Getting Into the Game Late in the Game

Requested by my wonderful colleague crsenter. (As a side note, I highly recommend her blog for people who want to work on their writing; she has an excellent approach to creativity and inspiration.)

Her question was how to get into the game late in the game, namely around the age of 40. Now, aside from the fact that it’s hard to fit into a group a couple decades your junior (doable, though), I’m not sure there’s that much difference between finding a game at that age and finding it at mine. I’ll cover the topics as best I can.

For playing live, the best way to find a group is your friendly local gaming store. They’re hubs of gamer activity, and most players looking for groups, or groups looking for players, will leave some sort of note there.  Failing that, you can try your local university; it’s a more set age group, of course, but that’s not too big a difficulty.

If you’re more interested in finding an online game, the options become a lot more varied. Of course, it makes a difference what kind of game you’re looking for. A good first stop, particularly for the writer-turning-player, is Escaping Reality/Capturing Fantasy, a play by post community and accompanying blog using a modified version of the World of Darkness setting/system and run by the minds behind Men With Pens. I haven’t personally tried the game—that would require free time, a commodity I’ve been lacking for a while now—but I hear nothing but good things from those who have, and I’ve enjoyed the posts.

For those who are looking for a different system or setting, a message board community may be the way to go. There are quite a few out there, but the three I am most familiar with are Giant in the Playground,, and (more by reputation for the last, though). GitP is the most stubbornly family-friendly of the lot of them, and is very much a D&D-centric forum; whether this is an advantage or not depends on who’s asking. is more specialized for game-running, and features a vast collection of systems; has less actual gaming than GitP, but a wider variety of regularly used systems. Once you’re there, it’s mainly a matter of finding a recruiting thread and expressing interest. These places tend to expect that you have the materials, though; while some GMs will walk you through the process, and it won’t matter as much in a freeform, expect to need books unless stated otherwise, and make sure they know you’re a beginner.

And of course, you’re going to want to learn more about the gaming world than you can figure out just from here. The message boards above will help with this, of course, but you might want something a bit more static. Fortunately, you’re just in time to find a new resource: the RPG Blog Network, a hub of RSS feeds from a wide variety of gaming blogs, including this one. Mechanics? Dramatics? Industry news? The occasional convention appraisal or movie review? They’ve got it all. Now, granted, they’re not exactly a representative sample: since the minds behind this were D&D bloggers, and it’s their community that got involved first, most of the sites featured are D&D-primary. Give them a few months to get the word out, though. Speaking of which, one of the bloggers I met through this hub, Storyteller, has an impressive series on three of the four major forms of roleplaying, including how to get into them, and I filled in the one he was missing not long ago.

For those of you who already knew this stuff and still had the patience to read through, it’s your turn! Suggestions? Ideas? Opinions? Recommendations for the newcomers?

1 comment

  1. Shinali says:

    *time machine arrives in 2008*
    “Recommendations for the newcomers?”
    1) Observe games.
    Bonus if you can get someone to answer your questions about the game during the game. You can easily observe PbP (play by post – message board) games, and if you know someone in the game and don’t say anything you can usually convince the GM to let you observe a game that Play by chat/IRC/IM (IRC they can even mute you to facilitate this). I’ve never observed a face-to-face game, but knowing how the game works from PbP and PbIM/IRC/Chat helps greatly. I was mapper for the game I mention below for quite a while before I filled in (as mapper I made sure to update a computer-based map in real-time to reflect what the PCs had discovered about the setting).
    2) Listen to game tales
    Get any exuberant RPGer on your buddy list or in your circle of friends and you will hear countless tales of their current game(s). If you actually listen to these you’ll find out that when it comes time to learn the system you know an awful lot about it. (E.g. mechanically understanding stunts in Exalted might confuse you, but hearing how someone ricocheted flaming arrows off the mast and into the kegs in the hold of a pursuing ship while riding some sort of sea monster makes how such a thing would work a lot clearer).
    3a) Cameo in an omake or as a quasi-npc
    This obviously requires knowing the GM. This is a good way to prove you have the skills to RPG and keeps you from causing any actual plot trouble. Maybe you are the maid in the inn, someone’s familiar for a day, or whatever. The best time to suggest this is when your GM friend is ranting about how many NPCs she has to keep straight – offer to play one that’s relatively unbreakable. In an omake (which is a story that is outside of regular plot continuity but with some of the same characters), you have more freedom to be a PC.
    3b) Fill in for a PC
    This was how I started, I filled in for Ravyn’s character in a PbIRC game when she couldn’t attend one day, with admonitions to myself and to the DM to make sure that I didn’t kill her character (we didn’t). This requires a willing player who will be absent and a deep knowledge of that character’s personality and such, generally from 1 and 2. Not so good on major battle days, but great on exploring or item acquisition days. A good way to start in PbChat/IM/IRC games is to say “I follow [other, sensible character] until [he/she] does something I would not do,” and then lay low until you get the feel for the session. Once you get the feel for things, you can take some initiative but don’t do anything OOC.
    3c) Join a one-shot
    A one-shot is a game, often with a silly premise, that no one would turn into a full campaign but makes a fun one or two session thing. This also gets you in with a game group, whether for more one-shots or for a full campaign.

    I didn’t realize most of this back in 2008, which is why I didn’t post this then. :)

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