I am a tabletop game noob. I'm fairly interested in joining into a gaming group but I haven't the foggiest Idea how to seek them out and join them, or even where to begin to look.

I've done a bit of looking around as to the hows of finding a group to play with but my minor case of social anxiety has me a bit nervous that I'll say or do something stupid when attempting to join a group. This has happened to me plenty both online and in person and it always makes me nervous.

Can anyone give me a bit of advice and/or any tips on how not to act while trying to join a group?


3 Answers 3


Note: My answer was written before it was edited to emphasize "actions to avoid in a new group" rather than the "social anxiety" bit.

Rules for Dealing with Social Anxiety

  1. Relax. Be yourself. Some people will like you. Some will hate you. Some will find you too trivial to even do either of those things. And all of that is okay; the people who stick with you will be the ones who like you for you, and they're the ones you should be spending time with, forging relationships with, and keeping around. There's a lot to be said for being genuine.

There is no Rule 2.

At the Gaming Table

I'm going to write the below under the assumption that your first substantial interaction with these people will be at the first session of your game.

  1. Don't be a rules-lawyer or act like a "know-it-all" (even if you do know it all). That's one sure way to get people to dislike you instantly. It's possible that the group is much more novice than you and that you really are right while they're wrong. It doesn't matter. If you're the newcomer and the outsider, coming across as pretentious/arrogant or rocking the boat substantially is a good way to get thrown off of it.
  2. Examine their social contract; don't try to force your own on them. What I mean by this is that this group existed before you. They have their own jokes, their own ideas of what's funny and what's not, their own ideas of appropriateness and closeness and everything else under the sun. Their dynamic is established. It's your job to see if you can or even want to fit into that dynamic. I've showed up to many tables in the past and known in the first ten minutes that there would be no metaphorical "second date", and I'm sure they felt the same way. You have to see if you're a good fit for the group. And, if not...
  3. Don't be afraid to walk away. It doesn't have to be rude or confrontational. Sometimes it's just not a good fit. That's life; it applies to finding a company to work for, applying to graduate programs, finding a mentor, and everything else there is. It's important to mention because the fact that they already have an established social contract doesn't mean you have to sign it. There are plenty of other groups out there. Don't be afraid to do a little catch-and-release until you find a group of people that you really like and click with.

You say that you're "worried that [you]'ll say or do something stupid when attempting to join a group." I promise you that a good majority of the most entertaining things that happen at the gaming table are when people do and say amazingly stupid things. They always make the best stories. Just try not to take it all so seriously. Take a breath, relax, and just do you. If you do that, everything will turn out exactly as it ought.

Maybe wear some sunscreen.


I'd actually like to elaborate on something brought up in the comments. @CameronMacFarland notes that:

"Relax" is terrible advice for dealing with anxiety. If it were that easy the anxiety wouldn't be a problem. You just need to relax! RELAX! BE RELAXED!!!!!!

In a sense, he's correct. From a certain perspective, saying to relax and just be yourself is sort of like saying, "How do you deal with anxiety? Simple! You don't be anxious." And because I think this interpretation might be easy to fall into, let me explain.

First, I'm assuming that the anxiety is in fact normal, "healthy" anxiety, not a clinical anxiety disorder. I'm not qualified to tell anyone how to deal with the latter; only a medical professional is. However with that said, I've suffered from severe clinical depression for my entire adult life and can relate to having emotions plague you which are sometimes completely outside of your ability to control. When someone says, "I'm feeling down," the response is usually something along the lines of, "Well, cheer up! Look on the bright side!" which is very analogous to the scenario that Mr. MacFarland described.

The ultimate point of my "relax" advice was this: all too often, the only thing you can control in a scenario is yourself. And a huge part of dealing with these kinds of negative emotions is adjusting your outlook. If you can't change the circumstance, you can at least try to change the way you perceive it.

Why is this all relevant?

Because by adjusting your perspective on the situation, you really can become more relaxed and more comfortable in your own skin. So what if they don't like you? So what if it's not the right fit? The world's full of more people than you could ever possibly meet in your lifetime; why waste your time on those who won't be adding value to it and making your happy?

