RPG-a-Day 2018
RPG-a-Day 2018 Day 08: How can we get more people playing?

Making roleplaying accessible to new or aspiring players, providing a welcoming and fun environment for them to play and learn in, finding games that make the core concepts of roleplay games easier to understand and presenting a positive image of the pasttime and key components in encouraging people who have never played a tabletop RPG to give it a shot. Having spent time on the organising committee for a university roleplaying society, I was involved in a lot of the planning of Fresher’s Week events to attempt to bring new members in, irregardless of their roleplaying experience, and we used a lot of these ideas. We would run a fun murder mystery pub crawl “LARP” where freshers and current members would be teamed up to go from pub to pub, interviewing “witnesses” and try and solve a “murder” usually framed around Murder She Wrote or Diagnosis Murder. With everyone hyped up, we’d plug the introductory session later that week where we would get society members to run entry level games of D&D, rules lite games like Best Friends, or just come along and meet other members and chat.

Roleplay games is starting to lose the stigma it has long had of being a nerdy hobby, and more and more people are getting into it, and a lot of that is down to the emergence of shows like Critical Role, and podcasts like The Adventure Zone, which are presenting D&D and roleplay games for the world to see in a positive light. Watching players like Sam Reigel and Travis Willingham develop from virtual novices to near professionals over the course of the first campaign of Critical Role is something that makes me massively proud because they went into the game initially with no idea what they were doing and were possibly two of the most effective characters by the end. Showing how novices can pick up a game like D&D and where they can go with it, seeing the stories that can be told and the fun that can be had is a key part in drawing new players in.

I think finding “gateway” games that can be used to introduce new players to the concepts of roleplaying are also a great thing. I tend to find that when I’m asked about playing rpgs, people can’t get their head around the rules that define how everything works. Rules Lite games and certain boardgames can help in that regard as it focuses more on certain aspects of rpgs, like getting into the mindset of playing or rules for combat, and then other bits can be tacked on later once they have gained a better understanding. I started off by playing Warhammer Quest, which is essentially a boardgame where you play different characters exploring a dungeon, killing monsters for money. Essentially, D&D with minimal roleplay and board-tiles and miniatures. Playing Quest taught me tactical positioning in combat, resource management, puzzle and problem solving, team-work skills and so much more, but we never really did much roleplaying. It was just a board game we really enjoyed. Later we were introduced to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and got to experience a more roleplay-intensive game while still being in the same world as Warhammer Quest, then came Dungeons & Dragons, and the rest is history…

There’s also an aspect of finding the game that is right for you, not everyone is going to click with Dungeons & Dragons, or even a specific edition of Dungeons & Dragons. I hated Advanced D&D 2nd Edition but loved D&D 3.5/Pathfinder, I cooled a bit on 4th Edition and have enjoyed every experience I’ve had with D&D 5e. There are rules-lite story focused games like Buffy RPG or FATE, or number-crunchy dice-rolling systems like Shadowrun. Adding to that games that cover genres from fantasy to sci-fi or wild west, historical to post-apocalyptic or alternate time-line, games based in exisiting properties like Game of Thrones, Star Trek, Dr Who, the list is endless and can sometimes seem overwhelming, but they are out there and sometimes you just need to find someone to run it for you…

So that’s all for today, tomorrow is day 9 and I’ll be talking about how a game surprised me…

Feel free to use the comments below to share your ideas for getting more people gaming. Until tomorrow, you can find all the previous RPG-a-Day articles here. You can follow me @bargtheogre on Twitter, or check out the Inside the Ogre’s Cavern podcast at @itocpodcast