The New Red Box: Philly

Just in case you thought it was that other red box we're talking about here

I’m glad to share the news that the Red Box family of gaming groups is gaining a new member, Red Box Philly. Let’s welcome the new meatshield, I mean cherished offspring, by joining the site as a show of support, and also rooting through our collective store of hard-won experience points to see what we can pass on to help Philly level up!

I’ll brainstorm some categories of things I’d want to know if I were trying to seed a new Red Box in untilled soil; although we can give advice here, there are also related threads at nerdNYC and the NY Red Box to take advantage of the different functionality of a forum.

  • What is the best way to attract players? It seems to me that having a regular weekly night to start with might be a good idea, because you can list that in player-finders that assume regularly-scheduled games rather than just-in-time ones. Pen & Paper is the player finder that comes to mind; what others work for people?
  • What are the pros and cons of coat-tailing an existing gaming group? I know that NY Red Box owes much to nerdNYC for creating a thriving community of gamers that we can recruit from, and I think I’ve heard that the Vancouver Gaming Guild also helped lay the groundwork for Red Box Vancouver. So my inclination would be to start out by offering to do New City Red Box events within the existing structure of whatever local community exists, especially the D&D Meetup group and the D&D Encounters program at a local game store (I’d even go so far as to create an Encounters game if none exists yet). However, I know that NY Red Box also benefited a lot from the attitude we inherited from the nerdNYC community, which is different from the prevalent approach I’ve seen in our D&D Meetup group, and different again from the likely style of friends you talk into playing despite not being hardcore gamers. I’ve found it possible to bridge these groups and would consider it more important to have many players to seduce away from their old style & towards the enlightened wisdom of old-school Red Box than only one or two right-thinking stalwarts, but it bears thinking about.
  • What is the hook that people keep coming back for? Curiosity about old-school play may lead some to check it out, but let’s face that it can be an acquired taste to roll up a character who only lives long enough for ten minutes of play time and one insanely ill-advised act of  sociopathy ending in a Save-or-Die effect. I suspect that the real selling point is a drop-in, low-commitment game like Encounters, Living Forgotten Realms, or the Pathfinder Society, but unlike them in that your character’s actions have an immediate, visible, and lasting impact on the story of the campaign.

To capitalize on that last one, and roll these together, I think that what I’d do if I were in Red Box Philly’s shoes would be to run games in the campaign wherever I could find players – at cons, at gamedays, at D&D Meetups or game stores on the same nights as Encounters, at friends’ houses, whatever. Each time, I’d capture people’s emails, and after the session I’d make a session summary on the forum, a wiki page for each character, magic item, place, and proper noun like Glantri and Black Peaks do. Then I’d email all the players:

Hey, thanks for playing! A recap of the events from last session is here on the forums; become a member so you can comment and help plan the next adventure. I made a Wiki page for your character so you can drop in and play anytime, even if you don’t have your character sheet with you. You’re always welcome to join in; you can use the forums and wiki to keep up on what’s happened while you’re away. If you earned any treasure, you should visit the carousing thread; it’s kind of a play-by-post minigame where you can earn experience points by having your character lavishly spend their gold on wine, women, and song, or whatever other special interest they may have…

As soon as possible, I’d encourage other players to run their own games; lots of people want to DM, and as we’ve seen with Red Box NY’s Sudden Summer Gaming, one of the great things our kind of group can do is to provide a pool of free-associating players who can come together to do stuff without being locked down by it. I suspect these should not be campaigns yet; you’ll know when something that started as a pickup game has developed enough momentum to become a campaign, and you want to select for DMs who have fun playing in other games and being loose with their ideas rather than making people commit to their grand pre-existing vision for how their game will be.

What else have we learned about how to make a Red Box group successful?


8 Responses to “The New Red Box: Philly”

  1. 1 Ed
    September 16, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Thanks for the shout out! I have to say I’m plunging ahead with this without any real plan. So Any direction you can give would be great. Also, I hope you don’t mind me stealing content from your wiki!

  2. 2 Naked
    September 16, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    I have to say I’m plunging ahead with this without any real plan.

    While I wasn’t around for the Red Box inception, I am pretty sure this is exactly how it happened.

  3. September 16, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Actually, the Red Box inception involved three levels of tightly plotted action movie dream sequences all directed to the goal of convincing James that founding Red Box was his own idea.

  4. 4 rmckee78
    September 16, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Thanks for pointing this group out, I just registered for the site. I live right across the Ben Franklin Bridge, I am really glad to see a group like this in the area.

  5. 5 Ed
    September 17, 2010 at 1:20 am

    Tavis: I’m surprised to see that you recommend a regularly scheduled game as opposed to the just-in-time gaming that was on the NY Red Box. What was your experience with the two different scheduling approaches? Is just-in-time more useful for an established core of gamers and less so for attracting new blood?

  6. September 17, 2010 at 1:44 am

    The regularly scheduled one is, in my mind, training wheels to help amass a group of enthusiastic players who’d be committed enough for just-in-time to work. My feeling is that it’s easier to attract some people if they know they can show up on night X and play – certainly player finders have this regular-night expectation – and then easier to keep them in if they can say “hey I’m free on night Y, let’s game.”

    I seem to remember that Vancouver started with a “I’ll be at this place on this night every week”. NY started with a committed excited group of about 5 people who crystallized out of nerdNYC. If you have that already you might not need the regular night.

  7. September 17, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    I second Tavis’s suggestion about a semi-regular game night, even if it’s only once or twice a month. It helps lower the barrier for newbies to drop in if they can count on a set game, rather than having to say, register for a wiki/forum, make contact with complete strangers, check the forum thread several times to keep abreast of the situation, etc.

    When RBV *first* started it was strictly an ad hoc, just-in-time sort of thing. We didn’t achieve what I consider a critical mass until co-DM thickets started running a regular weekly game (albeit with a flexible roster of players) at his house. And since co-DM Johnstone has put a regular *public* weekly game into practice, we’ve a) had a lot more gaming and b) an uptick in newbies from the internet tracking us down.

    Plus, as much as I like just-in-time scheduling in theory, a regular game night in a guaranteed space is a heck of a lot easier to accommodate for busy adults. Rather than having to juggle your schedule to fit a mutable game night, you know: keep Monday clear, if possible. And if not, there’s always next week.

    Rokken like Dokken! I frackin’ love Philly! I went to school there and it’s rrrrrrrrrrrrripe for gaming, what with all the students and recent grads kicking around.

  8. October 2, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    Well, I’ve learned one thing that doesn’t help: relying on a single person. Red Box BCS didn’t have anyone beyond me taking a leadership role and with me losing my job my focus shifted.

    Some people have taken the reins somewhat in the past couple of weeks.

    Also, don’t rely on a pay service like Meetup.com. I’m killing our Meetup account (to save personal cash) and unless someone wants to commit the cash the bigger communication channel will dry up.

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Past Adventures of the Mule

September 2010

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