Introduce New Role Play Gamers to Slay the Demogorgan!
BY RICHARD C
In the last few years, gaming has moved more into the mainstream; sitting down to play computer games with your mates is now an acceptable Friday night activity. Not only that, but the popularity of board games is also on the rise as the people realise that there are board games out there less likely to cause family arguments than Monopoly (the Electric Company is mine!), and are a lot more fun than Snakes and Ladders.
What, however, of Role Playing Games?
Up until now, Role Playing Games have always suffered a little from the unpopular image of them: bespectacled nerds huddled in basements rolling dice and lisping statistics at each other. However, in recent years there have been a number of mainstream media programs that have depicted Role Playing (well, usually Dungeons & Dragons) in a positive light. From the Big Bang Theory, through Community and the IT Crowd, to the phenomenon which is Stranger Things, RPGs are becoming better known amongst people who would not have given them a second thought before.
There is however still a little bit of a hurdle to getting people to give these games a try. Some still see negative associations, while others fear that "they can't act well enough". They may have approached you asking about "that dice game that you play". How do you bring them into the fold and turn them into Demogorgon slaying Heroes?
It doesn't actually matter whether they have come to you asking about RPGs or if you are trying to get them over the initial hurdle into trying the games that you love, the first step I would suggest is always the same:
1: Try some of the Role Play-Lite board games.
Games like Eldritch Horror, Descent, Dead of Winter, or even XCom the board game give you the chance to introduce non-role-players to games that can include a little bit of Role Playing. Rather than just playing the game, try and get them to think about who they are playing, what their characters would choose to do given their backstory, and try to interject a little characterisation, or even talk as your character. Talking as your character helps lessen the fear of 'acting' in front of others which can be a big fear for people who haven't attempted RPG's before. If you can get them to join in, even just a little, then when you come to suggest RPG's it will be a little easier for new people to grasp.
2: Don't press too hard.
If you have been approached by them this step is easy, they already have some interest. If you are trying to get them to try RPGs though, don't press too hard. We, as gamers, know that the games are fun and interesting, but that may not be the view they have. Suggest they try it for one session and see if they like it. If you do your job right then they will ask you for the second session themselves. I always suggest trying it for one session, and if they don't enjoy themselves they don't have to do it again! In my experience, I find it very rare that people choose not to come back (which shows how good a GM I am).
3: Explain (but don't over-explain)
People have a lot of different ideas of what Role Playing is and isn't. What an RPG really is, is an interactive story where you get to be the Heroes. You might need to allay some fears about maths and so on, but at this point keep the explanations light, don't get bogged down in rules; tell them about the awesome things they will be able to take part in! You want new people to be excited about taking part, not worried about things that can be slowly filtered in as they continue to take part.
4: Choose the right game.
If you have a group of people who hated Lord of the Rings, trying to get them to play Pathfinder is not going to work, similarly Star Wars Age of Rebellion isn't going to work for someone who hates Sci-Fi, and a group that doesn't like Horror Westerns isn't going to enjoy Through The Breach . For complete beginners to gaming, I usually ask what sort of films they like and then choose a game I can use to emulate those films. This way they may already have an idea as to what to expect in the general universe, or at least be able to ground themselves into a genre. Familiarity is comforting to people new to anything, using this information will benefit you when introducing new people. If in doubt, however, Dungeons and Dragons 5 E is a nice simple system that will play to their expectations, but can be used to run a lot of different games.
5: Don't overcomplicate things.
As your players are going to be complete RPG Novices don't throw them into the deep end by choosing a game with complicated rules and lots of character options. You probably want a relatively easy to teach game which you understand the rules of. I also strongly suggest asking the players what they would like to play as a character, and then creating the characters yourself. This way not only can you get the game to the table faster, but you also have good knowledge of the characters so you can help during the game. I've even written "cheat sheets" for newer players before, telling them exactly what their characters are capable of, and highlighting particular strengths.
6: Don't be disappointed if they still don't bite.
Some people never get over the initial hump of trying RPGs; if they still aren't interested then you have to accept it, you never know they may return at a later date once they hear the awesome stories coming out of your game! What does matter is giving people the chance and opportunity to take part in these interesting RPG experiences, so that more people can enjoy this great past-time.
So there we are, just a few points on introducing RPGs to completely new players.
Join me next time for some ideas on making sure the first session grabs their imagination.