Introduction: How to Start a Tabletop RPG Group
So you want to start a Tabletop RPG group huh?
Well lucky for you this instructable will tell you not only how to start said group, but will give you additional tips that'll give you an edge.
Just a few things to get out of the way first.
- Steps 1 and 2 are interchangeable
- The required materials will vary from game to game so if you want an idea of cost skip to step 4 and then return to reading here
- Tabletop can become quite expensive depending on multiple factors, like
- If you're a Game Master (GM) or a Player (GM's are expected to have more materials than players)
- What system(s) you're going to play
- If you're playing virtually or physically
- If you're the one hosting the game (Snacks, time setting up/tearing down/cleaning, etc)
- And finally, how much you like dice
Now that we have that out of the way. Welcome to Tabletop RPGs! Starting a group can be quite a daunting task. I remember trying to start my first group and it was a NIGHTMARE. But with this instructable I will hopefully help you overcome challenges that plagued me and many other novices entering the hobby.
Step 1: Find People
Alright step 1, FIND PEOPLE! This is without a doubt the biggest challenge most newbies face when entering this hobby. If you're reading this then most likely you're THAT friend that is trying to get your friends to play TRPGs and will be the future GM of your group. However, some of you are just trying to find additional people for a group you're already trying to start. Either way you need people.
There are two methods you can use to find people.
METHOD 1: Word of mouth. Try asking people if they have an interest in trying out TRPGs, or if you know they have an interest ask if they would be willing to join a group you are trying to form. Also ask people who have already shown interest or agreed to join your group to ask friends and family if they would also want to join. You can also try posting a flyer at your local games shop, or see if they have some sort of board for finding/joining groups that you could use.
METHOD 2: Using the internet. There are multiple sources for finding groups or people for your group online. Such as the /lfg reddit and the roll20 looking for group feature. There are also many forums specific to the system they plan on playing to find groups or more people for a group.
While both methods are good and each has benefits, if you are trying to have a physical game that will be meeting at your house then try to stick to method 1.
Be warned that if you are planning on hosting a physical game be cautious of who you invite into your home, not everyone online is who they say they are.
Step 2: Choose Method of Gameplay
Alright so now on to step 2, you need to decide on how you are going to play; virtually or physically. In this step we are going to go over the two options and their pros and cons, so you may choose the option that is right for you.
If you already know how your group is going to play please skip to step 3.
Option 1: Virtually.
- Is much cheaper than a physical game, do to saving money on
- PDFs are cheaper than books
- no one has to leave their home (most times)
- and depending on the system you can find all your material online for free (this last one can be used for physical too if you have a printer or a way to read PDFs on the go)
- You can play with people who couldn't make it to a physical game. (I.E. in another city, state, country)
- It is usually more convenient to schedule and make it to a virtual game
- Good way to start the hobby
- Can be easier to interact with people virtually
- Usually you don't get to use real dice (This is a big con)
- Can become easier to bicker, get off track, flake, get mad, and lose focus compared to physical games
- It's easier to get distracted (I.E. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc...)
- Groups formed this way tend not to last as long as physical groups
- Games tend to feel less personal/involving when played virtually
Additional Information: Virtual TRPG groups are a dime a dozen, especially for popular systems like Pathfinder and Dungeons and Dragons. There are plenty of was to host a virtual game, most popular of which is roll20 a virtual tabletop simulator. Fantasy Grounds is another one but cost money for some of the more useful features. Both of these virtual tabletops have great features like built-in character sheet, dice rollers, macros, and more. If you want a good review of the platforms I recommend watching this video. Most of the time virtual games also use popular VoIP programs like Skype, Google Hangouts, Team Speak, and Raidcall along with many others. However, some games run just using a VoIP program. Lastly, if you are looking into playing in a virtual group/game then having a decent mic is very important! A really good cheaper on can be found here, I have used that headset for over a year before breaking it on accident and the mic quality is great for the price point. A webcam might also be needed for some groups or might be a requirement you plan on implementing, if you plan on letting everyone role physical dice and you have some people you might not trust fully having all your players role on webcam is a good compromise.
Option 2: Physically.
