Lately, I've been wanting to go back to the tabletop roleplaying. I have a few restraints though:

  • I know nobody who could play with me in my actual area.
  • With a quite active social life, I don't have much time, and foremost, I don't have a (EDIT: fixed) time in the week where I can free myself.
  • Budgetwise, I am quite limited, not that I have a friendly game shop in proximity.

I plan to bring the concept to my girlfriend, see if she is interested, but first I would like to get back into the swing of thing.

So what I'm searching is a tabletop experience where I could come and go when I can. I've heard of mail campaign, but I've also heard that they don't have much success.

As for the genre, it doesn't matter much, but if it helps reduce the scope of the question, I used to play DnD3.5 the most, but I've got also experience with other genres, so don't shy away of something on this account.

ADDENDUM: I can see that what I am trying to achieve is frowned upon here. So now a bit more of context: what I want to achieve is regaining my knowledge and mindstate I had when I used to play in school, so I could present roleplaying the best way possible to my girlfriend, and if she is not interested in playing with me (at which point I'm sure we would be able to find time during the week-end), at least have understanding and don't see it in a bad way. Because I made the big mistake to try to force another of my hobby (TCG) on her, and although she let me do it, she is barely tolerating it. But how to deal with that would be another question (that I plan to ask, if it hasn't been asked before), so I will stop with the exposition here. To summarize, my goal is to ease me back into my roleplayer mindset, so I would be able to anticipate all question I would get.

ADDENDUM 2: A few more information: I live in Germany, and I'm pretty sure that organized play is not well developed in my corner of Germany. (I don't ask for you to find me something, I know it is off-topic)

  • \$\begingroup\$ There are play by email campaigns but I don't know how good or bad they are. You could try to find a gaming club via here or RPG.net or a more specific D&D site. \$\endgroup\$ – Sardathrion - against SE abuse Sep 22 '11 at 7:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sardathrion: But wouldn't searching a gaming club be detrimental for me? I mean I can't free my evenings, and can only be available for about 1 hour at a time or so. So joining a group might be difficult for me. \$\endgroup\$ – Eldros Sep 22 '11 at 7:44
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Not all games run once a week, some run bi-weekly, some run monthly. \$\endgroup\$ – Sardathrion - against SE abuse Sep 22 '11 at 8:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ You're probably wrong about organized play in Germany. There is a con within driving distance most weekends according to most of the German RPGers I've encountered online... just a matter of being willing to drive a couple hours. There are far more for boardgames, but still... It's a matter of knowing where to look. \$\endgroup\$ – aramis Sep 22 '11 at 23:14

Short answer: You're SOL (S___ Outta Luck)

Longer Answer

Casual Roleplaying is not a common habit; every player I know finds it annoying to not game on a regular schedule. Even the ones who game on irregular ones do so only because the game they want to play with the players they want to play with can only happen when the non-schedule is what happens. Also, most of the people I game with don't like "uncommitted" players.

PBEM & PBF - Email and Forum

It works, but you WILL need to clear some time. It's still (typically) 3-4 hours per week... it's just 20-40 minutes at a whack.

It's also glacially slow. I've been running a slightly slow (but stable) PBF game for almost 2 years. We've covered about 4 sessions worth of play in 2 YEARS. And it does take me about 3 hours per week to run it.

Real Time Gaming

If you want to roleplay, be prepared to clear some time. There are some systems that work for shorter sessions; not every game has to be in 3-6 hour chunks. (In High School, I ran a game at lunch. 35 minutes of play per day, 4 days per week....)

Once you have a clear window, it's quite possible to do play by audiochat and/or play by text-chat. Both are quite workable, don't have the painfully slow pace of play-by-forum and play by email, and can be multiplayer fairly easily.

The other option is to clear some occasional days and find your way to conventions, D&D Encounters days, and such. Longer time to block out, but less regular doing it.

Play board games instead

Some board games have a strong story element. I'm going to recommend 3...

  1. One Upon A Time
    this is a story generation game with a "screw your neighbor" element. It's competitive, but generates some interesting stories.
  2. Aye, Dark Overlord
    Very similar in play to unce Upon a Time, but very different theme.
  3. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
    A very different story game. Borders on RPGing, but is sold as a board game, andmakes a good transitional item.

