Teaching RPGs, a Quick Retrospective

I’m off to New York City in a few hours to attend NY Comic Con.  One of my main activities over there will be to participate in the “Learn to Play” D&D experience at the Wizards of the Coast booth using the newly released Red Box.

Since I’m going to teach D&D to new (or returning) players, I thought it would be appropriate to do a little retrospective of the posts I wrote on the subject and those I found on the net.  Enjoy.

Teaching Role Playing Games to New Players

A guest post I wrote for Johnn Four’s legendary RPG newsletter.  I discuss various crucial elements a GM must take into account when teaching a new RPG to players.  Mostly: get into it as fast as possible and keep things moving.

Cross-Class Training: GMs, Teachers & Managers

Here I discussed how the professional skill sets of good teachers and managers were identical to those of good Game Masters.  More specifically: Organization, Communication Skills and Assertiveness.

The original Playing with Nico Trilogy

Nico’s Quest

Bend it like Nico

Nico‘s Party

Probably the best stuff I ever wrote as a blogger, These are the interactive bedtime stories I did with Nico back in September 2008.  This experiment taught me more about what RPGs are supposed to be and how to best let people use their imaginations to create stories.  If you haven’t read them, do so now!

The rest of my RPG with kids posts can be found here.

The BlogSphere on Teaching RPGs

Before there was an Ennies Award Winning Gnome Stew, there was a Treasure Table. In it, Martin Ralya and some of his readers wrote a ton of excellent GM-focused posts.  Among them were:

Introducing RPGs to New Players, Part 1

Introducing RPGs to New Players, Part 2

…Where a Gurps GM explains his methods for starting a new RPG group.

At exactly the same time I posted about teaching Roleplaying basics to my oldest son, Ken Denmead of Wired’s GeekDad posted an excellent post about Teaching Kids to Roleplay. He breaks down children’s ages in categories and suggests gaming styles and actual published games for each.

In fact there is quite a lot of RPGs that were published for kids (or can be easily adapted to them) right now.  Among those feature NewbieDM’s RPG Kids,  Stargazer’s new Warrior, Rogue & Mage seems simple enough to be adapted too.  John Adams was also there a few years ago with the old school, simple as heck Kids, Castle & Caves.

The Game’s the Thing podcast had an interview with Ronin Publishing’s Chris Pramas where he discusses Dragon Age and entry-level RPGs.

Did I miss any?

Surprisingly, I’ve found few teaching role playing games articles that were “must reads” on the net.  It’s possible that at 4 AM, my Google-fu skills aren’t as good as they usually are, so please don’t hesitate to share whatever you’ve seen or written on the subject, especially stuff from forums I likely missed.

I’ll see you next week!


  1. See, I really wish I would have had access to this stuff as a kid. Unfortunately for me, I ended up with parents that fell into the “D&D is devil worship” crowd. I never had a chance to play until I was about out of college. It’s great when parents use games likes these to help fuel their kid’s imagination and creativity. At very least it would have made playing with action figures with my brother and friends much more fair.

  2. I love your retrospective articles.

  3. My group of 12 year olds have been playing for two years and started out cold on my son’s 10th birthday. The group gets bigger all the time and I suspect that I shall have to start a second group for my son’s new friends from the highschool he just started at.

    Ben Finney over at TT nailed it: preparation, preparation, preparation and then flexibility on the day. Get everything crucial in the way of rules on one sheet and then encourage them to explore and try things. My greatest eye-opener from playing with kids is that they do wonderfully unexpected things: I needed to learn the improvisational “yes, and” approach in order to provide maximum fun.

    I started out with the D&D Basic game, which was a pretty good resource, gave me the support to develop my own ideas and gently introduced game concepts. I prepared a backstory for each player which gave some character notes and established a relationship with one other player. I made sure that these followed the existing relationships in the group and added a couple of twists.

    The module provided a fairly linear storyline which we branched off as needed, with nice looking tiles that you could fit together in various ways. The kids loved the miniatures and cool-looking dungeon tiles. It also culminated with them fighting a dragon. DRAGON. That was cool enough that one of my players is still calling himself “the dragonslayer” today.

    Once you get the story moving and the group engaged you can introduce rules naturally, when they are useful and have a visible effect. I use condition cards on the table to help them keep track, their favourite game is to hang the “you are dying” card on my DM screen when one of my monsters goes down. Kids love a comic NPC sidekick (Splug in KoS worked well for me) and they love getting cool new magical stuff and they have real trouble taking turns and listening to each other.

    You need some firm teacher-y table rules about listening and respect for other’s turns and you need to prompt more experienced players to sit next to and help out the newbies. You need breaks so that they can run outside and get their jingle-jangles out, you need plenty munchies (my Eladrin wizard makes sweets for the group and hands them round, yay) and you need to always reward creativity, always find a way to use their idea, to say “yes and…”.

    So what do they learn? I have a whole blogpost about that http://tim.noyce.eu/2009/05/09/seven-1d61-reasons-to-play-dd-with-smart-children/

    I do not think that you teach history or geography with RPGs. I think you teach cooperation, creativity, storytelling and problem solving. You teach them that using you head and heart are just as valid as using your muscles. You teach them to think on their feet in the face of insuperable odds. You teach them respect.

    I have learned a lot. My favourite RPG moment of all time was when the rogue finally got the glowing blue vial out of the trapped door-lock and the entire group gasped with relief. So cool.

  4. Hey! I’ll be at Comic con too. See you there!


  1. […] Teaching RPGs, a Quick Retrospective, via Critical Hits. The Chatty DM links to a collection of articles on introducing new players to tabletop roleplaying games. […]