Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Starting a Game Club: Timing and Frequency

I've recently read a number of comments on Google+ from people who have tried setting up games only to have them fall through, mostly because players didn't show up.  I can't always tell if this is because they were gaming online or in-person, but either way, gaming didn't happen.  This is a "bad thing" as I would define it.  What to do about it?  Build a game club, of course.

The virtue of starting a game club is that it is intended to be durable, less subject to the whims and eddies of personal schedules and life events.  But for it to work, you need to have a regular time and place to meet.  This post is about how to determine the latter.

Currently, Madison Traditional Gaming meets on Tuesday evenings at Pegasus Games here in Madison.  We also have an all-day event on the 3rd Saturday of the month at the Hawthorne Branch of the Madison Public Library.  We discovered in December that the librarians at the Hawthorne Branch wanted to sponsor our group, which has some distinct advantages (more on that later).  The weekly sessions allow for regular campaign play, while the monthly sessions are good for one-shot adventures with different rules sets.  But we did not always have it so good.

When I first started Madison Traditional Gaming, I figured that a once-a-month event was probably the most I could commit to running, and I was right.  It quickly turned into a lot of work, as I tried to arrange for other referees to run events for the 3rd Saturday sessions as well as prepare adventures to run myself.  Somewhere in there we started meeting on Tuesday nights, first at Misty Mountain Games, and then later at Pegasus Games.  Things moved along for about a year, but the effort was considerable to keep things going.  In December 2011, I decided that enough was enough, and announced that Madison Traditional Gaming would stop meeting on the 3rd Saturdays as it was too much work.  That was not a good idea, as it turned out.

People did not want to stop meeting on the 3rd Saturdays, and some people could not make it on Tuesday evenings.  So by summer 2012, we began meeting on the 3rd Saturday again.  We've kept that schedule ever since: one monthly event and weekly gaming.

What did we learn from this?

  • You need to meet on a regular basis to sustain activity and interest.  Saying "3rd Saturday of the month" makes it clear to everyone when you will be meeting.  However...
  • You also need to meet frequently enough to keep gamers happy.  One of the biggest complaints I received at the 3rd Saturday events was that a once-a-month session was too infrequent for regular campaign play.  So having weekly sessions solved that problem.
The trick to all of this is to keep meeting even if it is just you and one or two other people.  Groups tend to grow slowly, and gaming is no different.  You need to stick to your guns and see things through.

Next time: advertising and getting the word out.


15 comments:

  1. That last point is most important. Even if you've only got one or two other people, and its not enough to play an RPG, play a boardgame or something.

    I also second how running a club can take a lot of work. I used to be the president of a university gaming club. It was fun for the most part, but the university could interfere at times with the meeting location and ever-changing club requirements. The went beyond just sending out a weekly email. I had to learn to delegate responsibilities whenever possible.

    But that's awesome you've got a library to sponsor your group!

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