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I just orderer the D&D Red Box 4th edition. I plan to play it with my GF and maybe I can convince my flat mate as well. None of us has any experience playing Pen and Paper games (I have Baldur's Gate D&D kind of experience). Since I should only ask one question per topic I will ask this:

  • Are there any keys to a successful first game that I should be aware of?

And if it's not too much against the rule as a side question: is it "fun" with just 2 people available (subjective I agree but for example playing tennis with 2 players is what it is meant for, it still works with 3 and 4 but changes the game and with more than 4 it just starts to suck - and getting dangerous as well, all those rackets swining around :))

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Related: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/11033/… –  wax eagle Aug 15 '12 at 14:39
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Answering side question, so using a comment. Some systems are better for 1 or 2 players than others. 4e kind of wants you to have a striker, a defender, a controller, and a leader so you have to be careful as a GM to balance the combats. But it's not too bad - much better than 3rd edition where characters are even more specialized. You could let them play 2 characters each to get around this. If you are role playing making one of each two pretty quiet might help. –  psr Aug 15 '12 at 17:03
    
A bunch of related Q&As: Running small-group games: Homebrew D&D with only 2 players (plus DM); Game recommendations for one-on-one roleplaying: A 2-player RPG for buddies?; Adapting a game designed with groups in mind (like D&D) to one-on-one play: How do you DM differently when it's for only one person? –  SevenSidedDie Aug 15 '12 at 17:33
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Depending on your groups abilities at listening to spoken english, it might be worthwhile digging up the Wizards of the Coast 4E podcasts with the crew from Penny Arcade and PvP. It is, IMO, a nice introduction into the game and Chris Perkins (the DM) leads the players through a nice intro to all of the rules. The videocast with Chris Perkins and the cast of Robot Chicken is also a real good introduction to the game. –  mudbunny Aug 16 '12 at 15:49
    
I would suggest listening to the Major Spoilers podcast called "Critical Hit" (it's on iTunes and other places, including their web site). Besides being somewhat entertaining, it will give you a feel for the game and it's a painless way to learn something about it. Having started from the books myself (Critical Hit was out but I was unaware of it), I think that's a much slower road. Once you have a feel for the game, the books will make much more sense. –  AdamC Sep 3 '12 at 5:01
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3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Having recently started DMing my first P&P game since a few basic adventures at lunch in high school. I can say with supreme confidence that the most important factor is collecting players that want to play. If anyone is on the fence about enjoying the concept of role playing, it will only create tension and pull everyone out of the game.

You've made a very good choice with the Red Box. It lays out a lot of the game clearly and holds your hand through making your first characters. As Loptr said, feel free to toss out any rules that you don't really get and bring them in one at a time until you and your player/s are comfortable with them.

I would go so far as to even avoid combat your first time out. Focus on story, on helping your player/s become their characters, and also on presenting interesting people for them to interact with. Only bring in the more complicated aspects of the game as the players all feel ready to try them.

Now, as for being fun with just one player. That's totally possible and I've been playing side games with just 2 players. The rules weren't designed for it and it can mean that building battles is harder, and it also means that you, as the DM, need to bring a lot more of the interest to the game. You need to provide all of the people for the player to talk to. You need to provide all of the setting. No one else is there to chat with the player while you think up what the NPC she just talked to is.

One additional piece of advice. Be unexpected. Be different. Don't be boring. Which means don't plop your player's character at the mouth to a cave, and have them sneak past a sleeping dragon, and so on. Think up something fantastical, something that the player hasn't seen before in a million other forms of media. For my game, the setting is Earth 100,000 years hence, after being split in half by a God which reawakened magic in the land.

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Accepted this as answer, although everyone has been a great help. Will probably be back with more questions once the Box arrives and the first steps have been made :) –  Philipp Aug 16 '12 at 8:11
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There are no hard and fast rules to making the game fun. Whether or not you are having fun will depend on many factors, like:

  • do you know the rules sufficiently
  • how familiar you are with the world you will be playing in
  • do the players know each other
  • does anyone in the group have experience with P&P roleplaying
  • where are you playing, and when
  • what you had for breakfast

Obviously I was kidding about breakfast, but your physical and (especially) mental state is important.

