How long do new players get before they're expected to know the rules?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


What it says on the tin. On the one hand, you want a welcoming environment where new players can settle in and learn. On the other, it's not unreasonable to expect a bit of effort.

So here's the question: Where do you guys draw the line between, “Learn to play!” and, “Dude, can I have a second to learn the game?” When does the burden shift from GMs needing to be patient to players needing to crack open a rule book?

Comic for illustrative purposes.


4 people marked this as a favorite.

Rules mastery is one of several desirable skills, but if the player's other skills are high enough it can be worth putting up with.

I once had a player who didn't know where anything was on his character sheet. He didn't read the books.

He would ask advice and listen to suggestions. He was engaged in the story, creative in his approaches and had interesting character goals.

He was a great player. One of the most fun I've ever had at my table.

I had another player who would scowl at anyone who referenced a book during play and scold them on breaks for not knowing their character and wasting table time.

He made the other players uncomfortable and I repeatedly had to talk to him on the side.

I was glad when he was gone.

If they have a good attitude and they help the story and table mood, keep them as long as you can. Rules can change and they can be looked up, but a good player can be hard to find.


5 people marked this as a favorite.

I'm currently running a campaign and I don't know the rules...

1. There are a lot of them.
2. They are all poorly written.
3. A lot of people learn the rules that pertain to their characters, and thusly may only know that section of the rules... the regulations that dictate spellcasting may be alien to someone who primarily plays martial characters.
4. The rules are spread out over multiple books/years/websites, and instead of getting a theology doctorate in the King James Version of Pathfinder to find one particular rule, it's easier to just focus on telling the story and painting the right picture... because, honestly, I don't care what the rules say about the fantasy game I am playing if the people are having fun and are roleplaying their characters and being creative.
5. There always seems to be at least one person overly concerned with the rules that is more than willing, possibly even eager, to correct the table's most minor of rules infractions... so just play it by ear until you hear the whistle from your local Pathfinder Society rules lawyer.
6. Rules are less important than the story.
7. Rules are less important than the fun.
8. Rules are less important than the creativity.
9. Rules are less important than roleplaying/immersion.
10. Rules are less important than half the rules, and the other half are even less important than that.

Things like the wording of Bladed Brush or Life Link (Oracle vs Shaman) should be on the back burner when it comes to enjoying your character in a fantasy game...


I'm the sole GM for my Pathfinder group and have been since the game was first published and I don't know all the rules. I occasionally have to look something up on my laptop during a game for a player or myself. We're more interested in the story most of the time, though. Having to look something up hasn't really been a problem for us. The only thing I sort of insist on is know what you're character is capable of at its current level. Don't worry about the higher levels until you get there.


Sometimes I have to look at certain conditions and how they interact/stack.

I have to look up A LOT of spells, because I never play spellcasting classes.

Possibly biased, but most martial feats I let fly without question... go ahead, have nice things... I feel your pain.

If you want/need it for flavor there is a huge probability that I will allow it... pick any two Aasimar/Tiefling features, sure... forego the religious component of certain feats, why not...

I want/need people to be capable of delivering their ideal character abilities to the table.

Without the possibility of greatness, nobody will invest in their characters...

The story will suffer, creativity will die, the entire fantasy will be lost.

Might as well go play Chess with grandpa in the park...


2 people marked this as a favorite.
DRD1812 wrote:
When does the burden shift from GMs needing to be patient to players needing to crack open a rule book?

Why do you present this like a see-saw, that as one goes down, the other goes up?

When players are new, they need to learn some rules. When players are new, the GM needs to be patient.

When players are experienced, they still need to learn rules, because there are a lot of them. And the GM still needs to be patient. And in many cases the GM will need to learn a bunch of rules, in which case the players may need to be patient.

The more patient everyone is, the more fun it is. And the more everyone learns the rules, the faster the game goes, and the more fun the game is.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

Nah, bro!

I've been playing Pathfinder since before it was published, and I'm still learning about it.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

As long as it takes.

Did you help the players generate their characters? If so did you guide them towards easy to play characters or nudge them towards mechanically superior characters that require a better understanding of the rules to play effectively?

