Where To Start?

Posted by on Mar 12, 2010 in Question, RPGs | 51 Comments

A question for the weekend, folks: What’s the best currently-available RPG for a newcomer to the hobby? Better still, let’s make up an imaginary dude and find the right game for him. He’s 30, he’s never played but he’s heard tell. He doesn’t have tons of time, and he’ll need to put a gaming group together.

What game should he start with?


51 Comments

  1. Seth Ben-Ezra
    March 12, 2010

    Primetime Adventures, especially once Ryan Macklin and Matt Wilson get done with the third edition. Simple rules, plenty of solid guidance, low-prep, and nearly everyone has watched enough of the right television to feel at home in the game.

    Reply
  2. Ryan Macklin
    March 12, 2010

    Oh man, that’s rough. You’re talking about a text that:
    * Welcomes non-gamers (or, at least doesn’t hold them at bay with jargon and assumption)
    * Inspires & excites a non-gamer to try this activity over others (since, if you’re talking about him needing to get a group together, he’ll have to be initially inspired by the book and not another player)
    * Communicates clearly the producers and options of play to people who aren’t “culturally indoctrinated”
    * Tells the GM (or whoever) the advice needed to play this rather complicated role.
    At least, that off the top of my head. Wow. That’s a doozy.

    It’s hard to separate my knowledge enough to say “this is good for that hypothetical person,” but I have seen casual gamers who haven’t played in a long time really get excited by Jason Morningstar/Bully Pulpit’s newest release, Fiasco. That could be a candidate right there — it inspires well, if what you want to do is make a Coen Brothers flick. It doesn’t have a GM, so it distributes the advice across the board. It’s short, single-session gaming, so it fits in that board game space (albeit a long one). So, I would put a vote to that.

    @Seth: It’s my hope that Primetime Adventures third edition will have similar qualities, but that would be for others to judge.

    – Ryan

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  3. Queex
    March 12, 2010

    Feng Shui. High-octane action, characters that are fun to play right from the get-go, and no shortage of inspirational material in the popular consciousness. Slightly goofy, so no-one feels like they ‘not doing it right’ by cracking jokes or layering on the cheese.

    Or, if I felt like blowing my own trumpet and wanted to slip an RPG to someone under the guise of ‘group storytelling’, The Last Challenge.

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  4. David A Hill Jr
    March 12, 2010

    Depends on his particular interests, whether he leans more sci-fi, fantasy, or modern/realistic stuff. I’m a huge advocate of licensed materials, particularly things in the vein of Margaret Weiss stuff, for newbies. Dragon Age is another good one. Licenses mean the person is already at least somewhat invested in the setting, the book only needs to maintain that level of interest, until the group takes over.

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  5. Seth Ben-Ezra
    March 12, 2010

    This sort of question is hard because of the genre issue. It can be hard to get into a game because of the mechanics or because of the genre, ya know?

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  6. Filamena
    March 12, 2010

    Gender matters. What they watch/read matters.

    If you were to remove all those aspects, I feel like Dragon Age is where it’s at.

    (you know, at least until my husband’s game comes out. Ha!)

    Reply
  7. deadlytoque
    March 12, 2010

    Instinct makes me want to say Lady Blackbird, but… my concern is that it might be too sparse for a complete beginner… although that might work for the best, since filling in blanks with imagination is more or less what got the hobby rolling.

    And, well, it’s free.

    Reply
  8. Jeff Tidball
    March 12, 2010

    All good suggestions so far, although I’d also like to know how it’s possible that a game involving the creation of Coen Brothers stories exists and I wasn’t aware of it.

    But also, wow, this hypothetical dude is totally hosed. Understanding an RPG without learning from someone else who’s already involved is such a massive hump to climb over that it almost doesn’t matter which massive hump you choose. Sure, some humps are bigger than others, but they’re all massive.

    I’d be tempted to recommend red-box D&D as published in 198x, except you said “currently available.” So I’d maybe suggest Dragon Age for its relative simplicity, and in the hopes that our hypothetical guy might persevere through a bit of difficulty, and have a bit better luck recruiting friends, because he and they have heard of the brand before.

    [Editorial note: I wrote this before approving the other then-pending commentary that also turned out to suggest Dragon Age.]

