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Teaching our Newest Player (DM Advice)


Advice

Cheliax

I've been gaming with a group of experienced players, but some of them have graduated college and moved away, and I'm currently acquiring new players for the fall. I've DMed for advanced and fairly new players before, but now I have a guy coming in who has never played an RPG or a video game before. I've never taught anyone Pathfinder from scratch, and I'm wondering if you guys have any suggestions. Do I tell him to read the rulebook? Do I try to explain the whole character sheet? Do I deal with rules one by one as they come up in game?

Where do I start, O DMs of the internet? And how do I go about teaching this guy without boring the more experienced players in the group?

Andoran

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Beginner Box.


Never played a video game before? at all?

I disbelieve the illusion.
Will save:1d20 + 42 ⇒ (3) + 42 = 45

Cheliax

Really not keen on the beginner box, because I think it will alienate/bore the other players. I know that as an experienced player, I wouldn't want to play a game from the beginner box, so I don't want to make them do that. I'm looking for ways to incorporate one new player into a group of experienced players.


I think it is probably easiest to explain as you go. When doing character creation, try going through a general overview of stats, skills, and very very basic magic stuff. See what he is interested in playing, and just tell him what to roll when he wants to do something. If he wants to attack the orc, tell him roll the d20 and add this that and the other. Just be patient and ease him into it. It also might help to have a more experienced (and patient) player next to him, in order to make sure he is adding all the right bonuses.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Run the We Be Goblins! module.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Id suggest having him do his own character sheet with your help ofc. Then run a 1 shot solo adventure with him. That should give him a basic understanding, then seat him next to a helpful player during the full game.


We Be Goblins is a hoot. You should find a chance to run it regardless! :P

But just last weekend we had two newcomers join our table, and we're about to have two more (our GM is splitting out groups, but he wants me to stay on with the newcomers. Apparently my enthusiasm... or rather, my hamminess... is infectious.) I brought my copy of the core rules (which I hoped werent too intimidating, but I think it turned out to be a damned sight better than using the PRD) and we each tried to help walk them through character creation.

Which brings me to my first bit of advice. Too many cooks spoil the broth. Try not to have two many people trying to help with the characters. I could see how lost they were as some of my more experienced and less tactful groupmates bickered over options. Try to strike a balance between having someone there to help them and not dictating their actions to them. Present them with options: "You can take cover over here", "you can run away", "you can wait for the dumb lug in armour to charge in before you make a move". That way they'll actively think about what they're doing instead of spend the whole game adding numbers.

My next piece of advice is not to fuss too much over character creation. I could TELL they were totally confused as we helped put together their sheet. That was okay. Once the game started rolling they picked it up in no time. THe most important teaching tool is seeing things in practice.

Third, find a way to get the player out of their shell and get them to roleplay a little. It'll take time. I'm still not sure how to do it myself, yet (and will probably lurk this thread for advice) but having them put on a silly voice might be a start. There's nothing that brings out the inner-rogue in a player more than a cockney accent.

Hope this helps!

Lantern Lodge

1) I suggest you sit down with him and ask him what kind "fantasy" character does he like/love to play.

If he is having a hard time coming up with one, you can provide him with characters from popular movies/books like the Lord of the Rings movies or Game of thrones.

For examples, Aragon (fighter), Legolas (Ranger)... etc

2)Then make the character with him. PROVIDE him with the stats, skills and feats. Unless he asks for more choices, just provide him with what YOU think is the correct make up. (Make sure the character works)

*The reason for not giving a new player too much choices is to avoid overwhelming them with too many options. Let them get the hang of a character in the first place. They can only learn what the different skills, ability scores means by playing in a game.

3) Once he learns the game system, then allow him to re-reoll a character or make changes to his character.

I ran a game with my cousins (who has never played table-top RPGs before.)
Making characters based on character "ideals" that they submitted.
It went pretty well. I had to home-brew some stuff to fit their ideal characters. (For example, Elven Fighter (Archer archetype) given Knowledge Nature as a bonus.)

New players should be encouraged to love their first character and the game, then learn the system and finally come up with their own characters.


This is the same thing I'm going with in my game. One session in, and I'm already frustrated. My nephew is playing a half-orc barbarian. We created his sheet together, and I showed him a few basics as far as what to expect. Then when we start gaming with the others, he is silent as a mouse and has his character sheet in the floor the whole time! After the game he said it was awesome, but I want it to be that way for everyone.

I'm fully expecting him to catch on quick. If they're interested after each session, they will put more into it.


Start at low levels(below 3, preferably 1)
When they create the character go over the character sheet with them.
While playing explain how things work.
I would also give them different scenarios, such as dealing with CMB also.
Every session try to add something different.

I have had players be pretty good within a few months like that.

