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I'm running a short Pathfinder session for a group that is interested in TTRPGs but has no prior experience in it. What may be some particular issues that I should keep in mind, specifically for a group as green as this one?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is running Pathfinder non-negotiable? \$\endgroup\$ May 13 at 13:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ No, but I am most familiar with Pathfinder 2e. \$\endgroup\$ May 13 at 21:51

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Shield the players from the mechanics

TTRPG rules especially for Pathfinder are huge and complex, and likely to overwhelm any newcomer who is playing for the first time, and a single time. You want exciting adventures with decisions to make, not a study session with a rule book thicker than your thumb.

Isolate the players as much as possible from those rules, so they can focus on the story and playing their character. This may mean that you don't try too explain too much of the rules, just the general concept of the narrative loop with players stating their intent or asking questions to clarify what they can do or not, and you telling them what to do or what the outcome is.

This may also mean that you either provide them with pre-made characters, or at least build the characters for them based on a discussion with what they want, because building a character likewise would force them to read up on a lot of rules. Especially for spellcasters, the burden is huge with all the different spells to choose from.

For me, pre made characters have worked well, as you can also write their backgrounds and personality, making it easier for the players to adopt the role, instead of having to invent one, plus it allows you to provid seeds for interesting social dynamics, and helps shorten the whole "how do you meet" part, which otherwise detracts from the very limited play time.

You do not say anything about the nature of the one-shot, but in general, the less special powers the characters have that require a learning curve to understand, the better. This may make low-level adventures much more suitable, where you only have a small number of spells or abilities that need to be explained, and can mostly infer from what you would be able to do in real life.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, I would add that Pathfinder 2 characters have a lot of actions for the players to do in-game in order to interact with the world, and the character sheet might not be the best way to display that clearly. Your focus as a GM should also be to make sure your characters understand their in-game options. One way to solve this would be to print a set of cards describing player actions along with a short description of when and how they can use it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dylfaen
    May 13 at 8:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ The Pathfinder Beginner's Box has slightly simplified rules and introduces players to them through the short adventure pretty well. Might be worth looking at for at least ideas on how to best introduce the mechanics. \$\endgroup\$
    – brandon
    May 13 at 15:10
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Talk to the players

You might not have time for a full session 0. You might not have the chance to get everyone together as a group. But try to find a few minutes to talk to each player. Find out what their level of experience is, and what they are looking to get out of the game.

For example, way back, in the long forgotten era of the 1980s, I had never played D&D. But I had my parent's old copy of the PHB, and had read it multiple times. Had also read all of the DragonLance novels out back then. I had played Wizardry, Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and a few other video game RPGs. So while I had no real/prior experience going into my first D&D game, I had a passing familiarity with the rules (though it was for a different edition), and many of the basic concepts.

So even if your players haven't played a TTRPG, they may have played video game RPGs. They may have played board games with RPG like rules (Zombicide, Gloomhaven, Heroquest, etc). Before you start, you'll want to find out what level of familiarity they have, because that should probably influence how you guide them. Someone with true 'zero' RPG experience will need more help and have different expectations than someone with max level characters in WoW and FF14.

Possibly related is what the players want. What they expect. Are they MMO players who want to go on a quest, kill some monsters, and get some loot, like a live version of the games they are used to? Are they story-crafters, looking to work together to weave the first chapter of what might become your group's personal epic narrative? Are they walking in blind, having heard this was fun, but not sure what it was or what they will find?

With this information in hand, you can start to decide what the game will be like. Do you give characters a specific pregen created by you, a specific pregen based on their prompts, or let them choose from a list of pregens? Are the pregens complete, or do you give them a few open points to customize? What level of choice do they have in the adventure, and what kind of adventure is it? You might think railroading is bad, but for a first time group it will help them learn and give them a batter basic idea than dropping them in blind. Or not, again, depending on the players and what they want.

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Do not use PF2 for the first game

PF2 is my favorite RPG, but even I have to admit, it is very much not beginner friendly.
For beginners, I suggest something rules light, like Fate, Mouse Guard or from the popular ones DnD5.

Unless of course they have some very tactical background, like wargame. But even in this case, ask first. They might want to try something significantly different.

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