It happens to the best game group. Whether out of boredom or real-life demands, somebody quits. Hopefully it is on good terms, but regardless, you think you need a replacement. I would like to offer a few ideas that I found useful in the past when seeking a new player.
Finding a new player is not like replacing a set of unlucky dice. This is a critical decision, so important in fact that it is worth sacrificing a game session to organize the recruitment process. A bad player can kill a game group faster than anthrax, so give finding a new player the attention it deserves.
Most groups would immediately start looking for a new player, but I think there should be preparation before unleashing the press gang . Using the process below should result in a great player recruitment experience for all.
Question 1: Do we need a replacement?
Simply because someone left does not mean you need to find a replacement. Some groups actually benefit from losing a player. One DM and five players is perfect, in my opinion. One DM and four players is great also. Even three players is legitimate. Weigh the risk of a new player joining the game against your need. An unforseen personality, scheduling or game-play style conflict is a significant possibility. If you are happy with the remaining group, do not fix what is not broken. If you are certain you need that seat filled, then use the questions below to find a perfect fit for your group.
Question 2: What kind of gamer do we seek?
Is your campaign hack and slash or Machiavellian political intrigue? Drafting a new player whose idea of negotiation is cutting off body parts until the other guy agrees with him may not be the best choice for the politics heavy campaign.
Question 3: Where should we look for our new gamer?
Referrals are best, period. Randomly picking up someone from a game store is a recipe for pain. Here might be a good opportunity to grab a new player and pull them away from “World of Warcraft” and show them some real gaming.
I had good success finding players at conventions, since you actually get play with them before they are sitting in your dining room.
Once you find a candidate, move on to the next question.
Question 4: Does the candidate have any issues?
By issues, I mean any non-game reason they cannot show up on a regular basis, buy the pizza occasionally or bathe on game day. This is a critical step, so do not skip it. Scheduling is especially important. I play with a group that works 8-5, weekdays. Adding another player who works every other weekend could present problems. Bathing needs no explanation, but with gamers, it can and has often been an issue. Buying the pizza represents a willingness to share the small monetary cost of gaming. I hate parasitic gamers who never contribute for the pizza.
At this step, you must consult with the entire group and decide whether or not to offer the candidate a “Trial by Dice” to proceed further in the process.
Question 5: Did the candidate pass a “Trial by Dice?”
A “Trial by Dice” is a test run with the new player with the entire group. The DM can run an adventure, any adventure to test the candidate player. It is important to make it very clear to the candidate that this is an “interview” with the group. The group has the right to say “you will not work out” and never invite you back. Conversely, the candidate may not have a good experience and choose not to return. It is an interview for the group as much as the candidate.
Here is the best opportunity to see if the candidate “fits” well with the group. Play style, intelligence and personality must mesh well with the group. At the session’s end and after the candidate leaves, take a few minutes and discuss the session. This is also the best time to get a yes or no as to the candidate’s application. Do not drag out the decision, it is not fair to the candidate.
After making the decision, notify the candidate as soon as possible. Be polite if it is a rejection and joyous if you offer membership.
I know this process seems harsh and unnecessary, but ask yourself this question: Is it easier to get a good player from the outset, or suffer through months or years of a “poor fit” player that no one has the heart to throw out of the group?
Trask, The Last Tyromancer