Jeff: Tell us about your gaming club!

Jeff,

You have recently started a gaming club, and it seems to be incredibly successful.

Could you tell us how this came to be, and how you put it together?

What were things you did which led to its success?

What were mistakes, or things you'd do differently if you were to start over again?

What would be your recommendations to someone else trying to do the same thing?

How important are long, long, long lists of games to a gaming club?

Comments

  • Finally: congratulations!
  • edited January 2017
    @Paul_T

    You have recently started a gaming club, and it seems to be incredibly successful.
    Could you tell us how this came to be, and how you put it together?

    I kind of got lucky that people in my area just came when I put it up on Meetup. I guess everyone figured that no one else was interested in Indie games so no one ever started a club. The first time I posted 6 people showed up. I simply called it: "Indie RPGs & Story Games Meetup." In the beginning I used Google Survey to ask the members what kind of things they wanted out of the club, but at the same time I didn't comprise on the vision of what I wanted. We came up with general guidelines of how the club would work and what our social contract would be like. I looked to other successful clubs like Story Games Seattle and used some of the ideas that worked for Ben.

    What were things you did which led to its success?
    I always let people know that I value them and appreciate their participation; I think this is very important. I complement people's role-playing abilities; however, this can also be problematic, I will going to the problematic side below. I make sure that people in the club know that we are an emotionally mature group and that we respect one another, and that there is no for negative or unproductive behavior. We let people know that we value diversity and that sexism, racism, homophobia is just not acceptable in our group. I try to explain the game we are playing each week in detail so people know what to expect. I think a lot of what makes us successful is found in the blurb, that explains a little bit about our group, that I put on our Meetup pages. Here it is:

    "What is the Indie RPGs & Story Games Meetup all about?

    Our group gets together and plays different "indie" (independently published) RPGs and story games every Thursday from 6 to 9 PM. Newcomers are always welcome, and previous experience isn't necessary. We get new people almost every week, some who've never played a roleplaying game (RPG) before.

    What types of games do you play?

    Some games we've played are Fiasco, Microscope, The Quiet Year, Follow, and Fall of Magic, but we play all types of indie RPGs and story games. We mostly play one-session games so people can come any week that works for them. Even if we aren't playing a one-session game that week, we can always bring a new character into the story, even for just that session. We also play games in all kinds of genres (fantasy, sci-fi, horror and mystery, to name a few), usually a different genre every week.

    How many people can attend?

    We can accommodate any number of players. We have several tables available and can split into multiple groups if we need to.

    How do you make sure everyone feels safe at the table?

    We very much value diversity and are committed to creating a gaming environment where everyone is comfortable and having fun. One of the tools we use is the "X-card." If anything comes up that makes you uncomfortable (such as certain subject matter), just make an X with your fingers and we'll know to avoid that subject or thing in the game. We won't ask you to explain why. We won't put you on the spot. We'll just stop it immediately and move on in a different direction.

    * * *

    We have a lot of fun making creative stories and playing characters together and would love to see you come join the fun. Hope to see you soon."

    What were mistakes, or things you'd do differently if you were to start over again?
    In the beginning, one of my biggest mistakes was becoming frustrated at someone if I thought they were compromising the game somehow; for example, if it felt like they were taking up all the spotlight at the expense of the other players or they seem to be sabotaging the game in someway. At first, I would take it very personally and might feel upset of the player. I would never express this but it might make me have a negative feeling about somebody I considered a "problem player." As time has gone on, I've realized that each person has their strengths and weaknesses and that you need to give people time for them to integrate into the group. I don't think it's necessarily my job, even though I founded the group, to police this sort of thing; if a player becomes too problematic, I think the group will naturally come to a consensus and address it. And most importantly you have to be patient with people, because sometimes it takes time for others to pick up on social cues, and even if they detract in some ways they can add something in other ways. This is still something I'm working on.