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  9. Jason L Blair
    March 12, 2010

    My go-to for these situations remains InSpectres. Easy to learn, has board game-like mechanics, and everyone understands ghostbusting so it’s an easy sell (as these things go). I consider it the top intro game for folks looking to get into the hobby.

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  10. Jack Graham
    March 12, 2010

    For someone who’s 100% green, I’d pick the simplest possible system that will appeal to their aesthetic and escapist desires. I don’t think it’s so much a matter of picking the right system as picking the right fantasy. People play RPGs because it lets them experience a fictional life that appeals to them. You can put the most awesome game ever in front of them, but if it doesn’t let them be the kind of protagonist they want to be, it’ll fail.

    Where possible, I like using games with indie or indie-style rules where a Strong GM model prevails. One of the best experiences I ever had bringing in a totally green player was with _Over the Edge_. She’d never gamed before and was only playing because that was what her friends were doing that night. By the end of the night, she was totally engaged and had had a great time. I think Over the Edge and some indies might work really well for n00bs because new players often worry less about mechanics than more experienced players (and so a system where the GM has wide latitude to interpret outcomes sits better with them).

    Caveats: Strong GM doesn’t work for players who can’t get around thinking of RPGs primarily as games and less as stories; use something where mastery of rules is part of the satisfaction derived from playing for such players. Along a similar line, simple rules are not necessary for players who have the capability to learn and get comfortable with more complex rules rapidly.

    I feel like I just made a series of pronouncements. But I’m just describing my approach (which sometimes doesn’t work out).

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  11. Jack Graham
    March 12, 2010

    Also, you could totally do a Coen Brothers-style story in Over the Edge. And in fact, that is something I think I need to try. :)

    Reply
  12. Seth Ben-Ezra
    March 12, 2010

    Jeff,

    First: dude, Fiasco, totally. It is the Coen Brothers RPG, from Fargo to Raising Arizona. It would do No Country For Old Men, too, if that’s a selling point.

    Second, I’ve long been of the opinion that roleplaying is currently an oral tradition. Also, it is a new skill set. Boardgaming has enough of a shared cultural understanding that most of the skills have been learned by most people, at least on some level. (Things like “put the board where everyone can reach it” or “wait to take your turn” or “you’re not allowed to look at someone else’s cards”. Roleplaying doesn’t have those sorts of shared assumptions. In that respect, it *is* like learning theater or improv. There’s a new lingo (e.g. “upstaging”, “yes and…”, “reincorporation”[and am I talking about RPGs or theater here ;)]) and a new set of skills to learn. This conspires to make roleplaying less accessible in general without someone to instruct the players on what to do.

    This isn’t an insurmountable issue, but it does need to be faced when introducing n00bs to roleplaying.

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  13. Jeff Carlsen | Apathy Games
    March 12, 2010

    As much as I want to say Savage Worlds, it doesn’t actually do much to draw a new player in, or provide a lot of guidance for getting started.

    Our guy here is 30, so we should assume he makes a living wage and can afford more than one book, in needed. He’ll probably be turned off by too much initial reading, though. He’ll also have to find players.

    D&D 4e may be the best option. He’ll be able to find players, and it touches upon fantasy tropes he’ll probably be familiar with. It’s a simple enough system to learn, and DMG is very good for teaching new Game Masters how to run a game.

    I might also suggest Shadowrun, if I thought he had the mental dexterity to handle it. While the system is more complex, the core book does give the GM everything he needs, including a sense of setting, advice on running the game, flavor text, imagery, and a clear idea of what is expected of the players.

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  14. Rob Donoghue
    March 12, 2010

    Man, all the answers I can think of suck. Mouseguard might work, but only if our guy is really willing to spend a lot of time doing homework, so to speak. Dragon Age or the upcoming 4e Boxed set might work too, but there’s so little useful direction for a total novice GM…

    Must think about this.

    -Rob D.

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  15. Ryan
    March 12, 2010

    I posted the genesis of this question over at Will’s Wordstudio blog and have this to admit: I am the hypothetical person. Or I am at least one physical incarnation of that hypothetical person.

    I’m 31, I’ve never before played an RPG, but I’ve grown increasingly curious about the medium, both for the collaborative storytelling angle and the collaborative competitiveness of the game side.

