Thursday, June 19, 2014

This Weekend - Tools for Teaching New Players

  This weekend will be the first of three over the next 2 months when I will be teaching people to play. This set is a dad (who played D&D in college) and his 3 teenagers. The next set are 4 teenage friends of my sons. The third will be three teenage brothers, also friends of my sons.

  I've been teaching new people how to play for about 37 years and I have slowly but surely built up some tools and ideas. Yes, I used to just throw them in the pool, but I am not 14 anymore.

  Since my main campaign and my main experience are with 1e I will be teaching them 1e. In my own opinion, it is one of the easiest systems to teach people - the stats are easy to explain, you can point to Tolkien about the races, classes are simple, etc. 2e adds skills which can really slow down character creation; 3e adds feats, too. I stick with 1e. Feel free to disagree.

  The first thing I do is send the people a copy of OSRIC and of my house rules. I also tell them I don't expect them to read them all (OSRIC is what? 404 pages? And my complete house rules are 64). But there is almost always a 13-15 year old kid who reads and understands a lot, which is nice and helps the others realize it isn't that hard.

  I also print out N+2 character sheets (N is the number of players making new characters) so that errors are OK. I usually make a custom sheet for each of my characters but for new players I love these free sheets from Dragonsfoot. Jon Woodland, thanks for making my life easier.

  I then press-gang 1 to 4 of my sons to help. When things are humming I have one of my kids helping each of the new players roll dice, select race and class, write things down, etc. while I supervise and answer questions.

  For new players I hand out some of these from my custom Massive Bag O' Dice handmade by my lovely wife. She made me a dice bag large enough for two pounds-o-dice and, by Heaven, I plan to fill it!

  I am trying something new this time. One of the most time consuming things for experienced players and most frustrating for new players goes a little something like this,
  DM: 'Roll 'to hit'"
  Newbie: "Which one is that?"
  DM: "The d20"
  Newbie: "Um, which one is that?"
  Experienced player: "That one"
  Newbie: "This one?"
  Experienced Player: "No, that's a d12, this one"
  Newbie: "Oh, OK"
  Wait 5 minutes. Repeat with same newbie.
 I call this new tool a 'dice sorter'. It looks like this;

  I will print our a copy for each new player and then place the appropriate die or dice on each image over the test and the newbie can just pick them up, roll them, and put them back until they know which die is which.

  I found out a long time ago that many (not all) new players are helped by things like lighting and music; the setting and ambiance can go a long way in helping them feel the immersion in the game. So this last week I picked up this to go with Syrinscape. Syrinscape is my gaming music app of choice and my review of it can be found here.

  I will use my 'standard method' for character generation, which all my players use: 3d6 in order, roll three full sets and take the set you prefer. Any set with 3 or more sixes or 2 or more five or less scores may be discarded.

  The first group is a bit on the younger side so they will face a scenario I call The Old Mill starring Clarence and His Kobolds. It will be three new player kids, their dad, and my oldest son. My oldest has been through the Old Mill 5-6 times like this, but he is very good at encouraging the others to lead and learn.

  The second and third groups are older so they will each have a unique encounter, probably with goblins and bandits, respectively. These other groups will also have my oldest son and probably second oldest to help them play.

  All three scenarios will involve tricks, traps, and combat and have 'plug ins' as needed (a place where tracking is valuable if they have a ranger but changes nothing if taken out; NPCs that react well to paladins or nobles; etc.).

  Anyone else have tips, tricks, or tools for teaching new players?