Does anyone have advice for getting a D&D game going for beginners that includes people who aren't familiar with RPG mechanics?
First off, I've noticed a lot of D&D chatter on here, so I figured you all would be a great resource for this. I've never played D&D but after listening to some of The Adventure Zone, I'm really getting into the idea. I want to play with a group of friends, but there are a few people who have never really played an RPG and get somewhat self-conscious playing things like board games. Any recommendations for a good starting point for this sort of situation?
Wow - there is some bad advice in here.
Pathfinder? Really guys? That's one of the most complicated systems around.
Here's my pitch for why D&D is the game everyone should at least start with:
Everyone plays D&D. It's the most popular RPG. That means it has the most support, the largest community and more resources to help you get into it smoothly.
Compared to other RPGs, D&D 5th Edition (The newest version) is very streamlined and newbie friendly. There may be simpler games, but they don't have the support network of D&D.
If you wanted, you could play D&D tonight. For free. You can even be Dungeon Master thanks to everyone online with the goal of teaching you how to do it. Best example: Matt Colville. I talk about this guy so much to newbies that you'd think I was sponsored by him. To run your first session, you only need to watch the first three episodes.
So if you want to make a group and play, from those links you have the rules, a guide and an adventure. The only other thing you need is a dice app. Then you can play.
If you want to build confidence role playing, go to an Adventurers League session. That's D&D's organised play scheme. They are regularly held at hobby shops and other nerdy hangouts. It's no strings attached - it's designed so you can turn up whenever you like and there's no obligation to stay with the game you're in. It's a good way to learn the game. You can even take a friend if you like.
If you have any questions at any time, go ahead and ask me.
EDIT: Another good source for D&D basics: Mark Hulmes of Tabletop Weekly
EDIT2: Sorry, added to that list you also need characters. Here are the official pre-made characters. Print them off, add name, gender, and personality and off you go.
Agreed, there is some seriously bad advice in here. "D&D is too complicated, play Pathfinder"? Apparently no one playing tabletop games here has played D&D since 3.0.
D&D 5e is the best starting point for someone who seriously wants to enter the world of tabletop gaming. There are simpler, rules-lite systems that might be easier to learn, but to your point, all the resources and support around 5e really make it the best starting point. Pathfinder is really showing its age at this point, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone at this point, particularly not a new DM.
Dungeon World/Apocalypse World/any PbtA system, while great fun, is not something I'd recommend to a beginner either. The narrative-based gameplay and lack of a tabletop can be tricky for newbies. It's a good second system, something to get into once you've already cut your teeth. It's not a great beginner system.
The only thing I want to add to your recommendation is that The Lost Mines of Phandelver is a great starter adventure, essentially the 5e equivalent of the Pathfinder Beginners Box. Actually, Phandelver is more like the Beginners Box combined with the first half of Runelords, making it an even better value.
Phandelver assumes that everyone is playing for the first time, both the DM and the players, and holds your hand through everything. You can also buy a Phandelver module on Amazon if you are playing in person or roll20 if playing over the internet.
Adding to the end of this comment, but more addressing OP:
If you play your free session and you all think "Yeah, that was pretty fun", I agree with Kraetos - totally go ahead and buy the Starter Set for "The Lost Mines of Phandelver" (tLMoP).
Where Colville's adventure amounts to a hook ("Just save the girl") and a small dungeon, tLMoP shows you how to run a game that's a little more complicated with more locales, NPCs etc. This is all over a longer campaign rather than a one-shot adventure.
On the surface level, D&D looks like a very daunting and expensive hobby. Look at all these books!
In reality, past tLMoF you only really need to buy the three core rulebooks - The Player's Handbook (PHB), the Monster Manual (MM) and the Dungeon Master's Guide (DMG). These are for character creation (also the rules, but they're free already), the main bank of creatures and miscellaneous tables/DM advice respectively. Even out of these three, the DMG isn't too essential.
The rest are either adventure modules, or optional add-ons for the topics covered in the first two books. If you want to, you can ignore all of these and make up your own stories instead.
I really like the idea of making up my own stories, but I'm sure having a few intro stories to ease into things could be helpful.
I don't see any comments saying to play Pathfinder due to DnD being too complicated. That said, the lost mines of Phandelver also seems like a great introduction.
Thanks! This looks like it could be reslky useful. I appreciate your response.
Agreed. 5e is way more noob-friendly (and friendly all around) than Pathfinder. "Rule 0" (The GM supercedes the rules) is pretty explicitly built into the core rulebooks. The whole system seems designed around sitting around a table with friends, rather than scouring rulebooks for that one spell / class / rule that will make you a worldender.