    Aside from showing up at the next Dragoncon at the local university and saying “Hey guys! Deal me in!” (or something equally embarrassing) I don’t believe I have many opportunities to break into the local RPG scene. Maybe I should post on some online classified site: “SMM (31, n/s, some drinking) seeks RPG group to welcome him with patient arms. Fantasy/p-apocalypse preferred. No Western, please.”)

    In all seriousness, my question was half practical, half simple curiosity. I’d love to test the waters and was genuinely seeking advice. But I also wonder: If you don’t get on the bus when you’re younger, do you miss it completely?

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  16. Fred Hicks
    March 12, 2010

    Man, I hate plugging my own stuff sometimes, and thankfully this is only “my own stuff” by dint of having an Evil Hat on the back and my layout, but I’d say give a little consideration to A Penny For My Thoughts. It’s contained, it has plenty of guidance, it plays in one sitting, it’s very light on rules, and it has that crossover vibe going for it with its roots in improv. If Ryan above is interested in exploring the collaborative storytelling elements, I think it could hit a sweet spot.

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  17. Brand Robins
    March 12, 2010

    As with others, I’m going to have to say “It depends on the dude/I need more information.”

    One of the big problems with most current games is that they all carry large numbers of assumptions about structural elements of play. Games like, say, Lady Blackbird are awesome — if you already know how to play games like Lady Blackbird.

    So, absent that knowledge, I’d look for areas where the dude/dudette’s life knowledge has some chance of filling the gap.

    Someone who has some background in theatre or creative writing, for example, can often handle a lot of the needs for narrative structure that many “story games” style games need but don’t always do a good job about conveying. If they already understand about improvisational techniques, or story boarding, or the definition of dramatic conflict then one of the biggest structural hurdles to starting in is removed.

    Someone whose got a background in computer games, especially computer RPGs, is going understand a lot of the rules and structure around something like Dragon Age or D&D 4th in places where the game texts may not be helpful. They already know something about the structure and expectations of such games, and so one of the big structural hurdles is removed.

    All the genre stuff that others noted also applies. For some games other real-world knowledge could also fill in. History dorks, for example, could have a bit of an easier time getting into Zenobia or some other historical-sim game. For a group like that I’d actually probably step outside the standard RPG market and go with something like the “reacting to the past” series. (Which can be found here.)

    I’d also like to know something about how dudette is going to interact with the game. Someone who is going to be more comfortable approaching it as a game, with solid dependable and “grippable” rules will get a different recommended rules set than someone who is wanting to “play Star Wars, but where I get to be Luke and not make such stupid ass choices.” For the first player a relatively robust rules set may be a good thing. Certainly it may take a bit of time to learn, but if it makes them comfortable and gives them structure to play off of, then its all to the best.

    So, hmm….

    Well, about a year ago I did actually recommend an RPG to a friend who’d never played. He was a 30-something sometimes short-fiction writer and a Mormon returned missionary. I pointed him at Dogs. He tried it, and had a lot of problems. A lot of problems. But in the end he figured most of it out, and was still playing last time I heard.

    Flush off that success I recommend Dogs to my sister-in-law’s cousin — a late 20 something surfer from Palau who’d never written anything in his life. This was not a success. Not even a little. My brother gave him Rifts, and apparently he liked it.

    So yea. I got nothing.

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  18. Jeff Tidball
    March 12, 2010

    The more I think about it and read people’s comments, the more I think this question is the equivalent of, “What’s the best TV show that’s being made right now for someone who’s never seen television before?” It totally, totally depends; the medium is not monolithic. I like that realization, because it leads me to think that roleplaying, as a thing, is probably broader than my knee-jerk reaction suggests.

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  19. Jeff Tidball
    March 12, 2010

    Speaking practically, Ryan, as the rest of this thread probably suggests, the game you’d like depends on what other stuff you like.

    The best way to try it out is to find someone you already know who plays. Ideally, that person would have similar tastes to yours in other stuff (books, movies, TV).

    Age is totally not a factor. Probably you’ll have a better first experience as an adult than any of us did learning to roleplay as kids because you’ll have a better handle on whether you’re having fun or not, and why.

    Roleplaying is an awesome hobby. Don’t give up if you don’t like the first game you try. That’d be like swearing off movies because the first movie you saw was Fargo and you didn’t care for it, or giving up on beverages because the first one your tried was scotch. (For clarity’s sake, I’m a big fan of both of those things. The point is that they’re sort of acquired tastes.)

