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Many RPGs are extremely complex and hard for first time gamers to get into. Many others assume (even to the point of saying so in their introduction) that they are for people who already know what a roleplaying game is. Or they are organized more like an encyclopedia of options instead of walking prospective players through the steps needed to get started playing the game. These games can intimidate and turn off new gamers trying to learn the hobby.

Obviously people get into the hobby using a variety of games, usually because someone experienced will help them through the learning curve. However, I'm interested in games that are specifically beginner friendly - that have this as a stated goal and/or do a really good job of being someone's first RPG.

Please answer keeping in mind the site guidelines for system-recommendation questions.

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As this is a game-recommendation question, please adhere to the FAQ, the rules for subjective questions as outlined in Good Subjective, Bad Subjective and our rules for game recommendations. All responses must cite actual experience or reference others' experiences!

closed as not constructive by mxyzplk Apr 7 '13 at 4:20

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Sally forth to the meta discussion! meta.rpg.stackexchange.com/q/1170/1736 –  Cthos Dec 13 '11 at 19:02
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As this is a system-recommendation question, please adhere to both the FAQ and the rules for subjective questions as outlined in Good Subjective, Bad Subjective and on our Meta. In particular, all responses should be based on actual experience and contain references and examples whenever possible. Many answers to this question have been up and deleted because they didn't bother listening to this guidance. –  mxyzplk Feb 6 '13 at 12:40
    
Closing this mainly because the answers all suck and this is a decent question that, perhaps asked again, might garner answers. –  mxyzplk Apr 7 '13 at 4:20

7 Answers 7

You'll find there is no one right answer. And really no RPGs are totally wrong either. Instead you need to find out what your potential players are interested in? Are they excited about Crunch or Chrome? Do they want a Fantasy Setting, Modern, Survival Horror, or some specific IP (James Bond, Star Trek, Game of Thrones, etc)?

Almost every RPG, when run by a competent and experienced GM, can be a welcoming experience for a total newbie. The key is making sure the players can get invested in the game. If they're excited about game lack of knowledge of the rules is no impediment, especially when the GM handles that aspect.

If the players are expecting Modern-day Survival horror (Walking Dead?) Burning Wheel probably won't do the trick, no matter how awesome the GM. Players looking for heavy crunch fantasy setting will probably end up being disappointed by a game of Dread. However if you swap the two both groups would probably be fine (though you'll definitely need an experienced GM for Burning Wheel.)

Find out what your players are interested in. If you can get them invested before Session-0 the hard work is already done. I'd even go so far as to put together a few pitches for different settings and see what gets people most excited. Finally don't be afraid to run one-shots for a variety of systems (especially if you've got narrativist players) and then come back to the crowd favorite. One-Shots also have the added bonus of not making the players as worried about screwing up. Where as players can easily get freaked out about making a terrible character at the start of an epic on-going campaign.

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Advice that doesn't really answer the question of "beginners." Beginners don't know if they are "narrativist" or looking for "heavy crunch." What are games to get someone started with (specifically, games you have used to get someone started with gaming)? –  mxyzplk Feb 8 '13 at 4:14

I think one-shot games are best. Look for one that has a manual that guides the players through the game like A Penny for My Thoughts.

Or you could start with a game with few rules, like Trollbabe and be sure to check on the internet for Actual Plays and someone who can point you the mistakes you did over the first sessions. I've actually introduced two new players to RPG using Trollbabe. Since you can't really fail at character creation, they could focus on the "what I want to portray" aspect and not on the "what am I supposed to do to be able to partecipate" and I got them to the real game in less than 10 minutes, which was really appreciated even by the other players.

Low prep, free games can be a good way to try different games to understand what your players like.

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Please elaborate on your experience using these games to introduce newbies to roleplaying. –  mxyzplk Feb 6 '13 at 12:43

I believe 7th Sea from AEG (at least the old roll and keep system) is nearly perfect for beginners:

  • The setting is familiar (based on Europe, so you know the clichés, very few magic, etc).
  • The system is made for fast action resolution, which means it is not very complex.
  • It is centred around drama and not calculations, so it is easy to follow the story and not become distracted by mechanisms.

I taught some curious friends role playing with 7th Sea, and they started to have fun right away. I also taught my daughter to play 7th Sea when she was 10 years old and she immediatly understood the system. Of course, she had been going to LARPs since she was 6 months old, so the basic idea of role playing was nothing new to her.

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I have had only a few opportunities to run games for absolute newbies who were actually interested in learning, but the games I found most effective were those that had a strong, well known IP associated with it that were of interest to the players.

The two I used were Call of Cthulhu (for the Lovecraft enthusiasts) and FASA's Star Trek: The Role Playing Game. In either case, the players were able to draw on their extensive knowledge of the IP to help fuel their fledgling attempts at role playing.

The thing to remember is that someone new to RPGs is having a lot thrown at them at once - not just the game mechanics, but the process of participation on the group. Simplify as many processes as possible and they won't be overwhelmed.

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If you're looking at a "somewhat experienced GM, new players", anything the GM is confident in running. The players will (sooner or later) pick teh mechanics up from a combination of playing and referring to the rules.

If everyone is new, it's a bit more difficult. I started playing with games in the BRP family (actually, I believe the very first RPG was the "Basic Roleplaying" book translated to Swedish) and continued playing several games within that lineage, for a very long time. Others will probably say that the latest offering of Dungeons & Dragons is a good choice, maybe something from the D6 mechanics family (Star Wars, others).

The main thing, I think, is that the setting is one that everyone "around the table" is happy with.

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I recently started a grouP with 2 friends and my self, were doing the old vampire game, first time ever gming and first time ever playing a rpg for all of us, I read the player book and explained it out them, had to stop them from making super characters but character generation once it was explain conceptually they had fun with it and I answered any questions for them , we recently recruited another friend, who second game in went for the gusto and ripped a midgets heart out successfully... So it's not a matter of what game it's weather you can generate enough intrest and hold it,

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I've played pretty gnarly games with people who had never roleplayed before. I suspect there is no one answer, because we're not talking about any one person. My suggestion is to not worry too much about system and let your new players decide what they are excited about. Show them half a dozen great games, from the lightest to the most complex, across a variety of genres, and answer their questions about each. Offer to demo them in a low pressure environment (Like "OK, let's get together and play that for a few hours. I'll bring snacks.") and see where that takes you.

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