Let’s face it, finding a group to play D&D with is hard at the best of times. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a circle of friends who are all interested in playing, and have schedules that align, chances are you are constantly harassing family and friends to play this crazy roleplaying game with you. Maybe you have all the books and are constantly creating characters, looking up rules, watching actual play streams on Twitch or YouTube. And even though these placate you for a bit they don’t satisfy the itch to roll some dice and kick down doors and find some loot. It can be fun to dream up your own campaign setting and create NPCs to populate it, to come up with a villain bent on world domination unless a plucky group of adventurers can stop him. Unless you find that group of adventurers all it will ever be is notes and maps in a note book.
This is where playing online on a virtual tabletop comes in. Instead of bugging your friends to play with you on a regular basis, you can bug complete strangers who are also tired of bugging their friends to play with them. And eventually maybe you’ll become friends with those complete strangers and be able to bug each other even when you aren’t playing. The problem is that although places like Roll20 are full of people just like you who are aching to play, there are a finite amount of games and more importantly a finite amount of GMs and DMs. In contrast there seems to be an infinite amount of players. So how do you find a game to be a part of. Ideally a game you WANT to be a part of. Well hopefully this might help a bit.
Use the Join a Game menu
Using the Join a Game menu allows you to search for a game matching your criteria. If you’re looking for a game that plays every other week on Tuesdays at 3:00 pm eastern time, just plug that info into the search options and you’ll get all the results that match what you’re looking for. You can refine it further but searching for specific games, whether it be D&D 5e, Pathfinder, Call of Cthulu or a multitude of other games. However the more you refine your search the fewer options you’ll have. This can be a problem, since the fewer games options available to you can increase the competition of players trying to join the game. Also it leaves you with fewer choices. What if there are no games that match your criteria? You want to play Lost Mines of Phandelver but the only choices you have are a couple of homebrew campaigns that don’t intrigue you. Maybe expand your options, look for an alternate night or time or frequency. Eventually you’ll find a couple of games you want to be a part of.
Now here’s where it gets tricky. Most if not all of the GMs running these games will ask for player applications. This allows the GMs to filter through candidates and find players that they think will work well with their gamestyle. The problem with this though is that for any game looking for 4 players there may be 15 applications. So if it’s the only game you’re interested in playing in you better cross your fingers. This isn’t the fault of the GMs posting their games, it’s simple supply and demand. When there is a lower supply of games with a high demand for them it creates a lot of competition. Most GMs will ask for play experience, and character ideas in the application. To me the experience shouldn’t matter, and most GMs will happily take new players. Charcater ideas however can be what makes or breaks your application. If they post in the ad that they are only allowing races and classe from the Player’s Handbook don’t come up with a character that is mostly homebrew or from Unearthed Arcana. This shows the gammemaster that you didn’t read the ad or aren’t interested in the world they are creating. At the same time saying your character idea is a wizard that also happens to be a table will get you ignored. Show that you’ve read and understand what parameters the GM has put in their ad and that you’re willing to play by those rules.
In the end though it isn’t impossible to find a game. When I started playing on Roll20 this is how I found my first game (you can read about it here), and I’ve posted a game I run on here and found a good group of players. That being said it can be a struggle, luckily it isn’t the only option.
Use the Looking For Group forum
For my money this is the best option for finding a good group of players and a game to be play in. The Looking for Group forum allows both players and GMs to post the games they are looking for and when or the games they will be running. When I’ve looked for players to fill in when someone leaves my group this is where I turned.
The nice thing about the forum is it allows the players to interact with each other and potentially find another player looking for the same type of game as them, forming an alliance the 2 of you can then continue looking for a GM and double your chances. You can also post a Looking for GM/DM thread and hopefully find someone willing to run a game for you, or find a GM who has posted a Looking for Players thread. The downside is you don’t have the luxury of searching for exactly the game and time you want, but at a casual glance it seems like there may be more GMs posting here than listing their games.
It can take a bit longer to find a game to join and it doesn’t necessarily increase your chances of getting a game. The upside is if you see a post you’re interested in you can message the person directly and try to get a spot at their virtual table. Unless you’re looking for something very specific (which possibly no one is running anyway) this may be your best bet at finding a game. Or at least finding others who are looking for a game.
Just run it yourself
The major complaint in the RPG community is that there are not enough game masters. It’s true, there aren’t. If you use Roll20 as an example it appears that there are a couple of dozen players for every game master. This is great if you’re running games because it allows you to be very picky about who you bring into your game. Unfortunately it isn’t so great for players who are new or trying to get to play more and get left out in the cold. I’ve talked about what I’ve learned being a DM here and it’s easier than you think . But there is still this stigma that DMs are these all knowing mystical beings that have the rules memorized and are able to create games from the top of their heads and every session is perfect and amazing. I guarantee you that almost any GM you talk to will tell you they have no idea what they’re doing half the time and the other half they’re just making it up based on a loose idea they have in their heads or notes.
If you can’t find the right game for you, do it yourself. The world needs more DMs, we need more people in this community to take up the mantle to allow new players to play. There’s no rule that says you can’t be a DM if you’ve never played a game. Will you make mistakes? Absolutely. Even DMs who have been running games for years make mistakes. At the end of the day the mistakes you make don’t matter if you guys have fun. If you’re concerned about being a new DM then run a game for new players. Learn the game together. The more DMs and GMs we have out there the more people we can get to play these games, whether it’s online or in person. And the more I can get out from behind the screen and play only one character.
The bottom line is it can sometimes be challenging to find a group. And once you do there can be a whole other set of challenges that I’ll get into another time. But it is possible and with a little work it won’t be long before you’re killing goblins. If you look around for a few days and can’t find someone running a game you like, or run it yourself and players will come to you. And if you’re lucky like I’ve been you’ll become friends with them and you can convince them to take the reins once in a while. And that’s how we build our gaming community.
Did you find a group on Roll20? Do you have any tips? Let me know in the comments.