I suspect the latter, if you want the players to learn the rules then you will need to teach them. Try starting with the basic 4 roles at 1st level, using the CRB only. The players will have fewer options and will learn the game's mechanics. From there you can expand the game with them.


As an aside, what characters actually qualify as "easy to play"? In my game, I have an 11y/o girl who played a sorceress pretty well. By and large, arcane casters seem to be among the hardest, and I've seen people struggle with being effective with fighters.

I tend to agree with the majority opinion, here. As the GM, I regularly run across things that changed from D&D 3.5, and I just never noticed...and I certainly expect to be helping her (and pretty much anybody) for years to come.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
DRD1812 wrote:
Comic for illustrative purposes.

Pff. Everybody knows conjure pony is a battlefield control spell.


VoodistMonk wrote:

I'm currently running a campaign and I don't know the rules...

1. There are a lot of them.
2. They are all poorly written.
3. A lot of people learn the rules that pertain to their characters, and thusly may only know that section of the rules... the regulations that dictate spellcasting may be alien to someone who primarily plays martial characters.
4. The rules are spread out over multiple books/years/websites, and instead of getting a theology doctorate in the King James Version of Pathfinder to find one particular rule, it's easier to just focus on telling the story and painting the right picture... because, honestly, I don't care what the rules say about the fantasy game I am playing if the people are having fun and are roleplaying their characters and being creative.
5. There always seems to be at least one person overly concerned with the rules that is more than willing, possibly even eager, to correct the table's most minor of rules infractions... so just play it by ear until you hear the whistle from your local Pathfinder Society rules lawyer.
6. Rules are less important than the story.
7. Rules are less important than the fun.
8. Rules are less important than the creativity.
9. Rules are less important than roleplaying/immersion.
10. Rules are less important than half the rules, and the other half are even less important than that.

Things like the wording of Bladed Brush or Life Link (Oracle vs Shaman) should be on the back burner when it comes to enjoying your character in a fantasy game...

This monk gets it.


EldonGuyre wrote:
As an aside, what characters actually qualify as "easy to play"? In my game, I have an 11y/o girl who played a sorceress pretty well. By and large, arcane casters seem to be among the hardest, and I've seen people struggle with being effective with fighters.

I think complexity increases with options. For example, power attack asks you to trade to-hit for damage; rapid shot trades to-hit for an extra shot - are they worth it? A new player will have a hard time telling.

For new players, I definitely set it up so that some choices are just locked in - fighters just always have power attack on, and I refrain from introducing monsters for which power attack would be bad. I tend to create spontaneous casters over prepared casters, so they don't have to predict which spells to use and which to save.


Ugh, prepared casters hurt my brain. I tried to make a wizard once and I couldn't do it. If I'm making a character that's primarily a caster, I go with spontaneous. Any characters that ARE prepared casters tend to lean to the martial side of things. Like my warpriests. They have spells but prefer to hit their opponents.


Depends on the level of rule. That most checks are if 1d20+mods is greater or equal to the target value and what each attribute does should come a lot easier than things like remembering what penalties one takes for underwater combat. Rules relevant to their character are more important than others: A Barbarian doesn't need to remember how spell DCs are calculated, while a Sorcerer can get away with no knowing how charge works.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

As long as the player is making a good faith effort to learn and understand the rules, I'm always happy to facilitate their journey as the GM.

It's only when people conclude that they know everything there is to know, and are unwilling to learn otherwise that I start to lose patience.

I mean, even 20 year veterans of the hobby get confused about how the grappling rules work from time to time.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

I have a player who's suffered a stroke and needs help doing the math on every single attack they make. I have another who has played too many systems and needs reminding what rules are active in our current edition. I have another three players who are brand new, and one who only rarely remembers to activate her abilities.

I'll tease my players now and then, but the role of the GM is to be the heart of the group. You bring everyone together to tell a story, so yes its annoying when your paladin forgets the math behind smite evil but that is why you are GM and they are a PC.

Be patient, be kind, and help your players when they need it. Especially when your surprise round at the end of the session just cut one of them in half.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

It is way easier to deal with the people that don't understand the rules, than the people that abuse them...


