Your Very First RPG Session as a Player… What Now?

Posted: August 24, 2012 by pointyman2000 in Advice, Articles, Roleplaying Games

A few of my friends have approached me at one point or another in the past month or so and asked if I was willing to run a game for players who are completely new to the activity. I told them that I’d be happy to run an introductory game or two, something for these new players to get their feet wet and hopefully come to understand and enjoy the hobby. Since then, I’ve been thinking about the topic for a bit, and I think it’s time that I tried my hand at a short guide for new participants to the hobby.

  • Feel free to speak up and ask questions – As with all activities, it’s okay to ask if there’s something going on that you don’t understand. Many of those playing with you will be happy to help explain various nuances of the game as you go along.
  • Exercise your creativity – RPGs encourage the use of imagination and creativity. If you think you’ve figured out a way that can hurt a monster or solve a puzzle, go ahead and try it! There’s no harm in taking a little risk now and then, and if anything, you will have learned something new.
  • It’s not performance art, so don’t feel pressured – Sometimes watching some old hands at the activity can be daunting. They switch voices, adapt mannerisms and use various other techniques, but remember that a lot of this is optional. Play according to how you’re comfortable with, you can start experimenting when you’ve gotten used to how this all goes.
  • Take notes – In fact, I highly recommend that you do. A lot  of players tend to disregard the usefulness of notes, but for a new player having something to refer to, even if just to recall a funny-sounding name of a character or item that you encounter in play can be helpful.
  • Read the background material – Most of the time the person running the game will be providing handy reading material to get you up to speed on what you should know about the game. These could include a rules summary, or just a short description of the game and the setting. Reading these will help you find your bearings and understand some of the more unique aspects of the game.
  • Don’t stress over being efficient or optimized – Now and then some players might go on to long discussions on optimizing character builds and such, which is treated as a sub-game to the overall experience of the hobby. That said, I don’t believe that optimization is the only way to have fun, and many GMs will be glad to run games for players who aren’t  mechanically streamlined to the point of being absurdly combat capable. Play what you’re comfortable with, and don’t let anyone boss you around.

This is a very broad take on things, but I think that keeping these in mind will help new players with getting their bearings. RPGs are a fun and rewarding activity that is deserving of more attention, so I’m hoping that these tips help you start off the hobby on the right foot.

  1. Something that we do a lot in HUGS is a social night for people new to the hobby and new to the town. It might not seem like much, but getting to know the people you’re playing with before hand is useful. It shows them to be regular chaps and chapesses, who game for the fun for it. This can often help out with your third point, as if the new gamer has seen the more experienced players outside of a game it really cuts down on the intimidation factor.

    • Good idea! I think that starting off with a less formal meeting over a meal is always a good way to start things off. It’ll help everyone get over the awkward stage of trying to game with complete strangers at least.

  2. Hikkikomori says:

    From personal experience, it helps if your interested in the genre you’ll be playing in.

    Even just a vague idea of the theme will help a lot.

    And example would be, if you’re trying out D&D, being familiar with Game of Thrones will help. (Though there might be a dramatic shift of perspective with regards to certain aspects of the culture.)

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