How do you start a D&D game with a bunch of n00bs?

After listening to a recent GeeksOn podcast about D&D, I’m really interested in getting a game started.

The way I see it, I have two options for recruitment: a) the local game store and b) my friends. I’m sorta scared by the thought of craigslisting a D&D game.

Problems with a) are that I worry about the intense nerdosity of random strangers I could recruit. It’s hard for me to imagine getting into a game and feeling comfortable roleplaying with a bunch of strangers. But the upside is that they would know their way around the game.

I would feel much better about b), but getting a group of my non-gamer, non-total-geek friends together to play some D&D has its own challenges, not least of which would be introducing everyone to the concepts and rules of the d20 system.

Has anyone introduced non-geeks to the D&D world? Got any ideas about how to soften the landing into full-on geekdom?

Do they still have the Basic set? It’s approachable in minutes.


Edit: After googling, it looks like they’re more interested in pushing miniatures than the game itself. I didn’t see any basic modules, just the rulebook.

Yeah, the thing is that the 4th Edition comes out in June, so any gaming would likely start then. I’d feel like a fool to get the 3.5 books and then find out 4 is much simpler.

Also, it’s been about 15 years since I was TWELVE, which was the last time I was a Dungeon Master, and the thought of running a game is scary. I’d probably be better than any of my n00b friends, though, so any tips on being a DM would be much appreciated, too.

The way it used to work when I was a kid was through the local library or hobby shop. You may want to try starting there, and get in on an existing game if possible, or gamer weekend, and see just how much your interest waxes or wanes after that. Diving headlong into DMing a new group may be an awful lot of work and responsibility to other players…

There’s a preview module for 4th that comes out soon. I can’t recall the name at the moment, but it comes with pregenerated characters and as much info as you need to know to play the first 3 or so levels of the game. Maybe pick that up when it comes out and try running a one-off with it to gauge interest?

If there is a college near you, check to see if they have an RPG club. It’s generally called the “SciFi” club or what-have-you.

Seen the IRC RPG thread in the Games subforum?

I get the feeling that no one will much mind so long as you bring beer and cheetos and have a backup plan in the form of a 360 with a shooter locked and loaded.

I did this and converted a bunch of friends in to lifelong gamers. Start easy with 1st level characters and introduce more complex mechanics as you go. With my group at least, we ended up running the campaign for about 2.5 years before I wrapped it up. The character attachment was a huge factor, things didn’t go as smoothly after the campaign when we started doing one shot adventures.

In my experience, most people who haven’t played D&D but at least are open to it have had a blast actually playing. If they’re not open to it then I wouldn’t try and force them, they have no soul.

I still really want to watch a “celebrity D&D” campaign with Robin Williams and Vin Diesel as players.

The suicide rate would triple overnight.


You start with the words “Rocks fall, everyone dies. Roll up new characters.” It gives them the experience of an power-mad GM out of the way so you can get on with the good stuff.

As long as Vin Diesel throws a roidrage fit when he misses a save and takes it out on Mork.

Does it have to be D&D? It’s sometimes easier to get non-gamers interested in games that are easier to relate to, like Call of Cthulhu, which has a setting most people are basically familiar with.

Play this for them. Shitty video optional/discouraged.

In all seriousness, I’d suggest finding out what people would be interested in re: genre, game style, etc. High fantasy/hack n slash is not going to work for everyone, particularly non-gamers. You might have more success with White Wolf-style urban fantasy or Spycraft for a Mission Impossible vibe. Or, if they want to do Tolkien-style fantasy, they may be less interested in clearing the cave of goblins and more interested in saving the world. You should poll people before you commit to a system and a genre.

When you get started, if you’re at a loss for content you could do a canned adventure, but I find almost all of those (in particular the D&D ones) to be soulless as hell. You can always put something together, drop in a few mysterious plotlines, and map them out fully later, or just let the players’ speculation about what’s going on guide the development of the story. Also, if your players are inclined to make characters rather than collections of statistics and spells, you can use their backstory to come up with hooks.

Here’s an example, off the top of my head, of a way to kick off a storyline in a high fantasy setting: Party is traveling from one city to another and encounters a murdered royal messenger. One of the PCs is a knight of the same king, so he feels compelled to investigate. The party tracks the murderers some distance into the woods. They come upon a bandit camp, but all of the bandits have been killed very recently. Before they have time to investigate further, the party is jumped by literally shadowy figures. Once the shadow people are dealt with, the party pokes around and finds McGuffin A, which the messenger was transporting, as well as McGuffin B which no one can make heads or tails of. Furthermore, one of the party recognizes one of the dead bandits as someone she knew at court. Based on her knowledge of him, she can’t believe he would become a bandit and decides to find out what led to that.

There we go, four plot hooks. Two McGuffins, a sinister agency, and a personal mystery. Hemingway it ain’t, but it’s a good place to start and leaves a lot of options open depending on what the party finds most interesting to pursue.

Honestly if you really want to introduce newbs to roleplaying, D&D is a shitty way to do it. Try finding a much simpler system that focuses more on the make-believe aspects, rather than the intense number crunching that is D&D. Because that will just turn most people off.

I’d recommend Primetime Adventures. It’s not perfect, but it’s probably the best intro game I can think of.

I disagree. I’m sure it varies from group to group, but the one thing my group could get a handle on at first was the “game” part with the number crunching, stats, moving little guys around the battlemap, etc. Starting with a softer system I think would have given them less structure to play with and been more like sitting around making shit up rather than a game.

I agree the goal is to get to a point where the roleplay is king, but I feel like you need to establish the game with rules first and then get to the point where the rules are less needed.

Awesome advice. Test MYSELF before I put everyone through the wringer.

I’ve never even heard of such a thing, but this sounds amazing. Great way to get a sense of the system, and probably a great introduction to roleplaying. I could even just use the included story to get a sense of the possibilities and standards of the genre (it’s literally been 15 years since I’ve played) and then toss it or add to it as I see fit.

Because tentacled overfiends are so easily recognized in this modern life? Or did you mean the early 1900s time period?

Wow. This, um, didn’t even occur to me. I need to ask my potential players about what they’d like to play, then take it from there. First things first.

Any other ideas here? I’ve heard of Champions, and one super-fantastical action one where you run up streams of machine gun bullets and fly and shit, but I don’t know what it’s called.

That sounds a lot like Feng Shui, but I have no idea if Feng Shui is still in print in any sort of form.

I’m going to disagree with those saying to try something different than D&D for a couple of reasons (dependent on the particular reason given).

First, anyone suggesting that D&D is less familiar than something like Call of Cthulhu is wrong in my opinion. Picking some random person off the street, I’d almost guarantee that they will be more familiar with swords, sorcery, and dragons than horror noir and the unspeakable terror that sleeps.

Second, while other games may be easier than D&D, I think you should not underestimate the brand power that D&D has that no other game has (at least with uninitiated players). I think the fact that “We’re playing D&D!,” will get a lot of people through the first few hours that tends to hook them or let them go a lot more easily than, “We’re playing homebrewed Planet of the Apes GURPS!”