My wife is planning a “girl game day” that will take place next month. Most of her friends that will be joining her have played board games, but haven’t really roleplayed before. Jennifer has played extensively– earlier this year she ran us through the first half of Keep on the Shadowfell. She ran her first adventure about a year ago. [It was a cool Dungeon Magazine adventure about a town with a kidnapped noble, with a big bad Wererat that battered us near the end.] She’s going to run a 4e game for them, probably built with some help from Dungeon Magazine adventures and notes from one shots she played in.

When she asked me for advice, I told her about the one shots I’ve run to teach new systems. (She was remarkably patient as I told the stories.) She brought up a good point– in my cases, I’m usually teaching a new system to experienced roleplayers. She’s going teach them how to roleplay and show them a specific system all at once. Despite the imperfect match, I drew on my experience and came up with the suggestions below.

My Suggestions

  • Pregens: I suggested that she should generate characters in advance– a few more than the actual number of players, so that her players have some choice. She’ll probably borrow some of the characters from the WotC website and might repurpose some of the characters we’ve made for RPGA 4e games.
  • Stories: One thing that worked for me when running a teaching one-shot was to provide a couple of paragraphs of history for each character. It was a good way to quickly convey some setting assumptions and gave the player a baseline to roleplay from.
  • Dice, Pencils, etc: Let everyone know they can just show up– everything else will be provided.
  • Power Cards: I think having power cards with everything already worked out could make the game even more approachable. (Much like the powers on the Shadowfell character sheets.)
  • Maybes: I’m not sure if or which of the following are best.

  • Quick References: I’m divided on providing quick references. I’d guess that one page sheets with action types, turn sequence, etc. would be OK. I suspect a 20 page ‘quick’ reference would scare everyone off. New players flee if confronted with too much material.
  • Simplified Sheets: Most character sheets are extensive– they have all of the data you need to recompute everything listed in boxes. Would it be worth the effort to streamline sheets to knock out the intermediate numbers and just boil it down to the final numbers? It might make for a cleaner, less intimidating sheet… but it would be harder to explain where the numbers all come from.
  • A ringer: She mentioned the possibility of including an experienced roleplayer among them, to subtly guide them. The main drawback is that her experienced player pool is mostly guys, which might get in the way of the “girl game day” part. Another problem is that they’ll pick up the ringer’s bad habits instead of inventing their own. Making sure they know the game is for them– not the ringer– is also important to get right.

Adventure Design

I suspect that her group will take some time to introduce themselves, pick characters, etc. That sounds like a half an hour at a minimum– longer if they’re chatty or eager to study each character. In all, I’d guess that three or four hours is as long as she should plan to keep new people’s interest. Jennifer has talked about wanting to run a more traditional dungeon crawl. Keeping in mind the limited time, do you start with a town/hiring scene, so they can talk and explore a bit? Or do you skip ahead (say, with a paragraph of explanatory box text) and start them off at the cave mouth?

I think two or three combat encounters, a roleplaying encounter, and a good skill challenge makes a good framework to build on. I’d be tempted to start with fight brewing– say, a couple of kobolds come out to find out who is tromping all over their ceiling or the like. The first battle should be easy, because everyone will be discovering what they’re best at doing… and might take a few smacks while they figure it out. On the other hand, if the battle goes too easily, other minions might respond to the noise as delayed reinforcements.

How does the overall framework sound to you? Is it too ambitious, or do you think they’ll blow through it too quickly? Would you prepare an extra encounter or two to drop in case they run ahead of schedule? Or just assume that you’ll take up the extra time toasting their success in town after they’re through?

Your Suggestions

I suspect many of you have introduced new players to roleplaying– please share any advice you have. Is there anything critical she needs to include to help them figure it out? I’ve listed my suggestions– please help me find the holes so she can plan a fun session. And maybe make a few converts.

If any of my suggestions sound counterproductive or too time consuming, please point them out. I don’t want her to burn out before the game even begins. [For a quick hint about her: when I mentioned writing this article, she asked “Are you going to call it Newbs with Boobs?”]