Rules and Advice
Game Mastering
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December 14, 2005, 11:10 am

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Teaching the Rules


With first-time players, learning the rules may seem like a burden and rolling up characters can be glossed over. We used a new method for explaining the rules and creating characters which the Harry Potter-setting made possible and which I would recommend using in other adventures.

With first-time players, learning the rules may seem like a burden and rolling up characters can be glossed over. A GM handing out prepared character sheets is never quite as desirable as the real thing. In another thread I have described an adventure my group has just run with three GMs and seven first-time players. We used a new method for explaining the rules and creating characters which the Harry Potter-setting made possible and which I would recommend using in other adventures. Not only did it teach them how to play, it did so by immersing them in the adventure-world and therefore created the atmosphere of Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft.

Obviously since the setting was a school we could have classes. In one class they were taught (by a very convincing Professor Snape, for those who have read the book/seen the film) how to make potions, mainly as a way of easing them into the idea of roleplaying (it’s amazing what colour a few bath-liquids can go) and also because we knew they might need to make insect repellent later in the adventure to get rip of some giant wasps.

Then in the second class (with a falsetto Professor McGonagall) the arts of die rolling were explained to them, with volunteers to enact battles. I started that class the same way some teachers start with new pupils, asking them to tell us a little bit about themselves (though obviously they’d have to make it up first). This worked to establish their character. Obviously the rule system we used was very simplified (combat involved rolling 1d6 and adding modifiers to see who gets higher) but this is all first-time players need if the object is to have fun.

Better still was the freeform magic we employed. The third class (with an oozingly self-absorbed Gilderoy Lockhart) taught them a few spells: they were told the words and shown the gestures they had to make with their wands. Since the combat system was fairly basic, the main part of a hostile encounter was to use the spells they’d learned in a creative manner. Then two of the teachers fought a magical duel as an example for how the spells worked. This bit actually got a a round of applause from the PCs.

The best part was that instead of learning dry rules about THAC0, hit dice, XP, morale or initiative checks the PCs were messing around with liquids, waving sticks around and saying funny Latin words, which they found more accessible and enjoyable (and it was fun to teach too!).

It is easy, then, in the setting of a school or university to explain the roleplaying rules in a way which is entertaining and sets the atmosphere. Is it possible to do this in other settings? Here are some suggestions…

New recruits training: in the city watch, army or maybe in a rebel camp;
Apprentices learning “on the job”: thieves in a city, rangers in a forest;

Can anyone think how to incorporate this kind of active training into other situations?

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Comments ( 9 )
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December 14, 2005, 11:13
You have no idea how badly I needed this topic.

I've got two people who have never played, never seen it played, and really really want to.

I'm going to use this idea. Although I may tweek it a little...
December 14, 2005, 11:14
Personally, my method to handling it is generally to work the new player through a sample combat or two. That pretty much takes care of all the die rolling right there...

However, I can see how this method would work rather well.
December 14, 2005, 11:14
Although I rarely have the time or opportunity, my favored method of teaching the rules is somewhat like that. I discuss the character in depth, go through a few free-form roleplaying encounters, and then begin working on a character, from the ground up. Granted, it does involve learning a pile of rules that the player may not understand at first, but as the character develops, the player will begin to understand. The easiest way of teaching someone the rules is to create a character, however, because as they write down all those little numbers, they will gradually begin to see their interconnectivity.
Voted Mourngrymn
December 14, 2005, 11:56
This is a great idea. I actually started a campaign around using a school as the center piece. This is also a good way to teach others who to play the game, which in my case I had to take experienced gamers and teach them a new game, which went fairly easy.

Just like you said I used each class, scenario, to teach a new aspect of the rules, combat, magic, skill usage, etc. This seems ot work real well.
December 15, 2005, 0:53
This works only in the starting of a campaign. And only with novices.

Sure you could teach the players a bit about the setting and its culture, but mostly it would be wasted upon them. However, such a training situation does let them "level up" some before they go out and adventure.
Voted KendraHeart
December 15, 2005, 0:53
Forgot to vote
Voted Chaosmark
January 25, 2007, 20:47
Interesting. I'm glad this sub popped up under the random list, as it can help all of us to some degree or another.
Voted valadaar
May 27, 2014, 8:46
I love this idea - I wish it went into more detail rather then describing each section in general terms.

An actual work with specific details would make an amazing submission.
Voted Kassy
May 27, 2014, 9:14

This has potential. From a players perspective I can see this working really well.

Random Idea Seed View All Idea Seeds


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