How to Start a Gaming Group: A Quickstart Guide

  1. Learn a gaming system.
    Go to your local gaming store, and browse till you find a game you are interested in. Purchase the necessary rulebook(s) for the game, if you don't already own them. Review the book in detail, and learn the rules thoroughly. Try playtesting the game with parents or close friends to make sure you have the rules down, and can handle the pace of the game. If the game seems too complicated, or you find it doesn't interest you as you thought it would, try returning the rulebooks to the bookstore/gameshop or selling them on eBay. Repeat this step if necessary.

  2. Decide if you know enough about the game to be in charge of a group. If you feel very comfortable with the rules, or you have a lot of prior experience with the game, you may wish to become the gaming group's leader. Be sure you know the rules well enough to handle common disputes without having to reference the rulebooks.

  3. Hunt for players. There are three main ways to find players for your group:

    1. Friends who play- Kind of obvious, but go talk to your friends first. Some might be interested, some might not. If they are, let them borrow your rulebook to learn the story. If they are interested, you probably know enough about them to skip the next step.

    2. Put up posters and hand out flyers in public gaming places. To find gaming stores, try looking through your local phonebook, or ask friends who might know. For flyers, you can print up something out of Microsoft Word or a print publishing program. Try to make the game look enticing and entertaining. Have fun with the design, and use lots of adjectives and pictures. Often, the game box/rulebook will have a well-written intro that you can paraphrase to put on the flyer. Try not to use too many words, because no one will stop to read a huge page of text. At MOST use 75 words. Do not, under any circumstances, go over that amount. Another idea, if you do not have access to a publishing program (or cannot operate one) is to make indexcard-flyers by hand. Draw up a mock card, and then just copy it by hand with pen and colored pencils, markers, etc. On the flyers and posters, it is important to include the following information: (you can play with the wording to fit your needs)

      • I am looking for adventurers interested in taking part in a gaming group based around {GameX}

      • As a player, you will have the opportunity to.... (and then list the perks of the game)

      • The optimal player:

        1. (age range)- keeps kids old enough to play, and weeds out 7 yr olds and 50 yr olds.
        2. (gender, optional)- Some group leaders prefer to play with only their gender, others don't care. Your choice.
        3. "is a creative thinker and can adjust to change rapidly"
        4. "collaborates well with others"- hopefully to keep away those that start fights or don't handle group situations apropriately.
        5. "is interested in having a fun time, and a leisurely group activity"- some people take the games too seriously, and put too much emphasis on winning over having fun. (Then again, there is no "winning" in roleplaying games!)
        6. "mature"- self explanatory. No whiners, fight-starters, or jerks.
        7. "is willing to express opinions publicly"- No use in having shy people that just say "ok..whatever you want....", they don't add much to the group.
        8. "lives near (your hometown), and can get transportation to group meetings"- do NOT post your address yet. Only let the person have your phone number.

      • Please call the group leader, (your_name_here), at 1(555)555-5555 on weekends or 5-9 on weekdays to sign up. (try to make your phone number large, so it stands out, as well as the game title)

    3. Use internet forums. There, post similar information to what you put on your flyers in the previous step. Note- By using an internet forum, you will probably recieve few results that are in your immediate area. If you use this option, know that you may have to run the whole campaign over the internet in a chatroom/messenger service. This is a different experience, and not suggested unless you have run a campaign in person already.

  4. Collect information from possible candidates. As they call you, interview them. Get a feeling for their vocabulary (which can a good basis for judging intelligence), as well as if you feel you could get along with them easily. Ask them some questions to get them to talk to you, and monitor their responses. In between or after the interview questions, get some basic information out of the person to make sure that they fit the range you set on the flyer. What to look for depends on the game you want to play, but these are some general pieces of information:

    1. Experience playing the game (if any)- It might be helpful to have one or two experienced players in the group. If everyone is new, it can lead to confusion at times when no one knows the right rule.

    2. Location- A street address is needed. That way, you know where your players are if one has trouble with transportation and needs a ride. Also, get their telephone number so you can call them back. If this is an internet-based game, get their e-mail address and a general area so you have a feeling for the group's makeup.

    3. Time they can play- Try to see if you can do it on weekends (if you have them free), because that will enable you to play a good portion of the day. Set the group meetings for 4+ hours, so that you have enough time to really get into the game before everyone has to leave.

    4. Age- Self explanatory

  5. Review your candidates. Before you start, select a number of players that you think you can comfortably handle and lead at once. For roleplaying games, I suggest keeping this number 7 or lower (including you). Think about possible extremes (ie- everyone talking at once, arguments where the group splits into two sides, etc.), because that is when your leadership abilities will be stretched to their maximum. If you think you can handle more than 7, feel free to do so. Just know that it is bad form to invite many people, and then find out you have to vote them out once they have already been to a session or two.

  6. Systematically vote off candidates until you have the number remaining from step 5. Remember to include yourself in this count. Keep the information for the other candidates nearby, because in the event that one player drops, you can go back to the pool and call someone else. Often, it is easier to pick out a few that really impressed you, and then choose the rest by cutting the worst off one by one.

  7. Contact the chosen players. Tell them when you have set up the first meeting, and where you live. Try to make the date a week or more away, so they have time to prepare. Also, inform new players of where to get a copy of the rulebook that they can read about the game before the first meeting.

  8. At the first session:

    • Make a point of informing everyone that you will be in charge. Don't sound like a tyrannical dictator, but be sure that it is understood that you are arbitrator, god, and friend all in one. The players should see you as a friend, as well as respect your authority. It is your job to keep the group in order and civilized.
    • Introduce players to one another. Be very observant when they meet, and keep an eye out for players that don't appear to like each other. No matter how nice they sounded on the phone, you still might end up with a homophobe and a gay player, or a racist and an african-american player (no offense), and they will lead to big problems if they cannot get along. If you see this happening, speak to the two privately, and try to start them on friendly terms.
    • Set the ground rules for the group:
      1. Absolutely no fighting should happen at any meeting. Period. Anyone who breaks this rule should be expelled instantly. In the event of a physical dispute (not necessarily at the first meeting), try to get the whole group's opinions before you decide who should be booted. Maybe both of the fighters don't have to leave, if one of them was the cause of most of the damage. Policies on swearing, alcohol consumption, and smoking during the gaming session should be decided by group consensus.
      2. Bringing friends: This is your call. There are times when you might want to involve other people (friends of yours or the players), and there are times when you don't. Have players speak to you before they invite friends, and interview the friend personally to see if they fit the group's standards. In the event that they are immature or do not fit your requirements, speak to the player in private and tell them firmly that the friend does not suit your needs at this time. This is not a time to use the "There are too many people already" excuse, because this only postpones the problem.
      3. Set up regular meeting schedules. Amongst the group, decide on a time when you can all meet together on a regular basis (weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly).

  9. Have fun!

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