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  20. Ryan
    March 13, 2010

    Jeff, point well taken. And though I’d recommend “West Wing” to anyone encountering TV for the first time, regardless of their background, I get the idea of “medium is not monolith.” (And I also get that not everyone will care for Aaron Sorkin’s writing.)

    I could take this thread further out of the realm of hypothesis and into reality by saying, “OK then: My top three favorite authors are Ray Bradbury, Italo Calvino, and Neil Gaiman, The last board game I bought was Pandemic. I collect thimbles, dragons, first edition books, and loteria decks.” But then this would become less of a thought experiment and more of a guy asking for specific help in a more general forum.

    At this point, the broader challenge I’m facing seems to be finding someone I already know who plays…

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  21. Lugh
    March 13, 2010

    My recommendation? Whatever the group he finds wants to play. The group will trump any system and any setting. If the players click and the GM has some skills, the magic will happen. And these days, there is really no reason that anyone needs to try to teach himself how to game in a vacuum.

    @Ryan, you can totally show up to a con and say, “deal me in.” Or, possibly better yet, check out your local meetup.com for gaming groups. *Most* gamers would be happy and excited to induct a newbie into the fold. However, keep in mind a couple of things.

    First, gamers tend to include a higher than average number of “problem people.” This ranges from the simply socially inept all the way up to really damaged individuals. The escapism attracts a lot of people who need to escape. If you happen to draw the short straw and get somebody like this on your first foray, don’t paint us all with that brush. Just try a different group. Most of them really are made up of pretty normal people.

    Second, keep in mind the above points about the hobby not being monolithic. If you don’t like your first game, try another one.

    Third, RPGs are really a paradigm shift from anything you’ve done before. Don’t try to swallow it all in one gulp. Lean on the other players for advice and, especially, help with the rules. Relax into the role, try things that seem like they would be cool, and then pay attention to how it was done and whether it worked. If you’ve read gaming blogs at all, you’ll probably have noticed that even most of the leading lights of the hobby (several of whom are in these comments) haven’t got it all figured out yet.

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  22. Jack Graham
    March 13, 2010

    Yeah, Lugh has it right. If you’re a new player, the best thing to do is find an established group and play what they’re playing.
    I moved from Chicago to Boston about five years ago, and finding a gaming group in a new city was tough. I ended up joining this one group just because I needed my fix, and it was not a good time. Advice from this experience: do not join a group just because you really want to game or because they’re playing a system you’re interested in.
    You’ll have a way better experience if you find a group of people whose company you’ll enjoy and then roll with whatever game they’re playing.

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  23. Nook Harper
    March 13, 2010

    I started a gaming club in my home town just over a year ago, and I was completely suprised to discover that a guy called Jack, 22 years old and never gamed in his life before, picked up D&D 4e so easily and completely that he was running it within three months, and had a better handle on the game than the more ‘experienced’ GMs.
    I suspect that it is because D&D 4e uses conventions which are familiar to anybody that’s played Diablo or Dungeon Siege or, ok, obvioulsy Baldurs Gate, or Fallout et al.
    Is your hypothetical dude somebody who plays video games?

    I find the World of Darkness core rules pretty intuitive, and the ‘like our world only darker’ setting means you don’t have to think too hard about what’s going on.

    Also, Star Wars Saga Edition – Simply because Star Wars is now a universal truth. If you can’t get your head round Star Wars, you’re either my wife or a poor excuse for a 30 year old male.

    I’d steer clear of Rifts, Ars Magica or Exalted – too much maths / information overload.

    What about a Super heroes game? I only have aberrant on my shelf, and that’s not currently available.

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  24. TS
    March 13, 2010

    Wow – lots of answers on this one, Will. Despite working on Dragon Age, I’m going to go with Feng Shui. It is easy to pitch if you’ve ever seen an action film, it has pre-made archetypes {with just a touch of tweaking} so there is no character creation stumbling block. You can easily use it for straight up action, never introducing the weirdness of the Secret War.

