Trying out a roleplaying game for the first time is one of the most daunting tasks in the tabletop gaming world. Even if there were no rules attached to the game new players would be in over their head. These are five pieces of information that are beneficial to share with new players when they sit down at the table for the first time.
1) You Are Going To Make Mistakes
And you know what? That’s okay. Your first few sessions shouldn’t be about playing perfectly. I’d argue that roleplaying games aren’t about playing perfectly, however there is a lot of pressure for a new player because they’ll be sitting around a table with a bunch of players who look like pros in comparisons.
If there’s dice you might not know which is which. The DM might ask you to do something and you won’t have any idea what they are talking about. You might try and use a spell or an ability completely wrong and everyone will look at you (after an awkward pause) and say, “that’s not how that works.” Any of those things in the moment might seem like horrible missteps that ruin the mood of the table but they are not. They are necessary to learning the game.
2) Don’t Worry Too Much About The Roleplaying
Getting into your character and immersing yourself completely into the world is one of the best parts of a roleplaying game. However when you’re just starting out the rules are daunting enough. Trying to balance staying in character while also attempting to understand all the complex terms can be quite mentally demanding. Instead use your first few sessions to get a feel for how the game works and where you fit into it.
Roleplaying is one of the hardest parts of getting comfortable with any RPG. It takes a lot of time to learn how to separate yourself from the game mechanics. It is an important part of the game, but it should be one of the last pieces you focus on when you’re just starting out.
3) There’s A Lot Of Rules, But It’s Not Your Job To Know Them
Unless you’re learning a game for the first time as a DM (which is a whole other article), there are a lot of rules that you don’t need to know. You’ll want to learn how certain mechanics-- like combat-- work, but even then you don’t need to know the rules from top to bottom. Don’t be surprised if you ask how certain aspects work and the players tell you to watch a few rounds and then join in when you feel comfortable.
Roleplaying games seem quite rigid in their structure, but in reality they all flow freely. Players will get comfortable around the table with one another and it becomes more about storytelling than it does about being a mechanically strict game.
Of course none of this means rules can be explicitly broken; where’s the fun in that?
4) Don’t Be Afraid To Try
As you start to get more comfortable in the game you’re playing, ideas will pop into your head for what you want your character to do. They may seem ridiculous, they may seem out of place, and they may seem completely different from how you’ve been playing so far. Now matter how it feels, if the inspiration is there you should follow through with that inspiration.
There’s a turning point for any player. It’s when they realize they love the game or they don’t. It usually hinges on the moment where they get that desire to do something to actually impact the game. You should impact the game, that’s your job as a player in a roleplaying game. Following through with these impulses will open doors for you, completely entering your character and immersing yourself in the game.
However with that said...
5) Don’t Do Things Just Because You Can
The magic of a roleplaying game is that nearly anything can happen. If a city guard is talking down to you and you don’t like it, you can uppercut him off a bridge. As in life, your in-character actions have consequences. Sure, you uppercutted a guard off a bridge: now you are wanted by the city military and you need to go into hiding. As this was happening another player had a very important meeting with a high profile merchant, but because they were seen with you they are also on the wanted list. The entire party now needs to go into hiding, closing off the entire city and its resources.
A good DM can roll with chaos, but it doesn’t mean that you need to go causing it just because you can. Roleplaying is very much a group activity and there’s nothing that ruins the mood more than one player testing the limits and seeing how far they can go without breaking the game. Be considerate of other players and even ask them, out of character and out of game, if this is a line that is too ridiculous to follow.
There’s a lot to learn when you first dive into a roleplaying game. These five pieces of advice can be helpful for any new player who wants to know what they should and shouldn’t focus on for their first few games. With a supportive DM and a supportive group of players, almost anyone can find a fit at a roleplaying table. It just takes a lot of trial and error and the understanding that mistakes happen and it’s impossible to do everything right. Focus on having fun and understanding your character, the rules will follow.
Any other tips you share with new players at your table? Let me know in the comments or tweet at me directly on Twitter!
Justin Cauti is a writer and Twitch streamer. He plays board/roleplaying games on the internet at http://www.playingboardgames.tv. Follow him on Twitter for updates on his boring life and writing projects @LeftSideJustin.
Picture Reference: http://www.nerdsourced.com/get-friends-play-dd/
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.