Friday, August 19, 2016

RPG a Day - Day 19

Today's topic: What's the best way to learn a new game?

I have a lot of experience learning new games, thanks to Charm City Game Day, run by my friend Larry.  I saw some games I'd never even heard of in the past and met some awesome people this way, by the way. The next one is just around the corner, September 17. If you're in greater Baltimore/DC area, you should consider coming out for this.

In any case, I've found that immersion is the best way to learn a new game. Most people, if they've played any sort of RPG before, understand that if their character sheet says, "Sneaking +5," then if they decide to sneak, they'll get a +5 to their rolls. That's relatively intuitive for even the greenest of gamers.

For more complicated rules, though? Demonstrations are worth their weight in gold. For example, I mentioned a few days ago that I loved Fate Points. This system isn't always intuitive to players right away, whether they're seeing a written description or the GM is explaining it to them at the table. Show them the different ways they work in the first five minutes of the game, however, and they'll catch on quickly.

Another helpful element of jumping into the game is to simply ask the players to declare their actions and start getting into the rule details as things come along. For example, perhaps the players are a spaceship crew, and you tell them that their destination is blocked by debris. One player says, "My character is the ship's navigator. Can I pilot us through the wreckage?" Great, this is the perfect time to talk about how piloting a ship works in this game.

This appraoch also works because the players will ask questions as they come up. To use the same example, another player might say, "My character has a bonus in 'Heavy Weapons' and training in 'Ship Weaponry.' Is there a difference? 'Cause I'd like to use the ship's guns to clear a path in the debris." This makes a great time to talk about those differences and the mechanics for shooting the ship's weapons.

You might not think it'd make a difference, but if you'd tried to throw all of that at the players before starting, plus whatever other explanations you think they'd needed, it probably would have gotten lost in the din.

Some other good advice for teaching a new system:

  • Provide a copy of quick-start rules if you can. It can speed up the game if the players have something to reference for their questions on basic mechanics within the system.
  • Keep it simple. Some systems can get incredibly complicated, and the game can get bogged down in the details if you throw too much at the players at once. 
  • Limit the options. The players' primary vehicle for interacting with the world is the collection of knobs and levers that make up the character sheet. Don't put anything on there that you know won't get used in the game. 
  • If the characters are divided into different classes or roles, make certain that all of those roles are show-cased and useful in your game.
The last thing I'd say about all of this is to make the game fun. Nothing about the system or the mechanics will matter if nobody actually enjoys the adventure. 
September 17. Put it on your to-do list.

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