View Full Version : How do you teach new people DnD?

2007-11-09, 11:26 PM
I recently moved to a new area, and have to been trying find a new group to play with. A few of my friends have expressed interest in learning to play the game, but I'm not sure whats the best way to teach it. Can someone with more experience here help me out?

2007-11-09, 11:29 PM
Generally some of those first few pages of the Player's Handbook lay out the foundation: Say: "You roll a d20, add modifiers, and if the result is high enough you succeed." Then you explain attacking and skill checks.

2007-11-09, 11:31 PM
Easiest way is to get a lv 1 premade adventure out of your closet(or if you dont have one, have them buy one)

Dalboz of Gurth
2007-11-09, 11:32 PM
First I tell them about the type of land, what orcs are, and etc... then I ask them what their favorite type of character is. They usually have a good background from games they'd play or loved to read. Then I'd choose the class for them that they'd want to play.

Then I'd tell them about each stat and how to roll stats. Then I'd take it step by step from there :D

2007-11-10, 12:05 AM
Just make sure you dont start them on a prepared caster. My group tried giving a first-timer the cleric.

Mistake A: he was specced for archer combat
Mistake B: He mostly used a sword and shield
Mistake C: He picked all that, and was using a raptoran in a tomb setting.
Mistake 4: I dont remeber me ABC's

Jack Zander
2007-11-10, 12:31 AM
When we get a new player I ask them a few questions before I start going into the rules.

1: "Have you watched Lord of the Rings?"
2a: If answer to 1 is Yes, then "If you could be any character from that movie, who would it be and why?"
2b: If answer to 1 is no, then "What do you favor most, melee combat, ranged combat, or spell casting and why?"
3: "Okay, you would make a good [insert class here]. Let me help you build one at 1st level."
4: Still not going over the rules yet, simply begin to play with them in the group. When it is their turn, explain to them what they can do, what are some of their better options, and when they choose an option, tell them what die to roll and what to add to it.
5: Repeat step 4 until they catch on. It usually only takes about 2-3 combat encounters for them to learn all the basics.

I did have one ex-girlfriend who never caught on though, even after 2 years...

Miles Invictus
2007-11-10, 03:02 AM
The Wizards website has a bunch of free adventures available for download. (Link (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/oa/20030530b)) Several of them are designed for first-level characters.

If I were you, I'd encourage your players to pick Fighters or Barbarians or the like, and then throw an NPC cloistered cleric and sorcerer into the party as support. Fighter types are simple and durable; your players won't have to learn a whole lot of rules at once, and you won't have to worry about them getting one-shotted by a kobold.

2007-11-10, 04:55 AM
Start them out as 3rd. level, but make encounters for 1. levels. With all the mistakes they make it will be plenty challenging :)

Also FIRST teach them about roleplaying, THEN give them numbers... set the priorities from the start :)

Miles Invictus
2007-11-10, 02:01 PM
And how do you teach someone to roleplay? A player who isn't comfortable with roleplaying is going to be turned off by a DM who tries to force it on them. I think the best you can do is encourage roleplaying by making it feel comfortable and natural.

2007-11-10, 02:24 PM
Get them to read OOTS, as well as talking about the basics. Tell them stories about your experiences, leaving out the numbers. Throw in a few rules here and there, here's the basics of one story I was told:

Party of 3 fighting a single ogre, party=fighter+barbarian+wizard. Or something like that. After about 10 rounds (what's a round? That's the time thing in fights, 1 round=6 seconds game time. Everyone gets one action a round) where we failed to make a single git, our wizard started blasting it with everything he has, without worrying about later fights that day (a spell caster can only cast a certain amount of spells a day). When we finally killed it, we found out why we (meatsheilds) couldn't hit it, it was wearing a +4 full plate, and was illusioned to appear unarmoured (any magical weapon or armour is +something, it means it deals more damage, or gives more protection. +4 is extremely expensive for lower level people).

That was very breif, also throw in humourous experiences, etc. And get them to read OOTS, not the PHB straight away. Seriously, I read through the PHB and ended up more confused than when I started. I read OOTS, and suddenly information in the PHB seemed simpler, after I'd seen those stick figures complaining and commenting on rules about rolling, good rolls, bad rolls, xp, gp, etc. OOTS was actually what made me interested in DND.

2007-11-10, 02:26 PM
I've considered teaching a few guys at my seminary how to play. I've got 5 easy steps to victory, but no real time to implement it.

1. Have characters already made that fill all the basic roles in the party. We'll worry more about letting them play what they want if they actually get the game and are interested learning further.

