How to play more tabletop RPGs

You hear people in this hobby say time and time again “I wish I could play more!” You might have even said those words yourself.

There is a whole laundry list of barriers to playing more sessions. ‘Real life’ responsibilities, lack of GMs running games, and just not knowing anyone to play with all get in the way of playing as much as we might like.

What if I told you, potentially as soon as today, you could have a session booked in to play? Even more, you could play as often as you want?

You’d probably think I’m mad. Well let me explain the 3 steps to gaming more.

Step 1 — Prioritise gaming

We have all had times where we could game, but something else is getting in the way.

Maybe Geoff has offered to run Star Trek 2d20 this weekend, but you’d planned to go out for drinks that night. Well, if your goal is to play more games, then prioritise gaming.

Maybe that’s fine—this week you can cancel those drinks, instead spending the evening trying to ‘Boldly go where no one has gone before’.

But if you don’t want to cancel something else to join or run a game, then that’s okay! You have now learnt that whatever that thing is, it’s a higher priority to you than gaming. This is a good thing.

Learn to prioritise what you want to do. Then do more of what you want to do and less of what you don’t want to do.

What if instead of being something you want to do and instead it is something you must do? Going to a child’s rehearsal, dinner with the in-laws, meeting up with Sam who has been having a really rough time of things lately.

Prioritise what is important. If these obligations are important to you, then go with what you must do. However, if you have several obligations in your life that you really don’t want to do, then perhaps you need to really think about what these obligations mean, whose obligation they are (are you doing it for you, or for someone else’s benefit?) and whether to allow them to continue.

Ultimately you get to decide what you do with your time and your life. Make the decisions you want to make, although be aware that decisions can have consequences, so make informed choices.

Step 2 — Find more gamers

Most gaming groups I have seen are ‘lifelong friends’. The people you have known for years, either through school or social groups growing up, and you have played together ever since.

Sure, Mark now has a wife, and she games with you too. Tom’s priorities changed and he doesn’t join in with gaming nights… but it’s essentially the same group.

These are often great groups to be in, with access to regular games with people you know and love. Yet these groups aren’t perfect. They can’t always satisfy your gaming needs.

Sometimes as you get older more and more people in the group just don’t want to prioritise gaming over their adult lives. Jobs, children, relationships, and other hobbies/commitments take over and gaming sessions are either less frequent, frequently cancelled, or both. That’s unfortunate but it’s just how life goes sometimes.

Also these groups are sometimes built from playing the same system, or types of systems, for perhaps decades of knowing each other. You’ve been playing D&D, Cyberpunk, or Vampire together for 20 years. This can make the group resistant to any different systems you might want to experience.

The solution to both the problem of difficult group scheduling, and groups not wanting to play other systems you want to try, is the same—Find multiple groups of people to play with.

Now that’s a scary prospect to some of us, or an impossible sounding one. What if there’s no one who play games in your social circles other than your close friends? What if you’re anxious about having to organise a game and play with complete strangers?

Both are legitimate concerns. Yet, both also aren’t the full picture. Let’s break down each of them.

Step 2.1 — Expand your social circles

Just because you have exhausted your current social circle, doesn’t mean you can’t expand it to contain more people.

Try asking anyone in your current social circle “Hey, do you ever play games with other people? If so, could I join?”. You’d be surprised. Mark might run a weekly City of Mist game with a group of people you’ve never even heard of!

Try asking the non-gaming people in your social circles if they would like to try a roleplaying game. Yes, it’s scary to put your darling hobby in front of people and say, “This is what I like doing, maybe you’d like to give it a try?” and then accepting that perhaps they might hate it, or not even want to try because it sounds ‘lame’ to them. That’s fine.

Think of all the times other people have asked you to try things and you’ve done it once and never again—or told them it didn’t sound like the kind of thing you’d enjoy. I’ve been invited to all sorts of hobbies, from football (soccer), kayaking, wine tasting, to joining a pub darts team. I don’t want to do any of those things… some of them even sound ‘lame’ to me. And that’s okay.

But I appreciate the fact someone invited me. I appreciate the fact that maybe I would like to do them in the future. I appreciate the fact that what sounds lame to me is someone else’s darling hobby.