    I think Nook has a point though – I think most folks these days would readily grasp a superhero RPG as well. My understanding is Adamant’s new one, Icons, is going to be very newbie friendly. Gareth is pretty good with advice and he loves random adventure generators – and Kenson wrote it! So yeah, one of the simpler (Lords Below help the newbie who picks up the latest Hero edition) superhero games…

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  25. Ceri B.
    March 13, 2010

    Just in the last few weeks, two separate groups of friends of mine who’ve never played tabletop RPGs watched WotC’s video coverage of the Robot Chicken guys playing D&D with one of WotC’s GMs, got D&D 4th edition, and got campaigns up and running. Both are having a very good time. I’ll go with that as my recommendation for someone who’s amenable to eclectic medievaloid fantasy.

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  26. deadlytoque
    March 15, 2010

    Fred: I LOVE Penny, but I wouldn’t recommend it to someone with no RPG experience due to the way the rules are written. A few games under one’s belt and the in-fiction structure is easy to parse, but I think it might scare off a novice.

    That said, I have had most excellent luck with Ribbon Drive and Baron Munchausen with newbies. Actually, wait, yeah: Munchausen.

    Almost everyone in my group started RPing with some World of Darkness game or another, because as said above, it’s really easy to grasp the basic mechanic (if you can count to ten, you can play).

    All that aside, I’m going to stick with Lady Blackbird. There’s enough there to play, even if you aren’t really familiar with the hobby besides the basics (especially in the most recent revision), and if there isn’t total buy-in on the surface paintjob of the setting, then the group can fill in the holes with things they do like as play continues.

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  27. Pookie
    March 15, 2010

    Having recently played and reviewed the Dragon Age RPG, I would have to suggest that as a good starter set to give to someone new to gaming, though it does lack depth in terms of long term play. Besides being very light in terms of its writing, it has the benefit of a computer game tie in.

    The other option for someone who is new to gaming would be a copy of the Dummies Guide for Dungeons & Dragons. I suspect that this is the only book that takes a prospective through a step by step process of learning the skill that is roleplaying.

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  28. Jared Sorensen
    March 15, 2010

    If he’s 30 and he’s never played an RPG, chances are he has a girlfriend or a wife (or both) and some kind of other social outlet. I recommend he keeps doing what he’s doing and stays the hell away from this hobby. It’s terrible, as are the people in it.

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  29. Will Hindmarch
    March 15, 2010

    Nice to see you, Jared. How are things?

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  30. Jack Graham
    March 15, 2010

    Yeah, eff the RPG industry. Let’s light it on fire.

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  31. Mike Mearls
    March 15, 2010

    This is a trick question. He shouldn’t start with a game. That’s just grinding metal to no good end. Instead, he should:

    1. Watch any of the D&D video casts featuring the guys from Penny Arcade and Robot Chicken. This’ll give you an idea of what an RPG is like in play.

    2. Download and read through any of the quick starts that are out there. GURPS Light is free. WotC has Keep on the Shadowfell for D&D as a free download.

    3. Find a local game store or con and try a few games. For instance, the D&D Encounters program is a Wednesday night, 1 hour D&D game run at hundreds of retailers in the US, hundreds more around the world. Show up and play! That’s what it’s designed for.

    4. If you find a game you like, then it’s time to start investing. Even if you plan on running the game for other friends, all the steps above are an easy way to learn before running a game (any game!) for others.

    5. I think asking gamers to start with is a terrible way to do it. Between people trying to recruit you to their favorite game and your own lack of familiarity with what you might like, you’re going to end up playing what someone else thinks you should play.

    Think of it as kind of like buying a car. There’s no replacement for how much you enjoy driving it once you’re behind the wheel.

    And Jared: Gabba-gabba hey, we accept you, one of us.

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  32. Will Hindmarch
    March 15, 2010

    Well put, Mearls.

    I’ve thought about doing the Encounters program here in town, if I can find a venue (and the time). It sounds like a great new avenue for incoming players, especially when paired with things like the podcasts. I’d love to hear more about what Wizards is doing to make entry in D&D as easy as it can be.

    @Ceri: Mad props to the phrase “eclectic medievaloid fantasy.”

    Great thread, everyone. What do you think about Mearl’s proposed incoming trajectory?

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  33. Reverance Pavane
    March 16, 2010

    Actually I think setting is more important than game system. You can slowly introduce game mechanics to a new player as time goes on and they get more confident with what they are doing, but the first thing you are going to have to do is get them used to the idea of role-playing in the first place. Against this, game complexity, or lack thereof, is really nothing.

