I love running D&D for new players. I think that the excitement, for many DM’s, has to do with us going back to our first games again – almost as if playing for the first time vicariously through those new players.
I also think it has something to do with knowing that the massive vault of past stories, ideas and campaigns we have would all be completely new to this person. You can pull out old tricks that worked well in the past, and the player will be none the wiser.
Beyond those personal reasons, I also simply enjoy bringing people to the game. Helping them understand the game, and why I think it’s as important as it is, is an activity I really cherish. I’m not an “industry” guy – I don’t write reviews, have not written any official adventures, created official artwork or any of the other things one might point at as evidence of belonging to, or being a part of the industry – but I do see myself as an advocate for the game, and there are (if self-imposed) responsibilities that go along with it that very much include telling people about the game, and introducing them to it if possible, as well as presenting it online as best I can to others, among other things.
All of this means that when I can bring someone to the game, and they find they enjoy it more than they imagined they would, I feel a great sense of accomplishment.
My wife and I were together for seven years before we married. We’re now approaching our four year anniversary (Oct 29th), which means we have been together for nearly 11 years now.
Additionally, I’ve been playing D&D since I was 12, so when her and I started dating I had been playing for 13 years or so – half my life already! She didn’t know about it until she learned about it from me, but it wasn’t her kind of thing and I never tried to get her into it. I’ve had my game nights over these past 11 years, and during that time she has slowly become more and more interested in the Fantasy genre in general. I give credit to Harry Potter, which she began reading after the 2nd or 3rd book was released, and she fell in love with immediately.
Lords of Waterdeep, a gateway to D&D
A few months ago, she showed some interest in knowing more about the game Lords of Waterdeep. She was looking to play some board games, and I had been raving about this one. Before long I was showing her how to play, and by the end of the first game she was wanting to play it again…
She enjoyed it so much, that we found ourselves (just the two of us) playing it many times a week, and before long I was borrowing other games for her to try. She even did some research online (and I asked around as well) for a game that she would enjoy if she enjoyed (as she did) Lords of Waterdeep. The most commonly given answer was Agracola, a game I had played once before.
It was at this point that she began looking for people to meet up with to play these kinds of games. I’ve been very busy lately, and while I was involved in a weekly board game night, it was more of a “guys night” so it wasn’t something I could pull her into.
It was at about this time, a month ago now, that she said, “So, can I play D&D?”
At about that time, a month ago, she began looking through the Pathfinder Rulebook, reading about Races. She was immediately drawn to Half-Elves, and found herself torn between a desire to try a Ranger or a Bard.
We began the process of making her a character, but didn’t finish. A few weeks later (a few weeks ago), we were driving up to visit family in the Bay Area when I said, “hey, do you want to try an example of D&D right now?”. She was excited, but curious how we could do this while I was behind the wheel on the 101, going 70+ mph.
“Reach back into my bag and pull out the lid for ‘Lords of Waterdeep’… we can roll dice in it“. After that, I had her get dice from my backpack (I always have dice with me… don’t we all?).
“…Oh yea, Lords of Waterdeep was definitely my gateway to D&D…”
~ Nicole, Weem’s Wife
I quickly made up some very simplified rules that went something like…
“Ok, you are an Elven Ranger, you have a bow that does d8 damage [pointed to the dice], and a longsword that does the same. You have a +4 to hit with the bow, and +2 with the sword. Because you are good with the bow, if you roll over a 16 with it on your first shot, you can shoot again.”
The goal for me was to give her an example of how non-combat roleplaying worked, but to also mix in some actual combat so she knew how and when to roll dice and determine results.
I gave her an opening story… she was patrolling the woods with two other Elves, as she does many times a week. I explained how they had been following the trail of a small pack of Goblins through the woods and how they had just come across Elves who appeared to have been ambushed. I explained the scene a bit and explained how she could interact with the scene and the various ways in which she could tell me what she wished to do.
She picked it up right away, explaining that she knelt down next to one of the Elves who was barely alive He died after telling her of the Goblins and she said, “I put my hand on his head and say a word, or whatever I would do for him”. Pretty good for someone’s first game, I thought.
Before long, we had a chase through the woods – she was firing on the run, taking a penalty. I kept it really simple and told her it was 11 or better to hit and that depending on the situation she may have a +2 or a -2. She eventually caught up with a Goblin, and with a well placed shot (she wanted to aim – I told her she would need an 18 or better and she rolled a 19!) she shot him in the knee, dropping but not killing him.
She tried to interrogate the Goblin, but I had her roll a check (I just told her 13 or better) which she succeeded, at which point I told her she could tell he was lying. She asked if it was bad to kill Goblins, and after explaining that in a normal game no one would even bat an eye if she did, she said, “I cut his throat”… nice.
At this point (within the next few days), we will make her very first character, and with the recent release of updated D&D Next playtest material, I told her I thought it would be a good option. The playtest material keeps things pretty simple, so it would be (I felt) a good place for her to start – but it had the added benefit of allowing me to familiarize myself with the latest updates. Getting my group together (and having time to plan games myself) has been hard lately, so I have not had a chance to play “Next” in months.
That said, I will be running solo games for her initially. While she is very excited to play, she is too nervous to play with others right off the bat. I tried to remove those concerns, but it didn’t help, and that’s okay. In the end, she just wants a few games by herself to get a better feel of the game before I bring in “the pros”.
Her excitement with the game, and my general lack of free time (among other reasons), led me to back out of my weekly game night with the guys so that I might focus on playing D&D with her. Her excitement is contagious and I think that’s another one of the reasons I (and others) enjoy playing with new players; we become just as excited as they can be, and that’s a lot of fun.
I’ve introduced many people to D&D, but this will be one of the most meaningful times. We’ve done well having not shared this hobby for 11 years now, so I would stop short of calling it “important” that she likes it, but I certainly hope she enjoys it and considers playing beyond her first game, which should occur within a week.
Wish me luck!
Hey, you made it to the end!
Thanks for reading. If you have any advice for me re: running the D&D Next playtest for one person, feel free to let me know here, or hit me up on Twitter…
Chat with me on Twitter: @theweem