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A group of friends and I have recently purchased a rulebook and pre-made adventure for a fun looking game. None of us have played a tabletop RPG before. We have all the material objects we need - except space. I'm in charge of finding a location.

What are the key traits that make a location suitable for a tabletop RPG? Let's assume that we are going to be using a map, miniature figures, and that we have 4-6 people in total.

I know many people play at home or in game stores. For various reasons, none of our homes are available for this game. We have some game stores with different kinds of gaming areas, but aren't entirely sure why we would want to play there instead of a coffee shop, internet cafe, library, or some other location.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: Where can I find a place to play? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Feb 14 at 7:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ The question is a bit unclear to me. Since you are using a map, miniature figures, and you are 4-6 in total, the obvious answer is to find/rent a room that has a table that can support all of the above. The coffee shop may be too loud, and the library may require you to be too quiet. Can you please clarify what kind of information you're looking for? \$\endgroup\$ – Aventinus Feb 14 at 10:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ "None of us have played a tabletop RPG before." but you have >9000 rep on RPG.SE? Do you mean that you have never played it physically before (i.e. you've always played online before now)? \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Feb 14 at 11:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS That's easily explained - it's a lie. I'm not new to RPGs, but felt as though it was a great way to frame the question. I was also hoping to set-up others for answers that are instructive and comprehensive, rather than highly context-specific. \$\endgroup\$ – indigochild Feb 14 at 19:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Haha! Fair enough! Well, it did frame the question well, I must say... \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Feb 14 at 19:46
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Tabletop games tend to take quite a long time (several hours per session usually), can be quite noisy (it's quite hard to be quiet with 4-6 people talking, play-acting and throwing dice) and often involve the use of small, light objects (character sheets, dice, sometimes playing cards etc). Most of the time, several of these things are made of paper.

Therefore, any location you use for games should at least

  • Accomodate 4-6 people comfortably with the pieces you use for your game (this means seating, a table, availability of food and drink, restrooms etc)
  • It should be a place where your players are comfortable playing an RPG (which may involve acting out things), many people aren’t comfortable doing that sort of thing in public (commenter contribution)
  • Be tolerant of you staying for several hours
  • Be tolerant of at least a moderate amount of noise
  • Not be exposed to the elements (strong wind and/or rain can really ruin a game)

Going through your examples, libraries are usually not a good idea because of the noise. Coffee shops may be suitable if they let you stay for that long and you're seated inside (or you just happen to live in a very accomodating climate). An internet cafe could certainly work. Game shops are frequently recommended because they're used to accomodating gaming groups and often have things like rule books, dice and people knowledgeable about games available if it turns out you need them, but of course any other location that can and will accomodate you would work just as well.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't feel it's enough for a full answer, but I think you should include the space being somewhere the players all feel comfortable to play. I, for instance, would be too shy to play in a coffee shop full of non-gamers (or would drastically alter the way I play). \$\endgroup\$ – RichardJ Feb 13 at 23:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RichardJ So basically, the 5th bullet point is that it should offer some degree of privacy, if the players want it. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan C. Thompson Feb 13 at 23:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ My public library actually has areas designated for groups to talk, including a couple "study rooms" that can be reserved for blocks of time. I know this setup is becoming common across university libraries (in the US) as well. While I haven't used the space to play tabletop games, some of my friends have and I would feel comfortable doing so. \$\endgroup\$ – raithyn Feb 14 at 0:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ Any thoughts on the conference room of a group member's place of employment? Or a friendly breakfast/lunch joint after it's closed? Both of those get pretty good play in my small town. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Feb 14 at 2:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's worth noting that some libraries have rooms specifically for small group gatherings, usually on a sign-up basis, and sometimes free-of-charge. These spaces are often perfect for gaming. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Feb 14 at 14:29
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Since the question seems to be more about HOW to choose, not what the possible choices are, let me take a stab:

Usually, in my experience, your choices are limited to about 2... if you're lucky, so this doesn't usually come up very often. But, if you miraculously have a cornucopia of choices, here's my proposed priorities:

  1. Like any party venue, pick a centralized location to all your players, so that none of them feel that they're put upon for travel.
  2. Pick a location that all of your players are comfortable with (i.e. don't pick a bar if someone is averse to alcohol).
  3. Pick a location that is most tolerant of the noise that is generated (e.g. usually not a library)
  4. Pick a location that has sufficient room to fit comfortably all of: the people, the gaming materials, the food, the ancillary supplies (i.e. 'Where can I put my bulky winter coat?')
  5. Pick a location that is most tolerant of the time (4-6 hours) that you will be there (i.e. don't pick a restaurant during happy hour where it's the most crowded).
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To Cubic's excellent answer, I would also add:

I know a few different locations that fit those criteria:

  • An office – If any of the players works at an office, the owner may be fine allowing you to use the space after hours as long as you don't leave a mess. For quite a while I ran Friday night games out of the meeting room in the office where I worked.
  • A library – Some libraries provide enclosed rooms where a moderate amount of noise is allowed. I've run games in a newer library set up in this fashion. Libraries are increasingly moving away from the "quiet everywhere" approach in order to accommodate more activities.
  • College/University – Many colleges and universities have areas available for student groups to use for meetings. My college gaming group once held an epic multi-day session in one of those rooms. We were able to reserve the room because one of our players was part of a registered gaming organization at the university.
  • A bar/restaurant – This one sounds odd, but some bars and restaurants have back rooms that are sometimes not used during off-days. A friend of mine made a deal with a bar owner for a recurring mid-week gaming session. His group rents the back room for a truly minimal fee, nobody bothers them, and they have access to food and libation.
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am not asking for a list of possible places to play. How do I pick a place? \$\endgroup\$ – indigochild Feb 14 at 7:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ -1 because this does not answer the question. If you mean it to be an addendum to an existing answer, post it as a comment on that answer, so that the author of that answer can choose to edit it in. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Feb 14 at 7:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well you pick by whatever method you feel comfortable - like group decision / election... But availability takes precedence \$\endgroup\$ – eagle275 Feb 14 at 11:03
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Game stores are good because you usually have other people around playing games too, it just makes a fun atmosphere, and you can do some shopping before or after your game!

I've seen people reserve conference rooms in the local library to play as well, but you will have to be relatively quiet with your celebrations, as well as things like dice rolls.

Coffee shops or breweries could work as well, but you usually will want to keep orders coming for the 4+ hours you'll be playing, which can get expensive, and as far as I know you can't reserve a big table/room in most coffee shops or breweries.

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Some locales have a card shop or or game shop with space available, or even expressly devoted for the purpose. They might already have active gaming groups; you might be expected to rent out the space especially if your group is invite only. Rental goes to help support the business in any case.
Example places that I have been to:
Bigger Better Games Fremont, CA
Gator Games & Hobby San Mateo, CA
Anime Kat Port Angeles, WA

Otherwise, to the points made in previous answers, any sort of meeting hall (Elks Lodge?) or maybe civic center might do fine so long as they will tolerate the factors pointed out -- to which I would add, others in the environment or community might take issue with the content in your horror based zombie RPG featuring laser equipped demon dragons. Some people get weird about that stuff.

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