Welcome to #RPGaDAY2022! Now in its ninth year, #RPGaDAY was originally created by RPG author and games designer David Chapman (Conspiracy X, Doctor Who, etc) as a bit of fun and to get people talking about tabletop roleplaying games. August was chosen, I believe, to coincide with tabletop roleplaying’s gaming mecca that is Gen Con – which usually takes place in the States (Inidanapolis these days) every August.
#RPGaDAY is open to everyone so if you want to join in just check out the prompts below to inspire a blog, vlog, or social media post to celebrate everything great about our hobby with the tag #RPGaDAY2022
Day 6 : How would you get more people playing RPGs?
We are currently living in a golden age of roleplaying games. There are so many games available, and interest in them in is greater than ever thanks to the rise of so-called ‘geek’ culture over the last decade or so. Dungeons & Dragons is a globally known brand that has appeared (and been treated in a positive light) on loads of popular TV shows (Stranger Things and The Big Bang Theory only being two of many shows which have featured or mentioned D&D or games nights), celebrities openly discuss their love of the game on talkshows, and streaming series such as Critical Role attract millions of viewers – and that’s before we even get to the new Dungeons & Dragons movie that is coming out in 2023.
But what can you, and I, do to help more people play RPGs?
Well, I have several hats in this. The first is as a player and Gamemaster – I could volunteer to run ‘introductory’ games at the local games store or gaming cafe to help people who are interested in giving the games a try – but either don’t have a GM willing or confident enough to run a game just yet – a chance to try roleplaying out to see if they enjoy it, or to see how it’s run firsthand in preparation of starting a game themselves.
You could even look at going down the paid-GM route, which has started growing in popularity, and hire yourself out to go round to someone’s house to run a game (or possibly even a campaign) for them and their friends for a fee. Afterall, finding people who want to play can be pretty easy but finding someone to run a game can be a lot harder. Help teach the game to new groups, and help support any of the players who are interesting in trying their own hand at Gamemastering.
The second hat is that of a writer and designer. All of us try and make interesting games (afterall, if we created boring games they wouldn’t sell and you’d probably stop being hired for more work!) so keep trying to keep up the good work! Not every designer can, or wants to, create introductory games for novice players and that’s absolutely fine. There are some great introductory games out there, and countless others will be published in the future. If you aren’t keen on creating an introductory gateway game into the hobby that’s perfectly fine… and to be honest many gateway games struggle to find the audience in a market that is so crowded and also dominated by D&D in the first place.
The third hat is that of a publisher. Now many of the same points are relevant here as the writer/designer above. The truth is you need a certain amount of luck (or money) to get enough exposure of a new game to get it stocked widely in stores, played at conventions, and talked about and played by the sites and streamers with a large enough audience to make a difference. It’s unlikely that the introudctory game you’re working on will become THE gateway game for people to try as their first game, or even one of the top ones. That’s not to say don’t create a gateway game, but you’ll need a lot of things to fall in your favour on that journey.
Obviously as a publisher you can try and support stores and conventions with demo games – but most people at gaming conventions are there because they already enjoy gaming. Good to show your new game too and hopefully they’ll like it and pick up a copy, but they aren’t the new player that this question is aimed at. For those you need to go to some non-gaming centric conventions – comiccons and other such shows, many of which have gaming areas these days. Many people won’t want to take 3-4 hours out of their (non-gaming) convention to play a new game so make the demos you’re running quick and visually attractive. Aim for 30 minutes, basically giving them a ‘taste’ by running a scene with a bit of a puzzle, some character/NPC interactions, and a bit of combat to wrap the demo off. Make sure your demo is visual with miniatures and scenery – after all more people will find a nice table laid out with (for instance) the main street of a western town with saloon, hotel and bank buildings with miniatures in the street and some sharp shooters on the rooftops than they would by a clear table with a few character sheets and sets of dice on it. If you’ve ever been to a miniature wargames show take note of the demo games they run and try to visualise something similar for your game.
Also make sure you have something the players can take away as a reminder of your game – and not (just) flyers which will probably end up in the nearest bin or forgotten about in the bottom of their bag when they leave the show. One of the things I found that worked really well was character badges. I produced a load of badges (or pins as my North American readers will probably know them as) for UK Games Expo one year. There were six different designs showing the shoulders and face of one of the characters that you could play in the demo, along with the name of that character on the badge. This not only helped the GM and players to know who each others character was but also gave them something they could keep after the demo.
The other thing that publishers can do, if you’re making a game that you think might attract beginners as well as the existing gamer, is to try and not make your game look scary to learn. Showing someone a multi-hundred page hardcover tome that has not played before will be pretty daunting to them. Thick rulebooks look like way too much to remember – even if they actually only need to know a handful of pages (if that) to play the game – and are often something that puts a new player off from trying the game. If you have a big rulebook also try and make a streamlined quickplay guide that someone can pick up and play to get a feel of the rules and the style of the game. Ease them in. The other thing is possibly look at creating a box set with smaller booklets in so you’re 200 page rulebook is now a range of smaller booklets that cover different aspects of the game. A little like breaking each chapter or two into it’s own booklet. Smaller books (even if there are several of them that add up to your big page count) psychologically look less daunting and more appealing. The other great thing with a box set is you can include other cool stuff in – dice, character sheets, equipment cards and maps, etc. We did this with the first edition of Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space and it looked fantastic and much better than it would have done just being a single hardcover book.
At the end of the day nothing we can do will attract as many people to the hobby that channels such as Critcal Role and the big companies (well, Wizards of the Coast…) can do, but we can all do little things to make it easier for new players to try it out. Good luck!