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Untitled Document

Roleplaying Tips Weekly E-Zine Issue #66

How To Get New People Hooked On Roleplaying

This Week's Tips Summarized

How To Get New People Hooked On Roleplaying

  1. Help Prepare The New Player Beforehand
  2. Start With A One-On-One Session First
  3. Use Pre-Generated Characters & Jump Right In
  4. Use Visual Gaming Aids & Props
  5. Hook New Players Up With Veterans
  6. Help New Players Create A Vivid & Engaging Character
  7. Keep Initial Game Sessions Short & The Commitment Small
  8. Get An Idea Of A New Player's Style & Preferences
  9. Make The New Player Comfortable & Interested
  10. Make The New Character Comfortable
  11. Put A Cliff Hanger At The End
Readers' Tips Summarized

  1. Use Modelling Clay For Miniatures
  2. Clever Use For Wallpaper
  3. Fiction As Inspiration Tip
  4. Roleplaying Demonstration Story
  5. Always Keep Your Roleplaying Books In Sight

Return to Contents

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: johnn@roleplayingtips.com

Warm regards,

Johnn Four johnn@roleplayingtips.com

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How To Get New People Hooked On Roleplaying
  1. Help Prepare The New Player Beforehand

    From: Heather Grove

    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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  2. 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, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

    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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  3. 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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  4. 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.

    Return to Contents

  5. 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.]

    Return to Contents

  6. 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.

    Return to Contents

  7. 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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  8. 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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  9. 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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  10. 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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  11. 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.]

    Return to Contents

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