View Full Version : Players new to D&D and a DM new to DMing, HELP!

Hedoaen UrdWed
2007-07-20, 04:59 AM
Here's my issue.

I've been playing D&D for a few years now (apart from 2 or 3 games run by someone else) entirely with a single DM and is rather complex house rules. I know these better than the corle rules. As a DM now, just starting off, I'm using his house rules. My player's also play with the other DM and should, in theory, know the rules as well. The problem is, they don't, they are mostly all new to the game in general.

Character creation has been and continues to be a nightmare (I gave all players a small 4 page info booklet on the differances in the campaign settings, all but the other DM asked me a question that was answerable in this booklet, nice to know they read it!:smallwink: ).

The problems don't end there, they don't read the class descriptions, or the race descriptions (these are different in some ways to the core rules...we play in an updated Mystara setting-updated to 3.5 rules/stats and stuff). I've got a player trying to play a dwarven wizard and trying to but armour for his starting equipment and another layer who has taken a weapon proficiency feat to use a weapon already listed in the class' weapons.

The game is also meant to be rather role-play intensive and I'd like to encourage the players (8 of them) to roleplay, there are already XP awards for good roleplay. However most of the player's talk in the third person and think roleplaying is saying an action that the character does.

So what can I do to encourage the player's to:
a) know, use and understand the rules better
b) roleplay more (including some backstory, goals, etc-already asked, but only 1 response...from the other DM who is very enthusiastic...maybe if I could bottle it, hmmmm)
c) enjoy the experience

If you can help, it would very much appreciated, especially after reading such a long post.
Regards, Hedoaen UrdWed

2007-07-20, 05:24 AM
This may seem slightly extreme, but here is what I suggest you do. Postpone ALL current arrangements.
Re-Read both PHB and DMG! Thoroughly - so you can Get an idea of what real DnD is, without all the wacky houserules that you currently have.

I'm da Rogue!
2007-07-20, 05:24 AM
Maybe you could ask them to make a story for their characters, and describe them. What goals they may have, way of thinking, why they are adventuring, etc.
That may help them "feel" the character and behave like the character in rp.
They can also find a picture or draw their characters. If they have an image for their characters, it might help them stop seeing them as a piece of paper.
I hope this can help you a bit..

2007-07-20, 05:31 AM
1) Well, the only way I can think of is teaching them. As they make mistakes, you point them out, and you let them know. You can actually let the dwarf wizard go ahead and wear his armor, just that you keep rolling his spell failure chance. When he asks why, tell him.

To be honest, having them read the PHB flat-out is quite intimidating. It's best to make it clear that they don't have to read everything from start to end, they should just read the abilities, race and class chapters. From there on they can just pick what's of utmost relevance to their characters. I did that with my players, and they learned it pretty quickly.

2) The DM will have to do some RPing himself. For the most part my players are able to RP decently since most of them are creative writers to begin with. I had a problem with our paladin, since this guy was new to writing so his character was often laughed at as little more than a cardboard standee with combat ability. However, once I gave them a talking villain with actual personality (he was a hobgoblin who mocked the PCs and their gods---yes, I voice-acted this), the paladin actually came up with a reply. The entire group was surprised, but pleased that he actually started RPing.

Make sure all the PCs' actions have consequences. As I mentioned in another thread, one time the group bashed in a door they couldn't pick (no rogue in the party). This caused them to encounter a group of hobgoblins who should've been an encounter on the next level. The noise of the imploding door drew their attention. Now the group is currently pinned down inside the room they opened. Very dire situation, but it's definitely realistic.

3) I find that a lot of the enjoyment is taken away by constant questions about rules. Thus, the players should know the rules and exactly what their characters can and will do (and vice versa.) On your part, it's best to be prepared for anything. If you prepare how your NPCs and monsters will react to the plans that the PCs come up with, you'll enjoy seeing how they work together and come up with plans to face your challenges.

Also I often give these guys second chances (they are beginners after all). The boss encounter had the hobgoblin captain scoring a massive crit on the paladin, which should have killed him. Since he was the group's tank, I figured that the group would die very quickly without him. I changed the hobbo's actions and decided to just take a single swing instead of a full attack action. They're still struggling to beat him as of now, but I think it wouldn't have been as fun to kill them right off the bat.