In short, just be patient.

Taldor

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Modules, Tales Subscriber

Make the character with him. Keep it simple but useful in most situations (elf sorcerer with a bow and rapier, dwarf barbarian, human ranger...)

Have a player who is friends with him be his rules buddy.

Explain that mostly he just rolls a 20-sided dice and adds the correct numbers from his sheet.

Also, a little off-topic but, Secane, Aragorn is a ranger... kinda the first one and the major inspiration. Boromir is a fighter, Legolas is probably an archery ranger, or maybe a lore warden.


I second Benoc's suggestion; solo him through a few encounters. Also get a notecard and jot down a list of in combat/out of combat actions:

In combat
- roll initiative
- knowledge check
- Move Action: move, draw a weapon, drink a potion, etc.
- Standard Action: attack, cast a spell, use a scroll, etc.

Out of combat
- purchase/replenish supplies
- gather information
- research
- craft items

I suggest the notecard thing because my players are experienced, and really great in combat, but absolutely stink at 1) remembering what's happening in a combat that takes more than 1 round and 2) doing ANYTHING out of combat. The cards I handed out are an in combat, in dungeon, in town and remind my players that they shouldn't just use "town" like a video game or the board game Descent, i.e. a gigantic market with every item available for them to buy or sell and that's the end of it.

If your player has literally NO experience I'd also suggest this as his homework: brush up on all THE GM's favorite action/horror/sci-fi/fantasy movies. This will give the player a better understanding of not only what the game should feel like but also where the GM is coming from.

Sczarni

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
Mark Hoover wrote:

If your player has literally NO experience I'd also suggest this as his homework: brush up on all THE GM's favorite action/horror/sci-fi/fantasy movies. This will give the player a better understanding of not only what the game should feel like but also where the GM is coming from.

Also, the GM's favorite munchies. Teach 'em to bribe the GM early, and you'll never need for snacks!

But in all seriousness, I do think running a brand new player through some solo encounters to start is good.

Also, don't write your experienced players off too quickly. Ask if they'd all be cool with trying the Beginner Box to help initiate the newbie into the wonderful world of gaming. In my experience, most gamers are perfectly willing to take a session or two out of their regular gaming schedule to help bring a new player into the fold.

Spoiler:
Even if they do end up chanting, "One of us! One of us!"

Hopefully it won't scare off the fresh meat... err... The new guy.


When a had a new player like that (no RPG or a video game experience) in an experienced, (and impatient) party a played with the new character alone two times afther we made her character sheet together. I explained what the abilities, skills and feats were. I let her choose a race and weapon by herself and gave advice about the rest.
It was a 1th level party so we played some "encounters form his past training". She knew all the combat basics afther that as well as her role in the party. (She was a rogue.) The rest I explained as we played.
We agreed that I explained what other characters did in combat, afther combat and not during. To make sure it didn't slow down the game.


Also, Pathfinder is not necessarily the best RPG in the world to start with. If you play other games at all, you should evaluate them for newb-friendliness. 4e has a great reputation in this regard (with many players who came to 4e having switched to Pathfinder as the "advanced" version... I have a few of these folks in my office). I also happen to love Mouse Guard, but that's not for everyone either.

If Pathfinder is the only game for your group, I recommend you start a campaign with the Beginner Box. As an experienced GM, you can disregard the intro adventure and start right in with your campaign, then use the Core Rulebook as an "expansion" once things are starting to settle.

Good luck! Bringing in new players is a noble thing.


A couple years ago we broke in a new player with no rpg experience, tabletop or video game, who had also not yet seen LotR -- the rest of the group was happy to intersperse gaming nights with movie nights to catch her up.

We started her with a first level character and leveled her up between each session until she caught up with the rest of the party (4th, I think) so that she could have a little bit of time checking out each new ability as she got them. The GM and I also had her show up half an hour early to each session so one of us could walk her through a test combat at each new level -- again to break-in her new level's skills as well as to remember the combat basics. Then seat the new player next to a combat buddy who can give quick consultations on spell choices, positioning, etc. during the game.

It helped that the group was not terribly rules-bound / power-gamery (one of the other players was on her 2nd character ever, and another on her 3rd, so they were still learning new rules too), and that we were all already friends with our newb, so were happy to give her some room and handwave the finer nuance of some of the rules the first time they came up.


Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber

I can appreciate your aversion to a beginner box game, however I don't think it would be bad for the newcomer to generate a character from the beginner box, even if everyone else was using the full bells and whistles. I can't see why that would impact on the old hands and (as Evil Lincoln alluded to) PF can be a pretty intimidating game at first.


Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber
Murph. wrote:


We started her with a first level character and leveled her up between each session until she caught up with the rest of the party (4th, I think) so that she could have a little bit of time checking out each new ability as she got them.

