Like a Virgin

Once again, I’m writing a bonus blog, not because I have questions to spare (because I don’t, so give me more), but because I think this is an important question, and don’t feel like waiting to write a response:

Hey man,

I’ve finally found a group of people who want to sit down and begin an
actual pen-and-paper RPG (we’re doing a homebrew star-wars RPG). I
have very little experience so far with playing them “manually” ( i
played neverwinter nights for years however…). What kind of
experience can i expect? Playtime? How much should i learn about the
star-wars universe before i start? How much backstory should i create?

also, i know that i tend to be argumentative and pick up on details
and loopholes pretty quickly. I’ve done a sizable portion of reading
online about dnd culture and things, and after doing so i’ve become
aware that i’m a prime candidate to be a whiner/munchkin. I don’t want
that. I want to keep the game fun for everyone, and trying to
out-knowledge the DM is something that i’m very worried about. What
practical advice do you have (outside of not being a whiny prick)?

Happy Trails,

First, I just want to say congratulations for stepping into the new and exciting realm of pencil and paper RPGs.  It’s a fantastically good time, and I know only a small handful of first-timers that didn’t thoroughly love it (but I am an awesome DM).  So, I think you’re in for a treat.

All of your questions are important considerations for beginning your roleplaying experience.  The first game I ever played consisted of rolling a couple of dice in Middle School with some vague understanding that I was somehow playing a game, while getting laughed at and occasionally assaulted by other students in the lunch room.  Somehow I never learned to NOT play at school though.  It was too much fun.

Your First Time
When you first start roleplaying there is always a bit of discomfort.  Lots of shifty eyed glances at the other players, waiting to see who will launch into the land of make-believe first.  It’s completely natural not to want to be the first to make a fool out of yourself, but roleplaying works best when somebody has the balls/ovaries to make a complete fool out of his or herself.  So do it.  Everyone will thank you.

Things will probably start out slow as you learn the rules.  Lots of questions should and will be asked.  If you’re a quick learner, or the type that’s read and re-read the rules 17 times already, be patient with the players that don’t like doing homework. 

A good D&D session can run anywhere from 2 to 20 hours.  I like to keep my sessions around 3 hours, especially for the ADHD types.  Surprisingly, even 3 hours seems to go by fairly quickly for most people.  A good DM can hold the attention of most players for considerably longer than most filmmakers.  But again, at least for the first session, 3 hours could end up dragging from confusion, so I would suggest to your DM that he tries to keep things rules-light at first.

Taken from The Art of Writing.

From a DMs perspective backstories are awesome.  Dig deep, get detailed, write a novel if you want.  The more the DM knows about everyone’s character the more he or she can personalize the gaming experience for everyone.  Some player’s don’t want to put much time into backstories.  They just want to roll their character and start fighting shit. 

One thing I’ve learned though, is even these players like a personal touch in their adventures, so I always push people just a little bit further than they would normally go with their backstories.  If you can do this on your own without any urging from your DM, it will be much appreciated, and you’ll be glad for it later.  Think about:

1) Their family
2) Goals and drives
3) Their favorite color
4) Pet peeves
5) Habits

If you make a well-rounded, deep character, you’ll find yourself having a MUCH easier time of getting into the game and the roleplaying experience.  There are a lot of character development exercises out there for writers, and I would suggest players make use of them as well.  You don’t need to write all of these down somewhere, but KNOWING them will make a huge difference.

Don’t be a Douche
You’re already on your way to not being a douche be realizing your potential to be one.  The easiest way to do this is to not argue with the DM unless it’s actually important.  Here are some things that are NOT important:

1) Failing a roll
2) Linguistically inaccurate NPC names
3) Minor inconsistancies in NPC backgrounds or the story
4) Deciding non-canon material annoys you

Here are some things that ARE important:

1) Your PC just died
2) MAJOR plot loopholes
3) One of your fellow players is a douche
4) Your DM thinks he’s more important than the players

One piece of advice I like to give to players is this: if you have moderate or little knowledge about a campaign setting, DON’T bother learning more.  Give your DM free reign to create the Universe for you.  If he wants to kill off Luke Skywalker, let him.  If he decides Darth Vader’s real name was Harold, let him.  Every game we play within a pre-existing Universe should be viewed as an alternate Universe anyway.  Your characters never existed.  You made them up, not Lucasfilm or anyone affiliated with them, so relax.  Let yourself be immersed in a new world and enjoy it.  Let your DM do his job.

Roll it like you mean.
– The Dungeon Master

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You can also see me in action in One Die Short.

This entry was posted in DM Advice, Dungeons & Dragons, Fantasy, Geek Culture, General Roleplaying, Player Advice, Star Wars and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Like a Virgin

  1. Darren says:

    Backstory is important to the GM.

    Your character didn’t just spontaneously exist, did they? They had a past, with all the allies and enemies that implies.

    Even the munchkins should write backstories: if you give a good background story of your character’s rich family, you can get cash! Dad was a soldier? Get a free weapon! Mum was greatest warrior in the Realms? Get a free combat Feat 😀

  2. I actually ran a Star Wars d6 West End Games for my group this week, some being bigger fans and more knowledgeable than others. If somebody knows some random fact, great. My players had one request for their game, they did not want to run into Luke, Leia, Han and the gang. If you know more than the GM that is fine just let him tell his story for your characters. It is true that if you develop backstory you will usually find that some of the game tends to revolve around your character a bit more. It shows interest in the game and the GM will show interest in you. It isn’t supernatural and human nature, so take advantage of it. This is a great one and I am happy to hear that new gamers are joining the fold. Excellent advice oh wise DM.

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