GM Tips, hosted by the talented veteran Game Master Satine Phoenix, is our show to help Dungeon Masters and Storytellers improve their craft and create memorable roleplaying experiences. Last week, we covered alignment, and this week we are tackling (or trying to recruit) new players
With so many games available now, all with different styles, rules, and character sheets. Getting new players or launching a campaign from total scratch can be daunting, but it’s a topic Chris Bramante covers on this week’s episode of GM Tips with Satine Phoenix. Get caught up below.
With all the advice that’s covered on what to do with those new players, this article is going to focus on getting them to the table and hooking them with a strong start. Building a good group and foundation is key to any long-running campaign (or even a short fun one).
I had most of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons books in high school and like many of us—nobody to play it with. One by one over the years, a friend was recruited into the gaming fold, until I eventually had enough to run a campaign. Luckily for new players today, it’s the friggin’ golden age of gaming groups, so finding a table or a group isn’t hard. Between online groups, the interwebs, meetup groups, and so forth, players flock to GM tables. It’s always storytellers that are in short supply. But if you are looking for that new player that hasn’t been molded by another gaming group, you’ve gotta try a different approach to find one.
I recommend conventions as a great way to meet local new-ish gamers; even more so than your friendly local gaming store. New players may frequent your FLGS, but more often than not, they aren’t really new if they are going there. Sign up at a convention to run a table for a game and spend a weekend GMing. You’ll find all kinds of new players that are in your area that are just sampling what is out there. This is a great way to find people both eager to play, and also new to gaming.
As Chris mentions in the episode, matching up a player with their dreams is key. Often called head canon, it’s the visual we each craft in our crazy brain scapes about just being awesome. You can’t really go your cyberpunk friends and pitch them on playing a fantasy based D&D game. Always do your best to match your players to the system of their interests. Each game also has entirely different themes and feels to them. D&D is great for adventure, but Arkham Horror murder mysteries are better out of any Cthulhu game line.
You’ve also got to play matchmaker with your players as well (not in that way). Each player has different styles and they will absolutely clash and shred a group apart if you try mixing oil and water. Keep the power-gamers who enjoy squeezing every benefit out of their sheet with optimized characters in one group and your roleplayers in another. Sure, player style can have crossover, and some players can get along with any style of game and that’s great! Doing what you can to prevent or minimize personality clashes before time is invested is super important when dealing with new players. One terrible game experience will send everyone screaming for the hills.
Start With A Bang
Now that everyone is at the table and you’ve made sure they have a party that meshes, you’ve gotta give them the hook. Just like in writing a novel, you’ve only got a few pages to capture their attention and hold it. In a new tabletop campaign you’ve got one session.
Start your session with something epic and fun, throwing the characters right into the thick of it. A chase scene as they just pulled off a heist for example. It’s okay to skip the classic ‘you’re hired on a mission to do this thing’ at the start of the game. I started off my latest D&D game with the players being brought back from the dead in the middle of a live battle. Hitting the ground with a running start is a great way to draw people into your world, and you’ll never have more control as a GM than the very first scene in your game.
So let’s here your new player stories! Tell us in the comments below about your first gaming times!
Looking for More Useful GM Tips?
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- How to handle long-running and epic rpg campaigns.
- Shop the Geek & Sundry store for DM gear, like a “How Do You Want to Do This” hoodie!
Rick Heinz is the author of The Seventh Age: Dawn, and a storyteller with a focus on LARPs, Wraith: The Oblivion, Eclipse Phase, and many more. You can follow game or urban fantasy related thingies on Twitter or Facebook.