By Christopher Robin Negelein
Our first Nerdstravaganza experiment, the RPG Table Top Potluck Party, was a success! You’d think that it would be a natural because lots of RPG groups already have a Bring Your Own Snack/Dish tradition. Back in college, my Frito Pie Casserole was synonymous with Saving Throws.
This was different. We looked up several board gamers who we knew were up for anything, invited them to a potluck … with RPGing as the marquee event. We had over 11 people show up and great time was had by all. Better yet, most of the fun to be had was from rolling dice and surviving the insanity that the GMs threw at us.
So much fun and insanity (not necessarily in that order) that we’re giving you our top tips for running your own PRG potluck.
RPG Potlucks are a great way to introduce people to a new type of gaming and your guests should get props for being game to game, but RPGs aren’t everyone’s jazz. Other guests may have had a long day before showing so they may have the desire, but not the energy to hang for the full duration. And you also may discover that you most timid guest has become the problem player from hell.
What we’re saying is that you’ve got to be ready for people to drop out or have the RPG sessions wrap up much earlier, and probably unresolved, when the crowd starts to get restless. Better to wrap up on a high note with good memories that keep pushing something that looks like it’s already wobbling and is ready to crash and burn.
Remember you’re hosting an introduction, not an indoctrination.Your attitude has to be fairly laid back. If people showed up and played RPGs, even for just an half an hour, you have accomplished your goal. Anything beyond that is gravy.
To make your RPG Potluck go off in the best way possible, it’s best to do a little planning before hand. Use Facebook or another invite system to get the word out and track your RSVPs. On a social level, it also helps your guest understand that it’s an invite-only event, they they need to clear it with you before bringing in strangers. You’ve selected some cool people to play in a welcoming environment. It’s not cool for people to assume that if they’ve heard of your party from a friend of a friend that they are also invited.
The actual potluck: No finger foods, yes paper plates.
Everyone’s fingers are going to be everywhere, glasses, dice, character sheets and pencils. Asking people to avoid finger foods, especially barbeque. If you list a couple of dishes that you’re cooking, it’ll help inspire others. We’re not saying that you have to play finger food police because there’s always the one who didn’t really read your invite and who needs that much stress? What you do need, though, is plenty of paper plates and the like to cut down on your after party cleaning.
To booze or not to booze?
For some RPG crowds, drinking while gaming is a strong taboo. As if the real danger would be people handling real weapons and spells instead of just getting sillier and having shorter attention spans. If people drink responsibly, it’s okay to have a drink or two during the games. And of course this advice is all framed in context of doing what’s legal and in moderation.
Bring some Board Games
Don’t let your RPGs be lonely: Not every game is for everyone and at some point, people may want to bow out. Have some other games available to play in another room. If you can keep them to the lighter fare like Love Letter or Lanterns: The Harvest Festival, games that can be wrapped up in half an hour and easy to teach. There’s a science to this.
Lighter and quicker games will allow people to jump in and out easier adding to the relaxed atmosphere. Besides some people don’t thrive on learning a ton of new games in one night (they do exists, I promise.) So something easy takes a load off a tired brain. Most lighter games also take up less table real estate letting a dinner table for six host two or three different games instead of one.
The other issue with longer/complex games is that they tend to be more divisie in both the their fan base and competitiveness. We didn’t have it happen at our party, but we totally imagined seeing an over-eager player quitting the RPG early so he can try to recruit others to play his favorite, Mr. Five-Hours: The Board Game that he never gets to play … because it takes five hours to play.
Games of choice, RPGs (see what we did there?)
GMs, the more the merrier
Your potluck is like a convention demo but with much better food and no dealers room sucking your wallet dry. Demos are easier to teach with a smaller numbers of players, so it’s better to have two GMs running games with three players apiece than to have one big game with seven players.
Thank to shows like Walking Dead, introducing a zombie apocalypse is easy. Or any other kind of apocalypse. The advantage to using a Modern day game requires no time to explain compared to a fantasy or science fiction setting. Better yet, the difference between your Modern game and the real world can be discovered through play. “So vampires are real? We’re screwed.”
But people tend to also be a bit more trigger happy in Modern games, which might rapidly escalate the game into lethal shoot outs. That can make Fantasy/Science Fiction more attractive because your game is going to take place in the woods on strange worlds. Less innocent bystanders that way.
Regardless, one-shots are best, especially if you let people know so before hand. It lets players will be less worried about making mistakes and the GMs won’t have to sweat the consequences for next week.
Pregens are good tool to have, though some of the RPGs we’ll be mentioning next are designed to have players knock out characters at the table quickly and let you get right into the action.
The actual RPG
- Running a game you’re comfortable with is key, but there are some things to keep in mind.
- Be flexible
- Use pregens with medium to heavy PC creation rules
- Modify your expectations, say yes more than no
As a side note, we’ve explained the difference between video games and tabletop RPGs like this. RRG video games are like movies and TV. You can see what’s going on, but things like budgets and computer power still limit your boundaries and special effects. Tabletop RPGs are like reading a book where your imagination comes much more into play. The GM is a “narrator” with no limit to his special effects and no “invisible walls” at the edge of his world.
So here are my suggestions for RPGs that work great for a potluck, in alphabetical order.
- Amazing Adventures (with pregens)
- Castles and Crusades (with pregens)
- Cypher System (with pregens)
- Dungeon World
- Fate Accelerated Edition
- Monster of the Week
- Streamlined Basic D&D 5th Edition (with pregens)
- The End of the World (which comes in four flavors, Zombies, Machines, Gehenna, and Aliens)
Did I miss a game? Let us know and we’ll add to the list.