That's a brilliant idea. Even for experienced players it can be hard to jump into a midlevel character without having seen them develop.

Cheliax

Good advice, guys! I like the idea of starting him at 1st level--that would be good, because I haven't started a game at 1st level in a long time. I was thinking of starting the others out at 3rd or 4th.

What do you guys think the easiest classes are? I think he'd probably want to play a paladin, but I'm not sure how difficult that is (with all the healing, spells, divine bond, smiting, etc).


I'd try to steer him away from a full non-spontaneous caster. Paladin doesn't seem that bad, as it's mostly melee but with a little bit of side healing. You can easily explain smiting as being his one big attack and remind him to use it if the situation calls for it. Also wouldn't be a bad idea to have it written somewhere with all the numbers already added in.


Y'know what I always found easiest? Fighter. I know; there's A LOT of planning that goes into feat selection but the one new guy we had (just no tabletop experience but he played video games) just sat down w/me for a few minutes before we started character gen and I asked him "what kind of fighter do you want to be?"

He said he wanted a dwarf that did a lot of damage with an axe, so we set off down the power attack and weapon mastery tracks. After we had feats selected for 2nd level he jumped in with the rest of the group and his combat rounds were: I attack...here's my total. I hit? Ok...here's my damage.

No spells, fancy tricks or auras. He quickly got bored and upgraded the dwarf with levels of cleric on his own but that was after a few months of playing.

Andoran

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

If you are GM with a totally new player, make sure you kill the players PC off to establish authority over the player. ;)

A few years ago we tryed to break in a new player. But he just did not work out despite our best efforts. He thought Pathfinder was easier to learn then 4th ed.

Taldor

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Modules, Tales Subscriber
Mark Hoover wrote:

Y'know what I always found easiest? Fighter. I know; there's A LOT of planning that goes into feat selection but the one new guy we had (just no tabletop experience but he played video games) just sat down w/me for a few minutes before we started character gen and I asked him "what kind of fighter do you want to be?"

He said he wanted a dwarf that did a lot of damage with an axe, so we set off down the power attack and weapon mastery tracks. After we had feats selected for 2nd level he jumped in with the rest of the group and his combat rounds were: I attack...here's my total. I hit? Ok...here's my damage.

No spells, fancy tricks or auras. He quickly got bored and upgraded the dwarf with levels of cleric on his own but that was after a few months of playing.

This is why I like starting people with rangers.

At first you've got a fighter with extra skills and more pre-built flavour.
Then you gradually get more complex with an animal companion and a few spells.
Choosing favoured enemies and terrains and using abilities like quarry introduces more tactical options at higher levels without the sea-of-feats problem ever rearing its head.


CapeCodRPGer wrote:

If you are GM with a totally new player, make sure you kill the players PC off to establish authority over the player. ;)

A few years ago we tryed to break in a new player. But he just did not work out despite our best efforts. He thought Pathfinder was easier to learn then 4th ed.

Yeah, I don't recommend gunning for any PC in particular, but if you're GMing with my standards/style, it won't belong before they see a PC die (another or their own). Not everyone has a sense of entitlement that needs to be broken, but those that do enjoy my games more after they realize the risks are real.

But singling out the new guy to kill, that's just bad form. He'll either get himself killed or not.

I know you were being intentionally facetious CapeCod, but if you replace the words "authority over" with "impartiality to" then you actually have a solid piece of advice there.


Solo adventure is the best way: it forces some role play, it gives a taste of the rules, it's less intimidating. I'd pair him with an NPC to talk to, that you run.


Not for nothing but there is a certain level of responsibility of the player as well to become familiar with the rules, even if it's jsut the ones pertaining to his character (rage, domains, animal companions, etc...).

You can always email him links to the PRD and these forums.

If the energy is being expanded solely by you then he probably isn't really interested in the game and just wants to hang out.

If he is interested in the game this website is a great resource and a very friendly community, but then that's true about RPGs in general. I never met a RPGer who DID NOT want to talk about gaming and share their knowledge.

Maybe even link this thread!


@ Lincoln and Cod: who said the advice was in jest? I myself like to not only kill the character of the new guy but then jump up on my chair yelling "Suck it NOOB!" I even use the Church Lady's Superiority Dance from old SNL with Dana Carvey.

...

Ok, that only happens in my mind. But don't think the urge isn't there.

In all seriousness I agree that the players, new and experienced, should understand that death is a part of life for adventurers. I never TRY to kill anyone, nor do I keep body counts or anything like that. But I also don't abide by players suiciding their PC's. If you don't like your character speak up, deal with it, and don't endanger the party.

This brings me to the second most important thing in breaking in the noob after solo adventuring them; making sure they have the right character.

