This week our question comes to us from across the Narrow Sea:
What is the best way to teach D&D to someone who has never heard of it?
I live in Dominican Republic and these kind of games are unspoken so i’m trying to spread the word between friends but it’s a bit hard not knowing “all” the rules myself. Any tips?
Although D&D and Roleplaying games might not be truly “popular” here in the States, I do sometimes forget how fortunate I am to be living in the place where Roleplaying was invented. Even people that have never played an RPG have heard of Dungeons & Dragons. It’s tough to find someone that would have absolutely no clue what you’re talking about, even if a lot of them think all Roleplaying is LARPing or has something to do with Bondage.
That being said, I’ve always derived some sort of perverse pleasure from converting the virginal Roleplayer to my way of life. And I mean that figuratively. Not like… stalking virgin D&D players (Which is all of them! Am I right!? <—-sarcasm, by the way).
What I do mean is that my favorite Roleplayers are the ones that have never played before. The vast majority of people I have rolled with over the years have actually been first-time Players.
Here’s a blog I wrote some time back where I discuss in-depth some tactics for acquiring these types of people and how to get them on board the Roleplaying train. I won’t rehash all of that here, as I want to focus on the “teaching” aspect, but the blog is definitely worth checking out as a newbie.
As with anything new, start out simple. Roleplaying, at its core, is collaborative storytelling. It’s a bunch of people sitting around a table actively participating in the creation of a story together. Start there.
When explaining D&D to new people, I always describe it as a choose-your-own adventure board game without a board. I tell them it’s 1 part acting, 1 part storytelling and 1 part board game. I tell them it’s super fantastically fun, and not at all as weird or confusing as it first sounds.
If you have no experience DMing, don’t try to do everything on your own. Start with a pre-written adventure. Read it over, and then read it again at least five more times. You can find free adventure modules all over the internet for 3.5 and 4.0. I would recommend going back even further than 3.5 if you can, not because I necessarily think AD&D was a superior system (though clearly, it was), but because I think it’s focus on Roleplaying and fudging the rules makes it faster and easier for new Players and DMs to pick up.
You can find free online rules compendiums for AD&D and 3.5 pretty easily, so my first piece of advice would be to study whatever system you want to use thoroughly! I know it seems daunting. I know it’s a lot of information, but if you know the basic rules and have a story it’s going to be MUCH easier to get people on board and explain the game.
Now, when I say basic rules I mean BASIC. Focus on learning how to create a character, what a skill check is, and how to fight. And don’t worry about complex combat rules. All you need to start is Roll-to-Hit and Roll-for-Damage. That’s it. Build up from there.
Now that you know the basics really well, don’t worry about them too much. You don’t want to overwhelm new Players with tons of rules, but YOU want to know them, because it will make the game move faster, which makes it more interesting.
I know this hasn’t been the most specific post (i.e. Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, Roleplaying!). I’ve really just give you a lot of homework to do, but trust me, it will be worth it. And if you want a really long, more specific blog, here’s a 3 parter I wrote: Passing on the Craft.
You and your friends are about to start on an fantastical, epic journey of awesomeness, that you will not soon forget. The more you prepare for it, the more fun it will be, and less likely anyone will be to want to stop.
Good luck! And roll it like you mean it!
Don’t forget to check out my RPG Web Series, One Die Short!