These can be used to generate story-centered boardgamers. These often will start wanting to do more game and owned character type narration; this is perfect for more modern narrativist games, such as most of John Wick's stuff, or Dogs in the Vinyard, or Mouse Guard.

| improve this answer | |
  • \$\begingroup\$ The boardgame proposition are great (I know I already played once at Once Upon A Time back in France). The only problem is that, from the little search I made, I don't think they are distributed in Germany, and as such in German... The Real Time Gaming is also a great lead, and I will look into it. \$\endgroup\$ – Eldros Sep 22 '11 at 14:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would like to add Tales of the Arabian Nights to the story-oriented BG list... \$\endgroup\$ – gomad Sep 26 '11 at 19:42
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ All of these board games are available in German in Germany. "Es war einmal …", "Ja, Herr und Meister!" and "Die unfasslichen Abenteuer des Freiherrn von Münchhausen". All of them can be found on amazon and similar stores. \$\endgroup\$ – PiHalbe Sep 29 '11 at 8:26

"Come and go as you can" is difficult in a real world game - it is inefficient given the format. There are some gaming groups where they schedule out each session based on the players' timing needs and are OK with people not showing up some. But that only applies at the session level, not wandering in for an hour then leaving.

Roleplaying is like any other team sport. You can join a league or just play pick-up games, but even in pick-up games people look unfavorably over people who just play one quarter.

Here's some things that might help to a degree...

There is an ongoing online set of pick-up games called ConstantCon somewhat shepherded by Zak of "D&D With Porn Stars" fame. It uses Google+, you can go find (or start) a game that suits you. Designed for the irregular/remote gamer. Here's the current calendar. People run at all kinds of weird times.

And then there's play by forum or email, but I tend to not even categorize those in the same conceptual group as tabletop roleplay. It's a very different experience.

Also there's Pathfinder Organized Play (4 hour) and D&D Whateveritscalled (shorter, I think) that have more bite-sized organized games, there may be some near you.

But even with all that, there is no such thing as roleplaying for "just an hour at a time," unless it's something you can do with a group of people hanging out with each other anyway. You'll have to make a block available sometime or another. You don't really have "such a busy social life I can't do that," that's code for "I don't really value it enough to spend those four hours on that instead," so in general groups won't see a reason to accommodate that.

| improve this answer | |
  • \$\begingroup\$ "You don't really have "such a busy social life I can't do that," that's code for "I don't really value it enough to spend those four hours on that instead," so in general groups won't see a reason to accommodate that." I would agree with you most of the time, but my situation is a bit more complex. See my edit. \$\endgroup\$ – Eldros Sep 22 '11 at 14:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Eldros the edits make this even less clear. First of all there's plenty of organized plays and D&D meetups in Germany - I see two active meetup.com groups in Frankfurt and Ramstein and that's with 60 secodns of looking. But beyond that, are you looking for just a SINGLE game of an hour you can drop in on? If so why not clear your schedule one night and drop in on one of 4 hours? It sounded like you're looking for a semi ongoing something where you can drop in for "an hour here, an hour there." \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Sep 22 '11 at 15:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your first idea is correct, I'm not looking for one-session deal. I'm looking to being part of an adventure and see it through, and thus for so many adventure it would take me (but I think it would be one). And one hour is really the worst case, which happens to often. I have times where I can take about 2 to 4 hours but they are few and far between. It can even go to a all day... about 3 to 4 times a year. About finding a group, maybe I had too much a prioris, because there is a lack of specialized shop in my area, I will investigate in any case. \$\endgroup\$ – Eldros Sep 22 '11 at 15:39

With a quite active social life, I don't have much time, and foremost, I don't have a time in the week where I can free myself.

Exactly what this means determines what your options are. Is it a chaotic schedule where you never know what's going to come up? Do you literally have an activity planned every night of the week? Is a two to four hour chunk of gaming possible, but not reliably? Do you need to fit sessions into your lunch hours?

The easiest way to dip your toes back into the water is going to be organized play (D&D Encounters, Pathfinder Organized Play, etc.). I played in an Encounters campaign for a while, and those were short (~2 hours) and allowed people to drop in and out of the story as needed. It was your basic "hey, it's Wednesday, and I happen to have some free time" kind of activity.

If that's too much commitment (or not available in your area), then you're going to have to organize things yourself. Most groups that operate on/allow for erratic scheduling are strictly between friends, so they're difficult to find if you don't have an in. Be prepared for slow going... If you have an erratic schedule, odds are the other players will as well. And the alignment of schedules between the full group may not overlap as often as you like.

You'll have the best success rate with people whose schedule is erratic for the same reasons yours is (more alignment in free time), or who you hang out with regularly (because you can organically transition from hanging out to role playing when you have enough players and some spare time).

