How To Get New People Hooked On Roleplaying

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0066

A Brief Word From Johnn

Reader’s Tips As Main Tips

I just wanted to get your feelings on the last two issues’ use of readers’ tips as the main tips article. Specifically, I’m thinking of issue length and tips brevity.

The readers who submitted their excellent feedback haven’t had the opportunity to write 60+ issues of tips. Therefore, some entries take a little while to get to the main point– which makes for longer issues. I do some editing, but it’s tough making changes without losing the flow of an entry.

My preference would be to take your tips and paraphrase, or re-write them, and then give submitters credit and thanks at the end. This also solves another problem: duplicate tips. Whose do I publish? And it takes the pressure off of you from having to write perfect prose. Just crank out your tip and send it along.

So, what do you think? Can I use your tips as inspiration for each issue and re-write them, or would you prefer that I post them as-is? If I do re-write your tips and give you credit, would you be less inclined to send in tips? That would be a shame as you have a lot of collective knowledge to share and help with! Let me know: [email protected]

Warm regards,

Johnn Four
[email protected]

How To Get New People Hooked On Roleplaying

Help Prepare The New Player Beforehand

From Heather Grove

Welcome to The Burning Void An excerpt from The Burning Void Roleplaying Resources Newsletter, Volume 1, Issue 6, Make the New Guy Welcome. [Read the whole article, republished with permission. Highly recommended!]Make sure the new player understands what sort of game you’re running and is interested in it.

You don’t want to bring someone in to play “Vampire: the Masquerade,” only to find out that he thought it was a variant of “AD&D” and is quite miffed that he doesn’t get to kill vampires with his +5 sword. The caveat here is that just because a prospective roleplayer only knows about “AD&D” doesn’t mean he won’t enjoy “Vampire,” or vice versa. Explain the differences to him and let him decide whether he’s interested.Make sure the new player knows ahead of time what sorts of things he should bring to the game.

If he’ll need his own dice, tell him where he can buy some. Consider giving him a small handful as a “welcome to the gaming group” gift (after all, dice are cheap). If someone will be willing to loan him some for a week or two until he knows whether or not he likes this gaming thing, tell him so.

Give your new player a brief written or printed sheet of any “house rules” you have. This includes rules of the game that don’t match those in the books you just told him to buy. It also includes any rules like “don’t use out of character information in character,” “if you bring food, bring some to share,” or “when you enter the gaming room, hop on your left foot twice.” Okay, maybe not! But you get the idea. Sit down with your new player for five minutes and go through each item just to make sure he understands them.

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Start With A One-On-One Session First

From Markus W.

Perhaps you may host a special session for an all-beginners group. This will avoid the usual in-jokes, rule discussions or technical terms from coming up, which will deter newcomers. Afterwards, you may try to integrate those willing to participate further into your group.

From Jillian A.

I have always hooked new players by inviting them to check it out and starting them off away from a gaming group.

I explain that it’s like writing a story with several other authors, but instead of everyone just deciding where the story will go, every author takes one main character and decides what they will do and what part they will play in the story.A lot of people who don’t play roleplaying games seem to think that pretending to be someone else seems silly, but once I explain it is like writing a story, they seem to see it a bit differently.

Once I have their interest, I keep them away from a gaming group for a while. I take the time to help them create their ‘main character’ according to the laws of their universe (game rules), encouraging them to add as many details and nuances as they can come up with.

Once they have their character thought out, I show them how to use a character sheet to quantify the character and how to use it as a ‘quick reference’ for their character.

Once that’s done, their first two adventures are completely solo – just me and the new player, working with their character and their character’s personal story. Admittedly this is a slow method, but it gives the new player time to become accustomed to playing without the pressure of other players. By the close of the second adventure, they are usually eager to join the rest of the players.

From Ivo

I would like to comment on the problem of getting new players hooked on to the game, which in our case is AD&D. Our group had the problem of people leaving and our gaming group was becoming rather small, so I introduced one of my friends to AD&D.

A lot of potential new players get scared because of the ‘kill all enthusiasm with too many rules’ effect, so I decided to make a small extra adventure for just the new player and one of the more experienced players.

I used and explained only the core rules and I emphasised the roleplaying part. The newbie became more and more excited because he noted that what he was doing really had an effect on the surroundings he was in. The actions of the more experienced player also showed him what was possible in RPGs. This way he really got hooked on to the game and I could introduce him to the campaign world.

Working with only two players was great because there was a lot of one-on-one roleplaying and there was lots of time to explain things.

