Iddy Approved: Pen & Paper Games

Ideally, the DM receives help organizing the game, but one of the biggest challenges is finding players. Other than direct referrals from players already participating in the gaming group, the best source for new players I have found is – without a doubt – Pen & Paper Games. Below, I discuss why Pen & Paper Games is so useful in another installment of Iddy Approved.

A common issue for gaming groups is player turnover. The players in my group over the past two years have ranged in age from early-20s to mid-40s. That age range is not the most conducive to consistent periods of free time. Players have multiple commitments, including (but not limited to) their education, family and occupation. Forming a gaming group of five or more players is a challenge. But keeping that group together for an extended campaign is damn-near impossible.

It is often on the shoulders of the DM to organize and schedule gaming sessions. It is helpful if the DM enlists another player in the game to assist with campaign management and organization. The percentage of DMs who host is likely high, but I have the good fortune of playing in the awesome game room of one of my players, AJ (who has his own blog, Dungeon Maestro.

Locating Roleplaying-Game Players Made Easy

In the past I attempted to find players through multiple avenues. Before Meetup started charging a fee for creating groups, I searched for players and open games on the site. However, I have no interest in paying to search for players. As a result, Meetup is off the list of options. Facebook and Twitter are excellent social-media tools, but they are not set up very well for finding players locally. Craigslist may allow you to find a local game, but the site is less than reliable. There are likely forums that feature game listings, but I swore off the larger forum culture years ago. What is a DM to do?

Pen & Paper Games does approximately 90% of the work for DMs looking to add players. The site integrates Google Maps to list potential players by location. The searchable database allows available players and DMs to list their location and details for the type of roleplaying game they wish to play. Details range from specific game system of interest to desired balance of roleplaying versus combat. The player can also specify the exact times when he or she is available.

When can you get your game on?

Once a player has created a profile on Pen & Paper Games, she or he will appear in the searchable database. The results from a search are incredibly useful, as it provides a visual representation of how many players meet the search criteria in a given area. A DM can enter a specific location and mileage radius to find available players. I have included an example search result below.

That's right, gamers are just waiting to be found in Fargo, ND.

The results from Houston, TX (where I’m located) are difficult to see because there are many players and the map is cluttered. It is a good problem for me to have to search through many available players, but for the purposes of this overview, I searched for players in a much smaller city, Fargo, ND.

Within 10 miles of Fargo, ND, nine players and one GM have created profiles through Pen & Paper Games. The database also provides specific profile information for those individuals that match the search criteria. A DM can click on each player’s profile and determine if that person would be a good fit for the group. Players can be sent a private message through Pen & Paper Games to initiate contact. In less than 10 minutes, a DM can create a profile, search the database and send a private message to learn more about potential players in the area.

Perhaps a DM can troll local gaming stores and recruit players that way, but Pen & Paper Games allows a DM to recruit from the comfort of their own home – and without the awkward stalking behavior!

I can speak firsthand about the success rate with finding new players. Since learning about Pen & Paper Games earlier in the year, I have found eight players who wished to join our group. Two players joined earlier in the year, but had to leave for personal reasons (such as graduate school). After those departures, my group was on life support with only three players, but I found five new possibilities through the database. Out of the five players, three of them joined our group.

The new players carried a range of experience with Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, but they have been wonderful additions to the game. With six players in our group, scheduling is easier because the group can now afford to play if one (or two) players cannot make it for some reason. Without Pen & Paper Games, I might still be searching for new players instead of DMing every other Friday.

Interviewing Potential Players

Quickly, a related issue worth mentioning is that DMs should screen players before bringing them into the gaming group. A brief “get-to-know-you” can help to avoid adding players to the group who are unreliable or disruptive. When I first sought out a 4th Edition group three years ago, the host asked me questions over the phone for approximately 45 minutes. After the telephone call (I passed!), he invited me to dinner with him and the DM. I went to dinner and got to know the host and DM in greater detail, and they got to see me in person and learn more information about whether or not I would fit into the group.

"So Russell... what do you love about gaming?"

I am not advocating for each DM to employ an elaborate multi-phase interview process for new players, but I am suggesting that DMs should ask key questions of players before adding them into the group. Tips are available for how to structure interviews of new players. I have not always had the chance to meet new players face-to-face before they attended the first session, but I have sent numerous emails back-and-forth to determine if the player will fit well into the group. I have created an interview template that can be used to screen potential players, but some of the key questions are below:

  • How much RPG experience do you have?
  • How familiar are you with the game system we are playing?
  • Do you have any plans within the next year to move?
  • How reliably can you attend the scheduled game sessions?
  • What is your work and family situation like at the moment?
  • What are you looking for in a gaming group? What are your expectations for the game?

My primary goals with the questions are to learn if the player will be a reliable and stable presence in the group. A player who is non-committal on attendance up-front is a red flag. Players that have an uncertain living situation and/or job status is another potential problem. It is possible these players will have to relocate and may not be able to remain in the group for a long period of time. Players who have stability in their life will likely be more reliable in terms of attendance.

It may rub people the wrong way that I am advocating “profiling” new players, but it can save the DM and the group a great deal of headaches. Inviting a stranger to join a gaming group and spend multiple hours in the host’s home for extended periods of time is a serious commitment. It’s worth the time to ensure the player is not going to submarine the game or cause interpersonal problems with other group members.

Summary

  • Create a profile on Pen & Paper Games whether you’re a DM looking for a players or a player looking to join a new group.
  • Interview players before adding them to a gaming group. Use the interview template to get your started in learning more about the player’s gaming and personal background
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About The Id DM

The Id DM is a psychologist during the weekdays. He DMs for a group of fairly loyal and responsible PCs every other Friday night. In the approximate 330 hours between sessions, he is likely anxious about how to ensure the next game he runs doesn't suck.
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5 Responses to Iddy Approved: Pen & Paper Games

  1. Tried to register over there but continually getting errors. Will have to try again later with another browser or something.

  2. I haven’t really done all that much looking- we’ve had a couple of solid groups in our area for many years. But as we’re getting older and we’ve had some people leave, I know I need to get ready for when we do want to recruit players. Plus, I always like the chance to perhaps sit in on someone’s game to see what they’re doing at the table and maybe pick up some ideas. I did pick up Filling the Empty Chair, which is a pretty good resource.

    • The Id DM says:

      Thanks for the tip on Filling the Empty Chair. I had not heard of that resource previously. But hopefully with the new additions lately, I will not have to go searching anytime soon.

  3. Wayne says:

    Next time you need players, you really just need to call me. :)

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