Many people try role-playing games for the first time at their FLGS or at a gaming convention. Events like D&D Encounters and D&D Game Day present great opportunities for curious observers to sit at the table and join in the fun.
This weekend at GenCon and at FLGS in the U.S.A. and Canada, the Murder in Baldur’s Gate launch weekend event provides the perfect opportunity for new people to try D&D for the first time. As experienced gamers it’s up to us to act as ambassadors for the gaming community and welcome these new members into the fold.
A someone who knows what it’s like to wear the gaming ambassador hat on a regular basis I’d like to offer some suggestions on how we can all work together to ensure that new gamers have a good time. These tips are valid for any public play game including D&D Encounters, Game Day, or GenCon.
Originally published on May 25, 2009, Dungeon’s Master once again presents 10 Things I Learned at Worldwide D&D Game Day.
I learned a few things participating in Worldwide Dungeons & Dragons Game Day this past weekend. These may just seem like simple, common sense reminders, but I think they’re incredibly useful nonetheless. I encourage you to review this list and keep it in mind whether you’re playing at a convention, Worldwide Dungeons & Dragons Game Day or just at your dining room table.
1. Everyone participates
Make sure that everyone has equal face-time. It’s easy for one or two players to try and control the table. New players may find this intimidating. Everyone there has their own character, so there’s no need to let one player dominate the show. The DM should make sure that he’s not letting anyone get bullied (intentionally or otherwise).
2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Gamers in general are good people (at least in my experience). The common love for the game has brought us all together to play. If you have questions, feel free to speak up. You shouldn’t feel embarrassed if you don’t know what a power does or how a particular rule works. I’ve had quite a few rules that I never really understood cleared right up after hearing a new take on the situation from people I just met at a convention.
3. Keep things moving
Everyone wants the game to run smoothly. If you have tips or tricks for speeding up the game that work for your gaming group, feel free to share them. The biggest complaint I’ve heard at cons and Game Day is that the modules take too long to complete. If you can offer advice for speedy game play it will be gladly received.
4. Share your experiences
Experienced gamers should help others. If someone is playing D&D for the first time then the amount of help they require will be a lot more than if they’ve just never played a particular class before. Don’t overwhelm them with everything all at once. Give them a few basic pointers and then help them as particular situations present themselves.
5. Knowing the classes
If you’ve played a particular class for the past six months in your regular game, then feel free to offer advice to the guy playing that class at the event. Share what you’ve learned about that class since playing it, but try not to be too overbearing. You want to be helpful, but you don’t want to tell someone else how to play their character. Most advice will be seen as useful. This is especially true if the player is a first-timer or is unfamiliar with the class.
6. Plan your actions
Many DMswill give the table and “on deck” warning so that you know who’s going to act next. If you know you’re on deck, think about what powers or attacks you’d like to use. Obviously if the PC going before you does something totally unexpected then you’ll need a second to rethink your plan, otherwise be ready. And when you’re finished be sure to announce clearly that you’re finished so the next PC can start his turn.
It’s unlikely that you would have built the pre-generated characters provided for Worldwide Game Day the way they were presented. You may have selected different equipment, assigned points to ability scores differently or chosen different powers. But that’s not something you can change in this circumstance. So take this unique build and experiment. Try things you wouldn’t normally do. Try playing a class or race you’ve never played before. These are essentially throw-away characters that you’ll never play again. So feel free to go a little nuts and try outrageous things.
8. Don’t be critical
Experienced gamers often feel that certain character classes should be played a certain way. This is especially true if you’ve actually played that class before. So if the guy playing your favourite class doesn’t do things the way you would, don’t be critical. Let that player run the PC as they see fit. For all you know they feel the same way about how you’re running their favourite class.
9. Help the DM
The DM has his hands full. In some cases he may be reading the adventure for the first time as everyone sits down at the table. Offer to help the DM. Remind him when enemies are marked or ongoing effects require a save. Even something as simple as offering to help track initiative will free up a few minutes for the DM and let him focus more attention on running the game.
10. Have fun
At the end of the day the most important thing to remember is that we’re all there to have a good time. Regardless of how a particular encounter played out or who got the magic amulet, as longs as everyone had fun then the event was a success.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. If you’ve got some pointers that you’d like to share please add them in the comments. After all, we’re all in this to have fun and to make the gaming experience a good one.