A Gaming Group Of One's Own


Gamers in search of a group may sometimes feel like Christians in ancient Rome; you have to speak in code and be careful who you talk to, or before you know it you might be standing in the Coliseum being stared down by lions with a severe case of the munchies. No matter what, it's likely that you'll have to do some work, especially in areas where the hobby is less common, and many people have no idea where they should even start.

Everyone experiences a big move at some time or another in their life, and knows all about the stresses of finding a new house, school, and job and getting settled in a new community with different people. When gamers move, I think we have an extra set of stressors when it comes to finding a new gaming group. People with more "normal" (and I use the term loosely) interests are lucky; they can just drive out to the golf course, transfer to the local Boy Scout troupe, or find a new room of the house in which to make their model airplanes. Gamers in search of a group may sometimes feel like Christians in ancient Rome; you have to speak in code and be careful who you talk to, or before you know it you might be standing in the Coliseum being stared down by lions with a severe case of the munchies. No matter what, it's likely that you'll have to do some work, especially in areas where the hobby is less common, and many people have no idea where they should even start.

I feel as though lately I've gained a lot of real-life experience in this area; when I entered college last fall, I was suddenly groupless and desperate in a place where gamers are unusually hard to come by. I'm a success story, fortunately; after searching for ages, I found two groups of wonderful gamers to play with. Because of this, and because a number of people have emailed me asking for my advice on this subject, I now present basically everything I know about how to find a gaming group in your area. (You can read my story in italics, after the advice.)

Wherever you may be, your first action should be to check the Yellow Pages for game stores in your area. In my experience, most decent-sized towns will have a game store or collectible card joint of some sort. If you're really lucky, the store will have a gamer database of some sort or weekly games you can join. If not, they might at least be able to put you in touch with GMs and players in the area. If there's no specific game place nearby, check out bookstores that sell role-playing materials and see if they have any knowledge or connections. Small, independent stores are your best bet, but chains like Barnes & Noble might be helpful, too. What happened to me: St. Olaf is in a small town, so checking the phone book revealed that there were no game stores in the immediate area. I spent an afternoon wandering through downtown, checking out used bookstores, and found that there was NOWHERE in town that sold RPGs or CCGs. Ouch. I kept looking...

Actually, when it comes to some of you I just lied about what your first action should be...sorry! (c: If you are on a high school or college campus, that should be your second action; your first action should be to get in touch with any gaming and/or science fiction clubs at your school. Many schools have something like this, especially larger ones, and if they do it's almost always a surefire line on a gaming group. Find out when meetings are. Get on their mailing list. Get to know the officers and members. Here's hoping you don't have to look any further than this. What happened to me: I went to the annual St. Olaf activities fair, made a beeline for the Games Club table, and asked the president if he knew of any gaming groups on campus. He said he didn't, but that other members might. I put my name on the mailing list, wrote a note next to it saying I was looking for other role-players, and promised to come to the first meeting. I kept looking...

As always, when your real-life channels have failed you, go to the Internet! There are a large number of online gamer databases full of people in the same boat as you. Get your name entered and do a search for other groupless people in your area. Effie Rover has a nice gamer database, and there's a nice list of other databases to be found at About.com's roleplaying section. And if all else fails, don't rule out playing by email (PBEMing); I know, it's not the real thing, but it can be a lot of fun and it's better than nothing, eh? What happened to me: I put a notice on this page saying I was looking for a gaming group. No one replied. I listed my name in several databases. No one replied. I shopped around for PBEMs and found a few interesting ones, but decided to put off applying until I got definite answers from Games Club. I kept looking...

No game store, no Games Club, no Internet help, no hope? No way. When all else fails, join the Society for Creative Anachronism! I'm not kidding! I got involved in the SCA for its own sake, and was amazed to discover that just about everyone I talked to was a gamer of some sort (or at least a sci-fi/fantasy fan). I can't vouch for other groups, of course, but from what I've seen the emphasis on imagination, creativity, and creating a character make it a gamer magnet. And even if you don't meet any gamers, it's still a fun activity in its own right. So go out there, grab a duct tape broadsword, and beat the crap out of some people! It's a useful life skill! What happened to me: I joined the Baronial Colleges of Nordleigh and became a 13th-century Spaniard named Leonor Caminante. Somewhere in the interim I started asking my fellow scadians if they were gamers. Most of them were. We decided it would be cool to do a campaign together. Chris the heavy weapons guy said he'd GM. And thus was my GURPS group born...

Still stuck? When even that fails, do something outrageous: Be open about being a gamer. I firmly believe that there are more gamers in this world than any of us ever know about, all of whom want to meet other gamers as badly as we do; all it takes is a little encouragement. So who cares what people think? Carry sourcebooks around with you, or work on campaigns and characters in a public place. Don't mumble something about "playing games with my friends" when people ask you what you like to do for fun. Hold your head up high, say "I am a gamer!", and see who answers back. You very well might be surprised. What happened to me: My GURPS campaign possibilities had stalled and I was going through gaming withdrawal. In one of those crazy 2 am fits of desperation, I fired off a somewhat pathos-filled email to the Games Club detailing my seemingly never-ending search for a group. And lo and behold, someone finally replied! He'd just begun a Mage campaign and said I'd be welcome to join. And when I went to the first session, I discovered that this gaming group consisted of people I had eaten lunch with a few weeks before! I'm a success story, but I can only dream about how much easier it all would have been if I hadn't been afraid and just talked about gaming whenever I got the chance.

