RPG 101 with Rabbits and a Farm of Doom
After being contacted on Facebook by some young folk who wanted to learn to play RPGs, I arranged for a demo session one Friday night at All Aboard Community Gaming Centre.
At heart, an RPG demo is about getting players to have fun playing in the story together. Although Chern, the leader of the new group, had asked to learn Dungeons & Dragons, I suggested a slight change in plans.
My biggest concern was finding a way to teach new gamers how to roleplay quickly and simply while also providing a complete gaming experience. I don’t want a truncated “to be continued” session where character creation and explaining rules takes all the energy out at the start. I want to provide rewarding and complete game sessions with complete stories – beginning, middle, end. The way I introduce games may seem a bit fast, but it is indeed possible if you keep to the basics and start with a simpler system than D&D.
I scheduled for a one-hour one-shot of The Warren, followed by a one-hour one-shot of D&D.
Marshall Miller’s The Warren puts players in the lives of ordinary rabbits faced with exciting situations of survival and exploration. All the rules on a single page, no complicated magic, equipment or skill rules to learn, and since combat is nearly suicidal in the game, we wouldn’t even have to learn combat.
But rabbits inhabit a deadly world, and while the players didn’t have to learn combat, they would learn how to die.
I walked the four total newbies through a very brief character creation and rules walk-through in The Warren. In retrospect, I should have slowed down just a bit to explain the Moves a bit more, but the players seemed to pick things up just fine. The group was also joined by a veteran gamer Chris, who helped them along without being pushy.
We played through a simple farm raid and the brutal, rabbit-maiming consequences when the humans and dog showed up. There was even a desperate rescue mission to save two bunnies from the stew pot (one escaped, one didn’t). Only two of the five made it to the promised land of Borealis Wood in the end, with the others suffering various horrible fates.
And a complete session and introduction to roleplaying done in just over an hour!
RPG 101 with Dragon Eggs in Phlan
Thankfully Chris had experience with D&D 5e so he could explain things to one of the newbies while I walked through things with another. As expected, learning the magic options took more time for the new players than any other part of the rules.
I ran one of the Defiance in Phlan mini-missions to rendezvous with smugglers to buy a dragon egg, then deal with an unexpected ambush and double-cross. The heroes used Detect Magic to notice that the dragon egg was dodgy, and managed to trap the bandit leader in a burning barn in the final confrontation. So we managed to teach the basics of a second game system and complete a short quest in the remaining hour and a half.
Two complete tutorials and two complete game experiences in under three hours. Just a bit over time. Mission successful.