by Andre Kruppa
Over the years I have participated in a number of discussions regarding the best way to introduce new players to the wonderful world of role-playing gaming. Certainly there are many ways to go about it and I thought I’d take a few minutes to talk about my preferred methods.
I like to introduce folks to gaming with one shot scenarios using simple systems like Basic Role-Playing (usually in the form of Call of Cthulhu), the Lucid Dreams Role-playing Engine, a variant of Powered by Apocalypse, or FUDGE. This lets folks get their feet under them without getting rules heavy.
Sessions with new players, in my opinion, always need to be treated as teaching sessions until players get the hang of it. (I do this for almost any kind of game not just RPGs.) A cheat sheet of commonly used basic rules or a core rules sheet can be very helpful for some folks to get the hang of things.
It seems to me that when the role-playing pauses for some action resolution it is important to stop and explain what is going on, how the rules work, and what the options and ramifications are. This makes it fair for everyone. Collecting individual statements of intent each round of action helps a lot too. New players can go last, if they want to, so they get a feel for the options.
I also often encourage new players to read the rules themselves, after the first game. Not everyone is interested in doing so, and some folks just don't pick up game mechanics by reading. Technical writing is not for everyone. That being said, it can really give a handle on the game if folks are willing to put in the effort.
I also like to try and nip metagaming in the bud early, and in many games I enforce a “no suggestions from other players” rule during action resolution as an anti-metagaming convention. Only very brief in-character suggestions are allowed that could be yelled out quickly. This keeps players from interfering with each other to a great degree. When needed, I enforce a rule that suggestions from other players that are not in character can NEVER be followed, even if obvious. This works well if getting a bit tough on the offenders seems necessary. This rule also helps new players understand the line between player and character.
The number one goal is to be prepared to run and to ensure folks are involved and having fun. After that everything else follows!