    I think of late, one of the mistakes I've made, is commenting on how great of a role-player other players are. We have some very amazing role players in the group; I mean, we have about three players who are better than the best role-players I've ever played with before forming this group. Improvising in Story Games is hard; especially, for new people. It is very intimidating for them to be creative; especially, when everybody seems to be amazing and light years ahead of them. When I complement players on their role-playing, and focus on that facet of the game, I'm inadvertently stressing the importance of great role-playing. New players get the message that if they're not amazing role-players, that they arn't valued and that this isn't a place for them. I need to stress that the point of gaming isn't to be amazing but to just get together and hang out and have a good time. I just barely picked up on the fact that this may be a problem, and I think it is very important that I complement fellow players in private. We very often have new players come, nearly every week, and I'm wondering if this may be a factor when new players don't return. I'm not sure, but either way, I think it's important to stress that it isn't a competition about who can be the most creative or clever. We role-play to get together and have a good time, and just by coming and being yourself, you are improving the experience and adding to the game. Gaming needs all types of people to really shine.

    What would be your recommendations to someone else trying to do the same thing?
    Use Meetup. Use whatever tools you have. Only one person in my group knew what a Story Game was, and had played one, when we first started. Now people are buying the Story Games we play after every session. Keep a consistent name. Most of all, don't be afraid to reach out. There may be people out there with your same interests that are assuming that they are the only ones. Try to do one-shots or find ways accommodate people who can't make it every week. Create an environment where people are valued and respected and make this the expectation.

    How important are long, long, long lists of games to a gaming club?
    Haha, we play a different game every week, and we play a different genre every week, so it's important we have a lot of games to choose from and that these games fit the amount of time we have to play. We switch off between RPGs and Story Games, playing an RPG one week and a Story Game the next. Everyone likes different things and it's important that everyone get something that they like. The point of our group is to play as many different games and play as many different genres and ways as possible. We want something new and different every week. So part of the lists are about meeting these needs for my gaming club. Part of them are about me being an information junkie. And part of them are about my pursuit and obsession with games, and the need to own every indie game in the universe. You have my sympathies, but the lists are not going to stop; it's who I am and what I do, and even if I tried, I can't stop it :) Thanks for your interest Paul :)
  • Glad it's going well, Jeff!
  • edited January 2017
    Glad it's going well, Jeff!
    Thanks, Ben :)
    @Ben_Robbins or anyone else with some ideas on the subject:
    I don't know if you read the part above where I said it can be problematic to complement players on their roleplaying abilities because it can give other players the idea that roleplaying abilities are what is important. Is there any advice you can give me on how to let people who are not confident in their roleplaying abilities know that they are valued and very important to the group? Especially, to put new players at ease, who express their lack of confidence? Have you found it to be problematic to give compliments about how good somebody is at roleplaying publicly, because this might stress the importance of being a good roleplayer over having fun? Do you feel like you've lost new players because old players are experienced at roleplaying that it intimidates the new players and makes them feel like they don't belong? Most importantly, have you found a good way to deal with this? Any thoughts would be very appreciated :) Thanks :)
  • edited January 2017
    Yes, that's a bad road to go down. Like you said, if you single out someone as a "good" player you're setting up others to think they are not as good. Don't set yourself up to be the judge of people's contributions, or even make it about "skill". That's a big red herring.

    At Story Games Seattle, I go the other way and use a call to arms to get people on their toes. A big part of the welcome spiel is saying to the whole room:

    "These games can be great, but they only work because of what each of us brings to the table. Your contribution is vital to making the game work."

    It may seem strange (or even intimidating) but it works. By saying that *before* play, before anybody has contributed anything, it isn't a referendum on what people have done, but it gets people in the mindset that we really do want to hear from them -- not only that, we *need* them to participate. It says we need them to bring their best effort, because we do.

    The next bit is of course the flip side:

    "But likewise, if there are four people in the game, each of us are only a quarter of the group, so it's also vital that we listen to what everyone else brings to the game and work with their contributions. We're each a minority, so we may not get everything we want, but if we compromise and work together, we can make something together we all enjoy, something that may surprise us more than something we would have made by ourselves. If we don't do that, if we refuse to work together, these games can suck. You will have a terrible time."
  • edited January 2017
    Yes, that's a bad road to go down. Like you said, if you single out someone as a "good" player you're setting up others to think they are not as good. Don't set yourself up to be the judge of people's contributions, or even make it about "skill". That's a big red herring.

    At Story Games Seattle, I go the other way and use a call to arms to get people on their toes. A big part of the welcome spiel is saying to the whole room:

    "These games can be great, but they only work because of what each of us brings to the table. Your contribution is vital to making the game work."

