Helping the New Player Fit In

Need some great strategies to help newer players get set in your campaign and learn how to play?

Master of the 5 Room Dungeon alumni, @Kodia Tomekeeper, shared these fantastic wins in the wins-and-crits channel on how to that:

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A newer player in the campaign I’m spinning up asked me for a private gaming session where he could practice using the skills of his new character.

This weekend I guided two of the PCs in an encounter to help them learn their characters a little better. The one who asked for help, and his life partner who said “may I learn too?” when she found out this was happening.

Their “stars” (stars and wishes) in the order they told me:

Time Wasn’t Remotely An Issue

I specifically told the players they could take as much time as they needed for their turns when we were in combat.

This gave them a little freedom to explore various options without worrying that someone was waiting on them. The focus was on them and them alone.

There Were Cheat Sheets

I spent some time going through their character sheets and mapping what each of their spells and skills offered and when they could use them in combat.

I arranged the info into the standard D&D move, action, bonus action, reaction groupings, plus some judicious highlighting and simple language.

The Monsters Came in Waves, But Not One at a Time

Because both characters wanted to test their mettle in combat, I arranged the monsters (shadow touched wolves) to come in waves.

They specifically told me they liked that the monsters didn’t come all at once or one at a time, because it made them think tactically (both have large troupe combat training or experience in real life) but within the confines of the rules as written for their character.

The Encounter Wasn’t a Throwaway Encounter

Using Master of the 5 Room Dungeon techniques, I already had NPCs and story seeds ready to go. Both players were incredibly pleased that the encounter would matter in the greater collective story. They’ll be seeing the NPC they met again. And the mobs? Well that shadow-touched bit could be important.

They Had a Helper/Guide for the Rules

My life partner volunteered to help answer their questions while I ran the combat and managed the monsters and NPC that had joined them.

He gave them options when they asked, but without pushing them to any particular choice. He had the experience and game knowledge to say, “You can absolutely do that. Here are some pros and cons for that choice. Here are some other choices if you’re interested.” He was very good at explaining action economy to them.

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Well done, Kodia Tomekeeper!

A similar conversation came up in my GM coaching program the other day:

“How do you onboard new players who might get offended with my GMing style?”

Kodia Tomekeeper’s approach is fantastic for this situation too!

  • Have a “Session -1” as one GM named it on the call. Meet with players privately to get to know them better and have a frank discussion. You can screen each other this way, and decide if gaming together could be fun.
  • Walk new players possibly intimidated by all the rules (Monopoly has one tiny pamphlet, D&D has a hardcover book with 200+ pages) gently through each aspect of the game: characters, skills and abilities, spells if applicable, combat, roleplay, and encounter play.
  • Make these interactions count by having them contribute to the campaign. The Session -1 chat, playtest encounter, and character roleplay and backgrounds for future plots, can all help players understand the beautiful continuity factor of our game.

Have more fun at every game!

P.S. Kodia Tomekeeper mentioned my Master of the 5 Room Dungeon Workshop.

I’ve started a waiting list for it. If you sign up, you’ll be the first to know when the next one starts so you can get a seat before they’re all taken.

Get on the Master of the 5 Room Dungeon Workshop waitlist here.

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