GMing is really difficult, but really rewarding. Something I love to do, myself, is trying to get new people into D&D. It’s such a great outlet for creativity, self-exploration and just plain fun that I always want to get new people to play with.
I’ve introduced a few players to the game, and I’ve helped even old-timey players get more into RPing and playing well with others.
Here are three tips to help you help new players and old players to better themselves and the game!
1. Ask me Anything: The ask me anything rule works well, in my experience, but you have to learn to control your breathing. 🙂 The idea here is that the players, old and new, can ask you about this system as often as they need to. If they forgot again how that attack works or how to calculate their power attack or their THAC0, explain it again. And again. And again.
And never lose patience. As adults, we are used to coming into almost anything with some knowledge and skill in it. To be a noob in something, especially if there are veterans at the table, is hard, and can put a lot of people off a game quickly if they feel they’re being condescended or people don’t have the patience to teach them. Take the time to explain why it works the way it works, and stop any mockery of the learning curve. The table will soon be helping each other out as even veterans forget the rules sometimes.
The only limitation to this rule is that player who chooses to rely on the GM for all the rules and doesn’t even bother to learn. If you suspect this is the case, encourage that player to learn through passing him the rulebook, or asking him to repeat what you just taught him. Some players don’t do this on purpose, but find the game so overwhelming they don’t want to be embarrassed by making a mistake so they lean on the GM or another player for constant support.
Also, if you’re like us and you only get to play once a month at best, or every two to three months at times, understand that newer players will forget some of the rules between sessions.
Remember that you weren’t born knowing the rules, and that it can be scary for adults to wrangle a new system into their heads.
2. The Meta Gaming: The only meta gaming allowed is ‘Is what I’m doing making it more fun for everyone?’
This rule is important for veterans and new players alike. There’s a certain amount of meta-gaming in every game. It’s inevitable.
For those of you who don’t know “the lingo” meta gaming is when a players uses his own knowledge to solve a situation, instead of the character’s. For example, if a player recognizes from the GM’s description that the monster they’re fighting is a troll, and even though his character has never seen one and would have not reason to know anything about trolls, he tells everyone what it is and that fire is needed to stop its regeneration. That’s information the player had, while his character would not.
That’s a relatively common occurrence of meta-gaming, and not the most destructive. Players can be making the ‘right’ choice when their characters would have no reason to choose that choice, and that can really mess up the plot.
When playing with a bunch of veteran players, many GMs often don’t worry about this too much. They might just allow the ‘common’ knowledge of the system’s monsters to quicken the game, or if they and their party is really into RP, will make it a challenging part of the play.
Do whatever works for you, but personally say: “The only allowed form of meta-gaming is thinking if you’re making the game more fun for everyone”.
This means that in general do what your character does, not you. Even if you know what you’re doing is the wrong choice, if your character would act in this way, act in this way! The only exception is in cases where that decision would affect the fun of everyone at the table, or even just one or two of the players, or the GM. If you’re thinking for example, that your rogue has seen the paladin put away a massive jewel that they’re planning to give later at the altar of their god, even if your character is a thief, don’t steal that. Why? Because you’re meta-gaming here just enough to say “that would be a real dick move to do to my friend. They won’t think it’s funny, they’ll just be frustrated that I’m denying them an RP moment”.
If you really want to have a long RP session with the GM but there are four other players at the table, keep it relatively short. They’re bored in the meanwhile.
If you’re taking up more than your fair share of the talking, that is, if there are four players and you’re talking more than 1/4 of the time, stop. Or even better, if you’re the talker of the party, engage the others. Even if you know the answer already, ask, “Barbarian, what would your tribe do in this situation? Do they have laws for such things?”
The players will love you all the more, the GM will love you and when everyone at the table is engaged and enjoying themselves, you get the type of top-notch gaming sessions that are the reason you got into this game in the first place!
3. Don’t let the veteran shine immediately: The veteran player knows the games, the moves, and the plot hooks. They will often take command of a party of less experienced players naturally. As a GM, let that happen, and go with it. Don’t supress the delight of the experienced player. However, as early on in the game as you can force the new player or players into the spotlight. Make an NPC fall in love with them, or use their backstory just a little early on, forcing them to speak, discuss with the party and make a decision or two. It doesn’t have to be much, and the other players can participate and help, but let the new player feel what it’s like to call a shot or two.
Not only will this give them the opportunity to flex their still fledgling RP muscle, but it’ll force a bit of balance to the party early on, showing everyone that the new player has as much say as a veteran. The veteran will see the new player shine, and the new player will learn to depend on the sound advice of the veteran.
Another way to do this, although this needs to be done artfully, is making a chunk of the plot itself revolve around that character first. Personally, I always have spots on the story dedicated to anyone who bothered to come up with a backstory. I have a whole blog post about player/GM interactions, but I’ll leave that one for a later time.
Using this method makes the players feel special, and encourages them to know each other as characters, which is hard to do, unless you are lucky to have one of those RP-loving groups.
In short, patience and encouragement goes a long way with new players. Take the time to teach them, and take the time to let them shine. The veterans will understand as they’ve been new themselves one day, and knowing that they’ll get a chance to be in the spotlight later will shut them up when it’s someone else’s turn. If not, well, talk to them and calm them down, or you’re playing with the wrong people…!
Thanks for reading, and if you have any more tips for GMs introducing new players to gaming, post below!