    For this reason my ideal suggestion is Pendragon, simply for the fact that almost everyone already has an idea of what it is to be an Arthurian knight and can usually handle playing the role. And will generally enjoy themselves doing so. The basic system is simple enough (roll under this number there) that you can slowly introduce more complexity as the game goes on and that complexity is needed.

    Setting triumphs mechanics in this situation.

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  34. JDCorley
    March 18, 2010

    Fiasco and Penny For My Thoughts and Primetime Adventures are not good ideas for this person, they are very very bad ideas, because there’s a moment in all three when everyone in the room looks at them and they can “do anything they want”, hell, that is terrible.

    I would suggest Star Wars d6 for a 30 year old.

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  35. ACD
    March 18, 2010

    For a very-first-timer and a group of very-first-timer friends, play the brilliant, diceless We’re All Going to Die, by Adrian Bott. It’s a moderated communal storytelling experience, so it counts as an rpg, but without the hurdle of stats, backstory, worldbuilding, or any of those other elements that take you hours of preparation before you even start–it’s nearly as easy to get into as a boardgame.

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  36. Greg
    March 18, 2010

    I’d have to go with Kobolds Ate My Baby. It’s a single, very thin book, it’s fast and easy to build a character, and it can be run extremely casually. It’s also a good gateway to D&D (or better, these days, Pathfinder). Probably the best aspect is that experienced gamers can enjoy playing it with inexperienced players.

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  37. gnomie
    March 18, 2010

    found this thread off wilw’s twitter. i thought i would throw my own experience. im a gamer, not always rpg, mainly fps until recently. i dont play WoW and oblivion was my first real big rpg. i recently realized some of my friends played rpgs’ ‘cyberpunk’ being my first attempt. it was a bit weird in that we just ran around my friends living room until 3. i had a blast though. later on i started playing d&d 4e with them. i am playing 2 sessions a week now and enjoy them both. rambling i know but my point is this. its the people you play with, its all basically paper and dice which ever way you slice. it one group of people i play d&d with would probably get kicked out of a con considering we literally tried to rape one of our fellow adventurers. while the other group i play with has a strong d&d understanding and background, with a lot of WoW lingo worked in. they focus heavily on proper DPS and such techniques. one is obviously more ‘fun’ than the other. same DM for both groups btw. so in summary since i ramble like a mofo here, its about the people. if you have people who have never played and are trying to grasp a game, something like D&D is good because its extremely well documented. if you have friends that already play, try playing their game first. it may not be your game but at least you have someone to walk you through the basics of a table top rpg.

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  38. John Bridges
    March 18, 2010

    I see that Reverance Pavane beat me to my suggestion of Pendragon as being an ideal starter game, so I will heartily second his posting. Who doesn’t know at least a little bit about “knights in shining armor”, and the rules themselves do a good job of introducing role playing through the Traits and Passions stats. Personally, I’ve seen too many newbie gamers intimidated by the mountains of shifting stats and numbers in a D&D 3rd ed game, and Pendragon is the polar opposite of that kind of mechanics intensive gaming.

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  39. Fred Hicks
    March 18, 2010

    I had meant to offer Penny as a qualified “if improv acting is a good vector of approach with this guy…” That certainly presumes someone is okay with getting a little authority dropped in their lap. As with every response here, the trick is to know your audience before you pitch the idea. :)

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  40. nekofaust
    March 18, 2010

    http://www.mcgames.com/storybrd.htm

    This was my true introduction into roleplaying. I had seen my father in law painting his miniatures, but hiss 2nd edition AD&D game had been going for 20+ years and my 12 year old mind couldn’t handle that. I stumbled across Storyboard at a local convention, and have been absolutely in love with it ever since (about 10 years now). It’s hugely popular at the cons in the San Francisco area as well.

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  41. Markie
    March 18, 2010

    Also found this through wilw’s tweet. I’ve got to say, and this is probably contentious, but Call of Cthulu has always drawn in the newbies I’ve played with, and with the changes to the rules they made a while back it made it much easier for both the GM and the players. Good opportunity to scare the bejeebers out of the players as well if you’re even vaguely familiar with Lovecraft’s work, or any of the derivatives (or just make something up :-)

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  42. Matthew D. Gandy
    March 18, 2010

    Let’s write one.

