Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Review: Filling the Empty Chair

Filling the Empty Chair is a 30 page pdf, slightly oversized, providing advice on how to go about finding new players for gaming groups-- predominantly role-playing. It comes from Johnn Four, of Roleplayingtips.com which provides a weekly ezine of rpg advice and ideas. That zine recently hit issue 500, so he's been at it for some time. I picked it up because I hadn't really seen anyone put together collective advice for how to find new players. I'd seen the topic often discussed on various blogs and forums, but I was curious about what a deeper look at the topic would do.

Eleven pages of the pdf present the “Best Gamer Finder Websites.” Four makes a point of ordering these in terms of potential reach and possible utility. He provides details for each one (kinds of board, kinds of likely gamers) and gives a few sentences of advice on how to most effectively use the board. Some of these sites I'd heard of, and some fairly obvious (WoTC, other industry boards) but a number I wasn't aware of. I think it is useful to have them together in one place for comparison and easy walk through. Given that these are websites, the author makes a point of suggesting that readers send him email to update him if any of these sites go dark or if they find new websites. He plans to issue updates as that happens. I did notice the absence of RPGeek or even BGG in his listing.

The next major section gives 28 suggestions for actually going out and finding a new player or group. Some of these are fairly basic-- Advertise in Stores, Talking to Strangers. But others seemed more novel, like the idea of making up business cards detailing your gaming interests or answering questions for rpg newbies. Four spend some time explaining each of these ideas, so with a few exceptions, they're not throw-aways. This twelve page section is followed by a little over three pages on how to create an attractive and interesting online profile.

I like that the pdf as a whole is well-hyperlinked, including links to Four's ezine where some of the ideas originally came from. I think the one thing to be clear about is that the product doesn't deal with the thorny issue of what comes after the meeting. Issues of how one tells if a player might be good for your group, warning signs for problem players, ideas for how to screen-- the book doesn't deal with that. I would like to see some of that to flesh out what is here. That's not necessarily a knock against Filling the Empty Chair, but buyers should be aware of tits limitations. Is it worth the $7 for the pdf? I'm not sure. As a general use item, probably not. But if you're in a isolated situation, having just moved or having had a group implode then you will find this handy.

It is an interesting book and given gaps in our group from more recent recruits leaving, probably timely. We've been talking about the best way to go about bringing new blood in. In our case, the question is more one of fit with an older crowd playing narrative games. We have a case right now of having not quite enough people to support two groups on one night, but more than can be adequately handled in a single game-- plus other dynamics at work there.

Additional Note 10/4/10
I should note that in my review I had a couple of questions- the author's done a really excellent job of answering those on his blog. It is a great response (and shows the potential of some e-publishing).


  1. Thanks very much for the review, Lowell.

    I've noted those two sites for the next update of the ebook - good call.

  2. Interviewing, in general, is tough. I don't think it matters for a slot in an rpg group, or for a job.

    I agree with you on the price, I'm not sure I would pay for that, but I have ok luck finding games to play in (not great luck, just ok).

  3. It is the only solid book I've seen on the topic and so it is worth a look. It is also well-done, so that's a plus on top of that. The interviewing thing is a point-- but I think at least meeting and playing with the people a couple of times before asking new players in is not too much to ask, but difficult to handle. OOH in the case of all of the recent player losses, looking back I had warning signs I chose to ignore: how badly they treated other people at times, dismissal of other peoples concerns, and other players having a bad initial reaction to them (that I glossed over or apologized for). I think it is a tough topic.

  4. It's definitely something cons or game day events could help with.

    And well done products are always appreciated and sometimes worth purchasing for that reason alone.

  5. Answered another of your questions, Lowell:


  6. Excellent! Thanks for that- great link.