VoodistMonk wrote:
It is way easier to deal with the people that don't understand the rules, than the people that abuse them...

Amen


To add to the choir, I have a group ice been meeting with for a little over a year. They are still at the point where I can estimate any one of their character's base attack bonus, recall their ability scores, items, special abilities and feats from memory and apply any situational modifiers and tell them their result faster than they can find their bonus on their character sheet.
I mean, I still have to say "yes, that's the d20" a couple times a session

Is it frustrating? It can be, a little, yeah. Is it draining? Undoubtedly.
But they're trying, and I have strict time restrictions to work within. So it is what it is.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Quixote wrote:

To add to the choir, I have a group ice been meeting with for a little over a year. They are still at the point where I can estimate any one of their character's base attack bonus, recall their ability scores, items, special abilities and feats from memory and apply any situational modifiers and tell them their result faster than they can find their bonus on their character sheet.

I mean, I still have to say "yes, that's the d20" a couple times a session

Is it frustrating? It can be, a little, yeah. Is it draining? Undoubtedly.
But they're trying, and I have strict time restrictions to work within. So it is what it is.

I gave up on one of my players (as a player) when after two months, he was still asking about the d20. I eventually started setting up his dice for him, shove all other dice to the side, put the d20 on his paper, and he would still reach for the dice pile. I'm all for trying to help players, but when you are a barbarian and only have two numbers on your character sheet (melee attack vs with rage), and still can't find the numbers you need after multiple sessions, I'm not helping.

I guess I'm just salty because I've had 3 players join us, one left due to moving, and two left due to changing schedules. Only one of them has started to understand the game enough to know what dice to roll and know what they can do during downtime or with skill checks. Luckily they are changing jobs an will be joining us again.


Depends on the player.

Silver Crusade

I agree wholeheartedly that players should know the rules for their characters first. However, I know players who have focused more on what others at he table cannot do well rather than what the characters are doing in the story.

That bothers me as much but I am less sure what to do about them than the players still learning to play.


I'm firmly in the "know the rules, unless you bring something of value to the table" camp. I'm not going to bite someone's head off or anything if they aren't the keenest on the game's ruleset, but I will find them highly annoying after several months and there has been no increase in aptitude.

Sadly most of my players neither know the rules, nor bring joy to the table, it's quite draining. I've got one player with which the running joke is; So I add my Charisma score to hit? Because that was a seriously honest question from him 5 months into a campaign.


Games are supposed to be fun. Take as much time as you need to learn the rules. The rules are just guidelines anyway, and it really comes up to the GM as to which rules are followed and which ones aren't.


I was a player of Pathfinder for 4 or 5 years, and have been running a (mostly) weekly game for the past 4 years.
I still forget some fairly basic rules.

That being said, it depends on the player as to if I get frustrated if they don't know the rules or not. If they try and just can't remember them, that's okay. If they don't care enough about the game to try to learn the rules, that's something different.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

Until the third will-save.


Slim Jim wrote:
Until the third will-save.

lol! XD XD XD


Ryze Kuja wrote:
Slim Jim wrote:
Until the third will-save.
lol! XD XD XD

Awww, man, I forgot about that one. ha_ha_oh_wow.jpg


yukongil wrote:
I've got one player with which the running joke is; So I add my Charisma score to hit? Because that was a seriously honest question from him 5 months into a campaign.

ಠ_ಠ

Scarab Sages

Just speaking as the player not a GM there is a responsability to learn the rules but there are also times where getting told "You should know this" is annoying. I played a 1st ed game once and had rolled psionics. I was playing a fighter and trying to figure out those rules when the GM threw me into a psionic duel against a psychic enemy. When I asked to see the book so I could actually look up the pyschic rules I got told "You should have been reading up on this outside the game so no I'm not giving you the book now." Needless to see my character lost the duel badly and it wasn't till quite a bit later when I actually had a handle on the fighting system and other differences in 1st ed that I started looking at the psychic rules. First thing I noticed was that I had from the very begining (and with this gm's help) had been playing my character as weaker than they should have been because it wasn't X + Y + Z = Psyhcic power pool but X + Y + Z = Offence AND DEFENCE power pool. So since the GM had the book I'm pretty sure my opponnet had twice the power minimum I did becaues they had an offensive and defensive pool as opposed to my single combined pool that was powering both.