2. Play the "A Dark and Stormy Knight" adventure from the WoTC website.

3. Give them the basic instruction: to do something, roll a d20 and add the modifier on your sheet.

4. Play through it, allowing them to ask questions when necessary.

5. Discuss afterward.

2007-11-10, 02:55 PM
I've introduced a few groups made entirely of newbies to gaming, and there's a few things that work pretty well, in no particular order.

1. Don't overwhelm them with options. This doesn't mean that you should make their choices for them, but rather that you should give them a few options and let them choose among them. The best example of where this comes up is feats; there are hundreds and hundreds of them, but for (say) a first-level fighter, there's only a few worth considering.

2. Have a "character-rolling-up" party where you can walk your entire group through the process all at the same time. This way, everyone's on an even playing field.

3. Encourage them to buy their own dice. If you're generous and/or have a lot of your own, give them each a set, the basics of what they need (1d4, 4d6, 1d8, 2d10, 1d12, a few d20). It's not a big financial drain, and it promotes a real sense of possession and belonging. Just wait until they start deciding which dice are lucky, or which ones to use for which rolls.

4. Start at low levels, preferably at first. A lot of people here deride first level play, and there are legitimate reasons for this, but in the interests of keeping things simple, it's a whole lot easier to introduce class features and the like piecemeal. They'll have enough stuff to figure out already. Furthermore, it's much easier to equip a 1st level character than a 3rd level character. Believe me, this makes a big difference.

5. Premade adventures are an excellent idea, if only because they tend to be well-balanced and well-rounded, having something for everyone. They're a very good tool if you don't have that much experience making adventures as a DM. There's nothing worse than an inexperienced DM leading his novice players through a homebrew adventure; talk about the blind leading the blind! "A Dark And Stormy Night" can be downloaded as a PDF for free from Wizards. I would also recommend the Wizards module, "The Sunless Citadel," although I'm not sure that was released for 3.5; I played it in 3.0. Other good options are anything published by Goodman Games. They do very, very good work. I once ran (basically) an entire campaign based off of their modules.

6. Speaking of Goodman Games, if you're worried about your players picking up on the complexity of character creation (a daunting task for some), I highly, highly recommend the Goodman Games module "Legends are Made, Not Born". It's an adventure designed for six pregenerated 0th level characters (each has 1 level in some NPC class). The characters are good, but simple, and nobody will be overwhelmed with options. The adventure is a lot of fun, challenging but very rewarding of teamwork and thinking things through. It's a short adventure; you could probably finish the entire thing in a single session, which is good if only because there's a very real sense of accomplishment after its successful completion. I've run it twice, once with a group of experienced players and once with a group of complete novices, and both groups had a great time. Finally, it's very easy to upgrade the characters to "real" classes if the players decide they want to keep them for an ongoing campaign.

7. Don't pressure them to learn the rules. That will come on its own sooner or later. For example, consider this encounter: The party comes across a pit preventing their passage down a corridor. If they're at all clever, they'll say something like, "I jump across", "I climb down and back up", or "I squeeze around the edge". This would be a Jump, Climb, and Balance check respectively, but they don't need to have these things memorized. That's your job. Instead, find out what they want to do, and then explain to them what would happen mechanically.

8. Keep your games short, and maybe preface or conclude them with some other activity, like watching a movie. This can be a good way to get people into the idea; watch Lord of the Rings together, then, as an above poster recommended, find out which of your players finds each character the most interesting. Movies that revolve around the party as a whole are surprisingly rare, but another good example is "Sneakers" with Robert Redford. They have a good party dynamic, and that's what you want to encourage. Anyway, 2 hours is a good length for new players.

9. The most important thing is that people are having a good time. If this means fudging die rolls so that someone doesn't get killed, do it. I don't care what anyone says about DM fairness or letting the dice fall where they may, there's nothing worse than working on a character for two hours and having him die by a lucky critical in the first encounter. Of course, a good DM would set it up so that the chances of this are slim (don't give monsters scythes. This is just asking for trouble.) but fun comes before the rules. You want these people coming back, remember.

Good luck! Some of my fondest memories of high school come from D&D. Don't be too daunted by the task. Remember that D&D, like all games, is really all about getting together with friends and having a good time.

2007-11-10, 03:02 PM
My recruitment strategy:

"Hey, you've played KOTOR, right? D&D uses the exact same mechanics, only with a more LOTRish setting, loads more classes, spells, skills, feats, and of course, instead of having about three total choices on what your character says, you can do whatever you want. "

Azerian Kelimon
2007-11-10, 03:07 PM
Another good idea: Run multiple solo adventures for the players, so that they each star their own adventure and feel like real heroes. As a group, defeating a troll mightn't be such an accomplishment, but for a single character, it is a big one.