I had a new guy YEARRRSSS ago in 1E. We'd already gotten one campaign done and had pretty well established style. I was re-booting for campaign no 2 with the PC's kids/retainers/allies and new guy decides he wants a halfling (for those not in the know 1e had races as classes; halfling was a sort of weak fighter/rogue gestalt). So all the players were heavy roleplayers who really wanted to develop an epic tale.

New guy playing the halfling wanted to do as much damage as possible to everything that moved and stole constantly from his own party.

We had chats, I suggested new characters, finally he got ejected. Bad thing was we saw him EVERY DAY in class (high school). All this because, in part, I had no idea what he really wanted out of his character and the game.

I started a side campaign, all hack and slash, with monsters as characters. He played a minotaur and loved it. We eventually had the 2 groups go head to head in a battle royale and he got his revenge; he single handedly killed the paladin from the "good" campaign and eventually secured the dragon orb from the dungeon.


I've been the DM for countless new players like yours and the one more important thing to remember is: forget about the rules!

I know it may sound strange to some, but what is simple and intuitive to those of us familiar with role playing games, is proportionately daunting and intimidating to a new player. Just look at the Pathfinder Core Rulebook. You could kill someone with it. It's huge! New players will most often be unable to grasp 99% of the rules the first session so why not focus on the role-playing aspect of it?

Shoot some character concepts at the player and see what she bites on. Reference fantasy books, movies, games or anything else the player can relate to and build that character with them -- quickly. Dont focus too much on the nitty-gritty details like what CMB means or obscure rules interactions. Instead, ask simple, basic questions and you worry about the math. Do you want to be really strong or really fast? Or maybe moderately good at both? Super-genius smart or average? Sickly, healthy, or the pinnacle of all that is physical endurance? Then just slap some stats on the paper that coincide with their wishes.

Honestly, the mechanics don't matter to most newbies. They just want their guy to be badass and have fun playing him. So, when gameplay starts, just describe the situation and ask what she wants to do (noting that her options are nearly anything she can imagine) and tell her what to roll. Do most of the math for them and slowly start to integrate game terms. They catch on eventually and most often feel pride that they're figuring it out themselves. If they show a great interest in learning the rules, offer your books and provide the link to PFSRD. Be warned, however that choice paralysis is a real thing and you do NOT want to scare players away with an overload of nigh-unintelligible options.

Finally, give them leeway to do things the rules might not cove exactly if thats what they find fun. Talk to the seasoned players about how concessions are being made to allow the newbie time to adjust and become familiar. Mature players will understand.

Good luck, and happy gaming!

Andoran

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Lochmonster wrote:

Not for nothing but there is a certain level of responsibility of the player as well to become familiar with the rules, even if it's jsut the ones pertaining to his character (rage, domains, animal companions, etc...).

I agree 100%. That was the issue with the new player we had to kick. He never seemed to want to look at the book for the basics, or what his PC could do, even after we showed him "look, this is your class, you are 4th level, you can do anything listed 4th level and below."

So then he said he does not do well with book learning, he needs to do it. We said fine, but you need to pay attention at the table. Then next game, every time I asked what his PC was doing, he looked up from his Iphone. He said he wanted to play but did not want to put the effort into learning the game.

Its bad when after playing steady every other week for a year, we still had to tell him what dice to roll to hit.

End of rant.


CapeCodRPGer wrote:
If you are GM with a totally new player, make sure you kill the players PC off to establish authority over the player. ;)

For maximum learning value, you should then urinate on their character sheet.

Or maybe I should stop taking GMing lessons from my dog.


Murph. wrote:
CapeCodRPGer wrote:
If you are GM with a totally new player, make sure you kill the players PC off to establish authority over the player. ;)

For maximum learning value, you should then urinate on their character sheet.

Or maybe I should stop taking GMing lessons from my dog.

Better than taking your cues from primates. You don't want to know what I flung at the noobs to intimidate them back in the day. Good thing that Jane woman came along...


7heprofessor wrote:
ask simple, basic questions and you worry about the math. Do you want to be really strong or really fast? Or maybe moderately good at both?

I start new players by asking, "Do you want your primary characteristic to be 'strong', 'skillful', or 'magical'? ... Okay, and which of those do you want for secondary, and you're allowed to choose the same one?"

Based on their answers, "Okay, so you should think about a ..." Strong/strong = fighter or barbarian, strong/skillful = ranger, strong/magical is paladin, etc. Give them the two sentence explanation and ask if it sounds good, otherwise try something else.

I try to handhold/handwave as much as possible while still offering the player real control -- the newb I mentioned above ended up with a gnome druid with a tiger animal companion and a mounted combat focus. (Yes, on the tiger.) Totally not what anybody would have prepped to hand to a new player, but it's the character that got her to the table.

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