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I'm about to start Game Mastering for a group of kids/young teenagers (10-14 years old) at a local kids club. The players have some tabletop boardgames experience, never played an RPG; however, they (and their parents) do want to try. As I was quite active as a GM during my high school and university times I want to introduce them to the hobby.

We're gonna play in a superhero/supervillain setting, with the players being superheroes or some guys with special powers, much like metahuman from the Flash/Arrow universe.

There will be two or three other players.

For the system we're about to use, I'm thinking Savage Worlds. It allows for pretty fast-paced action, I think. (Was considering Fate, as it's my personal favorite, but I doubt we could get started fast enough with the concept of aspects).

I have several questions / concerns though.

  1. How long should the first session be? I don't want to make it too long, but at the same time - I don't want to lose anything. I'm planning on bringing a few pre-generated characters with me, so that we don't spend the entire time creating characters. I was thinking to plan for 1,5-2 hours for the whole game - some short introduction, like showing them what the game is about and presenting them the "freedom" of choices they have, then the actual adventure - 2-3 scenes, with the last one being a confrontation with some "super villain". Unfortunately, I'm not sure if it's too little time to fit all of that.

  2. Would it be better to plan this first adventure as a "one shot", then have them create their own characters, or start a mini-campaign with those characters? Would it be good for them to continue playing characters that they haven't created from scratch?

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These are likely two distinct questions: How long should a first session be? given the conditions you describe, and Should players continue using pregenerated characters after an introductory session? Both of those are really solid, interesting questions with only the frame connecting them. Consider splitting one of from this question to narrow both. Also, system is incredibly important; those folks who know the system you're using can help you better. Tagging the question with a system attracts those folks even if you think the question's system agnostic. – Hey I Can Chan Feb 3 at 19:50
up vote 6 down vote accepted

I've run a number of introductory sessions to Savage Worlds for varying ages, and find 3 hours to be the sweet spot assuming a short break part way through. This gives enough time to demonstrate the various things the system does well and how roleplaying works generally whilst still keeping things short and snappy.

I'd also definitely go for a one shot using pregens to start with. Character creation for new players can take a good half an hour, and as they've never played an RPG before, they won't understand a lot of the decisions you'd be asking them to make anyway. Far better to give them characters that are specifically designed for the one-shot you are running, as this will allow you to tailor the challenges to the skillsets of the characters and give them all spot light time. This works particularly well with the Hindrance and Benny mechanics.

Assuming they like it and want to carry on, you can then give them the choice as to whether to continue with those characters or create their own.

As a final note, have you looked at any of the one-sheets that Pinnacle Entertainment Group have freely available on their website?

Although there are none available in the genre you want to run, they do exactly what it is you are planning, and give a really good idea of what you can fit into the kind of session you want to run - They are designed specifically to demonstrate the strengths of the system, and would comfortably fit into a 3 hour slot.

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I'm upvoting this answer because it's the only one that specifically addresses Savage Worlds, which the OP has indicated they will be using. – Thunderforge Feb 3 at 22:14

I would say you should focus primarily on the one-shot. Don't worry about what will come afterwards! If you put all your energy towards introducing these guys to tabletop RPGs, they'll be hooked well enough to forgive any discontinuity when it comes time to give up their pre-gens and make their own guys. Chances are that they will not get too attached to a character someone else made for them, but if they do then you can always let them keep their pre-gens.

As for the session length, that depends greatly on the system. For example, you will be hard-pressed to run 3 scenes in as many hours when using D&D 3.5. But some things are system-agnostic - for example, time the players spend waffling about when they are unsure of how to proceed is time they aren't taking part in the adventure. When you design these scenes, make sure that there are as many ways as possible to get from A to B, and some of these ways are readily apparent. If your system has a knowledge mechanic, lean heavily on it, and lay it on thick that the characters know more about the world than their players, and that knowledge is only a dice roll away.

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I would suggest aiming for 3 hours with a 1 hour buffer (so 3-4). I'd absolutely use pregens and select a system that requires zero knowledge in order to play.

Most certainly I'd go one-shot. You can decide where to go from there. Go with a mystery that has some action and a small twist. Give them the opportunity to be heroes and see what they do.

Most importantly, be light-hearted, allow them a lot of leeway with choices, make sure that if they die that they die gloriously, and be of good humour.

Keep the pregens simple.

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