Was anybody else made uncomfortable by this one? I think it’s the way Gunslinger is looking right at you, desperate for some kind of connection. If you’ve ever been to a con, you’re familiar with that look. It’s the terror of the convention hall, where every poor schlub behind every over-branded counter just wants you to stop and talk: Take a flyer. Take a stress ball. Please! I’ve got customized chocolate bars!!

Last time we joined everyone’s favorite halfling pistolero on his quest for companionship, he was trying desperately to recruit randos. It doesn’t look like he’s moved on since then. It’s a pathetic sight, and one made all the worse by my unfortunate degree of familiarity with it. You see, I know that his mistake lies in the shotgun approach, for I too have tried it. Allow me illustrate with an example from my own sad history.

I was 12 years old, and I had just discovered Magic: The Gathering. My family had moved to a new state that summer, and my list of friends available for geeking out with was somewhere in the neighborhood of zero. I could read the tiny rule book insert over and over, and I could build and rebuild decks from my tiny collection of cards. If I was going to learn the secrets of this new occult wonder, however, I would have to find an opponent.

My sister turned me down flat. My father’s brothers beat the snot out of him in Monopoly when he was a kid, and he hasn’t touched games since. That left exactly one person for the job.

“OK then,” said my mom. “So I turn this one sideways, and then I make this one come out.”

“No, Mom! He costs two mana, a green and a generic. You need another land.”

Another turn passed.

“I turn this one, and this one sideways. Bears! Grrrr! They attack.”

“It’s called ‘tapping’ Mom. And they can’t attack. They have summoning sickness. I explained this to you.”

No matter how many games I wheedled out of her or how many times we went over the rules, nothing ever seemed to stick. It’s almost as if she didn’t really want to play (can you imagine that?). No doubt I was a conssumate Jake during these gaming sessions, but my larger point is that you can’t force other people to share an interest. It’s the same thinking that gives rise to the girlfriend/boyfriend gamer. Sharing your hobby with the people you love is great. There’s a slim chance that it’s going to be successful though.

Suppose that a friendly… what the hell lives in deserts? …A friendly death worm wanders by Gunslinger’s table and actually signs up. That partnership probably isn’t going to last long, and not just because of death worms’ propensity to do death worm things to lone halflings. When you’re out there recruiting, you can’t expect every newcomer to the hobby to instantly fall in love. I mean, just think about all the music lessons and intramural sports and random clubs you’ve tried over the course of your life. How many of them stuck? Just keep that in mind when you’re trying to bring fresh faces into a game. It’s not impossible, but it’s also important to go in with realistic expectations. If the newbie only sticks around for a session or two, it probably isn’t a rejection of you and all you love. Or at least, that’s what Gunslinger tells himself when he can’t sleep at night.

Question of the day then. Have you ever tried to recruit newcomers to the hobby? Did you manage to create a lifelong gamer, or was it more of a “try it once and never again” sort of thing? Let’s hear your tales down in the comments!


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