comfortable with running and doing a good job of it. I'm typically not one who enjoys running them. But that's a rant for another day.

- Run in public This is one I learned over the many years of trying to organize games. I have been lucky enough to work with a number of great stores over the years: Le Griffon Feerique, Gamers Haven, Petrie's Family Games, and now Grand Adventure Comics. (Yes I forget a few)

This helps both sides of the equation. As a GM, I don't bring in a bunch of strangers into my house, where other family members keep interrupting. Similarly, I may not be interested in going to people's homes (I have pet allergies). There are some people you do not want in your home, to say nothing of the weirdos.

Yes, you cannot use your 100,000$ super-surround sound, 3D-projector, full wall of miniatures, and other convenience. There are on-lookers breaking the immersion, you have to keep it PG-13, you cannot act out every scene, and you may have a closing time impacting your game time.

So I ask you: what is your end game? Run a campaign. Or run a campaign at home, on your own time?

- Keep it simple This is a big issue I see a lot. Many GMs plan massive arcs that take the PCs from levels 1 to 135,000 and will run for three decades. I say do the opposite. Focus on short games, ones you can resolve in one to four sessions. Again, this allows you to focus on your best elements. By doing this, you can vet your players: who is good, who is offensive, who knows his stuff, who is a noob, and allows you to remedy situations: remove a player, train the crew, adjust your own style to the group, or change based on what they want to see.

Simple allows for expansion, saving you prep-time.

I would like to call this running the game as Columbo. Columbo was a series of made-for-TV movies starring Peter Falk as the detective. The movies were tied together only by the titular detective (hey! don't blame me, I am not a fan of the series). Perhaps this lends itself better to running a series of "I'm hiring you bum adventurers for this mission, " instead of a plot where the PCs are the chosen ones.

- Participate in Organized Play Organized Play campaigns: Adventure League, [Path/Star]finder Societies, Shadowrun Missions, Living Arcanis, or even my own Legacies, are always looking for GMs. This is a good way to meet people. Not only do they reach more people than you do by yourself but it allows you to showcase your skills. Having run a few games, you will be able to invite people you like to your own campaign.

- Fail All of the above lead to this one. You WILL fail. That's fine, just get back up and try again. You may luck out or you may fall flat on your face. Like everything in life, you get back up and try again.


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