The most important thing in my experience is that you do not stick to the rules if you do not like them. You may always proclaim so-called "house rules" to make the game work more to your group's liking. The player's handbook, GM's handbook, etc. are not the bible, but merely guidelines.

And then it comes to your taste. If you are fond of detailed rules, I'd sooner suggest Rolemaster as your system; if you tend to tell stories and don't like rolling dice, a World of Darkness system or a FATE system might be more appropriate. (Though this, too, depends on the players and on the GM: there are FATE GMs out there who have their players roll dice more than any Rolemaster GM.) I wouldn't have ordered a system out of the blue but tried it beforehand.

A rule of thumb: If no player feels like they're forced to do anything they don't want to, and if the GM is able to foster an atmosphere that suits the setting, then the experience for everyone should be good.

Aside, I personally prefer groups of 4–5 plus GM, but everyone has to find their own ideal group size.

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Thanks for this extensive answer. How would you try a system beforehand? Go to a shop with friends and play a game there? –  Philipp Aug 15 '12 at 14:09
    
There also are some online games streamed to youtube and suchlike that can be watched to give an idea of "how it all works" for newcomers –  Rob Aug 15 '12 at 14:09
    
Well, I'm from Germany, so I can't tell much of your surroundings. We have a shop in town where you can try a system in the shop! But I would go and find other players and attend to a session to see if that particular system fits my style, my needs etc... And often I could even have a direct try with a oneshot char... –  loptr Aug 15 '12 at 14:23
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@DampeS8N I would go so far as to even avoid combat your first time out. Focus on story, on helping your player/s become their characters, and also on presenting interesting people for them to interact with. Absolutely right. One of the most important things for roleplaying is ambience! A small hint on this: Everybody will have much more fun if the player talk and act in first person, i.e. I sneak into the room, an inch at a time, looking for traps... (Right, this is from a thief we all know ;)) sounds much better than Well, errm, my thief decides to sneak into the room. –  loptr Aug 15 '12 at 14:42
    
@Philipp I don't know where you do live. Here in Italy we have some RP conventions where one can try new games, mostly from the indie scene. Perhaps they do exist in your country too. The Internet is your friend, look for them. Then, sites as rolld20 have a "looking for a group" option to get into some games. Have someone help you wade through character creation - much has changed from AD&D and no manual tells you how to create an effective character. –  Zachiel Aug 16 '12 at 10:48
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Some hints to making any introduction to a role-playing game as fun for all possible:

  1. Read the Rules. Then read them again. Your knowledge of the rules is going to affect the enjoyment of all involved, so you need to have more than a passing familiarity with them.
  2. Though I said above read the rules and be familiar- also be flexible. If you can't remember a rule, do what seems right and move along. Nothing bogs down enjoyability as much as reading rules while you're playing. Be fair in your judgement, then look up the rule after the game and let the players know what the real rule is and how it will apply going forward.
  3. Go simple for your first scenario. Something that has elements of the game, but isn't too complicated on scenario background is good. A pre-packaged adventure is best, but if you have to roll your own, Conflict to throw them into the action, followed by some RP, followed by another conflict to resolve the whole thing is a good formula for your first adventure.
  4. Depending on the time your player(s) have to put into reading the rules, pre-generated characters might be the way to go.
  5. Pre-generated characters or not, don't hold your players to that character. Look at your first session as a demo of the game, and then make changes as needed to the actual game to make it more fun for all involved.
  6. Remember that D&D has a different paradigm than computer games- as DM, you're playing the part of the computer. Unbiased, and not competitive.
  7. Have fun! (Seems obvious, but a lot of new DMs forget that)

One final bit given that you're talking about playing with one player - some classes are more survivable alone than others. It might do to have an escort for the player along if they are playing a wizard- an NPC that perhaps is ferrying the wizard from one place to another.

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