Once you’ve gotten a group together you need somewhere to actually play the games. You don’t need a huge amount of space, just a table with room for a fistful of people, enough space to roll some dice and a bit of peace and quiet for a handful of hours. Can’t be too difficult to get, can it?
The obvious place to choose to play is at home, either in your home or that of another member of your group. You’ve got the advantages of comfort, familiarity and you – or whoever else it is – doesn’t have to lug their entire gaming library to the new location. On the downside there might be a lot of non-gaming people around, interrupting, getting under your feet and otherwise causing all sorts of mayhem and mishaps. Sometimes spouses and house sharers can be less than understanding about tramping hordes of gamers descending upon the house and messing up the place and that’s another disadvantage, you might have to tidy up. It can also be a little difficult to get people to leave once the gaming is over, releasing the hounds can be helpful in this regard.
Schools often offer rooms for hire or for after-school activities and you can use these to game in. Schools are often central to areas and can help you get a bit of publicity for your gaming group, plus you can recruit some new gamers from the fledgling hordes of acne-ridden adolescents in need of some power fantasies. On the minus side you might have to include students in the club, be attending, or have a kid going there in order to use the facilities, plus other after school groups may well interrupt or cause problems for you by running up and down the corridors or – badly – practising the trombone in the next toom.
Pubs often have rooms for rent that you and your group can use, like schoolrooms. The disadvantage here, as with the schoolrooms is that this costs money, but with a big enough group – or a couple of groups – you can spread the cost and then it’s not going to be so much. You’re also going to be restricted on time, usually the rooms are paid for by the hour and the pub does, eventually, close. Another drawback is that pubs sell booze, that means no underage players and it also often means that your players get plastered which, while occasionally funny, can also be a bloody nuisance when someone vomits on their character sheet or starts telling you why they love you in the middle of a scene.
Gaming shops often have play spaces that you can use to meet up at. Some of these are only open after hours and some of these are only open during hours, each approach has its own issues. If they’re only open during shop hours then that’s no use to you if you work, if they’re only open after hours then time may be restricted and the shop gaming room is more likely to be oversubscribed. In either case there’s likely to be a lot of interruptions and, being surrounded by all that swag, you might be tempted to spend a lot of money on gaming stuff that you wouldn’t otherwise buy; a boon for the shop owner, but not necessarily for you.
Room Sharing Issues
Sharing rooms with multiple role-playing groups has its good and bad sides, on the plus side you get a nice, vibrant feel to a room with lots of people in it and you get to mix with and meet a lot of other gamers, whether you know them already or not. On the minus side the noise makes it difficult to play and if you’re trying to have an intense and serious session of one game while someone else is having a boisterous game of Paranoia or Sea Dracula then you’re shit out of luck. It also tends to be the case that some people don’t take such good care of rooms as the rest of you, but you all end up carrying the can for one person’s bad behaviour.
Burn them in effigy and they might get the hint.
There’s some other possibilities but one that’s really worth mentioning is the use of the Internet. You can use e-mail lists, IRC, chatrooms or potentially Google Wave to coordinate a game. If so inclined you could also spend a small fortune setting up a Second Life area to play in, but that’s not really going to conform to the rules of the game. The Internet is great for all sorts of communication and you can play across it but there’s disadvantages as well. If you’re using a dice-rolling program then all your rolls will be open, making ‘fudging’ the rolls towards a certain outcome more difficult. Not everyone can type quickly either and this can really slow things down no end, even more so if they’re dyslexic or just relatively illiterate and that makes it no fun for people to play at their end either. Playing online tends to really slow things down unless the system you’re using is really abstract, so reckon on things like combat taking even longer.
There’s some nice tools out there that can give you virtual tabletops and tools to help you with the rule of the game but these tend to be amateurish, complicated and not very intuitive to use and they also tend to only cater to a few of the major systems on the market. At the time of writing Wizards of the Coast still haven’t brought out their 3D virtual tabletop and it’s become something of a joke in any case. It remains to be seen if that – or some similar software – can truly provide a real, full suite of online role-playing options that works, is adaptable and is user friendly. Don’t hold you breath!