Friday, June 14, 2019

New Players & First Sessions

Realizing the full potential of confusion spreads reality.
Inspirobot knows how to spread it.
So, I now have a hard and fast rule that I learned the hard way must always be obeyed.

New players, in their first sessions, should be brought into the hobby with Dungeons & Dragons.

Now I hear you all moaning "BLEH NOT SO" and "MAH FURTS GAEM WUH XXX" but hear me out.  I wouldn't say that for no reason.  I have reasons why I'd want new players at my table to experience D&D instead of any other system for their first time playing.  Reasons born of first-hand experience.

You all mostly know my credentials, but suffice to say I've done a lot of games and I've broken in a lot of new players.  I've seen just about every which way it can go; from newb to pro and everything in between.  From all that, I have found (by and large) that a "gamey" environment is the best for any new gamer.  Especially for new gamers.

Why D&D?

It's very basic, you might say.  Especially Basic.  This is easy for newer players to understand, and if you're using an older edition will immediately grab their attention ...with the tension.  Ahem.  5th Edition is bad for new gamers, because it's immediately boring.  That pretty much goes for any "story-game", but more on that later.

If the player already has a 'gamer mentality'; e.g. has played a video game; the tropes and rules of D&D are very easy to get to grips with and understand.  All the numbers will make sense, and even some of the more advanced items like nonweapon proficiencies will easily be taken into account.

More than that, the settings will be easy to digest.  They are all takes on Lord of the Rings, for the most part.  For the worlds of D&D (these generic high-fantasies and whatnot), not much understanding is really needed by a new player.  Most of them, such as Toril or Oerth, pretty much fit the bill of your 'standard' fantasy world.  All the tropes and creatures will make sense right out of the gate with very little exposition or explanation.

Set up a 'fun' and 'gamey' scenario to accommodate the new players.  Don't take it too far in the opening acts, you know what I mean?  Focus on the dice, the miniatures, the 'spectacle' of the game.  Make it tense, but story-lite.  Lean heavily on the action and game elements the players might be familiar with.

It doesn't really have to be D&D - but it needs to be something 'like' D&D.  Some Examples in my library include:

  • Pathfinder
  • Warhammer Fantasy
  • Palladium
  • Star Wars D20
  • Shadowrun

If you don't follow this course, you might end up with what I experienced to finally change my mind - Real Life Religion Change.

At the time, the club had a breakneck schedule.  We had a couple (who were about to be married, incidentally) join the group who were friends of some newer members, and they had never played the game before but were very interested in doing so.  We had just wrapped up D&D, and moved into a World of Darkness game.

This was to be a story-rich game (storytelling?) and no one even ended up dead this time.  However, the subject matter was rather taut.  It involved spirits and demons and what I felt might be a realistic depiction thereof, and it used our local area to build this story and it's verisimilitude.  For the first time I really, really had the audience's attention and wove that spell of dread around the entire table.  Everyone was truly immersed and engaged.

And then the couple stopped showing up.  No messages were answered.  The very next thing we saw of them , they had gone to a local church. A video was shared on social media of their new Baptism ceremonies.  All the tattoo/emo-metal and sk8/punk attitude was gone.

While this is sort of a point of pride for me, I caution you against alienating folk in such a manner.  There wasn't even much in the game that a 'gamer' would find revolting.  It was all spiritual subject matter, Twilight Zone style moral conundrums.

Neither of them have ever spoken to me again.