New players are the lifeblood of our hobby. Without them, the role-playing hobby will inevitably fail. This would be a Bad Thing and so it’s up to all of us to make a new player’s first few games as stress free and exciting as possible.
I love introducing new players to the game – gaming has given me so much in life and I want to pass that gift onto others. My own boys (aged 7 and 10) have already played a couple of beginner Pathfinder games and have hurled themselves into the full version of the game. In preparation for doing so, I’ve thought long and hard about how in the past I’ve introduced new players to the hobby. I’ve come up with the following tactics, to make the first few games as easy as possible:
- Help With Character Generation: Character choices is one of the most baffling things with which a new player has to contend. With literally thousands of choices to make it can be a frustrating, time-consuming experience. Helping with character generation not helps speeds up this process, but helps you to get to know the new player. He’ll probably have a preferred style of game play – although he doesn’t know it yet – and helping him design a character is a great way of gaining insights into that style.
- Provide Choices (But Not Too Many): It’s best to keep the first couple of sessions simple, both in terms of tactical options available and plot. Similarly, if the player asks for suggestions as to what to do next provide a couple of choices and let them pick the one they want to do. Giving only one option doesn’t enable them to make their own choice. Giving them too many choices is going to baffle them and slow game play to a crawl.
- Give Them More Stuff: If your game is one in which you often find treasure, consider letting the new player have more than everyone else. In particular, treasure that makes their character more effective – magic weapons, armour and consumables – gives them more survivability. Given they won’t be playing at an optimal tactical level yet it makes sense to give them a little extra cushion in case things go wrong.
- Give Them Time In The Spotlight: Part of the fun of roleplaying is learning how the game works and achieving things with your character. With that in mind, let the new player take the lead when it is appropriate for their character to do so. This could be doing such mundane things as detecting magic, searching for secret doors or using diplomacy to bypass an encounter. After all, you’ve probably done these things thousands of times before.
- Play Slow: Roleplaying is replete with rules and assumptions that for experienced players come as second nature. New players rarely have this foundation of knowledge and so you need to play slow so you can explain things such as setting details, how rules work and so on. Accepting you won’t get as much done in a session with a new player is a great way of ditching the worry of “wasting time.” You are not wasting time, you are investing in a new player.
- Play Simple: With a new player at the table, it might not be the perfect time to attack a demon lord in its lair. Consider – if at all possible – playing a low-level game for a session to two so that the new player can get a grip of the basic rules. Once they know the basics, you can get back to your normal campaign.
Help Fellow Players
Do you often mentor new players? Have you used other cunning tactics to help them enjoy roleplaying? Share what they are in the comments below and help new players discover how awesome roleplaying is!
This post is part of a week-long celebration of my 10-year-old son starting his first campaign for a group of his friends. He’s been slaving away over his dungeon for weeks and hopefully, they all enjoy themselves and become life-long gamers. I also get to play in the campaign, but of course I’m playing the cleric. For other posts in the series, search “beginner” in the search box at the top right of this page.