Hello and welcome to Only On Tuesdays! This week I will be discussing how to bring new players into the fold of Dnd. We all know that Dnd is one of the greatest games to ever have been created, but getting new players into the game can be a daunting task. If someone has never heard the words “RPG” or “Dungeons and Dragons” it can be a little difficult to convince them to sit down with you for a couple hours in order to roll weird dice and imagine fantastic locations. Hopefully, today’s article can teach you how to teach them, and get them coming back for more.
Keep it Simple
Dnd is by no means a simple game. Even with 5th Edition doing it’s best to simplify and streamline the game, you still need to read an entire rulebook in order to understand. For a new player with absolutely no investment in the game, this is difficult for them to do. You can’t just hand them the players handbook and expect them to read it cover to cover in a weeks time. In order to successfully introduce someone to Dnd, you have to keep it as simple as possible.
I have introduced a lot of people to Dnd in my time. From random strangers met at a convention, to my parents who could care less about Dungeons and Dragons at all. Teaching people Dungeons and Dragons is difficult. The rules are complicated and it uses a lot of shorthand that most people wouldn’t understand. Instead of trying to teach people Dnd, try to show them the experience that is Dnd. One of the main draws of a roleplaying game is in the roleplay, not the rules.
Tell your prospective player that they are locked in a dungeon. The cell is dank and all they have in it is a bed and a bucket. They can see 2 guardsmen talking to each other and carrying keys. Let the player know that they will be walking by soon. Ask your player the golden question. “What do you do?” If they ask to do something that has a risk of failure, such as stealing the keys off of the guards, hand them a d20. This gets them invested without bogging the game down with rules and complex stats. You don’t have to explain things such as Dexterity scores and Proficiency bonuses but you are still able to show them the amazing world that is roleplay.
Do this with them until it reaches a natural stop and slowly add more things as they try to do more. If they try to get into combat hand them a d6, if they find a sword a d8, if they find a scroll of Magic Missiles, hand them a few d4s. Let them explore and discover a few things while still keeping everything simple and rules-lite. Then when the player finally escapes the dungeon, hand them a character sheet. At this point, they will either be interested enough to build a new character, or you will know they are not interested in RPG’s.
Building The First Character
Character creation is super simple for those of us who have built dozens of them. But for a first-time player, an empty character sheet might as well be an ancient riddle written in Elvish. Guiding a new player through this sheet is important to help new players feel comfortable and excited for a session of Dnd. I like to take the character sheet one step at a time in the following order:
Explaining the stats to a first time player is both one of my favorite things and most difficult. Explaining things such as Strength and Intelligence are simple enough, but Wisdom and Charisma are a little more complicated. I like to keep it to a one sentence explanation for each ability and what it can do.
Strength: How strong you are, and how much you can lift.
Dexterity: How nimble and flexible you are.
Constituition: How hardy and healthy you are.
Intelligence: Your book-smart knowledge.
Wisdom: Your street smart knowledge.
Charisma: Your social persuasiveness.
I will then ask the player which stats they value the most for their character, and we will then assign stats in whatever method you choose. For new players, 4d6 remove lowest seems to be the most engaging and doesn’t punish bad rolls as badly. Another thing I like to show them is stats explained with tomatoes.
For this one, I will go through the various races and briefly explain what they are good and bad at, as well as their place in society. You don’t want someone picking a Tiefling if they don’t know that they are generally feared. I don’t mention what specific stats the race boosts either. I’ll just keep it broad and rules light, and let the player choose what is most interesting. We can then adjust the stats based on what race the player chose.
Same as race, I will go through all the various classes and explain how each class can be awesome in their own unique way. I’ll be sure to mention which classes meshes best with whatever stat the player has focused on, but I’ll let them know that every choice is good and they are free to play whatever they want. If they choose to play a Half-Orc Monk specialized in Charisma that is 100 percent their choice, and it can often lead to very interesting characters if they do so. It is also relevant to point out that at this stage we haven’t added any numbers and our keeping everything as abstract as possible. The only thing that should have numbers at this point should be the stats.
Next, I will help them to choose their background. I believe that background is an important part of character creation because it helps the player to see their character as more than a block of stats, and instead something with, well, character. Seeing that their character has bonds and flaws will do far more to engage a player then seeing that they have a great sword that can deal 2d6 damage. Background also leads into skills which can be the next segment.
Skills are the second number I will write down on the page, and this is usually where I will explain how proficiency is added to everything. I also personally don’t use the skills backgrounds provide, instead letting my players choose specific skills they want if they can provide a reason for why their character would know it. (The number of skills is still based on class and background, I just change it into a number of skills that they can become proficient in).
Finally, after these first 5 things are out of the way we hammer in the finer abilities of the character. I’ll start by going back to race, show them what abilities that gives them, then class, weapons, spells etc. By now they should be sufficiently invested in the character that they can absorb a few rules without getting too lost. Keep it as abstract as possible, only introducing rules as they are necessary. If you have gotten this far with them congratulations! You have a brand new Dnd player who is most likely chomping at the bit to play a session with their new character. If you can manage to do this with other players, or even get your new player to help others get started you can have a group in no time.
Getting new players into Dnd may seem difficult at first glance, but as long as you are able to engage your prospective player into the core of what Dnd is, you should be able to hook them long enough to build a character with you. Hooking a new player can be done with a simple encounter that has as few rules tied to it as possible, which can then allow you to expand further and maybe even hand them a character sheet. I do just want to say, this is just how I do it, and you are more than free to try and experiment with your own methods. I would just like to stress that keeping things simple is a must especially when the new player has no idea what they are doing. As long as you don’t overwhelm them, and can get them excited about Dungeons and Dragons, you should have a new player ready to join your party. Thank you for reading, I hope you have a great week and an amazing Tuesday!