Sooner or later, it’s bound to happen. You’ve got a campaign or two in your cap, and you’re comfortable running a game. Then someone comes along and asks if they can bring someone who has absolutely no tabletop rpg experience to the next session. Suddenly your confidence wanes as your mind becomes clouded with all the “What-ifs” that seemed to bubble up from nowhere. What if they don’t like it? What if they never take to the hobby?
What if you screw up?
First off, relax. These doubts are normal to any GM that finds themselves running for players who have no tabletop rpg experience. It’s easy to get caught up in the fear and the anxiety, and to fold when the game finally happens. That said, it might help to keep a few thing in mind when you find yourself in this situation:
- Be prepared – See if you can come up with pre-generated characters and handouts, things that break down the intimidation factor of seeing the book by assuring them that they don’t have to read through all of it to “get” it. Take some time to brush up on the rules while you’re at it.
- Don’t talk down to your players – Just because they’re new, doesn’t mean they’re slow. I’ve seen players with zero experience in any rpg suddenly take to a given session like a fish to water within minutes of watching the other players. Sure they might need to be taught the rules, but that doesn’t mean they can’t think of a cunning plan on their own.
- Give them their freedom – If anything the “Yes, but…” method works great for new players. They don’t have the blinders that knowing a rulebook back and forth puts over experienced players eyes. I’ve found myself constantly surprised by new players when they think of something awesome precisely because they didn’t know the rules.
- Bring your enthusiasm - Remember that as a GM, your enthusiasm will help your players be enthusiastic about the game. Encourage them to take the initiative, celebrate their successes, and give them a few words of encouragement after the game ends (“That thing during the last fight? Dropping the chandelier over the guards? That was great stuff!” is a perfect example.) Come to think of it, this enthusiasm should be present even when you’re running for your usual players as well.
Running for new players is surprisingly like running for regular players. As long as you stick to common sense, politeness (no room for “killer / antagonistic” GMs here), and a genuine desire to run a fun game without needless worrying, I’m pretty sure any GM can run for new players without a problem.