For a couple months I have been thinking of joining a D&D group in my area. With the recent fuss over the OGL from Wizards of the Coast I am happy to try Pathfinder too.
My question is how to find a group? Obviously, I can Google for local groups and I have (I live in a big city so there are plenty). My problem is discerning which ones to choose.
First, I am 100% new to the scene so would need some hand-holding and tolerance (I played D&D a lot back in the 80’s but I think it is long enough that I am a virgin again).
Second, many DMs ask for a fee to be paid for their work. I am perfectly fine with paying some fee but I kinda want to know I am getting into a group I will enjoy and I will like the DM before I hand over money and there does not seem a good way to resolve that. Further, in my area some seem to be making this a profession and offer a lot of groups, all for a fee. Not sure if that is too businesslike versus a casual group (I dunno).
Third, I prefer to play with other adults but I am not sure how to find games like that.
I am fine also with either in-person gaming somewhere close(ish) or via Zoom or other virtual tabletop.
So, any tips or tricks?
Thanks in advance!
Call your local game stores/comic book stores. They’ll most probably be happy to take the time to point you to a game that suits you.
You can try meetup.com and read some of the posts and see how many are going to the meetups.
Meetup, Facebook groups and, if you’re content with playing digitally, r/lfg on Reddit. As noted, comic/game stores as well, especially if they host games, might know of other leads or local sources to chase.
I haven’t gone looking in a long time but, when I was, new campaigns filled up in a flash so it might take a little work or waiting. Obviously going digital widens your net considerably over local in-person play. Actually RUNNING a game goes a lot faster as it’s typically a DM’s market (which is why some people pay for DMs but ain’t no one paying for players). But it makes sense that you would want to start by playing the game, not running it for a bunch of strangers (who probably know how to play and may have… opinions).
Back to game stores, they might have a night for playing Adventurer’s League which is the “organized play” version of 5e. You show up, are assigned to a table and play a one-shot module of 2-3 hours length. It’s fairly combat & mechanics oriented since you have limited time so you can’t really spend two hours trying to seduce the barmaid or buy rope at Ye Olde Drygoods Shoppe. It also means that, while you’re welcome to have a character with a personality and motivations, no one is going to want to hear your six page backstory because it’s not going to tie into the adventure at all. But it IS a bite-sized way to play the game with no strings attached and see if you like the bones of it without committing to every Thursday night for the foreseeable future.
Some people have Adventurers League horror stories about terrible neckbeard players, etc. I’ve only had positive experiences both playing and running games for AL though I imagine it’s location dependent and varies a lot based on how much the organizers bother to police the players. Contrary to some claims, there’s no onus to accept anyone who walks in the door and troublesome players should be shown the way out and to stay out but some organizers lack the balls for that, giving the event a bad name.
Some stores like that may have tables which are used by gamers to run/play games, and/or bulletin boards where players and GMs can post notices looking for other players. If you have a game store or comic store near you, check with them to see if they have anything like that.
In addition, as @Jophiel notes, both D&D (Adventurers’ League) and Pathfinder (Pathfinder Society) have “organized play” campaigns, which are specifically built for DMs to run games for players at game stores and conventions. If you have someone running Adventurers’ League or Pathfinder Society games in your area (including at a game store), it might give you an opportunity to not only play a game, but to meet other players.
I used to play a ton of organized play stuff, and while, yes, every once in a while I ran into a troll or just a terrible player, overall, the experience was really positive, and I met a lot of nice people and good players, too (some of whom I wound up playing games with outside of organized play, as well).
That’s a good point that I forgot to mention – Organized play events can be great for “networking”. Play at the same store long enough to know the regulars and, assuming you’re a nice person and competent player, you’ll likely be on someone’s short list when they want to start up a “real” full campaign game.
As others have said if you are wanting to play for free most games have more people wanting to join than they can take. It is more a case of the DM choosing players they want than the other way round. Having said that if the DM wants you it is quite likely it is because your play styles match. (The other alternative is it an imnexperianced DM or one with a bad reputation but when offered a place you can ask a bit about the game).
If you are new to the game I would recommend starting with “organized play” as mentioend above or “one shots”, these are games run by a DM as a single session rather than as a long campaign. It is very frustrating ot be in a campaign where after 3 or 4 weeks one player besides to leave, there are many possible reasons for this some are unavoidable but a new player finding out they don’t enjoy the game is an avoidable one.
To play in person your best bet is local game shops, many of them run tables usually for a fee which either goes all to the shop for use of the facilities or is split with the DM. I found in my local game shop the tables were close together and it was often difficult to hear. As a result most of my play is online. Online games also tend to use virtual table tops, which allows things like maps to be produced at much lower cost.
There are plenty of forums where you can look for online games and some also offer in person games. DnDBeyond.com is owned by wizards of the coast and has forum thread to look for games. Another place to look is virtual table top forums such as roll20.net.
Many (not all) of the games advertised here are pay to play. Those games are not oversubscribed (at least not as much as free games. A decent DM will spend time going through what you want in a game and telling you the type of experiance they offer, if it seems like you match you might be offered a free trial session or at least to listen in on a game before you make your decision. A few DMs treat it as a full time job though it would be very poorly paid (6 games a week with 4hrs game time and 4hrs prep timeis a 48hr week, with an average of 4 players per game paying $20 that is $480 a week gross income). Paid DMs will usually buy all the books electronically and pay a subscription so they can share the content with their players (either on DnDBeyond or a VTT). Many paid DMs only play 1 or 2 games a week and the payment they receive is mainly to cover their costs.
There are TTRPG groups on Meetup. The ones I’ve seen don’t charge anything, and they also are into training new game masters. You might not find the exact game you want to play, but if you are willing to experiment with different games, you might start meeting people to start playing with.
Back in my day, we just went down to the local tavern and looked for a mysterious man in a cloak offering gold for adventuring work. The classics are classics for a reason.