You can facilitate this process by sticking to a system that doesn't require a great deal of preparation before a session, or by sticking to pre-published adventures. This will eliminate bottlenecks due to the GM not having had time to prep for the session (and will also decrease GM strain caused by unreliable group makeup).

| improve this answer | |
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 Great advice here, if the reason I was asking the question is because I wanted to ease me into it first before I introduce the concept to my girlfriend, and then to my other friends. \$\endgroup\$ – Eldros Sep 22 '11 at 14:30
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Eldros Organized play is going to be your best bet for that. Short of that (and not having an "in" elsewhere), you're just going to have to jump in and get something going. I'd recommend starting with a couple of interested friends, and trying to grow from there... But jumpstarting a group is probably a question all to itself :) \$\endgroup\$ – AceCalhoon Sep 22 '11 at 14:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there any kind of online organized play? \$\endgroup\$ – Eldros Sep 22 '11 at 14:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Eldros That I'm not sure of. I think Mxyzplk and Aramis both mention online alternatives in their answers. ConstantCon in particular sounds interesting. \$\endgroup\$ – AceCalhoon Sep 22 '11 at 14:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's worth noting (at this late date) that Pathfinder Society now has 10 people in Germany specifically dedicated to organized play there. \$\endgroup\$ – Bobson Jun 3 '14 at 21:07

One approach is to do what a lot of 'older' gamers I know do. Rather than having a regular campaign that meets at a specific time and place each week, they have longer, less frequent 'game days'. Every couple months, pick a saturday, and game all day. Its much easier to schedule one saturday every couple months than it is to leave a specific day open every week.

The next question, is, of course, how to you find players. That can be the tougher part, especially since you say you dont have a game store nearby. But there are plenty of gamers in Germany. Perhaps finding the nearest game store (even if its an hour away) and posting something there will help you find fellow gamers from your area who make the drive up. Or hitting regional gaming cons. Or checking in with local university gaming clubs.

| improve this answer | |
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your experience matches the findings of a WotC survey taken about 10 years ago, which showed that older gamers tend to play longer sessions, but meet less frequently. \$\endgroup\$ – Joe Dovahkiin Sep 23 '11 at 17:30

You might want to talk to Michael Wolf (Aka Stargazer) or via Twitter: He is also German, and has some connections to the local gaming scene- Even if he isn't in the same region as you, he might know of some people in your area he can put you in touch with. As I recall his blogs irc room (irc.sorcery.net #StargazersWorld) has some other Germans in it.

The Dungeoonslayer's Forums will have a huge number of German gamers on it, what with it being written in German and all.

Once you find someone in your area you'll know more about what is offered: I know of groups that only meet one a month, and groups that meet once a week, so you might luck into a group that works with your time restraints.

I've had a lot of success with Play-By-Forum games: You log in for 15-20 min a day or twice a day and post what you are going to do. It is a very different style of gaming, but quite fun. There are more sites for this then you can shake a stick at: RPG.net has a forum, though there system choice is somewhat eclectic. Mythweavers was really big among the D&D crowd at one point in time, but I don't know if it still is. Googling 'Play by Post RPG' should give you some lists of places to play.

There are also Google+, Google Wave, IRC, OpenRPG, Maptools and about a zillion other online platforms that you can play with people once a week with for a few hours. I'm not really in those communities, so I'm not sure where to point you to get into those but IRC or the large forums is a good starting point. This tends to be closer to tabletop gaming, but much slower in most cases- I imagine the voice chat ones would be faster then the text based ones.

| improve this answer | |

If there are gaming stores in your area there is a chance that they run DnD Encounters. I don't know how much presence Wizards has in German gaming stores, but I know that they want DnD Encounters running anywhere you can buy their books.

DnD Encounters is a sort event that happens every Wednesday (in the US) at gaming stores where Wizards products are sold. Anyone can drop in and play. There's no need to come every single week to participate and, because it's Wednesday, it is usually only an encounter or two (maybe 1.5-2.5 hours of playtime). Generally the mix is one skill/roleplaying based encounter and one combat encounter.

This is a great way to get back into playing RPGs (even if DnD isn't your favorite) AND you get to meet other gamers in your area.

| improve this answer | |
  • \$\begingroup\$ This was to be my recommendation as well. It would allow you to ease back into role playing without the commitment or being forced into a fixed schedule, and you don't even need to know the rules! The events were designed to get non role players into role playing. It is my understanding that it is not necessarily exclusive at places that sell wizards products, but I may be wrong about that. If I'm not however, you might be able to find a local place/group online that runs the encounters. \$\endgroup\$ – Arr MiHardies Sep 26 '11 at 18:34

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.