In the course of the last week, two different emails have been sent to Campaign Mastery that are going to form the core of today’s article. Since they are about as different as chalk and squid ink, the results might be more than usually schizophrenic, but I think it will all come together in the end.

Ask the gamemasters

Email the First: From Joey

The first email reads:

I have been interested in D&D for a long time and have tried running a game with my brothers and my mother, but I haven’t been able to get a game going for the longest time, not once! Could I get some advice on increasing their interest in the game? Thank-you for your consideration.

I have to admit that I initially misread this (despite its brevity) and thought that Joey was asking for help in increasing the involvement of players in a campaign that was dying. Rejuvenating ailing campaigns is not a subject I’ve talked about yet, so I was all set to dive in, head-first, despite not being an expert in that part of the hobby. In fact, I had a good portion of my response quick-drafted in my head within minutes of first (mis-)reading the email. Fortunately, when I went to outline the actual response, I reread the email and got it right this time.

A call for collective wisdom

Joey has managed to get his family to play at least once, but they seem less than interested in continuing. I’ve offered my response below, but this is a very different subject to the one I was going to write about in reply, and one on which the ground underfoot seems far shakier. So I’m throwing the floor – well, the comments section – open to suggestions from the audience. Can you think of anything I haven’t suggested below?

Mike’s Answer:

I’m afraid that there is not a lot of good news, Joey. Once someone has tried a game and decided that it’s not for them, it’s usually better to accept that and find someone else with whom to play. Heck, for all I know, they weren’t actually interested to begin with and gave it a try purely out of family loyalty. The first game that I ran was for my two brothers, David and Paul; both had fun, but for the older of the two, the hobby was a diversion and nothing special; he dropped RPGs from his list of activities when I left home. A couple of his kids are far more into the hobby than he ever was. My younger brother, Paul, enjoyed it far more (even though he was considerably younger than the recommended age) and five years or so later found his own group to play in; but he too has since dropped the hobby for other pursuits.

Look Elsewhere

But that actually offers a potential solution to the initial problem. People hate to be left out, especially when it comes to fun. Look beyond your family circle for players, using the techniques offered in Filling The Empty Chair (US$7 from DriveThru RPG), or the latest addition to the options available, EnWorld’s Gamers Seeking Gamers Service.

If you generate enough fun at the gaming table, your family might be persuaded to join in simply because they don’t want to be left out. Of course, if everyone is having fun already, it probably won’t matter too much if your family don’t come around; we’re all different in tastes and hobbies, and yours simply might not appeal to them.

I know for a fact that I would never be able to get my parents or sister to join in a game. It’s just not their thing. Though my sister came close, running a couple of “How to host a murder” games in which all the participants went all-out with period costumes – which goes further than I ever went at the gaming table!

Make their interests relevant to the game

Once you have a gaming group set up outside the family circle, involve interests that your family actually do have. If one of your brothers is seriously into sports, get his help in coming up with games for an Orcish Arena (shades of Blood Bowl!) – key players, team rankings and histories, the “sports”, the championship, and how the players might get mixed up in all of this.

If they are into wood- or metal-work, get their help in making some props. If into sewing, involve them in designing clothing for important NPCs. If into art, get them working on illustrations for forthcoming scenes. It especially helps if they are strong in an area you are not – consulting their expertise makes perfect sense under those circumstances.

Involve them on your side of the table, and if everyone has enough fun, they may decide to make the leap to the other side of it – or simply stay put as assistant GM. Either is a win, in terms of your stated goals.

Engage their mercenary instincts

If you still can’t get a gaming group together, start writing adventure modules for sale through RPGNow or DriveThru RPG, and get them to assist (as above) for a share in the proceeds. Of course, any module has to be playtested before you actually sell it…

Ummmmm…

…but that’s where my list of ideas for possible solutions runs out, beyond some extremely generic advice – try to find out what they didn’t like about the game(s) they did play, and see if you can improve it in that respect. So at this point in this discussion, I have to throw the floor open to suggestions from the audience, and move on.

Email the second: From Tabz

The second email doesn’t require anywhere near as much effort on my part as the first did!

Tabz writes:

Geek & Sundry’s TableTop (hosted by Wil Wheaton) has made a huge impact on the gaming community. After every show stores run out of the game that was featured and millions of people have watched the episodes.

More than that though, we’ve been getting email after email about how TableTop has helped people through difficult times by introducing them or reintroducing them to gaming. It’s blown us away and, as a response, we’re organizing the first International TableTop Day to celebrate this hobby that has meant so much to us and fans of TableTop. Felicia Day explains the day in a YouTube video (Feel free to embed the video on your own site). We’ve partnered with game publishers, local stores, and more to put on one event in many cities across the world. Everyone is encouraged to go play more games (as Wil always says) on March 30th.

We’d love for you to share this news with your readers and encourage them to go to tabletopday.com to sign up for an event OR create their own event! If you can’t write about it right now and still want to support this community event, we’d love for you to use the hashtag #TableTopDay and let your social media folks know about the event.

Ironically, Saturday the 30th is one of the few dates this year on which it’s less likely that my friends and I will be gaming than usual, but even if I can’t participate in person, I’m behind the concept in principle.

Connecting the dots

Of course, the whole concept of an international Tabletop Gaming Day is, ultimately, about the benefits of the hobby, about spreading the word about it, and about bringing lapsed players back into the fold. It’s about reminding people of the importance of having fun – and that makes it directly relevant to the question posed by Joey. It’s a day that’s all about the solution to his problem. (For those that want them, you can download more logos and banners at http://www.tabletopday.com/index.php/downloads to use on your website.

You can kick-start your participation in both the event and the cause it celebrates by offering any further advice you might have on Joey’s problem. So, I’m officially turning the floor over to you, the readers…

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