CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

You Gotta Start Somewhere

Musing on Helping New Players

At some point we were all new to roleplaying games; whether we were brought in by someone or we just picked a book up ourselves, we had to start somewhere. Last week when I wrote about my early gaming experiences leading up to figuring out I was going to be a GM, I mentioned that my group of friends taught ourselves directly out of the red box basic dungeons and dragons set. I’m glad I stuck with it but it may have been easier if there were someone to teach us, so today I want to talk about helping out new players.

New players come from all walks of life. Some new players are young and have a lot of free time, just giving them the book and guiding them when they ask questions can work. Some gamers are older and don’t have all the free time in the world. Work, family, and commuting among other things can take up vast swaths of time. You also have to consider that some new players may have reading issues like dyslexia. So basically what I’m saying is don’t just say “read the book” to new players. Beyond the fact that many of these books – especially Pathfinder, which is around 800 pages – can be quite daunting, some people just may not have the time or ability to parse information that way.

Regardless of whether or not a player can get through the book, or even just small portions of it, I’ve come up with some ways to help out my new players. The first thing I do is run a session zero. I’m sure this has been spoken about a million times but it should be stressed a million more. Working together to build characters helps everyone find a niche they like and allows the GM to help them mold their character to the campaign they want to run. Before I even knew there was a term for it, I always ran a session zero.

Another thing I find helpful is to make printouts of the information players need. Index cards are helpful, color coded to class abilities, race abilities and traits for Pathfinder. You can just print out on sheets of paper but I find that for those people who have difficulty with reading the book in the first place, even a three or four page wall of text can be daunting. Beyond the aforementioned abilities, I will also print out any skills they are good at or think they might use often.

A common response when people ask about teaching brand new people the game is to limit what classes they can play. Sometimes limit their racial choices as well. Making them play a fighter because it’s easier can seem like a good choice but I personally don’t think so.

The problem I have with limiting, especially which classes a new player can use, is that the player may not enjoy that style of play. When you tell a newbie you need to play this, if it’s not to their taste it may drive them away from the game altogether. And yes I know casters have a lot more moving parts, but really that’s what teaching the game is, helping the player learn the moving parts.

There is one shortcut I like to use when letting newbies play casters: I use spell cards, which are easily printed out from this website. For spontaneous casters it’s fairly easy to just print out their spells known. Memorized spellcasters can learn a lot more spells as they level. For these casters I will print out a few of each spell they know so the player can make a deck that has all the spells they can cast in the day. This way they know exactly how many of each spell they have left.

But the most important thing is that the only way to keep this hobby growing is bringing in new blood and keeping them interested. For those of us who are GMs this is especially true. So tell us your tips and tricks on how you like to bring new players into the fold? Where do you find new players? How do you teach them?

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