Today’s guest article is by Clave Jones. By day he manages the InnovÃ© Project, which launches social ventures for the betterment of our planet. By night he is the editor-in-chief of Nerds on Earth, a website that discusses nerdy topics such as Star Wars, The Walking Dead, comics, sci-fi, and of course, Dungeons and Dragons. Thanks, Clave! –Martin
I attended my first Dungeons & Dragons Adventurers League Organized Play event last year as a brand new D&D player.
Technically, I wasn’t a brand new D&D player, but my last roll of the 20-sided die was over 20 years ago, which to state the obvious isn’t exactly, you know, current. As a kid I played the heck out of the D&D Blue Box, which serendipitously coincided with a paragon tier ninja phase I was going through. I’d hit up the local flea markets where I’d buy $1 ninja stars, then run home to practice sticking them into trees.
Of course, any time I’d actually get one of my throwing stars to stick I’d let out a gleeful hoot, which would only serve to give away my covert ninja location. Realizing I wasn’t destined for the Way of the Samurai, my ninja phase faded, as did my D&D play.
I’m finally getting to my point, which is this: If Flock of Seagulls and Bananarama was playing on the radio the last time you seriously played D&D, then you can safely consider yourself a brand new player. Sure, I know to roll the 20-sided die, and I understand the basics about character attributes, races and classes, but I had more knowledge of throwing ninja stars than I did of D&D 5e when I walked into my first Adventurers League game last year.
Being a dungeon master is the toughest job in the business. A DM has the role of Storyteller/Mathematician/Voice Actor/Improvisor/Psychologist/Organizer/Cartographer/Props Master/and Referee. Added to that list of roles is the responsibility that DMs have in drawing new D&D players into the Realms.
I’ll not presume to be able to give DMs advice, I’ll simply point out some behaviors and trends that this brand new player spotted in the DMs he first played with, then end this post with a word of encouragement.
First, the DMs I’ve recently gotten to know have been incredibly passionate. It’s clear they love D&D. Not only are the energetic and enthusiastic at the gaming table, but they have been great at connecting with new players both immediately before and after the game sessions. It’s been fun to watch someone be excited about what they do and the passion that they have shown for D&D has been a draw for new players, who want to have as much fun as they see the DM having.
Second, the DMs have been prepared. It’s clear they are ready to go with sessions at varying levels of play. They’ve had Adventurers League Log Sheets ready to go and have often had full cases of miniatures for new players to choose from. New players likely don’t even have a character sheet, so DMs who carry a “newb kit” with a couple blank sheets and an extra set of dice are golden.
Thirdly, the DMs have been patient and I must say that this is something I deeply appreciate. They’ve certainly had to field rookie questions from me, but they’ve not once let an ounce of frustration show.
In fact, they’ve seemed pleased to talk about the basics of the game, particularly as it relates to 5e. Never once have they acted like they were put out by any new player who showed up for a game. I had played before, so I certainly knew the difference between a 12 and 8 sided die, but I’ve seen our DMs be very patient with other players who were complete beginners and needed to be shown their 20 sided die or where dexterity is on their character sheet. I can’t overstate how important this is for welcoming new people into the hobby.
Finally, the DMs I’ve recently gotten to know have been incredibly welcoming. They have made it abundantly clear in not just their words, but in their body language as well: they welcome new players at all skill levels and at any point in play.
As a result the Organized Play group I was a part of regularly had new players. This is in large part due to the fact that the DMs fostered a sense of community with their preparedness and welcoming nature. Not only do you have many players like me who were once brand new, yet now are regulars, but every player is enjoying themselves, which empowers them to reach out and invite friends along.
So my word of encouragement to DMs is to keep it up. Your willingness to embrace brand new players, and your patience through their initial learning stages is often turning those new players into regulars.
I should know.