At the end of the day, you don’t know until you ask. Some of the people I’ve roleplayed with over the past 20+ years are not who you would expect. You don’t know who is interested until you ask them, so just ask, and accept their answer!

Ask your friends, your colleagues, your neighbours, your extended family, or your wine tasting buddies. Ask people if they know anyone who plays games already, or who they think might want to give it a go. Perhaps your aunt knows that your cousin’s wife used to play ‘some Vampire game with her friends in the 90s’ (she’s seen the photos!). You don’t know until you ask.

One important note I would add to this is you have to accept their answer. Trying to force someone into a hobby, even if you love it and are sure they will too, is just a mistake. Trust me, the added pressure, the fact you ‘talked them into it’, and the weight of your expectations on that player will likely kill any chance of them having fun and wanting to do it again.

A better strategy is to say “Okay, no worries. Well if you change your mind just let me know” and move on. Maybe in a few days, weeks, months, or even years, they will reach out and say “Hey, are you guys still playing? I have some free time and would like to give it a go.”

Step 2.2 — Play with strangers

Finally, if you have literally gone through every single person you can think of, there’s always complete strangers.

I know, I know. Playing with strangers sounds terrifying. Maybe they’ll be weird, maybe they’ll be inappropriate, or embarrassing, or any number of things.

Sure, they might. Yet they might also surprise you. After all, you’re just a stranger to them, and you’re a perfectly normal person who just wants to play some games (hopefully!)

We live in an age where finding strangers to play RPGs with is actually quite easy. The internet connects you to so many people, so take advantage of it.

You can seek out social media groups for the games you want to play, then see if they have sections for anyone Looking For Group (LFG). Discord, Reddit, Facebook, forums, and probably a hundred other places all are sitting there right now, with hundreds or even thousands of people who want to play just as much as you do. So reach out, be bold, give it a go.

Now I’m not saying all strangers on the internet are going to be the kind of people you want to game with. There might be some teething pains, some bad eggs, some dumpster fires. But isn’t that true for even the people you know? In some way these things are even easier to deal with if they are strangers—you don’t ever have to talk to these people again.

You can also choose to find people locally to play with, rather than over the internet. These groups are typically either based around a location (a library, a school, a gaming store) or around a person or social group (local gaming group who meet up to play in a pub or a coffee shop). These groups are perfect if you are the sort of player who really prefers playing in person.

Not sure if these things exist? Well search around, see if your town has a Facebook group, visit the kind of stores that sell tabletop roleplaying products (comic shops, board game stores, bookshops) and just go in and ask.

Step 3 — Facilitate more games

I was going to call this step “Run more games”, but the truth is you haven’t even got to do that sometimes.

While the ‘forever GM’ is a thing for some people, ultimately the easiest single way to play more is to offer to run more games. This ties into point 2—if you offer to run games for multiple different friend groups, you’ll likely end up getting enough interested people to start your own game from some combination of individuals from those various groups.

Can’t find anyone on the internet looking for a player in their Kult: Divinity Lost game? Consider starting your own.

However, you don’t have to always run games yourself. For some people the issue isn’t running a game, it is having space to run a game, or the privacy. Maybe you’ve met someone who has an awesome sounding Shadow of the Demonlord campaign idea, but he lives in shared accommodation, and no one wants to keep paying to play in the local board gaming place (the food is really expensive, its too noisy, they don’t let under 18s stay past 9pm). Offer to host the game!

Hosting the group and running the game are often linked, with the same person sharing both responsibilities, but they don’t have to be. “Does anyone want to GM a new campaign? We can play at my place if that’s more convenient.” Simple as that.

On the other hand, you just might have to run games yourself. This is especially true if you’re trying to put together groups of newer players who might be nervous to take up the GM mantle so early in their introduction to the hobby.

Offer to run games yourself, but keep an eye out for anyone who shows signs of wanting to run them, then foster those feelings… maybe one day they’ll run and you can play.

Conclusion

To summarise, there are various steps you can take to ensure you play more tabletop RPGs.

  • Prioritise gaming where possible
  • Reach out and find new people to play with, even in places you might not expect
  • Facilitate games, or run them if you must/want to

Do you have any other methods for ensure your games run often enough and go ahead? Please leave a comment below and let me know.

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