Role-playing games for beginners

Customer: “We’re interested in Role-playing games. Do you have anything like D&D?”

Me: “We sure do. PC or console?”

Customer: “No, I mean tabletop role-playing games.”

Me: “Oh, ok then. What kind of game are you looking for and what’s your prior experience with role-playing games?”

Customer: “None. We’re four people, and none of us have played any tabletop role-playing game before, but we’d be interested in starting.”

A customer interested in role-playing with no prior experience, and with no one to “show them the ropes”, out shopping for a good game for beginners. How rare is that in this day and age? I’d dare say virtually non-existent. I don’t know of anyone having started role-playing in the past 10 years with this kind of background. The usual case is at least one in the group (usually the Game Master) has played before. Or the newbie joins a group of veteran role-players.

So, there’s no way in Hell I’m going to go: “Sure, D&D is currently in its fourth edition. The rule books are about 35€ each, and you need three of them. That’s about 700-900 pages of material at least one of you guys needs to be familiar with before you can get playing. Need a bag for those?”

What I did was I gave that particular nice couple a brief introduction into what tabletop role-playing is, and a very brief recap of some of the history of role-playing games, specifically D&D. After which I recommended Dragon Age RPG Set 1 as a great starting game for a group like this (specifically interested in D&D). It has everything a beginner needs, its easy and fast to learn, it is reasonably priced at around 30€ for a complete game (albeit one that only covers a fourth of an adventurer’s career), and they had prior experience with Dragon Age: Origins, so the setting is familiar right off the bat. They seemed quite happy with their choice of game, and I sincerely hope they stick to it long enough to develop into full-time role-players.

We desperately need more of those, after all.

To clarify my initial response to the customer’s question: I work in a gaming store specializing in tabletop wargames. Our second biggest seller at the moment is console games. We DO have some role-playing games, but the sales on those is virtually non-existent, a sad fact, which I will do my best to rectify in the hopefully not so far future…

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10 responses to “Role-playing games for beginners

  1. I need to take a look at that Dragon Age thing.

    Me, I’m introducing a new player to roleplaying via Dark Heresy on Wednesday. Will be blogging about how it went. I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve for the players…

    • NiTessine, I can heartily recommend Dragon Age RPG as an entry level game for pretty much anyone, or even for more experienced role-players looking for a modern rules-light role-playing game with a classical outlook. It is very similar to the Mentzer red box in outlook, design, and intent. Rules-wise it resembles the Mentzer edition quite a bit, albeit with a sprinkling of influences from Green Ronin’s True20, and even some Star Wars Saga Edition thrown in for good measure.

      OR those looking for a game like this could stick around until the end of July, when Jim’s LotFP: Weird Fantasy Role-Playing comes out.

  2. I think allmost every roleplaying game is too rules heavy for complete beginner group like that.

    It takes too much effort to have fun for the first time.

    I would recommend E.N.O.C. – Operaatio Eisenberg for finnish speaking players. Rules and adventure in compact package, though both rules and adventure could be little better but still it is much much easier and faster to get that first fix from the roleplaying games.

    And if they get sucked in to the rpgs , then they allready know the rewards they get when they read some 300 page monster.

    • Shaman42, I think you’re underestimating the complete beginner here. After all, isn’t that exactly how most people got started 20-30 years ago? That is, no prior experience, just the rules to work with.

      E.N.O.C. is probably good for what it’s supposed to do, that is, provide action-oriented entertainment for one evening. Having read it though, I really don’t think its a beginners’ game, nor is it rules-light or particularly fast and easy to learn and play.

      • E.N.O.C is one of the easiest gamesystems I have encountered and would be ideal to newbies.

        Furthermore, beginners today live in very different world than 20-30 years ago. Consumers today have wide variety of entertainment to choose from computer games, 3d-movies, console games, tv-series, internet and whutnot. These all were available 20-30 years ago but they have evolved, movies look better and games are faster.

        We live in a fast food society were shit is easy.

        RPG’s on the other hand are more or less same they were 30 years ago. Big and cumbersome if you judge them by the cover. The entertaiment value is not instantly seeable and even if some newbie decides to buy roleplaying game, newbie is still far a way from being entertained.

        Me, You and other long timers know what to expect but those who have no tabletop experience do not.

  3. Interesting article. I currently run several online MUDs (text based, multi-player, online, rpg fantasy games) and we have a similar problem. Over the last few years, MUD games have become increasingly more and more complex, making it harder and harder to bring in new players as we have slowly created more and more barriers they have to learn about before they can get to ‘the fun’. Of course, we have recognized this and are working to rectify it. I may actually pick up a couple of the suggested games here to see how/why they are easier to learn in order to make further comparison.

  4. I must say that I was a bit afraid, when you presented the situation. We nerds tend to go on and on about history and different games, which isn’t exactly interesting for a rookie. But I must also say that the story has a happy ending: sold a good RPG instead of whining about the lack of a good beginner game.

    Anyway, the real mystery to me is why on earth did those people walk into Puolenkuun pelit and not into Fantasiapelit? The latter is more profiled into RPGs and is located in the same block.

    • Sami, yeah, I’m aware of the this particular tendency of role-players to go on and on about edition history, so I kept the it at bare minimum length. Something along the lines of “D&D came out 30-some years ago and there have been around a dozen different versions of it since. The current official version is D&D 4th edition. There are also a whole bunch of third party publishers with their own versions and material. D&D 4th edition isn’t for beginners at all, so how about trying out this lighter and cheaper alternative by Green Ronin Publishing.”

      I don’t know why PKP and not FP, but I can wager a few guesses:

      1) If you don’t know about role-playing games or where to get them, you walk into the store you come across first. Ours is at street level, Fantasiapelit is underground, and not that easy to find if you don’t know where to look.

      2) Fantasiapelit has somewhat of a reputation as a place where you get crappy service or no service at all. This isn’t even just my opinion, since I’ve had several customers remark on it, e.g. Fantasiapelit isn’t a “beginners’ gaming store” at all, since the staff mostly just assumes that people who walk in the door already know what they are after, or will ask if they have a question. Which most people won’t. I dare you to try it some time. Have a non-role-player walk into Fantasiapelit and have her walk around for a while. Then have her do the same at PKP.

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