2007-07-20, 06:09 AM
I would drop any and all house rules for now. I have generally found that most 3.5 house rules that don't involve dropping rules or broader interpretations of rules are a bad idea.

2007-07-20, 06:59 AM
On the role poay side, it doesn't sound liek you're asking them to role play, you're asking them to "act". And they're not nessesarily the same thing. Not everone can act. Many prefer to tell thier characters action in the third person because that's the way they like to hear/tell the story.

For the house rules, it may be easier to drop all of your house rules. Or any that make the game more complicated.

At trhe same time, if you have a small group and you yourself are familiar enough with the rules, then the players don't nessesarily have to be.

Keep thier stats and abilities handy for you to reference behind your Dm screen. When it's time for them to do something, let them discribe what they want to do then just tell them to roll a D20. They don't need to udnerstand what the D20 is for as long as you do. If they really care that much about what the D20 results are they'll read the rules themselves.

As new players I wouldn't suggest you guys use a lot of house rules. Play and et used to the game first, then house rule stuff in or out.

2007-07-20, 07:34 AM
Firstly: Roleplaying is very subjective. Describing your actions in the 3rd person is as much roleplaying as many other forms of expression as long as you consider your characters motivations, etc.

Secondly: As others have said, you might want to drop the house-rules. If your players don't even understand the basics about D&D chances house-rules will only confuse them further and perhaps even damage their future understanding of the rules.

Thirdly: New players can be notoriously dense when it comes to the rules, so you have to hand-walk them through it. Remember, these guys don't know anything about the intricate system of D&D or how it's different workings relate to one another. So you need to explain everything to them, slowly and clearly several times before they'll understand it.
Don't punish your players for not understanding the rules. If your wizard tries to buy armor, explain to him why it's a bad idea. Show him the entry in the PHB that details Spell Failure and such, this way he'll gain a greater understanding of the PHB and the rules in one go and if he feels he has an idea of how the PHB works, he most likely won't feel so intimidated about the prospect of reading through it

2007-07-20, 07:58 AM
I would also drop the house-rules. However, if you're very familiar with them, and if they are nicely documented, it may be not so bad to keep the rules.

At any rate, you should allow for a lot of time for character creation. In my opinion, it is one of the most important parts of the game. Thus, ask for rough character sheets and a draft of the backstory at least a weak before the campaign start. Then, sit down with every one of the players and go through their choice of race, class, equipment, and story. Some of your players are very creative, and the challenge for the DM is to allow as much creativity as possible without unbalancing the game. Other players may be as creative as a potato, so there you have to spend time to help them formulate what kind of character they want to play.
These character creation sessions are a great way to teach them about the rules of the game (e.g. "If you want to do combat with your rogue, you have to realize that you want to be dealing sneak attack damage as often as possible. Therefore, you have to catch the enemy flat-footed, i.e. ..., or you have to be flanking, i.e. ..., therefore, it may be a good idea to invest into these skills and feats and equipment"). It's perfectly ok if they don't have a munchkin PC in the end, though it should be playable, and it should work with the rest of the group.
Finally, talking to the players in detail gives you - and them! - more of a feel for what their characters are like. As for the backstory, I always tell my players that they can write as much as they want - however, the more detail there is, the more the backstory of the player will be relevant for the game, and thus, the more the story will revolve around their character.

Irreverent Fool
2007-07-20, 08:10 AM
If this is your first time DM'ing, I would agree with many of our fellows here and drop the houserules even if you are more comfortable with them. It's far easier to stick to what's in the books primarily because if a question pops into your head, you can flip through and look for the answers.

I do like the handing out of campaign backgrounds. You provide your players with info, it sounds like you didn't make it too long, and it shows that you as a DM care both for your world and the players immersion in it.

Eight players though? I think this may be a bit much. Determine some way of splitting the group. Either put the experienced players in one group and the newer players in the other or mix them evenly. With the experienced players in the first group, you can run them through the adventure and get into the swing of things in preparation for the newer players. With them evenly mixed, your experienced players can assist the newer players. Regardless, I do not recommend starting your first game as DM with eight people.

2007-07-20, 09:03 AM
Rather than diving straight into a 'campaign' with all the work that it entails, try playing a few single adventures based on published modules to get everyone familiar with the core rules that you'll be playing. That way your campaign doesn't get ditched after a few sessions just because you haven't considered something.