    It may seem strange (or even intimidating) but it works. By saying that *before* play, before anybody has contributed anything, it isn't a referendum on what people have done, but it gets people in the mindset that we really do want to hear from them -- not only that, we *need* them to participate. It says we need them to bring their best effort, because we do.

    The next bit is of course the flip side:

    "But likewise, if there are four people in the game, each of us are only a quarter of the group, so it's also vital that we listen to what everyone else brings to the game and work with their contributions. We're each a minority, so we may not get everything we want, but if we compromise and work together, we can make something together we all enjoy, something that may surprise us more than something we would have made by ourselves. If we don't do that, if we refuse to work together, these games can suck. You will have a terrible time."
    Awesome Ben,
    Thank you so much! I hope I don't have to learn too many more lessons the hard way (i.e. by messing up in the first place). I think your FAQ is great, and now that I have more experience I understand how valuable and relevant all the information you packed into it is :) Thanks again, your experience is very helpful. Your spiel is so good; It lets everyone know that they are needed and equal contributors and reminds others, who may be in the habit of stealing the spot light, that it is everyone's game and needs to be shared. Also, everyone buy Follow, it is awesome and if you don't you're crazy :)
  • I think your FAQ is great, and now that I have more experience I understand how valuable and relevant all the information you packed into it is :) Thanks again, your experience is very helpful. :
    Would you mind linking said FAQ?
  • I think your FAQ is great, and now that I have more experience I understand how valuable and relevant all the information you packed into it is :) Thanks again, your experience is very helpful. :
    Would you mind linking said FAQ?
    Here you go :)
    https://www.meetup.com/Story-Games-Seattle/messages/boards/thread/34448672
  • I'm also a part of a successful gaming club. I take very little credit for its success, so I'm not patting myself on the back here. I offer this only as another example of a successful gaming club, since I watched it form.

    Parker Hicks already had a friendly relationship with Rus de Ocampo, owner of The Windup Space, a cool bar in downtown Baltimore. The bar is in Station North, the arts district, which is home to MICA. Relevance will be apparent in a moment.

    The Windup Space regularly hosts a variety of acts, from bands to theater to puppet shows to spoken word and so on. These start at 8.

    I think Parker knew Rus because Parker's wife does Baltimore Rock Opera, and there had to be some kind of connection between the performance stuff and the events at the Windup.

    Parker pitched having a game night at the Windup, and they agreed upon a two-hour Happy Hour slot (6-8 pm) on alternate Wednesdays. The end of each session were often overpowered by the bands doing a sound check for their 8 pm stage time.

    When I joined, it had been going for at least a few sessions. I knew Parker from story gaming. The early games I attended got 3-8 people. Sometimes we'd break into two tables. Parker was running his D&D 5e sandbox. I ran some indie games like Misspent Youth, that I felt could be shoved into a two-hour session.

    At some point, Rus didn't have another scheduled event at 8 pm, so we had an "all night" game session (most of us left around 11). That brought out 20-30 people.

    Since then, we've had some larger crowds on Wednesdays. Last week, we had around 30 people (5-6 tables).

    It seems to be growing by word-of-mouth. Parker uses a Facebook Group ("Drinking and Dragons at the Windup") to advertise, and he drops event mentions on the Windup Space's own FB Group.

    We've had some drop-in first-time gamers who are art students. Jabari Weathers (artist, gamer, you've probably seen some of his stuff) is a member and he pulls people in, I think.

    As a group, we do literally nothing special to make people feel safe. It makes me think we should be, now that the group is growing and we don't know everyone there. The group is diverse in every way, though, so I don't think we're (yet) alienating anyone. If Parker or I got wind of any bad behavior, we'd shut that crap down fast and uninvite people.
  • Excellent answers! I'm really glad I asked.

    Where do you find people to join the "club" or come out to events? Is it all word-of-mouth, or do you use specific strategies? How do most of the people who show up learn about the club/events?

    What has feedback from players been like so far?
  • Parker is a truly great human being. That is all.
  • There's a chance I'll be coming through Baltimore in the next few months. It would be fun to meet some of those folks!
  • Email me, Paul, and we can get down to specifics. I'd love to meet. (We haven't met yet, have we?)
  • (No, we have not! Will do. I'll send you a PM.)
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