The difficult process of getting started: Some tips for starting a new group
Organization, especially with a small group of busy people, can be a nightmare. Many are the social media posts and complaints from DM’s who watched a campaign die due to people not being able to show up. This can be super frustrating and yet it’s a fact of life that schedules change! But don’t worry, I’ve found the following tips can be useful!
Pick a day and stick to it
In my experience, lots of times the reason why the group isn’t meeting is usually down to one or two people who’s schedules don’t line up. And since we’re all nice people who don’t want friends to miss out, we tend to put things off until we can all be together. And then we never meet up ever again. That’s why I like to pick a day and stick to it. That way everyone knows that DnD is on that day and if someone must miss the odd one, no problem! And if someone could commit to that specific one but now can only play on another day that doesn’t work for everyone else? Well, we can’t participate in everything, and it makes it easy to invite them to play when they can make it again. This means that the group isn’t getting jammed up on one person’s schedule. It also means that the person who can’t make it knows what’s happening and can shift their schedule accordingly or re-join when their schedule clears up.
Try not to overdo it
Every week might have worked when I was younger, but now it’s a big decision to commit to something every week. However, every two weeks is a lot more manageable. If I know of something a couple of weeks in advance, I can usually schedule around it without disrupting the important things. Biweekly is also a lot easier to stick to as far as regular events coming up. As a DM it gives you a bit of time to prepare (*snicker*) and you don’t feel so stressed when the day actually comes.
Start with one-offs
You probably have a grand campaign in mind, something that will see a group of green level ones turn into grizzled veterans. You might be using one of the adventure books (I recommend Curse of Strahd or Rime or Ghosts of the Saltmarsh) or maybe your world is something of your own creation. Then your group falls apart due to scheduling issues. That’s why I recommend for all new groups to start off with one offs. That way you have a quick (depending on the group) adventure that gives everyone a nice night of DnD. You’ve also saved yourself some trouble planning if that’s all it ends up being. BUT, if you run 3 or 4 one shots and your group seems to be committed, not only are you all getting used to how everyone is around the table (or screen) but you can jump those characters straight into a campaign (DM side note: Don’t make them roll new ones unless everyone is onboard. Getting a player to part with a character can lead to sad eyes and passive aggressive glares when they come across a situation that their old character would be just right for). That Candlekeep book is pretty good for one offs, and the Rolled and Told compendium is nifty too!
Don’t be afraid to bring in new players
If one member of your group has a change in schedule and can no longer make it, don’t feel like you’re doing them a disservice by having someone else take their place. In my opinion a party is best with at least 3 players, 4 or 5 is even better (but 6 or more gets scary, so approach at your own risk). If you know someone who might be interested invite them in! If they are new to the game, you might then meet up with them to help them come up with a character who is easy to pick up and play (champion fighter comes to mind) and then they can jump right into the action! And if they are a veteran player maybe they can come in with a class that will round out the party a bit more! This way a group will maintain numbers and people don’t necessarily feel like they are dooming an adventure if they can’t make it. And if there is space (and the numbers are ok) you can narrate that characters amazing comeback (could be anything from a religious pilgrimage, a personal quest or a really epic bender). So that’s tips that I’ve found useful for making sure that a new group stick around. I’ll also stress to point out that there is nothing wrong with one shots if all everyone is looking for is a good night around a table rolling some dice. Hopefully, that helps when you and a couple of friends are thinking about how to set up a new group and to avoid you wasting any time.
Don’t invite Mimic’s to the group though, they just copy everything. DMO