This list is meant to be suggestive, not exhaustive. If none of these options work for you, there are plenty of other creative ways out there to find a gaming group. But if you take one overall precept away from this column, it should be this: Finding a gaming group is all about networking. The more people you make connections with, the greater the chance that one of them will lead you to the perfect group. In my case, even the angles that didn't pan out introduced me to some other gaming enthusiasts and just generally interesting people. Who knows, maybe those connections and friendships will come in handy someday for something other than gaming. That means getting to know people, being nice, and talking to anyone you can who even remotely seems to have the characteristics of a gamer. Take some of that good ol' teamwork I hope you've learned in roleplaying and apply it to the real world. Your gaming prospects, and your social life, will be all the better for it.

Excellent tips all! I've used all of them myself at one time or another. A tip I would offer to those in school is to look at the books a person carries. Many of us would be a little nervous or shy about carrying our latest sourcebook with us, but how many gamers carry whatever sci-fi or fantasy novel we're currently reading? I've had great success by walking up to people carrying a Dragonlance or similar novels and asking if they game. If they don't, it's not a problem. You can still probably sit and chat with the person about the books they like.

Too many gamers tend to be shy or anti-social. I'm not going to recommend that you charge out and introduce yourself as a gamer to every person you meet. But if you notice the right t-shirts, or the right novels, take the chance.

Great article. But why do I get the impression this was written under a caffeine high ? I believe that is 8 exclaimation points.

All kidding aside, good points. Now I just need to learn the approaching people idea. I have seen a lot of people learn Robert Jordan novels around campus.

READ.... this is why you don't post at 11:26 PM local time :D

Excelent advice Gamerchick, but I can't help wondering (what with me living in Europe and all), how is it possible that you have societies and guilds in high-school but not in university? Over here it's the opposite. In my university's Guild of students there are at least 40 societies, some cultural, some political, most social, and at least 3 game-related. Why don't you get some scieties up and going? fraternities and the like seem to be quite popular, so why not game-groups?

Anyhoo... FNORD.

Bongo, there are plenty of gaming organizations/clubs/guilds/societies at larger American universities, but Gamerchick attends a relatively small college in a relatively small town, so the existence of an RPG club might depend on whether there was a critical mass of RPG players enrolled at the same time.

But Gamerchick, why limit yourself to checking out your own school? Northfield also boasts Carleton College, which according to alums I have met is chock full of roleplayers. Also, I suspect gamers in Northfield must shop for games in Minneapolis sometimes - perhaps an ad at Phoenix Games might be helpful.

Glad to hear SCA was a good place to meet gamers. Other fruitful places for seeking gamers include sf clubs, wargame clubs, anime clubs, and local game conventions.

There is one idea that is being missed here.. PEOPLE CAN BE CONVERTED!!!! Seriously, that's how I came to gaming! Incidentially, I know the author of this article, and I play in the same circle. And out of the kitty of gamers that has accrued over a few years, about half had no previous experience role playing. Some had friends who had, but some, like myself, had really had no exposure to it at all. I was wary of it at first, but now I find my self puting it before schoolwork at times, which can be dangerous!

Of course, Internet chat-style OpenRPG is an alternative to PBEM games. A game played over Internet chat is much more like tabletop gaming than a PBEM.

SCA!! My entire House are gamers. I got into the original gaming group thanks to the SCA. :-)

My small problem: I can't drive. There's no gamers around (or game shops).

Scranton is bad like that.

What about situations like that? Some places seem just too small or out of the way to really have a gaming community of any sort, let alone any of the normal fixtures like a game shop.

Any ideas?

Penta, the best advice I can give you is simply to make friends with cars. If there is a local franchise bookstore in the vicinity you can ask them to order books from warehouses. If your situation is desperate (for players) the best course would be to convert (or subvert) other people to the hobby.
Good luck

Only two months ago I was giving advice, now I am seeking it. I am now in college and doing fine, except that there aren’t any gamers that I know. I appreciate your article Gamerchick, it has been to no avail. Although I am following up on a lead to find a group since the upperclassmen have arrived. Wish me luck. Go Eckerd!

If you can absolutely find no pen-n-paper group (or none that doesn't suck), try conventions or Internet RPG chatrooms, gaming newsgroups and open mailing lists that discuss RPGs as a jumping-off point to get into a decent Play-By-Mail or chatroom game. That way, you don't need a car or to set aside weekends for gaming, you only need an internet access and email account and some free time. Personally I like the style of story-driven Play-by-Mail, in some way it helps build better mood than sitting around a table gaming, but everyone has to deceide for himself. If the first time you end up with a stupid group or bad GM, don't let that discourage you.

Gaming with people you actually see has its merits, though. if you're absolutely stuck in a village without other gamers around or cannot leave the house because you have to care for children or a cat, try to find gamers who are willing to drive to meet at *your* house. Or you are limited to having your group only meet at conventions. A continuous campaign can be run this way, but only very very slowly, and you miss out on the chance of playing something else. ::sigh:: Good luck.

I have a question:

Would a comic book store possibly have the facilities in question for finding gaming groups.

In my area most of the game nerds are also comic fans. We also have a comic shop that has expanded to include gaming and hosting games as well. So comic shops might be a good place to check out.

Wow, how did my user name get switched to that? I only used that name as a charater on the Unorthodox Tales thread. So, yeah, that was me right there, not the nhillistic kender.