I've been wondering how our FLGS's weekly Encounters session stacks up to others in terms of participation. (As a disclaimer, while I refer to "our" FLGS and what "we" have done there, I am not
an owner, investor or employee in the shop... just a very happy volunteer!)
As my signature shows, I am a DM for Encounters at a fairly small game shop in the Orlando area. If you're not aware, there are a fairly large number of game shops in the Orlando metro area (at least 5 if you count the comics shop that sells gaming stuff on the side), so we are up against some pretty stiff competition. Adding to that, we're the new kids on the block. The store opened very recently, having been built on the bought-out stock of another store that went out of business last year.
Last season, we had enough people to run two tables, but only one DM. At the start of this season, however, we saw a surge of new people and decided to run 3 tables for the first session. We thought that a few people would drop out and we would go back to two eventually, but the interest and enthusiasm for Encounters has not let up ever since. While at least two other LGSs have abandoned Encounters altogether, we are currently running 4-5 full tables (4-6 players each) on a weekly basis.
Our biggest problem has been a lack of DMs. There have been three DMs for the full season, with at least one of us staying to run a second table almost every week. In the past two or three weeks, we have had another surge of new players and have finally recruited (practically by force) a fourth DM. (Just in time, too, as one of the original three has decided not to return for Season 5.) This week, we may be running an unprecedented SIX tables.
One thing to note: surprisingly, the majority of these new players are NOT refugees from the shops that abandoned Encounters. Most of them are old players getting back into the game or players who are completely new to D&D. Some are college kids who had to leave behind their groups "back home," and there is also a father-son pair who come to play together. Many of them found us through word-of-mouth or the Internet.
I think I can give credit for our success to three sources. First, our Web presence - including an active store web forum - have made us easy to find and contact ahead of time. (If your FLGS isn't listed on Google and Yahoo! maps, do yourself a favor and fix that problem!) Second, (although I may be biased) our DMs have done a great job of making new players feel welcome and keeping them engaged, even when they are struggling. Third, I think the story and pacing of this Season have been really engaging as well, making people want to come back to see what happens next.
TL;DR - I'm really proud of the way our community has grown so quickly this season, and I'd like to know how it compares to your LGS experience. (Also, if you live in Orlando and would be interested in DMing for Encounters Season 5, please PM me!!!