- You get to see everyone in-person and are able to have interactions you wouldn't have been able to over the internet
- You get to roll real dice (Major pro)
- Character creation can be much easier and more fun than in virtual groups
- People can stand-up and act out the scenes if they wish (This is super fun, and I recommend everyone gives it a try if games have a good amount of role-play in them)
- Groups that meet physically tend to -in my experience- last longer and have longer campaigns than groups that play virtually
- As a GM things can get pricey (Although most if not all of this can be optional and some applies to virtual gaming as well)
- Miniatures/tokens (sometimes you need to get some for the players)
- Additional books/PDFs (lots, depending on the system)
- GM Screen
- Spare dice, pencils, paper, etc...
- Battle mat/maps/tiles
- Snacks/drinks (if hosting)
- Scheduling and transportation become a bigger issue with physical games
- Loudness and rowdiness can become issues for the host dependent on where they live (Apartments, condos, shared living, dorms)
- Finding people for physical games is considerably harder than for virtual games
- Physical games can be more socially draining than virtual ones
Additional Information: Physical TRPG groups are quite harder to get started than virtual ones; assuming you're not a high school/college student with lots of friends willing and wanting to start the hobby with you AND have a good place to meet, and if you are congratulations you lucky soul. Although if you're not so lucky then the extra effort put into getting a good gaming group together is well worth it and a great reward. There is just something extra special about sitting around a gaming table being able to banter and whisper plans so the GM doesn't hear it. Not to mention snacking, everyone jumping up when a critical die is rolled, and for the small portion of the hobbyist that do it... Getting up and acting out scenes is by far one of the more fun parts of the hobby. But, physical games tend to be more demanding and time consuming. People have to drive out to someone's place or a designated area that has been rented out for a session (like a public library conference room) and then drive back to their houses. Not to mention it can be harder to share materials with people physically than virtually, dice are a big problem depending on if your group believes its bad luck to share them. However, in my opinion physical games are way better than virtual ones.
Step 3: Have a Session 0
This step is pretty short, sweet, and to the point.
HAVE A SESSION 0!!!!!
No, really, this is important. Before you get all ready to go and play. DO THIS! It makes the rest of you're campaign go so much more smoothly, and all it takes is 12 minutes of your time to watch a video.
Dawnforgedcast's session 0 video is by far one of the greatest blessing to GMs that have problems organizing their games. Just watch the video, because the words I have to say can't do this concept the justice it deserves.
Step 4: Acquire Required Materials
Okay this is the tricky part. This really depends on what you've picked leading up to this point. BUT! The one thing that you'll always need regardless is DICE. You can't do much without dice, most RPG systems use dice, most GMs that run virtual games like to use physical dice, and you can have every other material but if you don't have dice then you're screwed. But there are virtual dice rollers for phones and websites dedicated to it, if your group allows those.
NOW! Onto what else you're going to need to start a gaming group.
The list includes:
- These range from free (Virtual rollers) to over $300 for artisan metal/wood dice. However, most dice sets range from $6 to $15.
- Books or PDFs
- These range from free to over $60+ for one book. So choose your system wisely.
- Scrap Paper, LOTS of scrap paper! And don't forget the spare Character Sheets
- OR PENCILS!
- Battle Mat/Flip-maps/Modular 2D/3D Tiles
- These can be homemade and crafted. Modular 3D Tiles tend to be the most artistic and immersive, but are the most expensive with pre-made tiles start at $35+ for an unpainted set, crafting them can be cheaper once you buy the supplies to start however. Their 2D counterparts are not nearly as expensive and are a good way to get detailed pre-made modular maps, with them starting at $10 per box set they are a good way to get maps. Flip-maps are a cheap way to get specific maps, like a campfire, tavern, or ship. They start at around $8 to $15 per Flip-map and each one has two specific maps. Battle Mats are 2' by 2' mats that have a standard square grid that you can use wet/dry-erase markers to draw maps out on this mat, most quality mats start at around $20.
- Now there are multiple ways you can go about this. You can buy/make monster token chips, or buy standard game pawns, or buy actual miniatures (most expensive option) either assembled and pre-painted or non-assembled and unpainted, or buy/make paper mini's. There are tons of guides online on how each of these work. Ultimately it's up to the GM on which option they choose to use. Personally I like the Pathfinder Pawns line for tokens.
And finally, last but certainly not least! IMAGINATION! If you're getting into TRPG's you're going to need an imagination, especially if you plan on being a GM.
That's it. That's all you need to get started. Hope you have a great time getting into the hobby and enjoy your new group.