You can either use the pre-cursor adventures to set the scene and bring the characters together or make it clear from the start that these are just introductory familiarisation sessions and start over with new characters when you are all comfortable with the rules and each other.

2007-07-20, 10:32 AM
So what can I do to encourage the player's to:
a) know, use and understand the rules better
b) roleplay more (including some backstory, goals, etc-already asked, but only 1 response...from the other DM who is very enthusiastic...maybe if I could bottle it, hmmmm)
c) enjoy the experience

Ultimately, you can't make anyone do anything they don't already want to do. Sure you can encourage, incentivise, support and promote particular activities in the game, but unless people want to do them regardless, it's pretty futile.

Use of rules is one of those things people either enjoy or don't. You can't make a rules-lover out of someone who just knows enough to get by and is happy with that. Indeed if most of the group seem ambivalent on knowing them, either they're happy letting the GM handle that stuff, or perhaps you might consider a switch to a lighter system.

I don't consider backstories and stuff "roleplaying". It's preparatory pre-play, roleplaying is what happens when the game is actually in progress. Is there any particular reason you need all that information from everyone? Are you even sure they are looking to have their background stuff brought into play right away? Is there not the possibility of people introducing some of that at a later stage, when they've gotten to know the character better?

Not everyone fully-conceives the entirety of their character at chargen. Some people have to actually play a character before they start to come to life. Some of the best hooks might not even emerge until there's a session or three under the character's belt.

As to the last, forcing people to do things they aren't interested in doing, in an entertainment medium is guaranteed not to be fun.

In other points, I agree with those who say eight players is simply too many. Four is a much more manageable number, can you split them into two groups?

I'd also agree with doing a one-shot (possibly with pregens) just to get a feel for the group dynamics, rather than embarking on a campaign from the off.

2007-07-22, 08:04 PM
Contrary to prevailing opinion, I suggest you keep the House Rules. Just take more of the responsibility for knowing the rules out of the player's hands. They don't really need to know them if you are aiming at a more Rp and less mechanically orientated game. This puts a heavy onus on you to keep track of their Characters and reply 'good idea/bad idea' to a number of choices they might have otherwise calculated themselves.

The fact that your players won't read a four page document doesn't strike me as particularly unusual.

Unfortunately, if you really do want to fulfill the criteria of 'objective 1' you will be better off dropping the House Rules. This will probably not be condusive (sp?), in and of irtself, to better roleplaying. It may, given that understanding the mechanics behind the fantasy is desirable, improve the fun of the game. In my experience, the latter is not particularly true. A ceratin disconnect between the players and the rules that support the game may actually enhance their experience because the mechanics are more easily obscured by the game world.

However, if your group thinks that an understanding of the rules of the game is important to enjoying it, then obviously they have to make the effort to learn them, no matter what rule set you use.

2007-07-23, 01:20 AM
So what can I do to encourage the player's to:
a) know, use and understand the rules better
b) roleplay more (including some backstory, goals, etc-already asked, but only 1 response...from the other DM who is very enthusiastic...maybe if I could bottle it, hmmmm)
c) enjoy the experience

One thing I tried that worked very well was to take my VERY hack-and-slash group on an adventure that had very little fighting, but lots of other stuff to do. For most of the session, they were solving a mystery, dealing with weird NPCs, and looking for their arch-enemy in a bustling city. There were a few fights (when are there not?) but right up until the climax, things ran pretty much in the realm of skill checks and roleplay. Just one night like this can really bring the characters and the world to life for the rest of the campaign.

As far as rules, the key is diverse locales. Try an area that challenges their skills (like climbing and swimming) and uses enemies with different tactics (like tripping, bull rushing, and grappling) to familiarize (or at least introduce) the players with the idea of how things work.

It's a good idea to look up everything you might need to know in advance, so that you can approach it from the position of a teacher rather than a student. They'll catch on faster that way.

Also, consider limiting the players' exposure to certain complex rules (like weather, poison, and turning undead) to perhaps one a session. One adventure might introduce fighting in a rainstorm, the next might have giant spiders, and the third might have undead enemies for the cleric to turn. Players (and DMs) can get overwhelmed from going too fast.