Introducing new players to D&D

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I think it’s about two years since I started playing Dungeons & Dragons. I turned up to Games Laboratory on a Wednesday night and was directed to a table that could use an extra player. I joined a Hoard of the Dragon Queen adventure near it’s conclusion. I found myself as an elf ranger sneaking into a cloud giant’s fortress and almost got my character killed by a half-dragon in the first session.
I think this has shaped the way I introduce new players. If I’ve got a new player who wants to play I’ll ask them how they want to go about making a character:

  • I’ll direct them to where they can find pregenerated characters
  • I’ll direct them to where they can find the system reference document, so they can make their own character
  • I’ll offer to make them their first character sheet, if they let me know a few things about the kind of character they want

After that I don’t explain much else to begin with. I just left them jump into the game and explain things as they are needed. I think this works because the games I run tend to involve more roleplaying, especially when we are starting out. You don’t need as much rules for roleplaying. I also think it’s important (at least for the kind of adventures I’m running) that folks get the idea that this is a collaborative storytelling experience rather than a rule-following test. I don’t explain skill checks, saving throws, initiative or combat until the first time we use them. I don’t think most people will retain much if I try to explain all of these things before we start, especially because they make more sense in the context of the game.

Anyway, I’m wondering what others think of this approach? Do you see problems with this? What kind of approach do you use when you have new players?

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