We’re living through a renaissance of board and role playing games. Fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons really fired up the RPG industry and brought a lot of players to tables, especially in the new game shop paradigm where playing space is more important than having a ton of product (at least where I’m living.) Kickstarter and DriveThruRPG have given content creators a new way of funding and presenting their material. There are more games, more systems, more material for games out there than any time in the past. So the idea that there is a problem with finding players is an interesting one for me.

I’ve been doing this long enough I remember when society thought role playing games were satanic, isolating, weird (and let’s face it, it kinda is) and was destructive to the mental well-being of children. Like rock music and video games. Back then, finding gamers — especially in a suburban or rural town — wasn’t just hard, it was potentially dangerous, if only for risking ridicule. Admitting you played role playing games was a sure shot to not getting a girlfriend, possibly getting your ass kicked, or worse. (The worse wasn’t really defined, it was more just a sense of intense social anxiety.) This was the tap your foot under the bathroom stall sort of scenario; you dropped a D&D related comment into a conversation, and if the other picked it up, you were in business.

It was different in the big city. Well, moderately-sized city — it was Philadelphia. There were real game stores, with bulletin boards to pin up ads for gamers or GMs. Sorry, kids, this was like having a Facebook page where you asked if there are people out there playing games, except it was a cork board on a wall in the real world and you had to take paper tabs with phone numbers, then go home to the phone that was connected to the wall, and try to set up a play date. You never knew what you were getting.  After the 300 lb. ninja (No really, he could make himself invisible with the power of concentration!) with severe attachment issues — the sort that you make eye contact and have a friend for life — showed up and started stalking me and my roommate,  I started meeting people at neutral locations to suss them out before inviting them to my residence.

I highly recommend this, by the way, especially if you’re a woman. Meet them at a public place, get the read, before you invite folks to your crib. I’m a reasonably strong man who carries a gun most days and I use caution letting people now where I live until I know they’re not creeps. So should you.

So how do you get new gamers? 1) Go to game stores and meet people. Get off the f’ing phone and have a face-to-face bout games, and movies, and books, and other things. Because when your gamers friends are just game friends, the group won’t hold together. You need to be friends who happen game. Have your players look around, too. you’re in this together. One of my old buddies from grad school recently joined the group and brought a friend of his along with him. 2) Talk about RPGs with folks like you would talk about video games. We recently got a new player because I was talking RPGs with a student, and another student thought it sounded cool. After he wasn’t my student, I invited him to play. An old workmate from ten years ago recently decided he wanted to get back into gaming and called me. Network. It (net)works. 3) Check out the various online bulletin boards for players. There’s RPG Game Finder, Find Gamers (I think this is US, Canada, and Britain only…), and the D&D Adventurers’ League. If you have more of these sites, link to them in comments. Let’s help each other out.

And I’m sorry for the (net)work pun. Just not enough to take it out of the post.

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