Shortly after graduating from college, I tried starting a gaming club in the Lehigh Valley, Pa. I was fresh off having helped create the Role-Playing Underground when I was a student at Lock Haven University, and I was desperate to get a new campaign up and running.
It failed. We had a few meetings, and I was able to find enough people to get my own campaign off the ground, but in the end I didn't understand the fundamental difference between a college game club, and a real-world one. In college, the club was about recruiting people for your game. In the real-world, it was about playing games
Quick note: for those who might have been drawn to this post by the casino going up Bethlehem, Pa., I'm talking about role-playing, card, board and war games, not gambling.
Ultimately, I was able to patch together enough players from the club and some local cons. Once I had a group of my own, the need for the club faded. So did the club.
Flashfoward 12 years and my gaming group's still going strong. My hopes for a gaming club in the Lehigh Valley died long ago, but recently I've returned to the idea. I blame Berin at UncleBear, who's been wrint about his recent exploits with the Ides of Gaming monthly game day and the collaborative world-building of the Tucson RPG Guild. I like the idea of having a place where I can easily find new players for my group, and as I get older, the appeal of giving back to the hobby -- and strengthening it through a club -- grows. There's also the very appealing idea of having a group to run non-D&D games with -- while D&D is always king of the mountain, if you get enough people together running indie games like Spirit of the Century becomes a heck of a lot easier.
It's got me thinking about whether now might be exactly the right time to try and get such a club off the ground.
There's one huge advantage that we have now that we didn't have in 1996: the Internet. Granted, we had web sites in 1996; hell I had Nuketown back then, but they weren't the organizational juggernaut they are now. Back then, the best way to recruit gamers was a post on a gaming store bulletin board and maybe a classified ad in the college newspaper. Those still work, but you've got a thousand other options now, from Facebook to Meetup to Ning to Goodreads to Twitter. Moreover, these different apps all devour RSS, so you can easily have one central blog to coordinate and promote your group, and have it feed all these other apps.
Another advantage is that we have a strong biannual convention in northeastern Pennsylvania now in the form of MepaCon. Granted, it's up near Scranton, but it's been running for years and has a loyal player base. When I last tried this, the area's big convention -- LehiCon was on its last legs -- and while it had a smaller one in the form of BoggleCon, it's run ended in the late 1990s.
Finally, there's more stuff to do. The RPGA's starting up a new Forgotten Realms "living" campaign based on 4th Edition, and while I don't plan to play in it, it would provide a gaming club with a feature attraction. There's also the "Dawn of Defiance" Star Wars mini campaign and the just-launchedPathfinder Society living campaign from Paizo, so there's a lot of content out there that a club could take advantage of, and use to pull in new and old players. Plus, I think indie games themselves can be a draw -- there are a lot of people out there who'd love to play Dogs in the Vineyard, SotC and other games, but can't find enough players. Start up a monthly meeting, let folks know you're playing these kind of games, and I bet we could get a fair number of people from around the region showing up just to play those games.
Finally, as my kids get older, and possibly get interested in gaming, it'd be nice to have a group up and running where they could meet and play with kids their own age.
At the very least, it seems to me that a local gaming web site, perhaps powered by WordPress or Drupal, might be a good place to start. Get people talking, give them a place to post some recruitment notes, and who knows what might happen?
All this having been said ... I don't have the time or energy necessary to take it on all by myself, but if others are interested in giving it a try, I'd certainly be willing to help. If that's you, drop me an e-mail at email@example.com or post a comment below.