How To Tell if the Person You’re Talking to is into RPGs

This can be a delicate subject, although considerably less of one than it used to be. Video roleplaying games (RPGs) make it easier to acknowledge that, yes, you are One Of Us; but there’s still a slight reticence among Some Of Us to just come out and admit it, sometimes.  So I have decided to come up with a list to help people figure out whether or not the person that they’re talking to is also a gamer:

  • Ask them.  Look them in the eye and ask.  They’ll either say yes, or no.

See how easy that is?  And now I don’t have to write anything else.

…Just kidding.  We’ll just go with what to look for when trying to recruit potential RPG players:

  • Functional adults who look interested when you talk about RPGs. Ask them if they’d like to try to play in one.  They’ll either say yes, or no.

It would appear that this is going to be a considerably different article from the one that I was going to write. I was trying to come up with silly cues like “has all the science fiction/fantasy/horror” to “currently owns more computer processing power than the entire planet did in 1972” or “speaks more imaginary languages than real ones” — but, let’s face it: you already know this. Besides, it’s the rare geek or SCAdian or cosplayer or video game player who hasn’t been exposed to tabletop gaming at some point.

So the question is really, how do you get somebody who we will laughingly call ‘normal’ (for the purposes of this discussion, at least) interested in RPGs? There’s been a lot of ink spilled and pixels burned on this topic, and mostly the advice is on how you should play up various desirable aspects of the roleplaying process. You know, playing up the entire ‘get in the head-space of somebody else’ or ‘be just like those heroic characters in those books or movies that you like’ and suchlike.  And if that advice works for you, by all means: use it.

But if it doesn’t… well, reverse engineer the process. Start off by finding somebody who you know who is cool, and who you think that you’d like to game with. Then go up to that person and tell him or her (not a grammatical convention, that: recruiting female gamers has never been easier) that you have a group of cool people who spend a couple of sessions a month doing a cool thing, only you have room at the table for another cool person*. And then go on from there.

The nice thing about this system is that it allows for a good amount of “show, don’t tell.”  People who are unfamiliar with roleplaying games will also often have a somewhat idiosyncratic take on them; letting them see what actually goes on around the table is probably a better way to introduce them to our shared hobby. Plus, there’s the personal dynamic to consider.  When you ask people to join your gaming group, you’re essentially asking them to suddenly acquire two to four new friends that they’ve never met before and don’t know from Adam.  You are probably thus better off helping them get a feel for the group before you help get a feel for the game. The specific game is often the least important aspect of a good roleplaying group.  After all, the idea is to spend an aftenoon or evening having fun in shared company. The exact method of doing this is not always of ultimately critical importance.

In fact, if you invite a new player… give serious consideration to making the first game session a movie night or something. Particularly if there’s a movie that fits the way that your group normally plays.  That’s often a better way to get a player in the right mindset than in the time-honored tradition of ‘roll up a character’. If for no other reason than you can get away with just kibitzing during a movie night**…

*If none of this is true, well, that’s probably something that you should be fixing first.
**I know that a lot of this sounds a little like dating, and it kind of is. Albeit dating without romance or sex.  And I flatly refuse to write a column on how to date a fellow player, because that’s a minefield of poisonous chainsaws that are possessed by malignant spirits with toothaches.

(Artwork created using a modified image.)