I've played with the same group for about eight years now. We have had many people come and go for various reasons over the years, but the core four members of the group have remain unchanged. Recently we lost two members in quick succession and found ourselves down to just the aforementioned four players. While it is certainly possible to play with four, and we have done it many times, it was the general preference that we add a few more members to fill out the table.
Normally when we need new members we will invite a friend of one of the already existing members. This is the easiest option for both the group who is getting a known quantity, and for the new player who already knows someone at the table. However, after eight years we seem to have exhausted this option; none of us could think of a single person to invite to the game. After a bid of head scratching we examined our options. We do live in the information age after all, how hard could it be to reach out and pluck a prospective gamer from the orchard of the internet?
As it turns out, pretty hard.
Now there are various ways to find new members, many of which I'm sure we weren't aware of., but of the ones we did know the three that seemed the most promising to us were message boards, Obsidian portal, and Pen & Paper Games.
Message boards for specific games have worked really well for people I know. I once knew a guy who would hit the D&D boards and within a week would have a whole new group. That man had a talent for finding people that it quickly became clear that I, and the other members of my group, lack. The problem is that my group no longer plays just D&D anymore. When 4e came out it became clear that the game was not for us and so we started looking elsewhere. In the time since 4e came out we have played Hackmaster 4th Edition, Hackmaster Basic, Hackmaster Advanced, Aces & Eights, Pathfinder, Call of Cthulhu, 1st Edition D&D, 2nd Edition D&D, and D&D 3.5. So though it was cool that the release of 4e caused us to branch out and leave our comfort zone a little bit, it no longer made it possible to hit the D&D boards looking for players. Similarly, Paizo has prolific message boards, but by and large those players are Pathfinder players who might not be interested in switching systems should the need arise. So in the end we didn't have much luck with message boards and decided to forgo others like ENWorld, RPGNet, and others.
Obsidian Portal is an awesome site and a great resource for many things including finding games. We used Obsidian Portal as kind of a passive way to look in the months leading up to our active search. We listed the campaign we were playing along with some information on our group and tossed our line out, hoping some Gamer without a group would bite. Alas, we had little to no luck. We considered contacting some of the other groups in the immediate area, but many of them were playing 4e, so it was unlikely they would have been a good fit. However, all was not lost. Obsidian Portal partnered with Pen & Paper Games, a site dedicated to helping Gamers find Gamers. We all figured this would be our best bet.
It was at Pen & Paper Games that we made our last ditch effort to find some new blood. We threw a wide net over the area, opting for a "spray and pray" philosophy. Rather than working our way down a long list of people one at a time, we just emailed everyone we thought might be a good fit. So just how many was that?
That's right, thirty two people got messages from us offering them a seat at our table. This was not just a quick "hey you don't know us but join our game" email. No, this was thorough. We talked about our group, how many members, what ages, our play styles, what games we play, what times, how long we had been together, what we were looking for, what we would be playing, and a host of other things. We added a "no pressure clause" by stating that it was just a trial to see if the person was a good fit for the group and the group a good fit for the person. When we finished writing the email (a group effort) I was sure that we had emailed too many people and would be bombarded with responses. This was a little worrying because the table we play at is only so big. Turns our I shouldn't have worried. Go ahead and guess how many responses we got.
If you guessed one and a half, you are correct.
What do I mean by that? Well we got one ligit response by a guy who was interested, and one quick email from a guy who said he might play if we change the day we play on. To say we were disheartened would be an understatement.
Now I should mention that all of the people who we emailed were not held in equal regard. We rated each person on a 1-10 basis and only emailed the top 32 people. So naturally where was our one response from?
If you guessed the very bottom of the list, you are correct.
Needless to say it was more than a little disheartening, but we emailed the guy (Doodle, by handle). Doodle seemed nice enough via email and was very prompt in his responses so we invited him to come down for the start of our Call of Cthulhu game and roll up a character with us. When he showed up we were all pleasantly surprised, he was friendly and very normal. Hey, don't look at me like that... it's the internet you never know what you're gonna get. Doodle had played CoC before so he was a help with some of the rules and his sense of humor really seemed to mesh with the rest of the group, something of underrated importance in my opinion.
As I write this we are two weeks into our CoC and things are going great. Everyone is very happy with Doodle and he seems reasonably happy with the group. Still when I think of the process we went through to find and recruit him I have to ask myself, why the hell is it so hard to find new players?
If you have a story of your own trials and tribulations of finding new group members please, let's hear it! If you have any advice on finding new members, please share that too!