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Right Game, Right People

Choosing who you would defend, or knowing who would have your back when the proverbial dung hits the fan
should be pretty easy. When the dice hit the table, who do you want sitting alongside you to help destroy that dragon or make that million-to-one shot against the space station? Your initial reaction might be to name those same people... but is it really going to be those ones you’re already with? We’ve talked before about how you might convince people you know to join a game. For some of us, it really might be the exact same group. For many, however, the answer is probably very different. Why do we pick different people to join us at our tabletops? Have I been gaming with the wrong people? What kind of thought process even goes into deciding who we should game with? These are all very good questions, and this week we’re going to take a look at some potential answers so you can find the right game and the right people. - A

A: Choosing your game preferences is a good first step to this process. Just taking a look at the team of Never Say Dice, Andy's not a huge fan of Paranoia - that's more Bugsy’s thing. Likewise, sword-and-sorcery style fantasy is more up Andy’s alley. Unfortunately, while we're the best of friends, we don’t often game together (although we’ve both been known to make exceptions to our routines, not to mention the odd Star Wars game.) Finding the game, or games, that interest you is the first step. You might do that through finding a game related to a media property you love, finding an interesting looking book at your local Friendly Gaming Store, or taking a suggestion from a friend. Once you decide what you’d like to play, though, getting the right people to join you becomes the challenge.

There are many factors that go into finding the right people. First, and foremost is finding people interested in whatever game genre you’ve decided upon. The second biggest hurdle is scheduling. There are of course various tools you can use to help find a time, but once you're in the post-collegiate world, finding people who can meet both your time and commitment levels can slow your tabletop aspirations. If you open yourself up to different people in the digital world, though, (if you don’t mind your tabletop being virtual) your possibilities expand quite a bit. Then you’ll want to consider how a particular group of people interact, and what they’re looking for in a game. The tone, the goal, the mix of "Role Playing" vs. "Roll Playing." Bugsy, what do you find to be the most important factors to consider when bringing people around the table with you?

B: Embarrassing as it is to admit, my first concerns are always practical: "is this person able to join us?" After that comes the mere trivialities of "are they likely to find this game interesting," "will they contribute to the session," and "are they likely to murder me or my group?" Seriously, though, I've run games for total strangers and sometimes the only starting point you can guarantee is a player's presence.

Assuming that that's accounted for, though, we'll need to reckon with any prospective player's interest in the aforementioned genre and tone, along with the format and structure of any particular game. For most of the medium's existence, concepts and settings were tied to particular games. If you wanted hard sci-fi space exploration, you had Traveller and its ruleset... and that was mostly it. If you wanted Lovecraftian horror, Call of Cthulhu was all the only game in town. Today, though, wanting to play in a particular genre doesn't necessitate playing a particular game. You want a narrative-focused, crunch-free dungeon crawl? You got it! You want a deeply-modeled tactical Cthulhu game? It's out there! The flipside of this, of course, means that you can't make assumptions. It could be that someone really wants to do a genre with you, but will have to wait until you find the appropriate iteration. Sometimes, limited options can make things easier, even if they are... limiting.

Andy alluded to differences in playstyle as well, and, while different people can want different things out of the same game, there should at least be a mutual understanding about what people are after and a willingness to share. This is one of those things that you may not know when you first start playing with someone... heck, they may not know themselves. If you're already pulling from an existing friend group, it can be awkward to say "hey, this game/group/playstyle isn't for me" to someone who has obviously put a lot of time and energy into building an experience for everyone. But it can be far more damaging to a friendship to derail a session in progress or have tempers flare up at the table.

A: Remember, if a particular game isn’t working out for you, that's okay. It doesn’t mean the people you played with won't make lovely friends (or if they won’t, it still doesn’t mean the game itself isn’t for you, you just may need to find the right people to enjoy it with.) Stepping back from a game because you aren’t feeling it is always okay. 

B: Sometimes, I think the best gaming thing we can do with our friends is simply to introduce them to gaming as a concept and hobby - even if you aren't able to experience it together, simply having a passion in common is a wonderful experience. And if your friends get into it enough to try their own games, maybe they'll introduce you to something interesting they found on their own. And if they never try a game again, well that's fine, too. They'll come away with an understanding of a thing you care about and have a context for some of the stories you tell... even if those stories are about telling stories from a table they're not part of.

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