Anyway point is for me I don't go into a system trying to learn all the possible rules even for my character I focus on one part and try to get a good handle on that then work on the next bit with a priority on the things I use most often.


yukongil wrote:
I've got one player with which the running joke is; So I add my Charisma score to hit? Because that was a seriously honest question from him 5 months into a campaign.

Is he a follower of Desna and using starknives?


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Volkard Abendroth wrote:
yukongil wrote:
I've got one player with which the running joke is; So I add my Charisma score to hit? Because that was a seriously honest question from him 5 months into a campaign.
Is he a follower of Desna and using starknives?

nope, vanilla Fighter using a Greatsword...that again, he had been playing for 5 months beforehand.

In another game, he showed up with a character, with wildly divergent stats and abilities from the rest of the group, when I asked him about it (I wasn't running this game), he showed me his feats, and I recognized none of them. Turns out he had gotten them from the Pathfinder 2nd edition playtest and just went with it.

Another game, he (as a human sized character) seriously asked if he could carry his 50 ft. mechs war axe with him into a cave and use it.

In the current game, he's playing a dwarf fighter/rogue with a earthbreaker and dealing about 25ish points of damage more than he should be able to (with 3d6 sneak attack and an 18 strength, 40 should be his absolute max damage, but he's consistently calling 45+), but this again isn't my game and I'm so done with it, if the GM doesn't care (and this game is the biggest reason why rules matter, as does knowing them, especially if you are running the game), I sure as hell don't. Though I'm fairly sure he adds his straight attribute score (not modifier) to his rolls.

all this and again he brings no joy to the table


There is no one answer to that question because it all depends on the story and relationship between players and GM.

A very loose game will care more about having fun and ignore many rules.

A more gritty and hard game will care more about the rules, even if they might make things less fun (food and survival checks).

In the end it comes down more to whether the game is being played as a narrative or a simulation. Both are fun, but for totally different reasons.

***************
All of that of course ignores the fact that a player (and sometimes GM) who refuses to learn the basic rules (Ex: only so many actions in 1 turn) or that cares to much about the rules (Ex: See discussions on what does "attack" means) can be incredibly toxic and damaging.

Just as a note, some example with GMs is improper adjudication (Ex: Illusions being unusable or abusable) and the GM changing the rules constantly and on the fly because he doesnt like them or how the players uses them (extreme fudging).


SorrySleeping wrote:
I gave up on one of my players (as a player) when after two months, he was still asking about the d20. I eventually started setting up his dice for him, shove all other dice to the side, put the d20 on his paper, and he would still reach for the dice pile...

It is tremendously irritating.

I think the only things that really matter are your player's effort and your patience.

I once ran a game for an especially toxic group. These guys seemed to be friends out of habit more than anything else. Whenever one of them lead a game, the others would deliberately ignore his attempts to tell a story, get bored, then want to quit because the game wasn't fun. They had been rotating GM's like that for years.
And there was hostility even among the players. If you tripped over your tongue or added some numbers incorrectly or took too long to add those numbers at all, there was a 100% chance that one or more of your fellow players would be all over you, mocking your aptitude or intelligence.

I gave this group the typical Session Zero speeches, including the usual "please know your stuff so I don't have to take quite so much onto myself" deal. Some of these players heard me and made an effort to shoulder some of the burden out of a desire to help me.
Some of them heard me and thought it wild be hilarious if they ignored my requests because, apparently, they do not follow the Golden Rule.

If I ever have a player in that first group--where they are making an honest attempt and doing their best--my patience for them is virtually endless. Even if they understand less than a fraction of what I think they should. After all, some people have dyslexia or learning disabilities or just don't do well under pressure.

But if I have someone in the first group, my patience is less than zero. As in, the moment they reveal their true colors, they're not at my table anymore.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / General Discussion / How long do new players get before they're expected to know the rules? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.