A one-shot with prerolled characters might be a good place to get your feet wet, but unfortunately I have no suggestions for such
Rule 0 is said multiple times throughout Pathfinder's GM guide and Core rule book. Most times whenever we want to keep the ball rolling at our table, we just give the GM the say and look up a rule later. If you're looking for one niche to make you the best player ever, you're playing the game wrong most of the time IMO, regardless of your ruleset.
Fair, I saddled Pathfinder with 3.5's endless splatbooks that overspecialize pretty much everything and reward min-maxing
My comment about Rule 0 was more that the 5e books don't spell everything out and just say "whatever works for your game, go with"
As LetsTalkAboutDnD said, Matthew Colville is amazing to prepare the first second third and all following adventures. This video is great for a first adventure (Includes Dungeon, has links for adventures): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTD2RZz6mlo&index=2&list=PLlUk42GiU2guNzWBzxn7hs8MaV7ELLCP_
Could you expand upon why Pathfinder is a poor choice? Me and my table have used it with good results, though if there are other options I would enjoy exploring them. I think it personally stuck with me since it really felt like a board game and worked off of similar mental models. We actually purchased a beginner DnD set and couldn't get into it as well without a grid. That said, I could definitely go for playing at a table without a grid now after becoming addicted to and more comfortable with tabletop rpg's.
Thanks, - Rain
Pathfinder is a perfectly fine game. It's just that it is more mechanics heavy with more tagged-on and superficial rules when compared to D&D 5e. If you are starting with a DM who plays pathfinder I have no qualms, but if nobody at the table has played an RPG, 5e is easier to learn. Not to say that Pathfinder is impossible to learn - just that it's not as easy as 5e.
About the grid: There's no reason you can't use one. 5e supports grids and I personally only run combat with a grid. If you mean in an out-of-combat setting, I don't use a grid there - that seem like a lot of unnecessary work.
Pathfinder is rules heavy and over-engineered when compared to 5e. "Three feats just to go to the bathroom" is my preferred glib encapsulation of the problem with Pathfinder. Pathfinder has its own formation of "Rule 0" but with a core rulebook that seems like it's got an answer for every edge case, that just feels like lip service to me.
Here are a few examples:
Lastly on the topic of battlemats, technically yes the 5e PHB calls playing with a mat "variant rules," but everyone I know who plays 5e just uses a mat.
Pathfinder and 5e have very similar "souls"—they follow the same lineage after all—but 5e does away with a lot of the cruft that's accumulated over the years. Switching from Pathfinder to 5e felt like lifting a weight off my chest.
All you had to do was show me that flowchart. I feel like me and my table need to go to 5e. Thanks for the great input.
Your DM might find this helpful.
Thanks for the information and encouragement! I have a lot of research to do! I like the idea of starting with a few pre-made characters. I might try DMing with a smaller group at first to get the hang of it.
I would advise you to maybe try and see if you could play at least one game as a player before becoming a DM/GM, it will give you some valuable perspective and in general will inform you on the kind of DM/GM you want to be for your players.
Check the internet if there are any groups in the area doing one-off sessions or introduction nights, you don't lose anything by trying!
This seems like good advice. Thanks for your response!
If you guys can shell out 30 bucks I recommend purchasing the pathfinder beginner box. It has a dungeon already made, characters created and ready to explore, and a guide for the DM to keep the adventure on track. Me and my friends had an absolute blast playing it, and you can use the first dungeon's experience as a basis to further your campaign later. The guide has plenty of resources for helping new players, including making your own player characters and dungeons.
This is the set on Amazon
I second this. The beginner dungeon/quest that comes with the box explains everything concisely and clearly. The dungeon map that comes with this set does a great way of getting people used to the grid as well, and the premade characters have wonderful little backstories that explains why they've all gathered in this town.
Can't recommend it enough.
Don't play D&D. It's not the most complicated game out there, but it isn't that simple.
My personal favourite game for noobs is Primetime Adventures. The Gumshoe system is easy to learn as well.
Learning to roleplay is a bit of a cognitive leap, and learning to GM is daunting. Having to learn a new complicated rule system at the same time is not fun.
Like mentioned above (not sure if you get the reply though), try the Pathfinder Beginner set. It really goes a long way to explain everything you need to roll the beginner's dungeon it gives you. And if you do decide to go the tabletop RPG route, try roleplaying a lot instead of focusing too much on combat. Explore the town, come up with interesting people; generally, just have fun!
I agree with Chocolate. Don't play D&D. Don't get me wrong, I love D&D and grew up playing D&D, but in terms of role-playing systems, it is NOT beginner friendly (though the new edition is better than previous) and can even teach some bad habits.
