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I want to find a new group, but I haven't got the physical space in my small apartment to host gaming sessions. What tips do you have when playing e.g. at a cafe?

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The relevant guidelines boil down to:

  1. Get permission, and
  2. Be respectful.

I've gamed in a lot of places, including:

  • Game stores
  • Food courts of nearly abandoned malls (woot Dobie)
  • Bars
  • Coffee shops
  • Restaurants
  • Libraries
  • Community centers
  • People's homes (including garages, basements, and yards)
  • People's apartments
  • Cars (yes really, on the way to Scout camps)

In some cases just with a small group of gamers, but I also founded the Memphis gaming club the FORGE and we went through several of these places getting a venue for a larger monthly meeting.

The trick to a bar, coffee shop, or restaurant is to ask the manager/owner/friendly employee for permission and to set expectations about what will be going on, when, how many people, how long (RPGs go longer than most people expect meetings to take), noise levels both of the participants and what you'll be willing to deal with... Many of these places have private rooms reserved for business groups or events or whatnot that you can leverage, but those are often during "normal business hours" and you may be meeting in their off times (in fact, ask them what their peak hours are and propose to use their non-peak hours). For example, you would say, "Hey, we have six people that'll buy lunch every week and not be a pain, can we use your private room for 4 hours every Sunday at 2?"

Libraries and community centers can be used, but may charge or may have rules like "you have to let anyone from the community who shows up participate". Apartment complexes have clubhouses that can be reserved (sometimes for a fee, sometimes just for a deposit).

Wherever you're using, have everyone be respectful and not get in the way, make undue noise, or mess with others (other customers, host's SO/kids/neighbors, etc.) and you'll get left alone too.

In particularly evangelically religious locales they may not want role-playing or especially Dungeons & Dragons because it is a tool of the Debbil. While playing, understand that other people may not want to hear foul language, stuff about demons, etc.; keep it to a volume and content appropriate to a shared location or others will complain to whoever's in charge and whoever's in charge will kick you out. Gaming stores have a higher tolerance for unbathed annoying behavior than other places but even they have their limits.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I played in the IKEA restaurant once. They didn't care at all. We did eat their food, so that helps. \$\endgroup\$ – Adam Dray Nov 8 '10 at 15:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ For those countries with pubs, you'll find the landlord will be happy for you to use a back room if you buy from the bar too. On a Sunday afternoon, the backroom is normally dead. \$\endgroup\$ – Dr Rob Lang Oct 28 '11 at 14:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Gaming stores have a higher tolerance for unbathed annoying behavior than other places but even they have their limits." Although I know of at least one game store that sells D&D products but restricts D&D groups actually playing in the store, probably for said reason. \$\endgroup\$ – RobertF Oct 19 '17 at 14:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ It just takes one group to bother a venue enough that they then deny it to everyone else... Remember you're representing not just yourself but all other gamers! \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Oct 19 '17 at 19:38
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A quick list of places you may be able to play:

  • a store that sells game products
  • a cafe or bar
  • a boardroom at the office
  • a classroom
  • a common area in a apt. building or condo
  • a library
  • a room in community center
  • in a public park

Things to think about when playing in a more public venue:

  • you probably will get asked questions about what you are doing
  • you are more likely to be interrupted
  • some locations, especially libraries, will want you to keep the noise down
  • you may need to censor your language and/or plot lines... an NC17 rated plot may not be polite at a picnic table next to the playground.
  • ordering pizza could be a challenge
  • mood music and staging the room (if you're that sort of gm) become less practical
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Make sure it is cleaner and tidier than you found it.

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Most universities will let clubs or individuals book seminar rooms. Those are nice as they contain a big table, a black board, and easy access to snack and drink machines.

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