I always ask players of computer and online games if they want to try out a tabletop games, and tend to get new groups together who are entirely composed of people who have not experienced role-playing games. How do you recruit new players for your game?
One surprising way to recruit gamers at work: Put a little D&D miniature or a polyhedral dice on your monitor at work. People who are interested will ask about it, and people who know what it is will "out" themselves to you.
Four quick ways to recruit players for a game using online resources
Enworld's Gamers Seeking Gamers forum.
Wizards of the Coast's RPG Gamer Classifieds.
Meetup.com. Put in your Zip Code and "Dungeons and Dragons" and you'll get all the roleplaying groups in your area. (Even if you don't play D&D, I recommend you put in "Dungeons and dragons" in your search, because chances are, a local roleplaying group used it as a tag.)
Warhorn.net has an event listing page here.
And a 5th way: if you are looking for 4e D&D, there's a Living Realms or RPGA group probably not too far from you with a regional yahoo list. In Maryland for example, I would point you to the Baltimroe-RPGA list, the RPGA-DC list, and the LFRNEUSA list to find Living Realms games.
Oh man, I have had the best success with making new gamers from scratch. You have friends right? And gaming is a social activity, right? People with no exposure to roleplaying are such a pleasure to play with! They bring enthusiasm, great ideas, and no preconceptions. I always learn a lot from them. The key to making this work:
- Don't be weird.
- Structure it like any social engagement. Don't ask them to commit to more time than they would for a game of Monopoly or a movie. A situation-heavy one-shot is perfect, something like Lady Blackbird perhaps.
- Communicate your love for the activity and let them find their own voice, without too much "you are doing it wrong!"
Some of them will enjoy it enough to want to try again, and these folks can get slotted right into your regular games. The rest will have had a fun, unusual evening.
Start out by visiting your local gaming store. If they have a bulletin board, that's a good start. Also, ask the guy/girl behind the counter. A good gaming store will know who buys which products, and they might be able to tell you who the other Shadowrun/FATE/Pathfinder players are.
Follow that up by checking to see if your local bookstore has a bulletin board, especially if there's no local gaming store. A lot of people buy their RPGs in bookstores.
Check to see if your game has an organized play program. D&D 4e, Pathfinder, Shadowrun, and Traveler all do, for example. If there's a game in your area, that makes it easy. If not, maybe even try to start one -- it's a great way to find people without making any long-term commitment.
Look online. RPG.Net has a board for people looking for players, EN World has a player locator system, NearbyGamers is good, and Meetup sometimes has a local meetup for roleplayers. Also, check the boards for your system or systems of choice. If nobody's posted saying they're looking for gamers in your area, do it yourself and see what pops up.
Go to local cons. Local, here, is defined as anything within a couple of hours drive. There'll almost certainly be other gamers from your area there. Sign up for either the game you want to play or some random other game, talk to people, put up more notes on the bulletin board if there is one.
Check for local university or college gaming clubs. You want to be a little more delicate here depending on how far out of college you are, but it never hurts to ask if it's appropriate for someone older to show up. Some colleges have stricter rules on participation than others.
And, finally, read game books in public. You never know who's going to be a gamer. My cat sitter turns out to have a boyfriend who loves to game; if I was short on gaming, I could be in touch with him.
I tried university boards with moderate success, but the best is to have a network. In your native city, it's likely you know friends who can try it out. If you are in a foreign city or country, it's much harder. Every time I visited shops, the general trend was to provide hosting and easy connections to warhammer-like games or card-based games (pokemon/Magic), since it's where the business is.
Besides recruiting already existing gamers, I mostly try for new converts. If people already are into board games, they are easy game. Draw them in with either a very gamistic game which has strong but simple rules and some narration in between or go the other direction and try to introduce them into some ultra-light-weight indie narrative game. Worked for me a couple of times. I wouldn't recommend using traditional RPGs as they tend to be very complex and hard to even begin with.
If people are not already into board games, they probably shouldn't play RPGs. (Or be introduced to board games first.)
I think in the age of multimedia, you need to take a multi-pronged approach. I think one of the issues with recruiting is that this is such a fractured hobby, you never know who’s paying attention to what, so it is to your benefit to try multiple recruiting tools.
-A number of sites, from your local meetup.com to NearbyGamers, offer you a chance to put an advert for your campaign. You can also post a link on sites such as RPGNet. Make sure to include some basics about your game, ideal schedule, general play preferences (shoot ‘em up, hack and slash, etc.), and where they can reach you—but careful with that private info online!
-Most local gaming stores still have a billboard you can use. Include your email or phone number—don’t just say “meet 8pm at Fridays”. This gives them (and you!) a chance to ask questions beforehand, and for everyone to make sure the situation is a good fit.
-Check local libraries, discount bookstores, comic book shops, coffee houses—many of these places will have bulletin boards as well. You never know who will poke through there!
-For the bold, you can do as we did, and put fliers for the game in the RPG books at your local Barnes & Noble and Borders. We didn’t get any flack for it, but some people might.
-Once that’s all done, it’s nice to get prospective players together for a little mini-interview, to insure styles, personalities, and scheduling works for everyone. This can be playing a one-shot RPG or board game at a local gaming store, or, for our group, talking gaming over coffee at a local café. You wouldn’t invite a stranger from the internet into your home without due diligence, and there’s no need to do so with prospective gaming group members.
Using this multi-pronged approach should afford you a much better opportunity to connect with or recruit a local gaming group, and quite possibly one that is much more coherent and comfortable for all involved. It’s one thing to recruit a gaming group; quite another to keep it.