2007-11-10, 03:27 PM
Well, the first thing I do when introducing a new player to D&D is have them take one of those corny "Which D&D character are you?" quizzes found all over the internet. While they are highly innacurate for somone who plays D&D and can answer to make themselves any class they want, for somone who doesn't know the game, it is usually a good benchmark for roleplaying.

Then, when I know what will be easy and natural for them to roleplay, I start teaching them the basics of the rules by running them through a short, one shot dungeon with a premade character. This gives them the basics of combat, skills, etc.

After that, I walk them through the basics of making their own character, talking about background and personality as we go.

When all of that is done, I call up a group to play with (or just play with the people there if I am teaching multiple people) and start a level one campaign. Usually, I'll make the first campaign a player plays in rather short (lv. 1-3 or 4) so that if they don't like the character, or want to try somthing new, they can.

The game is designed so that when you know the basics, you can learn as you play (i.e. this spell does this, etc.).

My best advice is to not push optimization. When you do this, the rules can get overwhelming for a veteran player. Also, keep it core (or core-esque). If you want to go outside of core (such as a certain class or feat really fitting what the player wants to do), avoic PrCs and similar things, as they also tend to overwhelm players with too many options and new things to learn.

When introducing new things, do so slowly when your players are new. Just because they can understand how magic works doesn't mean that they need psionics/incarnum/ToB introduced. Hold back until they know what they are doing and they will enjoy it more (but don't baby them or make it seem condecending).

2007-11-10, 03:41 PM
Run a solo game with each. Give them a premade role (ask who they like, then make up something similar), and have them play it through a given scenario. Notice I said role, not a character. Make sure there's no rules, or any kind of mechanics whatsoever. Roll with the story, arbitrarily deciding the outcomes of player actions. Let them grasp the concept of roleplaying a character first and foremost.

Let them speak of their roleplaying experience among themselves. Then introduce them to dice. And basic d20 mechanic of "d20+modifiers>=DC".

But do NOT play DnD with them. Not before they take in the "tabletop gaming atmosphere". Maybe they'll hate it, and the effort will have been wasted. Instead, find some basic short module or adventure. Let them make their characters, giving them minimum amount of info about races and traditional roles and whatnot. Then play, again without rules. But this time with dice. Tell them "roll higher than 14" instead of "make a spot check". Let them learn to be a group of players. (Keep assuring them that you know where all those numbers are coming from, even if you don't. It's immaterial at this point.)

When RP101 is over, they'll have tasted tabletop RPing. If they've liked what they've seen, proceed to PHB and proper DnD rules. If not, it would've been a waste anyway.

EDIT: So this is what getting ninjaed is all about. And now for something completely different: I'm an orc now! We'z da orks, and we'z DA BEST! WAAUGH!

2007-11-10, 08:12 PM
Why don't you send them to Wizards of the Coast's What is D&D? (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/whatisdnd) page? There is an online demo game they can play.

2007-11-10, 09:28 PM
For my players, I just asked them if they were interested in a little side project I planned for the creative writing club I'm the moderator of in school. (I kinda stuck to people I knew would really be interested and would be able to make decent characters, because the point was we were going to publish the outcome of the campaign in the school lit folio) I asked them if they were interested in learning, asked them what kind of character they'd like to play (Without going into specifics like "Sorcerer? Warlock? Wizard? Psion?", I used broad terms like "Would you fight with weapons or magic?"). I then told them about the core mechanic of "Roll d20+modifiers, equal or beat target number to succeed."

Then I just showed them the class description and helped them assign ability scores and choose feats.

The actual nitty-gritty rules of tactical combat, special attacks and readying/delaying didn't actually come until the second adventure. The first was pretty straightforward. I started them on Lv 5, though.

It's difficult to teach players to roleplay. I required them to submit character background stories (many of them gladly did them because they like writing to begin with, but then again this is a creative writing club), but background does not necessarily equal roleplaying. We're 17 sessions into the campaign and some of them still have difficulty roleplaying, but those might be more personal issues and not necessarily that they "don't know how."

2007-11-10, 09:36 PM
I started with the battlemap, explained Movement, Attacks, AoO's, Ranged attacks, spells, and the rolls of all of them. Then, I moved to Modifiers, abilities, and finally asked them to choose classes they liked, and I explained Character Creation. After that, a few helpful reminders, some easy combat to start the campaign, and we had a good session going. However, the people I played with had played MMO's before and so understood some stuff already.

2007-11-10, 10:22 PM
As one of the previous posters suggested a level 1 modual would help a great deal. I recently ran my friends 13 year old son through .. horde of the howling hills i think it was. It was well done provides a little village for them to interact with and gives a good idea what the classic adventuring setup is supposed to be like.