Ah yes – the perennial question for all groups and hobbies. There are so many competing options out there that persuading people to start doing [my-favourite-passtime] is always a challenge.
And D&D requires quite an investment in time to play properly. Not so much in getting started, but a session takes up several hours, and most stories and campaigns run for many sessions and many months. So you’re talking at least an afternoon or evening every couple of weeks. It’s not really easy to dip in and out of.
So the key thing is to get the new players hooked quickly.
Which means they need to get playing quickly and experience the thrill of the fight/the exploration/the interaction/the problem solving/the story-telling.
Which unfortunately means the current 5e Player’s Handbook isn’t the best starter. I’ve tried to get various people into D&D in the last year, and every time required a pre-start session typically taking a couple of hours just to generate the character. There are too many options to just pick up and go and give them a playing experience straight off, and if they pick up a pre-gen they still have to understand what they’ve got but don’t have any investment in the character.
There should be a core subset that gives them some simple character-building – roll for stats, choose class and race (probably from a subset), weapons, armour, spells and basic equipment and you should be able to get up and running in 10-15 minutes. Which is still a bit of an investment, but if you’re running a 2-4 hour session gives time to get in a good bit of action.
Frank Mentzer did an awesome job at introducing playing with the BECMI set. It took you through the basic mechanisms then a simple adventure as a fighter before bringing in different classes, groups and more advanced rules (such as variable damage dice for different weapons!).
Then the Dungeon Masters Rulebook took the DM through the same sort of process – the DM’s job, then a first game where the first couple of encounters were spelled out in great detail, including how to handle various different possible actions by the characters, then level one of the castle was specified as a full-blown module, level two was provided as a map and some notes and ideas, and level three was provided purely as some basic ideas.
Up and running fast and hooked.
Along similar lines I loved Marie Buhtz’ recent tweet:
This is why, when my 8yo (youngest) had trouble with the complexity of the character sheet in our first family game, I created a simplified sheet to see us through the next few years. 🙂 pic.twitter.com/cfVkuOfdCg
— Marie Buhtz (@mbuhtz) August 17, 2018
Check it out – it has the essentials without being too intimidating.
Next: How has a game surprised me?