1. Start with the D&D Starter set -why the starter set? Why not just introduce them to the 8-foot-tall stack of hardcover books that make up D&D? We don’t want to scare them away. The starter set is manageable it’s not a large tome and really you have everything you need within those pages to play a good game of D&D it’s great as an introductory rule set which is why it’s the starter set and it’s not daunting. It’s worth getting a few copies and keeping them handy at the table so your players can read through them at their leisure or maybe even borrow them until the next gaming session.
2. Explain the basics - what are the basics you may be asking? They are ideology and basic mechanics. I like to begin by telling new players, particularly the younger ones who have never played a tabletop role-playing game before and are used to computer games, that this is a collaborative game it is what I like to call a social game where individuals get together and through collaboration, they tell a story. They work together, they breathe life into a character that is more than just a paper doll on a computer screen.
Dungeons & Dragons is as much of an artistic expression for the players and dungeon Masters as acting in a play, painting a picture, or writing a poem. It is the pinnacle of creativity and for one to be creative they must first be comfortable and that’s when I establish the gaming table is a safe space where they can be creative without fear of judgment. This is extremely important, especially for young people.
I like to go over the basic mechanics of the game, the stuff you get to see a lot of like the dice, how to use them, and I like to prepare a quick reference guide a one-page cheat sheet if you will that has short paragraphs on combat, skill checks, saving throws, spells and spell slots. I don’t go much farther than that because I don’t want to overwhelm a new player or players. It is best I think to take the convention approach and just use the tip of the iceberg of the rules. Once they are at the table and enjoying themselves then you have them and you can now expand upon the rules.
3. Bring Pre gens - it’s just easier if you create in their entirety, a stack of pregenerated characters complete with names and genders so that you can jump right into the game. Now, we all know that character creation is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game, but that should come later, after you have a group of individuals who are really interested in continuing the game. Keep these pre-gens in a file with a short adventure something that’ll run 2 to 3 hours, a nice one shot. Use this file to introduce new individuals to the game. Sitting at a table the first time introduced Dungeons & Dragons and spending the first half an hour 45 minutes or even longer making a character, is pretty boring. Character creation is only fun after you’ve developed a love for the game and understand the mechanics and the purpose and are preparing for the next campaign your dungeon Master is running. If you plop down a bunch of mechanical pencils and character sheets and dice and then tell your brand-new players that they going to spend the first hour or so making a character, you're gonna lose them. Think of it like a movie, if the movie starts with some really good action, it can keep the attention of the viewers. The same can be true for introducing new players to Dungeons & Dragons. Start right with the action.
4. Gift your players their first set of dice - dice are cheap, unless you spent the past 30 years collecting cheap dice like me and now are looking for more expensive designer sets. But if you look online you can get a really good deal on some cheap dice. Heck, I’ve even heard rumors that the dollar stores are carrying dice sets for a buck. Who can’t drop $5.25 for a few sets of dice to toss out on the table when your new players show up. If you need dice bags give DM Bill a call, me and Lou have been helping him empty Crown Royal bags for the past 30 years. I’m sure he’ll send you one.
5. Play a short game with them - play a game, that’s what it’s all about anyway isn’t? Get your players around the table and introduce the game to them by playing. Get them right into the adventure, the combat, immerse them in the story. The love of the game comes from playing laughing, lamenting, and having a good time. So why waste time on all the other stuff? Character creation and dice purchases will all come as their love for the game develops.
Now there are many ways in which you can introduce new players to Dungeons & Dragons and these are just some.
See you next time in the Dojo.