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DMing 101 – Introducing New Players

As a veteran DM, one of the most enjoyable parts of the game is introducing a new player to the hobby. It’s a great responsibility, but it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences, especially once that player starts getting interested in running their own games.

Depending on what kind of game you run, the idea of subjecting a new player to the wall of rules and options can be a little daunting, for both teacher and student, but a little consideration and assistance can take a new friend to a lifelong gaming partner.

DMing101Character Creation

The hardest part of almost any RP is creating a character. Building a portfolio of skills, capabilities, character flaws, out of a solid wall of tables and mathematics is something that many players – even practised ones – often struggle with when attempting a new system, or even when looking into previously unexplored options of their favourites.

There are a few ways of getting over the first and biggest hurdle:

Skip it: Prepare a simple character for the new player and hand it to them with a quick run down of what they’ll need and when. This approach is best for people who aren’t sure what they’re getting into because it takes them through a lot of the boring parts and straight into the action and the story telling.
As the game develops they’ll gain a more thorough understanding of what each number represents, get used to using the sheet as they would a new tool. After the game you can talk to them about other options for other characters they may want to consider, or discuss what the rest of the group are capable of. With their enthusiasm already in full swing, it’ll be easier for them to then learn how to make their own character for the future.

Sil_Sheet

Hand-holding: Talk the new player through their options and allow them to make their own decisions. Try not to bombard them with information or advice, otherwise you’ll just be telling them how to build your character and make it as optimised as possible. Once they have an idea of what they like, it’s a good idea to let them make a few mistakes so they know what to do better next time.
This approach also means they’ll have a more profound understanding of what the character sheet they create actually means. Rather than being handed a block of numbers and told what to look at, at what time, they know what to do because they worked it out for themselves… with a little help of course.

No Sheet: This is the absolute best method for introducing a group of entirely new players. Perhaps you could ask your group to consider a set of attributes and deficits of the character they’re playing, and to consider those in a given situation. For example, a character is intelligent, but stubborn, how would he react if the group got into an argument with an NPC who was calm and rational, but wrong?
If you’re dealing with someone who has no idea what a role-playing game is, this can be a fantastic introduction. It can also be a good intellectual exercise for you as a DM, or an experienced player who has lost the ability to see past the numbers. Removing the dice and simply playing to a personality is a fantastic way to cut to the core of what these game are actually about.

Playing Nicely

If you’re throwing a new player in with an experienced group it can be a difficult thing to both allow them chance to shine, without burdening them with more responsibility than they’re ready for.

play-nice-sign

The most important thing to establish is a strict form of turn-taking. In combat make sure the new player has someone with them who can reasonably explain their best options and understand the basics of the rules; better that this be another player in order to enforce the boundary between DM and player characters. Out of combat, be sure to ask the new player if they would like to attempt anything when resolving obstacles or challenges, and present them with a few opportunities to be directly involved, such as being in the best possible position to see something, or give them the chance to see their character’s strengths utilized properly.

More often than not, older and more experienced players will seize the reins, after all they know what they’re doing, and they know what needs to be done. Talk them down. Groups that work well together will frequently clique and get on with a routine method of dealing with any situation, often leaving the new player out of the loop. It’s up to you to make sure they incorporate the skills of the new character into the planning stages.

If your group are all new players you may find it difficult to balance the education side of things and keep a flowing narrative. This is wear stripping out most of the heavier mechanics can make for an easier and more enjoyable game for everyone concerned, and leave issues of balance and structured gameplay for a later session.

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