I'm not saying it's always easy, and I'm not saying you just flick some switch in your brain and suddenly it's all better, because that's definitely not true. But the demon is inside your own head. It's in your realm. You have the power there. And you can overcome it.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ All else fails, use a knife. Easy to conceal, cheap, reliable. I am kidding. Go to miniature or boardgame shops that organize gameplays to sell their merchandise. You will find strangers playing with strangers so you won't be the black goat in the herd of white goats. I have been where you are and went into such an event. Met some people, started a group, fun ensued. \$\endgroup\$
    – Discipol
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 14:02
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ "Relax" is terrible advice for dealing with anxiety. If it were that easy the anxiety wouldn't be a problem. You just need to relax! RELAX! BE RELAXED!!!!!! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 14:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @CameronMacFarland I'm assuming it's actual situational anxiety, not clinical anxiety. You're very correct that if it's clinical anxiety no amount of standard advice will help. There's a huge distinction between those two, however. \$\endgroup\$
    – asteri
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 14:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Discipol: Good suggestion. That setting allows to reduce the interaction with others to in-character interaction, which is said to help a lot with social anxiety (if I don’t mix up terms here now). The player can “hide” himself behind the character, just like an actor hides behind his role, allowing to keep a distance on the social interaction. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 15:49

Since I have social anxiety myself, I can give you some ideas of what to do.

First of all, anxiety is all about situations that you cannot prepare for or expect. You can alleviate the anxiety by setting clear expectations of what will happen, even if they are uncomfortable situations.

So you want to find a group, that's great! Meeting new people playing a game will help you develop more social skills, and teach you how to relax in other social situations where you initially feel out of control. That's not meant to be patronizing, it really is the long-term effects it will have.

When finding a group, be honest. Tell them "I've never played this game before, but it sounds interesting ... I want to join, but I need someone to tell me where to start." Chances are very high that the DM is going to be more than willing to work you in and give you some tips on how to get started.

Once you find a group, do your homework on the game, and talk to the DM about questions that come up. This'll show him that you're interested in learning about the game, and it'll give you a sense of preparation.

You didn't mention which group game you're getting into, but I'm going to assume that it's an RPG campaign with other players. If that's the case, one great thing about those situations is a player can sit back and watch others do the work when they feel uncertain about what to do. Even adventuring groups are going to come with people who are not open about their methods or ideas, but are willing to follow the leader and go with the group decisions. You can roleplay that if you want, or you can just do the same thing with your character. The point is that players who are comfortable with the game can play the game normally even with a minimal amount of activity from someone else. Really, the only problem players are going to have with other players if they are being outright jerks -- ruining the game for others by being demanding, rude or pedantic (and so on).

The most important thing you can do, though, is not give up! Find a group. Join one. You don't need to commit to a long-term decision. You can tell the DM that you are just seeing what it's like and that you haven't decided if you wanna keep playing or not. They'll be okay with that, too.

Good luck, and remember that the reward is greater than the risk. :)

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 Thank you so much for posting. I was hoping that someone who really experienced the same emotion as the OP would. \$\endgroup\$
    – asteri
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 16:46

On every city, there are many game groups that are desperate to get new players. So, maybe the thought they need you as much as you need them can calm yourself a little.

When playing, I think honesty, humility and interest are the key qualities to get along with unknown players. As said before, tell people you are a noob, tell when you don't understand some rule or when some roleplay scene seems hard. Ask for help whenever you need it, to your GM or to your fellow players. And last but not least, show interest in the game, the story and let the group know how involved you want to be on them.

So, the behaviours to avoid are those contrary to the virtues I exposed. I'll give several examples of what I hate when players I don't know...

  • Hide their lack of knowledge or dont admite they have a problem.
  • Don't ask for help when they need it.
  • Try to get too much attention in expense of other players (attention should be equally distributed among all).
  • Break the game with destructive actions (ie: create enemisty with other players, friendly NPCs, steal from friends, break key objects,...).
  • They lack of sportmanship. They cannot accept that their character lose (meaning character dies, doesn't get a treasure, fails to kill someone, doesn't score a goal, doesn't get enough XP, or doesn't get laid...).
  • Don't get a compromise with the game. For instance, if they skip game sessions without warning, or get to them too late, or if they refuse to create a story for their character, or to learn about the game world.

The last one is the most important to me. Interest. It doesn't mean you have to attend every game session. But if you can't come to one, warn the GM as soon as you can, as he maybe doing a lot of job having you integrated into the game. If the group is playing twice a month, and you can only play once a month, explain it to them so all of you can get a solution.

Honestly, I haven't been in your situation, because I always play with friends. But my experience come from when unknown (to me) players join the table. I have played with people who incurs the listed behaviours and I hate them as a GM and as a player. On the other hand, I like very much when not so conflicting players join the game, and I enjoy helping them to learn.

Some people won't like to read that, but roleplaying is a hobby full of awkwardly social persons, in many degrees. A few are of the jerk type and are difficult to get along, but the majority are happy to see people wanting to share the hobby and they will be very friendly.

If you sometimes feel nervous, try to remember that it's just a game, and nothing you do on the table should have real life consequences.

Have fun!


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