Because it was only a small adventure there also wasn’t any time pressure.

Finally I could use the adventure myself as a training for winging it ;). I don’t know if making a sort of tutorial works for everybody but in my case it worked very well.

From Joshua L.

I never try to introduce people who are new to roleplaying directly into a game. Once they want to try gaming, I invite them over to get an introduction to gaming. I try to have three people: the GM, the novice, and the best friend the novice has, who already plays role playing games. Hopefully, the friend and I have discussed ahead of time what will happen, so we are “reading off the same page”.

Then, I talk a little about role playing in general for 5-10 minutes. Then about the setting they will be in (maybe another 5-10 minutes). Then I let them choose between two or three (much simplified and shortened) character sheets. While they choose, we discuss what the character sheets mean, which takes 10-20 minutes. After they choose, I ask them to customize their character by adding a few notes on personality. (A simplified character sheet is key to their understanding at this point in time.)

Then the three of us run a couple of scenes. In a “D&D” type world, I usually play “Zombies in your basement”, which starts out with some human interaction, but ends up killing a zombie.

From Caeman

Gamers can be an eager bunch. Sometimes, too eager. We enjoy what we do and do with it with much zeal. That zeal can scare a new player who is timid about “acting” a persona out.

Possibly the best intro game to run is a fantasy dungeon crawl. Second to this is a super hero adventure. A dungeon crawl doesn’t require in-depth roleplaying to accomplish since it is mostly action and caution. As for a super hero adventure, we’ve all seen cartoons. Some of us read the comic books. We all, at one time, dreamed of being able to fly.

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Use Pre-Generated Characters & Jump Right In

From Seth J.

Just thought I’d take a second and share my Number One Rule for introducing non-gamers to games of any sort, whether they be RPGs, board games, or card games of any stripe: keep their first exposure simple and accessible.Don’t take new players through the thirty-minute process of writing up a character; have a character pre-generated. Save your thousand-NPC battle for later in the campaign; design an adventure that will introduce them to game concepts as simply as possible.

And of course, you should never, ever kill off a first-time player. You may teach them that your world is one of perilous adventure, but they’ll quickly teach you that they have better things to do on Game Night.

From Samir

Now at any location we play in I require a computer to be available with the proper Character Generator program so that we can easily design and print out a character sheet for new players. It looks more professional than the hand written ones and prospective players are more apt to stay when we use this tool.

From Joel M.

Prepare them to jump right in. If the new players show up and you spend the next two hours creating characters they’re going to be bored and not enjoy themselves. You have to hook them right away. Explain what mechanics they need to know and have them make their characters well in advance so that when they get to the game you can start playing immediately.

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Use Visual Gaming Aids & Props

From Ruben S.

The group I am in, L.A.R.P., ran a D&D 3E demo, and it went really great. The deciding factor? My friends and I took a “ton” of miniatures, and I borrowed a bunch of that nifty dwarven forge dungeon stuff from a friend of mine. Set it up, and voila, people came. And loved it.I guess the bottom line is: use visual aids as much as possible.This may be a bit gimmicky, and a bit out of some people’s price ranges, but Dwarven Forge makes this great dungeon tile set.

They all fit together, are super customizable, and really seem to draw people in.One other thing that seemed to work. Be lenient on the stats. And as far as D&D 3E goes? Use that character generator. Nothing turns players off more than a complicated set of character creation rules. I may be able to make a character in about 10 minutes, but it takes new players over an hour, and many of them just give up.

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Hook New Players Up With Veterans

From Rev. Tim M.

Having the presence of really good, experienced role players sets a good example for the newbies. My old hands are leading by example, and are definitely helping the newcomers get into the game much more quickly than they would otherwise.[Johnn: As mentioned in Tip #2, veteran players are a great help in making new players understand the concept, the rules and the spirit of roleplaying. Try to sit new players between your veterans at the game table.]

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Help New Players Create A Vivid & Engaging Character

From Angela R.

I have recently introduced my sister to role-playing. The thing that interested her the most was the character creation process. For old-hat role-players, I usually expect them to do this on their own, including any background they want to make. But for her first time, I walked her through step by step and forced her to do the background as well.The most helpful tool was a list of questions I found on the net that were designed to assist a GM in creating a well- rounded NPC, but I have encouraged my players to use it themselves.

As we went along, I would ask her the question and give several ideas to help spark her imagination, but then give her time to jot down her own ideas.By the time we made it through the entire list, she had a real person in front of her–someone that she was interested in and wanted to see develop. In other words, before she even played one session, I had her personally tied to a part of the story. This process even sparked my own ideas for the party, so I highly recommend anyone trying it.

