We've all moved around a lot (geography, lifestages, whatever) - and finding a new, compatible group of gamers can be a real chore.
Similarly, from the point of view of an established group, auditioning new members can be be a pretty risky roll of the dice.
We'd like to pretend that this is the sort of thing that can be handled with maturity and common sense, but then, who are we kidding?
As always, please chime with horror & success stories, suggestions, comments and bullying.
1. Start with your local game store - even if they don't have a bulletin board, the employees will be able to point you in the right direction. Other good places to look are Google and Yahoo groups and game company message forums.
2. Meet socially first. Join up for a beer first so you get introduced, learn a bit about the game and generally get to scope one another out. (Also a great chance to crack out a beer & pretzels game - Munchkin anyone?)
3. Agree to a trial period - generally 3-4 sessions. This makes it easier for everyone, including the new player and the DM (who frequently is saddled with the unpleasant role of breaking bad news).
4. Own the books. It is ok to be new or novice player (but be up-front about it), but it isn't ok to keep mooching the books off of the rest of the group. You should at least have the core materials. And your own dice. And a pencil.
5. Play what the group needs for your first character (if not all of them). You'll get the chance to play your wombat-shooter necro-rogue. For now, they could really use a cleric.
6. Buy your rounds. Bring the snacks. Pay your share of the food.
7. Try not to miss sessions. When you don't attend four of the first five games in the campaign, don't be surprised when the group doesn't want you at the sixth.
8. Don't leer - in or out of game. Don't disturb your fellow players with a look into your sexual subconscious. Avoid cross-dressing (playing a character of the opposite gender) as well - or, if you do, don't be creepy about it.
9. The DM is always right. The group may not be playing by the book, but don't pick a fight about it. Get settled and pick your battles. If the group's style doesn't match your own, that's what the trial period is for...
10. Don't be a dick. Don't insult their painted miniatures. Don't whine about the cost of pizza. Don't roll your dice in secret. All true stories, I'm afraid.