Thanks to my move across country, I’ve found myself much more firmly in the game-master seat than in previous years. This is both a blessing and a curse, and I definitely have some rust I need o shake off. What baffles me the most is that in the ten years since I have been gone from my current home, instead of being mocked and ridiculed for my game, I have about eighteen people asking me to either run them on the game or teach them the game.
So, in the spirit of teaching newbies how to play D&D for the first time, here’s my spiel I give to people about to play D&D the first time, and some home-brew rules:
So, we’re gonna play a game that is mostly cooperative storytelling. We’re all working to tell the story together, but you play the main characters and heroes, and I as the referee will handle all the other stuff, like setting and villains. There is no wrong way to play this game, and everybody plays differently and for different reasons. Some people play because they like to kick butt and be big action heroes, others play to solve puzzles and be challenged mentally. Others play to stretch their acting chops, while others prefer the numbers and math of the game. None of these ways are wrong, and you may find that one or more of these aspects suits you.
Because we’re all playing with new friends and such, many of us don’t know what kinds of stories we all like, or what content is ok. Lots of people have things in their past which may greatly upset them. I’ve played with combat vets and struggling parents, both of which let me know certain content wasn’t ok with them in the game. So if anything another player or their character does upsets you, hold your hands in an “X” above your head. We’ll immediately end that scene, move to another player for a moment, and then take a break. You can then talk to me or another player you feel comfortable with about that scene, what upset you, and both I and all the other players will make sure it doesn’t ever come up again. Also, if you know ahead of time not to mention or include a particular subject, let me know and I will address it at the table.
Now, if you’re gonna be playing a hero, you need to come up with one. So, if you don’t write or just make up people for fun, I would like you to just choose a character or two from a book or movie you like who’s the hero, and imagine them as the same person, or decide what you like about them or why you’d want to play them in a TV show. Give them a name of your choosing and figure out how they’d look in this setting.
No matter who or what you’re playing, understand you’re playing an Adventurer: some one who, for whatever reason, has chosen to engage in a high risk, high reward career path that can lead to gold, glory, and fame, or death, destruction, or worse. Typically, most adventurers start this path, because they are flat broke and a very special combination of brave, stupid, or both.
While the rules often say to choose your species or race first, I’m gonna actually ask you to pick a class, or a job, first. Mostly because it has a lot more effect on what you do as an adventurer, and how you interact with the game itself. As a matter of fact, I prefer it if you’d all be human, but I understand a lot of people just love elves and dwarves and want to play those things. So we can talk about that later, if you want, but choosing your job is tough enough (especially as their are so many of them in the latest version of the game!). If you feel overwhelmed, I suggest choosing from the four original jobs the game had: Fighter, Rogue, Wizard, and Cleric.
Now for the numbers part, all players start with 16,14,12,10,8,6 assigned as they choose among their Ability Scores. From here you can calculate the rest of the math for the latest version, or any version, of the game using the rulebook. I know some of you have heard of “rolling” these numbers, but assigning an array like this keeps it fair among all players and prevents problems with powerful or weak characters.
From there, you can follow the book’s easy QuickStart guide to making a character. You don’t have to worry about backgrounds and such that the book lists, but do have an idea of your character’s past, and what has forced them into the adventuring life.