From Rhiaghnoz

Often I’m (enthusiastically) telling [new players] things about the war-torn world, or just explaining the basics of the game, like what RPing IS.This gets them inspired. So after telling them those things I jump on the case and ask them to take a character from a favorite movie of theirs, just as a guideline to their own PC, and think about what type of character they would like to play.

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Keep Initial Game Sessions Short & The Commitment Small

From Markus W.

Many people may be deterred by the fact that role-playing is rather time-consuming. If you can convince new people to come and play, DO NOT host an eight-hour non-stop session. If the guy or girl is interested, he or she will come back and want more.

From Joel M.

You could try running a small adventure first so they can see how they like it and get a feel for how the games work without feeling like they’re being pressed into a two year campaign. Playing once a week is all that the first time role-player is going to be interested in so don’t try to make more commitments on their time than that.

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Get An Idea Of A New Player’s Style & Preferences

From Rhiaghnoz

I ask around about tastes in movies, games, books, tv series (cartoons etc.) to get an idea of what my stories should be like.

From Joel M.

Do something other than fantasy. If people have heard of role-playing and weren’t interested in the past there’s a fairly good chance it was the subject matter. They might associate role-playing with Dungeons and Dragons and could care less about playing a wizard or a mighty warrior who can cut down a dozen orcs. I’ve used Paranoia, Call of Cthulhu, and Toon as “gateway” games in the past, but those certainly are not the only options.

From Caeman

Pick a genre they know well. Comfort level the first time is important.

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Make The New Player Comfortable & Interested

From Rhiaghnoz

Get him/her interested in the progress of the story immediately – create a sense of progress (i.e. keep up the pace, story development, an XP start) and influence (i.e. choice impact, lower NPC’s follow -minor- orders).Keep rules simple and straightforward–DO NOT LEAF AROUND IN MODULES–it scares the heck out of someone who just wants to play a game.Find out as much as you can about the PC and the player’s style – note, note, note everything.

From Joel M.

Keep it simple.Along the same lines, new players are not going to be up for running out and buying the rule books for the game at first. If the player has to read through the entire rule book to have enough background information to play the game then you could wind up losing them.If the player has to understand the arcane mechanics of the system then they are going to be spending more time puzzling over rules than trying to role-play. In my experience, it’s better to tell a new player “roll a d20” and do all the mechanical work yourself so they don’t get confused.

From Amir

The most important thing to consider when you are facing the task of playing with a new player who is also new at roleplaying games is that he is unfamiliar with the game. Truth be told, if he is not coming from a strategy game background, his interest in the mechanical and statistical aspects of the game (AC, TACH0, HP, et cetera) is going to be minimal.

Moreover, his knowledge and ability to interact with those figures is next to NIL.

That is why you have to keep the die rolls to a bare minimum, and concentrate on the psychological-aesthetical points of the game. Mainly, playing “make believe”. Apply here all the tips you can gather about how to roleplay well, while neglecting all the “statistical management” tips (map making, chart-drawing, HP tracking, et cetera).

To still keep the player in the game frame, take over the character’s rolls and stats. I’d even say make up the mechanics. [Johnn: you can also make new players comfortable by:

  • Introducing them to the other players.
  • Writing player names and character names on a cheat-sheet for them.
  • Giving them positive feedback, praise, encouragement and/or compliments during the game.]
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Make The New Character Comfortable

From Rhiaghnoz

Get him/her used to its common surroundings, NPC’s – describe things colourfully, tell him about his friends, family, what they do, etc. shortly.Get the PC in contact with the other PC’s – weave each PC’s thread into the plot so they’ll encounter each other, have each PC chase/be chased by/search for the same thing.

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Put A Cliff Hanger At The End

From Rhiaghnoz

Make him/her want to play again and again – keep it in the player’s taste, and have a cliff hanger at the end.[Johnn: this tip is short and sweet. Nothing brings ’em back better than a nail-biting cliff hanger.]

Tip Request For Issue #68: “GM Binders”

Next week will feature Character Questionnaire tips. Any more tips on background and personality type questions for fleshing out PCs are welcome!

Issue #68 will feature tips on GM Binders. What do you have in your binder or notebook for use during play, at the game table? Send along any tips, charts, forms or pages to: [email protected]


Tips From Roleplaying Tips Game Masters

Have a roleplaying tip you’d like to share? E-mail it to [email protected] – thanks!

