Typing the title of this blog into Google, or any other search engine you might use, and you’ll get plenty of websites with people in a similar predicament to you. They might want to play a specific type of game, with a certain type of player/GM, or people within a certain geographical area, but what they all want is to play. The thing is, even people who play with others already, with a small group of friends say, who meet once a week to carry on their four year long Rolemaster game, should be looking at these kind of sites too.
I’m lucky enough to be part of a huge gaming society, as are lots of people who play (not sure on the international scale on this one, but in the UK, there are quite a few massive societies that all turn up for the yearly Student Nationals), but if you’re not, you might be wondering why it matters. Why worry about playing with anyone other than your usual gaming friends?
Probably best here to share my own experiences with the society we call HUGS. It’s a pretty big society based on what I hear from other people at the Nationals; certainly not the biggest, but definitely in the top third as number of members go. On an average week we have six to seven games running with a GM and roughly half a dozen players. Round that up and call it fifty people turning up to a small pub in Huddersfield, taking over all the back rooms, the two extra rooms upstairs and most of the main bar. Safe to say, the landlord of The Albert quite likes us. The games we play start just after the beginning of the university term and carry on until the following summer – as I write this most full games have wrapped up – with smaller ‘one-offs’ filling in any gaps. People new to the society get first dibs on games that interest them – usually decided in advance with certain society members offering to run and posting details online – with everyone else putting down a series of choices and getting allocated where ever there’s space.
Our reasons for doing it this way are pretty simple, but more often than not lead to a small handful of people getting disappointed. We try to avoid this wherever possible, but sometimes in a large group, not everyone gets exactly what they want.
Firstly, freshers are more likely to stick around if they have a great first year with us, and so letting them play whatever they want is in the interest of the society. The reasons for not letting everyone else do this get a bit more complex and potentially troublesome.
Most importantly, you just can’t please everyone. Sometimes twelve people want to play in the same game, and there’s rarely a GM who’s happy with those kind of numbers. Then there’s the people who only want to play with same GM/group of friends each year. I’m going sound mean right now, but I would be happier just breaking groups like that up. If they want to play together all the time, see above. Get round to a mates house, dust off the old characters and go crazy. I’ve done this myself and it’s great; I hold it against no one who wants to do it themselves. In HUGS though, what we want is for everyone to get to know everyone else and experience new games.
The society came damned close to death a few years ago because of the problems described above. Groups just started playing together as opposed to with society, and because of that it was easier to abandon a regular meeting in favour of just going round to a mates house, especially when finding a venue became troublesome. The society split into three little subgroups, with a tiny handful of people who would game with more than one of the groups. The social aspect of the society was almost gone, with no real way to recruit new member since there was little chance of anyone reaching a consensus decision on how to do it. Even if we did get new people, and they ended up with one of the groups, they could hardly call themselves members of the society if they didn’t even know two thirds of it existed.
It took a few people bridging the gaps to get everyone back together, to get us at the university again, meeting people who would otherwise have had no option but to miss out on their hobby unless they were very lucky indeed (this being a bit before the internet was quite so accessible as it is today). We found new venues – a struggle we now go through constantly as the society grows – and made friends with anyone who wanted to game.
Now for the important stuff – the reasons you should find a big ass gaming group to hang out with. The friends made are still friends today; some of them have moved on, outside of our huge little town, but stay in contact, some even rejoining the old team each year for the Nationals. They’re best men at weddings, godparents of children, or maybe just the house mate who leaves a bag of sprouts in the kitchen for months until they become a green slush (you know who you are), but no one cares because it makes for a damned fine story to tell. They are people you go to gigs with because you found out you have the same taste in music, or just form a band with for the exact same reason. With them, you talk about books, films, comic books, and computer games, because in a big enough group someone will have the same taste as you, probably a whole heap of them will.
Why else should you want to game with loads of people? To play loads of different games of course! In HUGS we have GMs who are working on the third draft of their own RPG, built from the ground up to include a whole new world and system. Not to mention that other people also discover great new games that they bring to the society to try out that could become regular favourites. A quick example here is Unhallowed Metropolis – a small, not very well known system that has been used repeatedly now as it fits so well with so many players in the society. I could list literally dozens more games and systems here, all discovered just because of being part of HUGS, that I would never have had the chance play otherwise.
So what can you fine people out there do about this? First off, there are all the websites you can easily find to help out. On top of that, if you live in a university – or college, for any American readers – town/city, check with the student union to see if there any gaming societies looking for members (trust me, if they exist, they’ll be looking to recruit). Find a friendly local gaming store (FLGS) and go and meet people there, they are often on good terms with the local gaming scene, maybe even offering discounts to card carrying members of the society, and if not they will usually be more than happy to help put you in contact with other like minded people. And of course the final option; start your own gaming group. Get the word out to FLGSs, register with the university and make your own page on any number of websites. The effort will be more than worth it when you get to watch the society grow as new gamers flock to you who would otherwise be lost to the World of Warcraft. (shudder)
So, message of the day; get out there and meet more geeks. they’re good people.