I have a friend who is rather shy and is reluctant to join in with my RPG hobby. Their main complaint is that they aren't confident enough to roleplay with others. (Or "act," as they say it.) They are a big fan of board games as well as the fantasy genre, and have mentioned they like the idea of an RPG where they have a character and are part of a story.

Eventually, some level of RPG is to be expected, but I'm looking for a system where it can be avoided without it turning into wargaming. What would a good starting system be for them?

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    \$\begingroup\$ There's always the option for players to choose a third person narration for their characters, regardless of what system they play. Third person narration is probably less emotionally engaging but it also provides an opportunity for "acting"-shy people to play. Of course, using it may distract "1st person" players, so group consensus is required, as always. \$\endgroup\$
    – OpaCitiZen
    Dec 9, 2011 at 13:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Start them with a few one to one session maybe? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 9, 2011 at 13:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sardathrion Yes that is the best plan, get the player to open up in their own personal game and eventually the player will go for it when others are in the room as well. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vethor
    Dec 12, 2011 at 19:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Heroquest: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HeroQuest Easy simple starter! \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob
    Nov 7, 2012 at 12:47

5 Answers 5


Just play whatever the rest of your group wants to play. I was like this when I first started with my current group. I contributed almost nothing to the story other than the actual actions of my character, and frequently had to be explicitly asked what I wanted to do. Fast forward about 15 years, we still game together, and sometimes when we reminisce about the old times, my group wonders what it will take to shut me up.

In the short-run, have the shy friend play a more supporting character (healers work great since they encourage the warrior to come to them with hat-in-hand and ask for healing favors). Then just give him space. Let him come out of his shell on his own. If you try to force him out, it will only drive him deeper into his shell.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think your solution of just runningthe game a certain way and pushing them to a support role is probably the best option, even if I do go with DnD 4e. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 9, 2011 at 14:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think it's even necessary for the character to play a support role, in fact you could argue that if they're more confident with the mechanical side of a game then a more forward position would allow them to feel that they're making a more significant contribution. I'd say the more important thing about having everyone else play as they normally would is to make sure the new player doesn't feel that they're being forced to act, or looked down on by the other when they don't. \$\endgroup\$
    – Braiba
    Dec 9, 2011 at 19:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is the correct answer. The game you choose doesn't matter - its how you play it. I've played several "impossible" games of DnD 4e where role-playing played a major role (no pun intended), so don't listen to those who tell you it can't be done. Our most recent DnD 3.5 game was very tactical, and character building in that system is certainly more science than art. Find a fun system, and invite your friend. \$\endgroup\$
    – clyde
    Jun 2, 2014 at 14:35

D&D 4e looks like the best choice. You can play it such that it feels more like a wargame and the decisions the characters make are based on tactics rather than feeling.

Edit - This really depends on how you put emphasis on rewards in play. As a GM, you are responsible for setting the tone of the game. If you reward for acting, players will think that's expected. If you reward for tactical choices and completing missions, then your new player will realise that your game is centred around that and not acting. 4e is pretty good for that.


as @Rob Lang said 4e is a very tactical game and we played for years without ever "Acting" (Well some of the DMs in rotation did a few voices). There is a lot of strategy in both character management (leveling choices) and gameplay which is done on a map with very clear specific rules. (Most real role-players find this a big disadvantage and 4e is falling out of favor rapidly in favor of 3e variants)

If you want an even more "boxed-in" experience (Pun not noticed until re-reading) you might try looking for a game called "Ravenloft". It's a completely contained box-set that runs 4e rules so it makes a nice introduction to the rules without even attempting the jump to "Role playing"


I'm serious when I suggest this: Hero Quest.

I keep an old copy of this handy for nights when we break from our regular game. It's incredibly simple, but provides the framework for tabletop roleplaying games. You have miniatures, a character sheet, and several premade dungeons to explore. You don't have to roleplay at all, but teamwork is a must.

One trick we use (with all our games) is to allow the PC to describe something cool they did. Did your barbarian just kill 3 goblins at once? He gets to describe the carnage he unleashed.

Start small by encouraging players to describe some actions, and you'll naturally progress with time.

P.S. If you want an actual pencil and paper RPG, you can't go wrong with Savage Worlds.


I'd take a different approach and recommend any one of the great FATE system games out there.

The FATE system is a little different than traditional RPG's. It is more about building a story together, rather than a gamemaster preparing an adventure and players acting out a character in that scenario. The players get limited gamemaster-like powers to define and affect the game, and contributing to the story is more important than simulating (including acting out) your character.

The ones I'd definitely recommend are:

Some other FATE games that I haven't read yet:

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    \$\begingroup\$ For someone who doesn't want acting and needs an intro to RPGs, FATE would be the very last RPG I'd pick. Giving narrative control to newbies devolves very quickly into acting. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 10, 2011 at 22:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think that might be a little bit too much for my friend. How exactly does the fate system differ exactly? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 10, 2011 at 23:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pureferret, the main difference is that the game encourages a player vs character duality. You do not play in-character, but control your character's fate. Sort of like your character's personal GM. You are as a player, encouraged to put your character in situations that he wouldn't deliberately walk into. You may be aware of things your character isn't. You have power to shape and define the world just like a GM (but in a restricted fashion) \$\endgroup\$
    – edgerunner
    Dec 10, 2011 at 23:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RobLang, I just came back from a great intro session with three newbie players, two of which had never played any RPG before, and the third, twelve years old. These total newbies built their own world, and played the first session within a few hours. What I have seen is, FATE is harder on players with some traditional RPG experience. They have a hard time accepting that they are not their characters, and the first objective is to make a good story, rather than defeat something. It is even harder on GM's who have a tough time letting go of the total control they had on the world they created. \$\endgroup\$
    – edgerunner
    Dec 10, 2011 at 23:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ You have my plus one for a good suggestion, but I doubt I'll be trying it anytime soon (at least not until I've played it) \$\endgroup\$ Dec 11, 2011 at 8:30

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