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I am fortunate enough to work at a company that twice a year budgets time and expense so we may have a "team-building" activity. I am on a team of ten people total. There is a stipend to pay for expenses. We've gone go-karting one afternoon then out for dinner on the company coin, that kind of thing. Another time we have had lunch at the office followed by an afternoon of table top games like Citadels and there was enthusiasm for that. Currently everyone is working from home in the same timezone, meeting over Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.

Since (a) I am a big fan of tabletop RPGs where the players work together as a team to take down BBEG, and (b) there's enthusiasm for trying new things, and (c) team building always helps morale, I want to float our next "team building" activity as "I run an afternoon RPG adventure on Roll20.net" as a one-off session; something four hours max.

I have played D&D since 1983. I am quite comfortable as Gamemaster/ DM for six players. I believe I can stretch to nine players for an afternoon. One of my co-workers has also been gaming since the Eighties, knows the concepts very well, and has expressed enthusiasm for the idea. I have not sounded out the rest of my team for their enthusiasm and experience with RPGs; I suspect it is all over the map with at least three novices.

I am looking for specific examples from people who have tried this, such as, "I tried Game Foo and it did not work for reason X," or "I introduced my friends to VTT with Game Bar and the following things worked really well:..."

I've used Roll20.net four times with my gaming group. I have the hang of it. I'm not wedded to it, but it seems like it would be a solid fit with some preparation on my part which I'm willing to do. Roll20.net has some good introductory videos.

There's no negative stigma about Role Playing Games at my employer. I am comfortable enough there that I can float the idea and if my co-workers say "Nope, not at this time," that'd be fine.

I'm flexible as to which game we play. My criteria are:

  1. It's easy for a novice to pick up the basics
  2. My co-workers work together (no stabbing each other in the back)
  3. My co-workers have fun for the afternoon

My favourite game is Pathfinder 1e; I fear that is WAY too deep for novices, unless I strip it down as suggested here. I don't want to overwhelm/scare off my co-workers with the PFSRD.

I am familiar with DnD 5e. I don't have a DnDBeyond account. Since I imagine everyone would need a Roll20.net account to start, I'd rather not require everyone to create two accounts.

I have an idea of how I'd make this work in person: I'd provide nine copies of the Universal Table from TSR's Marvel Super Heroes, I'd draw a large rough map of the downtown core of our city on the whiteboard, and my co-workers would each pick an Avenger from a set I've prepared in advance. Those MSH rules are pretty basic (one table! One!) and I'm sure even those co-workers who have never heard of RPGs have heard of the Marvel movies. Each Avenger would have a token the player could stick to the whiteboard. However, I suspect that super heroes don't scale into Roll20.net; put another way, my first thought was that it'd be easier on the novice players if they were constrained to the walls of a castle and could not fly.

While I would like to offer my team the choice of game genre, I suspect that with nine people I'd get nine different responses.

I have read this question about introducing kids and this question about introducing novices to Pathfinder 1e in a short session. I believe my question is distinct enough from those two and is not a duplicate.


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Since you are using roll20: The Master's Vault

I agree with your concern about PF perhaps being too complex. The "Free on Roll20" beginner adventure module - The Master's Vault - is purpose built for new players. It has six pre-rolled PCs. While this limits your adventure to six total, you could run it two different times for two parties of 5 if you have ten people. I found it much easier to run than Lost Mines of Phandelver for new players. (I converted the tiefling bard into a half-elf bard, due to personal tastes at our table; that's the only tweak that I did).

It's a crawl, walk, jog, run adventure

There is enough setting, and enough interacting with the local townsfolk in Parabor to allow for some free form role playing. There is a tutorial, and there is a downloadable pdf. Not every encounter needs combat to solve, and the initial 'rats in the cellar!' encounter is a good way to introduce a lot of basic mechanics.

I ran it with a group of adults.

It went very well; you may find it too remedial given your experience, but for people who have never played it is very accessible.

DM advice

Since you are constrained for time, using the pregens looks like a must. (There is a nice mix of PCs in the pregens). Focus on the players responding to the situation, when in doubt err on the side of the players, and roll the dice as rarely as you can get away with. The old saw about

  1. DM describes the situation

  2. Player describes what they do or what they try to do
    (roll dice only when necessary)

  3. DM narrates the results

Works really well for this adventure.

Marvel Super Heroes RPG - it might work

Since you mentioned this game: it's been so long since our group tried out Marvel Super Heroes (that game didn't last long in our group) that I can't offer a yay or nay on "easy for beginners." We had all played D&D, Met Alpha, and Gamma World before we tried that - we were not novices. It might be easier if you show up with pre gens. Roll20 can have a default d100 roll if you set it up as a token action for each PC. I use something simple like

/em rolls [[d100]]

(with text to suit if it's for something specific) for a generic token action.

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I have run several very successful work based roleplay games and would suggest as an intro system DND 5e for several reasons, you can get everything you need on Roll20, there are DnD player sheets that are easy to use, the setting is easiest to understand as most people know the standard fantasy tropes Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, wizards, rogue etc having played various computer games etc and the rules are nicely streamlined.

For the first session less choice in terms of game is better and we all want to be a Legolas, gandalf or Arragorn or go and slay a dragon even if we are not that into reading fantasy books.

If you are considering running the first as a one shot then I would suggest you pre generate the Player Sheets rather then have the time and effort of having to do it all remotely. The times I have run for newbies in work we could get together at lunchtime and roll up characters and do it all on paper, asking someone to work there way through dnd beyond might be tricky.

Another point to note a party of more than 6 is really hard to manage and a lot of people will have a lot of dead time doing nothing, remotely that can be worse and encourages poor etiquette (opening browsers, looking at phones,) so consider if a party that large full of newbies is going to be efficient and fun for everyone. Smaller sessions run separately might work better for this many people, you could even split the group up into 2 smaller parties sending them off for different things and run the sessions separately. In order to achieve the goal both parties have to succeed, then bring them together for a final big boss fight once they have had some time to get into the game. But 9 people doing anything meaningful in 4 hours is a big big ask.

Alternatively you could create each of there DnD beyond accounts and share a screen with them as you create their characters, doing one a day at lunchtime works well. But you might find this better to do after the initial one shot investing time into something that may not live beyond session 1 can feel a bit disheartening.

If the company are willing to fund then I would heavily suggest for a first session getting one of the DnD starter adventures, you have the added benefit with roll 20 that all the game maps are available as packs that can be bought so the up front time of preparing a bunch of maps for what might be a one off session that no one wants to continue. The dragon of Ice Spire peak is one I have run for new parties now and it works well. The cost of the Roll20 maps and the physical (if like me you prefer books) or virtual on DND beyond adventure is less then £60 which your company may be more then happy to subsidise for you.

The most fun game my workmates have playing goes against all your aims for the roleplaying session in that it is paranoia. We got to the point where our CFO (one of our players) would message me that he had caught Citizen Smith in a meeting using a blue pen, it all got very very meta in the office and was fantastic especially when our CEO caught wind and started referring to himself as friend computer, and he wasn't even playing lol. But a roleplay game who's whole focus is backstabbing, trickery and basically throwing your party member under the bus while also driving it, in reverse, shouting that Friend Computer is all great and powerful may not go down as a team building exercise.

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