5.24.2013

Season 3, Episode 3

The n00b Episode

In this episode we cover over eight helpful tips for DMs to use when playing for the very first time with players new to role-playing games. This happens often - as career DM's we are regularly evangelizing the game to new friends, spouses, coworkers, kids, shipmates, etc. How best to achieve success with brand new roleplayers?

We read some of our listener emails from the last episode, including emails from another Michael (go figure!), another Chad, Dave and Adam. A few notes here:
We would like to apologize for the Star Trek: The Next Generation gif's in these shownotes. 

Eight Tips for DM'ing n00bs
  1. Don’t explain combat rules outside of combat. Use combat as a way to explain rules, don't bore or tire players by explaining combat before you begin playing. For example, “you could bull rush here (in D&D4e) and here’s the rules,” or “you could grapple here, and here’s the rules”. Do hide something like that from the player, and introduce it incrementally when it will be memorable.
  2. Don’t explain movement rules outside of movement. Use specific situations to proactively explain relevant rules for climbing, swimming, jumping, etc. If you explain too much before playing, they’re not going to remember any of it
    1. If you're about to fight the first battle with difficult terrain, for example, explain the rules then. 
  3. Try playing an allied PC in the party with your players. A PC played by the DM, allied with the party and interacting alongside the players. Don’t use this PC to railroad the action, but rather, to demonstrate how a PC could interact with the world. Don't make him super awesome or completely badass.
  4. Don’t introduce n00bs to the game all by yourself. It’s tough to introduce a whole table at once, even for a very knowledgeable veteran DM with good communication skills. Make sure you have an “ally” at the table, an experienced player who can exemplify behavior at the table, interaction with shopkeepers, interaction with teammates, combat, etc. Also, make sure this player is someone you want impressionable n00bs to emulate, least to some extent. 
  5. For game system with more complicated classes, don’t let players play the most complicated class. Not only will you waste time explaining complex rules to that one player, but the other players will feel left out. (ex: Cyberpunk 2020's netrunner
    • One of the advantages in this sense of dnd4e - the classes all are  pretty much play the same, even the variations for psionics are simple enough, all use at will-encounter-daily structure. They all pretty much play the same mechanically.
  6. Give early players success. Don’t bog n00bs down with your best, most challenging DM situations. Avoid lose-lose enigmas. When they try something adventurous, give them early success, or at least creative success if not complete success.  Their lies work. Their intimidations work. Their gambles pay off. Fudge rolls. Nerf opponents. There will be time to ramp up the difficulty when your players have become more invested and confident.
  7. Don’t roll characters for your players. This may seem tempting to skip over a time-consuming portion of the first campaign session night. While you can’t get bogged down in this and you really do need to play with your n00bs during the first meeting at the table, it is important for them to create and be invested in their character. Navigating these choices with your n00bs quickly is going to be important. Like Inception, you have to plant the ideas but it has to be genuine and they have to develop it.
  8. Give a variety of playing styles. Make sure you include plenty of combat, role playing, mystery solving, bad guy chasing, decision making, surprises, mazes and puzzles and riddles and mazes, etc. This lets players find their strengths and makes sure every new player has something to enjoy. After all, part of your job as a DM to new players is to evangelize, and this is much more effective if you make sure they have fun. You don't want a one-dimensional campaign early on.  You also want to mix complexity, with some encounters that are more straightforward so your players can get familiar with the basic rules.
Gadgets of the Podcast:
  • Encounter: The Shipwreck
  • T-shirt Idea: The Red Box tee shirt http://www.stylinonline.com/t-  shirt-dungeons-and-dragons-fantasy-standard.html
  • Character Concept: Michael’s character concept, the sociopath Machiavellian Warlock with Game of Thrones flavoring, to prove that evil characters aren't necessarily assholes. 
  • Adventure Hook: Sudden Happy Burden, thanks to James, the unicorn foal in the middle of a dungeon.
  • Player Tip: Don’t be a dick by... by curtailing your indecision. Sometimes indecision can be confused with indifference or apathy. Not good!
  • DM tip: Learn to Improv! Tina Fey's Four Rules to Improv as they Apply to DM's: 
    • “Agree and Say Yes” which means to respect what your partner has created. For DM’s, this means actively moving a story along the lines of your PC’s, not your NPC’s.
    • “Yes, And” which means that your contributing to the creation of the fiction. This means, for example, in combat, making a player’s creative actions pay off even cooler than they thought.
    • “Make Statements” which means to don’t always throw it back on the others. For DM’s, this doesn't mean to railroad or dominate, but it could mean to press forward a conversation that the players are metagaming. Share the heavy lifting.
    • “There are no mistakes, only opportunities” - for DM’s, this is all about the 1’s and 20’s. Make them fun. Nothing more boring than a crit for 12 points of damage, or a weapon you drop and pick right back up. 
Big Thanks for music, once again big thanks to the Diablo String OrchestraThe Kobolds, our listener Chuck for the gadgets intro jamz, and mega-fan Joshua Bentley for voice-overs galore (@voiceofthebigjb).

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