I recommend any number of smaller RPGs. The Gumshoe system is good. If you want a Dungeon Crawler, I HIGHLY recommend Dungeon World (which operates on a system called PbtA, or "Powered by the Apocalypse" that started with the fallout-esque game "Apocalypse World"). Even if you don't play it, I think every GM should read it for the advice. I've been GMing for years and still felt it made me better.
If DW doesn't seem like your bag, let me know and I can try to help you find one that is. Indie RPGs and smaller RPGs that aren't D&D-derivatives (again, not that D&D isn't a great game. I have spent more hours of my life playing it than anything else) are kind of my favorite thing and I love helping people find a lesser known game that helps them tell the story they want to tell.
I will second Dungeon World and PbtA games in general, but with the caveat that their inherent lack of world-building or guiding structure can put more strain on the GM, since you'll be in large part responsible for creating a world your players can believe in.
DW has an explicit world-building section as part of the first session, IIRC?
It definitely requires players who want to take part in the creation of the world, rather than just "playing the game" though
It has some world-building tools IIRC, but not dedicated bestiaries or world guides like older, more established systems do. For good reason I might add: the point of PbtA is to empower GM and player creativity.
That is true, on the other hand the work of of properly balancing stats / monster strength for encounters is minimal. In DND if you mess that up, you'll kill your players dead, in DW the DM never rolls a dice and it's relatively easy to adjust your creatures to the encounter (their attacks being a reaction to a failed roll etc.)
Both ways have their strengths and weaknesses -- personally, I really hate having to deal with Monster stat blocks -- but I'd say DW is a bit easier as you can simply take the idea of a creature from almost any DND book and go from there
Dungeon World was my first 'real' campaign that lasted for longer than two sessions. If you've got a DM who knows the system and is good at improv it's fantastic way to get into RPGs. It lets the players be involved in the world and feel powerful from level 1, while still letting them be challenged in meaningful ways. There's also far less numbers to worry about, so it's great for new players that might feel overwhelmed by the detail in systems like pathfinder.
That said, 5e is super newbie friendly as well, just with a little more structure. Good for folks who have played RPGs before but not necessarily a tabletop one.
Kinda wish there was an online format that we could all join, because clearly there are several people including myself in here that wish to pick it up or enjoy it.
You might check out Roll20.net as its a pretty healthy community of online tabletop roleplayers.
I haven't seen it mentioned yet, but I would recommend Numenera/Cypher System as a better choice for new players than DnD. Its a very flexible game system, with light tactical combat, that really focuses on roleplaying. It was created by Monte Cook, who was one of the lead designers for DnD 3rd edition and creator of the Planescape setting. Some interesting things about the system.
The GM doesn't roll any dice usually, its always the player rolling against a target number. The GM picks a number between 1-10, multiply that x3, thats the number they need to roll on a d20 to succeed. The players get various abilities/skills/effort they can apply to reduce the difficulty of the original 1-10 number.
Cyphers are one time use "magical items" that do some effect. This can be anything you mind can imagine from a device that lets you search the "Datasphere" (the internet basically) to something that boils water, to something that creates an object out of light, to a "moist tongue" that you touch to yours and record a message it repeats, to an object that creates a singularity and basically rips everything in an area from reality. The creative uses for these I've seen are so fun!
It uses a GM intrusions as a way for you to make situations more interesting, in exchange for XP given to your players. They also happen on natural 1s.
The entire game is set up to be a narrative game, so no need for miniatures or a battle mat.
It really focuses on the roleplay and discovery, with less focus on tactical combat and looking up spells/abilities.
Here is a link to the "How to Play" youtube of Numenera but, Cypher System is more than just that, the core book for Cypher provides rules for everything from horror games to westerns to super heroes, and of course, your standard fantasy stuff. Numenera is a setting that is a billion years in the future, 8 great civilizations have risen to their peak and fallen, and have done everything from reshaping the earth, to building bases in the sun, to intergalactic/interdimensional travel, pretty much anything you can imagine. The current civilization has been around about 1000 years, and lives in the ruins of these great fallen civilizations, utilizing and scavenging the technology, which they don't understand, but make use of. Its super interesting and I personally love the setting.
Hope something in there helps! They are getting ready to launch Numenera 2, which is an updated version of the game, so I would wait to buy the core book until then, but there should be a quick play guide on the Monte Cook games site.
Also, there's always Lasers and Feelings for a first introduction to tabletop RPGs. Its a one page PDF here that gives you the premise and all the rules you need. It can be a lot of fun, and is a good gateway to the more complex systems.
Thanks for the thoughtful response! I will definitely look into this as well. I have a lot of YouTube videos to watch!