Markus Wagner asked me how I did manage to grow the player base, and I answered with
... an open table policy, rewarding attendance nonetheless, player recruiting via special interest Facebook group (English speaking RPGs in Berlin), and word-to-mouth by players.Sounds simple if written down like that, but I need to unpack a bit because I think each point warrants it's own consideration
Open Table PolicyOpen Table Policy means that I welcome the players to the table that can make it to any given session, and I do not give a lot of thought to the question of session-to-session continuity. I posit that this most often is weird at most one time, and considering how many details we usually forget between sessions, it's often lost in the uncertainty of session-to-session memory anyways.
It also means that I welcome people from outside my established gaming circles. If those were my only recruiting pool, I'd be down to one player for sure, two maybe, three almost never. I'd be living in the "we play once a year when we meet for a birthday" limbo of quasi gaming.
Open Table also means that I do not reward systems mastery (the system I use is too simple for that to begin with), and I do not punish players for lack of in-depth game knowledge. Since my referee'ing style is best described as negotiated bricolage, it's also easy for new players to contribute.
I also think some of the thrill of my players is to find out what mess other people got into and then getting out of it nonetheless!
This is something that grew out of me being too lazy to track things to tell players when to level up. I have a simple rule of you leveling up when you have as many sessions under your belt as the next level, and the counter resets whenever you gain a level. It works well, including special level-ups due to event (looking at you, Goat Perversion casting Chimerist!), because that just will level you up early and reset your counter.
So, even though the game is not inhibited if a given player cannot make it, even if they cannot make it for a while, the players are rewarded if they turn up. The "diminishing returns" of attendance-to-levels also means newcomers will catch up in due time if they turn into regulars.
Player Recruiting via Facebook Special Interest Group
For me, Facebook is useful for one reason: Special Interest Groups, in my case Baking/Cooking, 3D Printing, and RPGs. I have self-limited the RPG group to the Pen&Paper RPG Group of Berlin (English Speaking), where people new to Berlin often look to join a group or people that have discovered RPG one way or the other are looking for a beginner friendly group. My open table policy means I can accomodate newcomers easily (I think the people that do not like my campaign are people that want a more rigid game environment they can lean on), and so I got a couple fun people on board.
These days, I get contacted by people that see my offering of joining the open table game on other's posts, so I don't even need to advertise much. Once a month seems to be enough.
Mouth-To-Mouth by Players
I am lucky enough that my players tell their friends to come join my game every now and then. It works out fine and is a nice and additional venue to the Facebook group. It also helps with the diversity of the group since their friends aren't my friends, they're not necessarily using social media as I do, and the table gets a nice mix of people through that.
Origins of this
I borrowed the technique of recruiting new people from Alex Schroeder, who did it much better than I did. He runs a tighter campaign with multiple groups on the same continent etc., and he is much more diligent at making sure games happen etc. But I was fairly successful even without much discipline and rigor about recruiting, filtering people for a possible fit, etc. This means some people join at most once, but that's OK: My campaign is not for everyone.
I would need to change the style of my campaign to accomodate the current amount of players, for example to a West Marches system with self-organizing players picking things off the map/menu of options they discovered, or something. Maybe just offer a second campaign to run. I'm not sure yet.