    No, I’m not kidding.

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  43. Andy
    March 18, 2010

    You really don’t want to begin playing RPGs with a complex system like D&D or GURPS. Especially when you’re new to the RPG world, the sheer amount of rules, corebooks, equipment lists, … can be pretty overwhelming and frustrating.

    Therefore, without any doubt, my recommendation would be: World of Darkness 2.0

    It’s a very lean system. The character sheet consists of exactly one page. You don’t have to learn a lot of rules, the game mechanics are pretty simple, you only need a couple of D10s, you can build a character in less than 5mins and you can apply its rules to virtually every campaign setting imaginable.

    If you don’t like the background, just make up one of your own. It is really simple to adapt.

    Once you understand the basic laws of role playing games, you can move forward to more complex RPG-Systems like D&D.

    Greetings from Berlin (GER)
    ANDY

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  44. Guinny
    March 18, 2010

    I agree with Queex – has to be Feng Shui.

    Very easy to describe the premise/feel of the game, the character archetypes are simple to grasp, no weird dice to explain and character gen takes moments (and the rule that you can change anything you like after the first session handily heads off the indecision of many players faced with doing it for the first time, and is a rule I think that every RPG should include!).

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  45. Richardtempura
    March 19, 2010

    I’d say Mouse Guard or Sons of Liberty.
    SOL is quick and easy to learn.
    Mouse Guard is complex but a wonderful lure to the hobby.

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  46. Cam Banks
    March 19, 2010

    What I find most interesting about this whole newbie thing is that many of us who have been gamers for a long time are incapable of separating ourselves from our own immersion in the hobby, at least enough to be able to objectively recall what it was like not to be in it. By that I don’t mean to say “you can’t give advice” but, like Mearls says, it’s going to be framed in “the games I like are…” or “knowing what I know now, I probably would have liked X back in the day.”

    I started with D&D, and I don’t think it was a very easy or welcoming game, even the Red Box. It was what it was. The trick is, I don’t think I needed easy or welcoming, because at the time what I needed was to learn D&D (my friends already had it). So I dove in and just played the thing. Would I suggest people start with This Year’s Beginner Edition of D&D/GURPS/whatever? Maybe. If that’s what they want to learn, sure.

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  47. Sarria
    March 19, 2010

    I’m gonna toss another reccomendation in for 4e D&D. D&D is the game that many people started with, most people recognise the name, and the 4e rules do a great job at keeping things pretty simple and exciting for people.

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  48. Hollywood
    March 20, 2010

    Hi

    saw your post on Wil Wheaton’s tweet. I think you should check out warhammer fantasy role play 3.0. Comes on nice big box. Enough for four players. And as a simpler play set of rules. New dice mechanic and everything is on front of you with cards. Dice mechanic is a little fiddly but not bad. Also good forum support check it out at fantasy flight games. I apologize in advance for phat thumb. Ityped this out on my iPhone. :)
    also good primer to rpg’s if you are so inclined on our podcast. Look for the Serenety episode at thed6generation. Good luck!
    Hollywood

    Reply
  49. What’s a Good RPG For Newbies? « Jonathan Drain’s D20 Source: Dungeons & Dragons Blog
    March 22, 2010

    […] gameplaywright.net asks on behalf of a total newcomer to the roleplaying games scene, Where to start? Suggestions include Feng Shui, a rules-light martial arts action RPG; and Dragon Age, a D&D […]

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  50. Sean Nittner
    March 24, 2010

    Having seen new gamers reactions to these, I suggest both Zombie Cinema and Breaking the Ice.

    Both of them are very structured (like Penny), draw on familiar themes (unless this person has never been on a date or seen a zombie movie perhaps), and are easy to learn. They also work well with small groups and encourage players to help each other out, which is often critical when someone firsts starts gaming.

    Also, they are games that are still a blast to play when you’re an experienced player so they won’t be hard to sell on this imaginary 30 year old dude’s “mentors”.

    Reply
  51. What the Tabletop Roleplaying Game Hobby Is Missing
    March 26, 2010

    […] There’s a more recent discussion of this kind of newcomer situation here. […]

    Reply

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