This year is the 40th anniversary of Dungeons and Dragons. So, in celebration of that, and in light of the fact that D&D is releasing a new edition this summer, I’m posting some stories I have of playing Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games.
Hopefully, if you’re reading this article, and if you’re a regular reader of the column, you have some interest in playing D&D. But what if you can’t find a group to play with?
Some of you might not have this problem right now – you’ve got your group all set, and you play regularly. You are the lucky ones – but some of us have a hard time finding groups or players, especially finding people who can play at the same time as us, and who we enjoy playing alongside. Even if you have your group in place, you will occasionally need to replace players, and here are a few tips…
Don’t Make Assumptions
One of the most important things I’ve learned about recruiting players for role-playing games, especially D&D, is that a lot of people still don’t know much about the game. Even though it’s a ubiquitous cultural reference, and has become more and more popular in recent years, there are still plenty of people who don’t know that “Dungeons and Dragons” isn’t a video game or a board game. (In all fairness, it is also both of those things.)
The best approach when you run into someone who doesn’t understand the principle of a tabletop RPG is to be positive – don’t criticize the fact that nobody else has explained the concept to them. Sell them on the concept. Tell them that it’s basically like getting together with a bunch of friends, and that play is like a combination of playing a video game and performing improv, but with your closest friends. (I also heartily recommend comparing it to Star Wars.)
Ease Them Into It
One approach to explaining the game to a new player is to just hand someone a Player’s Handbook and telling them to get started. While I have used this approach, it usually works best for people who are already interested – either they have played before a long time ago, or they have played video games for years and can grasp the similarities. But if someone is going in totally cold, then walk them through it.
One thing I usually share with potential players is a video series Wizards of the Coast released a while ago, of world-class DM Chris Perkins leading the “Robot Chicken” writing staff through an adventure. This video is basically meant to serve as an introduction for new players, and I find it’s a great way to show someone how the game runs, rather than try to explain it. The videos are each about 10 minutes long, though there are 25 of them, so make it clear that they DON’T have to watch them all – it’s just meant to give them an idea of how the game works.
Show Them Clips From “Community”
You probably could have guessed that this one was coming.
Dungeons and Dragons, as a concept, has shown up on television several times. Sometimes it’s just a one-off joke (“Big Bang Theory”), while other times it is a loving tribute (“Freaks and Geeks”). But very few shows have presented a full Dungeons and Dragons adventure, played out on-screen, by characters who are genuinely enjoying the game in an authentic example of what game-play is actually like. And “Community” has done that twice.
Both of Community’s D&D episodes are incredibly well-done, and clips from either can be found online pretty easily – they’re beloved by fans of the game and the show alike. If you want someone to quickly grasp how the game works, what makes it so fun, and why anyone off the street can get something out of it, you need look no further than Annie seducing an elf maiden, or Dean Pelton’s ill-fated quest for reconciliation with his imaginary father.
Online Resources / Gaming Stores
There are a lot of places online where you can go to find a D&D player or a group, either for an online game or games in your area. The main issue here is like any online friend-finding resource – you never know what you’re going to get. Every game of D&D is different, and every group has a different dynamic, and it can be very challenging to find people who are a good fit – it’s a tricky alchemy to find a group that plays together well. With an online friend, you might find someone with a very different style of play, and run into some awkwardness – maybe you’re a very roleplay-heavy group, and you recruit a hack-slasher with no interest in roleplaying, or vice versa – it can put strain on the group.
To be fair, this same thing can just as easily happen when you recruit from among your friends – you never know how the group will take shape until the game begins.
Another place to look is gaming and hobby stores, many of which have live-play events. These can be great places to get to know people, and find potential players. Some game stores even have bulletin boards of local games looking for players, but if not you can always ask around and ask the clerks to keep their eyes out, or pass your info along to any wayward players.
You Can Always Find Someone
As someone who has tried to find players for groups several times, it can be a very trying process at times. But it can always be done – maybe you have to recruit your friends’ friends, or set up an online game on Roll20 or Google Hangouts to play with people in other cities, but it can always be done – these days, there is a group out there for everyone.