I have a cunning plan...

It's not often I divulge my plans - like any genuine evil genius will agree, it is neither wise nor profitable to let the masses know what is going on in the grey matter; but this is one of those time when I need to let them know (so that the other plans may come to fruition... bwah hah hah hah!)... I'm not a fan of New Year's Resolutions, and I often don't bother making one, but this one seems to have been the idea to which has been passed off as my plan for 2012: namely, starting a community hobby gaming group in Hexham. And, for the love of Satan, why did I think it was going to be easy...? It's anything but easy... The Objective. A Hobby Gaming Group is a bunch of like minded people who enjoy the various elements of the hobby gaming genre, whether it's table top battles, pen and paper role playing games or even the live action role playing game systems. A community group would give gamers a chance to network and learn from other gamers - see their tactics, learn how to run games, put their machinations to the test, etc. It's also a fantastic way to spend an evening or two which does at least one of two things: 1> Justifies the terrifiying amount of money that the average Hobby Gamer will pay for their beloved interests (because if you play table top battles, such as Game Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy or 40K you've paid A LOT of money to learn the rules and have an army of your own, no matter how basic). 2> Offers a significant alternative to going out and spending money on consumables, such as over-priced alcohol, cinema tickets or more alcohol. I worked out some years ago that a single RPG core rule book, a few dice, a few pencils, paper, photocopies, erasers and snacks totalled together over the space of a month (with at least one game session a week (which often turns in to two or even three a week)) is significantly cheaper than going out on the lash for just one week. Hence, how I survived adolensence and attained the title of Geek Overlord so very young. The Method. Stage One: Research. This stepping stone I have recently completed, and it was no mean feat unto itself. To be honest, though, I can't / shan't / won't begrudge this step as it has nothing but dividends to show for itself, aside from the time consuming nature that is research as a whole (not to mention sort of enjoyable). In all of this I have ascertained the following: A> Know your audience - which sounds daft at first, but then you have to think that if you're setting up a community group you can have anyone and everyone walk through the door. Are you getting a load of kids still in school, are you going to see an even number of guys and gals - can you accomodate for both? and can you offer facilities if required? B> Which brings us nicely in to the VENUE! Where the heck do you put them all? For a start, a hobby gaming group can have a selection of different requirements and I'm hoping to open up a host of different alternatives but that means floor-space, and lots of it. More than one room, in most cases. Can the local community centre help? Are you going to be having to find a function room above a pub? Is it going to cost for the venue from one week to the next? If so, how much...? C> You don't actually NEED a Criminal Record Background check done, but I really WANT one, none-the-less - the chances are I'm going to be advertising a hobby that is predominantly aimed at a younger audience and even if the venue has other staff available, I'm the one that's going to be accountable for any and all greif: and this IS all about being prepared, right? Stage Two: Advertising (and a touch of marketing). Now, fortunately, I'm aiming at a very specific audience; the gamer and the geek, the outsider and the goth, the disenfranchised and the dreamer. The terrifying thing about gamers et al. is that they have a remarkable tendancy and talent for remaining under the radar - not so long ago, the hobby gamer was looked down upon and bullied in school for their nerdish ways, but as was foretold the Geek has inherited the Earth! SO how do you advertise to the recluse? Answer: schools, libraries, friendly sandwich shops (I know this marvelous little place in town...), computer shops (who have been awesome...) and anyone else that will listen. The beauty of it is that you only need to catch one or two of them because they will know each other and they will spread the word like a marvellous little virus. If you can, I would strongly recommend putting a little questionaire with your advert - even if you just put it on the back of the advertisment, just ask the motley bunch what games they'd like to see played. Give a list with tick boxes or just an open page to get something / anything back... you'll see why in a moment. Stage Three: Apparatus. Now, if you've had any luck managing to avoid expenses by this point, you're going to need to pull a serious number of resources from your magic hat for this next part. Just because hobby gaming can be a cheap and entertaining past time doesn't mean you won't find yourself having to spend sooner or later. I, for one, happen to have a vast array of different roleplaying game core rule books, including DC Adventures, Exalted, Dead Lands, Call of Cthulhu and many, many more besides, but it is Sod's Law that the first game anyone is going to ask to play (assuming they all want to play the same thing... hah, fat chance...) is the one you haven't got, and even if you have a half dozen players that have a bunch of rule books, supplements and source materials you need to be aware of the game mechanic and assume the other half dozen have never played it before (or worse still, have no intention of trying it out). And that's just the RPGers. Let's then tackle the table top battlers. Let's say you have another dozen Games Workshop fans who plays both Fantasy Battle, 40K AND Lord of the Rings. What does this mean? It means you might need at least three tables with a minimum of 2' squared space to blow each others armies up, that's what that means. How about a game of Space Hulk? Has anyone ever played Settlers of Catan? How about Zombies!!!? Very quickly, your hobby gaming group can become a logisitics NIGHTMARE! How can you possibly prevent this from going straight to the dogs - see above about the advertising / marketting: if even the smallest number of people have provided you with ANY feedback, at least you'll not be caught utterly with your pants down. Oh, and don't forget snacks... hopefully, they might just bring their own, but consider having tea and coffee just in case. Stage Four: Learn and Listen. As any good Games Master will tell you, being open-minded is an absolute MUST in order to entertain the group. If some one has an idea, put it out there! Get some more feedback! If it hits a rock you'll be safe in the knowledge that the majority didn't kick with it, but don't be afraid to offer everyone a chance to at least try it out. If someone turns out to be a bit of a tyrant GM (all linear plot and no sandbox) just go with it for the time being - no game can stay stay that linear for that long and the GM will sooner or later realise that flexability will make the game more enjoyable for not only the others but also for themselves (because micro-managing a campaign is a rookie mistake and usually doesn't last more than the first session or three...) Inspire the others to try out for the Big Leagues! If someone wants to try being a GM, you're doing it RIGHT! Give them some material, offer them a pre-written adventure to try running for others and if they like it you've got another GM in the house: Winner! If they want to write their own adventure for the players: even better! Help them get to the point where they can run their own games with confidence and by doing so you'll be making your work so much easier when trying to manage what could be, after a few months, a fairly large group. Stage Five: Enjoy. Nothing tells the other players that the whole scheme is working like walking in each time with a smile on your face and an eagerness to get things rolling. Don't be kidding yourself and don't be afraid to ask for help from other members - the chances are that they'll want this initiative to work as much, if not more, than you do. The Conclusion. Ask me again some time if this works out... ;)