Use Modelling Clay For Miniatures

From Ryan H.

I’m running a campaign with an RPG called WHITE KNIGHTS, a currently obscure gaming system constructed with a HUGE emphasis towards balanced and nonrestrictive rules.

Anyhow, White Knights has no rigid combat movement system, and this allows me to make extensive use of what I believe to be one of best visual aids in existence – modeling clay.

That’s right, modeling clay, the oil-based stuff that never hardens but still allows you to make fairly sturdy structures. It works extremely well for making 3D visual diagrams, everything ranging from multi-level combat scenes to detailed sculptures of strange monsters, castles and terrain.

Arts and crafts stores usually sell the stuff by the pound and in a variety of colors. I use only one or two monotone colors, and that way we can still use figurines and not have to worry about Thagka the Barbarian getting hot pink all over his legs. (Dark green, however, just makes him look that much more rustic.)

One more tip: A minute in the microwave can do wonders to a big, obstinate block of cold clay. Don’t leave it in TOO long however, otherwise you’ll end up with a big, oily mess.

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Clever Use For Wallpaper

From Martin B.

One tip that we’ve found really useful is to use a roll of wallpaper.

Seriously – I got the idea when I saw rolls of wallpaper on sale in the everything for ?1 shop.

You can use it for maps, diagrams, making notes, everything. Then once you’ve finished with a particular encounter location, you just roll up the paper and you have a new fresh area to write on. The best thing about using wallpaper is that you have a canned history of your campaign in a nice easy to store format. You want to see just what happened last week, just roll back the wallpaper a little bit and take a look!

I am now on my third roll!

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Fiction As Inspiration Tip

From C. Dare

Fiction Tip: Read the book with the eye of a GM, not just another casual reader. Look for situations, areas, buildings, characters, or items from a book and take notes. Tab the book, color coding them to easily reference what you need. I look for minor characters that have outstanding characteristics the players, if they are astute, can remember. You should WANT them reading and trying to guess what the GM is doing. Using minor characters allows you to incorporate the themes from the book, but also larger characters at a later date if you want.

Everyone would recognize the mechanical, rasping breath and deep voice of the Lord of Sith, but what if the party met a lizard-like bounty hunter? No immediate connection, but with RPing and further adventures a relationship could be established that, once the PCs figured it out, would give them a true sense of accomplishment.

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Roleplaying Demonstration Story

From Jon T.

Ruben wrote in #64:

I am trying to promote roleplaying as a valid hobby…any >suggestions for demos, promotion, or anything else?

I participated in a role-playing demo a few years back that Sverok (The Swedish Roleplayers’ and Strategy-players’ Association) had organized at a great hobby and toys fair in Stockholm. The demo was organized so that everyone could get a grip on what roleplaying is and what is actually done when you roleplay.

We had prepared three scenarios specially for this demo: one was Call of Cthulhu, one James Bond and one was a fantasy one.

Each of these was designed to be played in three or four sessions, each session being half an hour long, including an introductory speech by the GM about what roleplaying was about (very short) and what had happened in the previous parts of this scenario (if applicable). The scenarios had all been play-tested so that we knew we could realistically accomplish what each part should contain while playing our roles and entertaining our audience.

At the fair we alternated between the different scenarios, and also we had enough players and game masters so that no one had to be on stage the whole time.

I feel that this was a fairly effective way of demonstrating to people what roleplaying was like. It was also great fun!

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Always Keep Your Roleplaying Books In Sight

From Tony D.

[Johnn: This tip has already been published in issue #58, Tip #8 but Tony adds a few new details and a story that I thought you might enjoy.]

Always keep your roleplaying books in sight. Carry them around in your car, store them in the public areas of your home (make them your coffee table books?). If you’re a student, lug one or two around with your textbooks, etc.

Most RPG books have intriguing cover designs that draw the eye, and beg to be picked up and thumbed through. When an acquaintance shows more than a passing interest in the book, you know you have a possible gamer on your hands.

Over the last holiday season, my fiance and I went home to do the meet-the-parents thing. I brought my 3rd edition D&D books with me and was surprised to find my 13 year old brother perusing the books one day. For the remainder of the week he was just immersed in the books.

As an addition to my tip, I would add that it’s probably a good idea to have a one shot, fairly simple–but fun– adventure/scenario (and maybe some pre-generated characters) on hand with your books, so you can truly introduce the new gamers. The actual experience is so much better than any explanation.

Thanks again for all the great advice you pass along each week.