Recently, I've been working on a side project to get myself acquainted with Moodle (since I'm a future educator) that's essentially a nine-part tutorial on how to get started with tabletop games and be a GM. Out of curiosity, has anyone else seen anything similar? I'm primarily looking for four criteria:

  • Interactivity (with fellow students and instructors)
  • General (knowledge can be applied to any game, and includes some universal pointers)
  • Gaming basics (the dX conventions, as well as common terms and dice mechanics)
  • Narrative design basics (with a focus on group narrative)

I know that there's a lot of stuff for the last two, but has anyone seen stuff that includes the former?

Some quick clarification:

  1. This is strictly looking at classes or tutorials, meaning that they have a strong core of instructor-led theoretical and/or practical discussion combined with a way to give and receive feedback in an instructor-student environment.
  2. This is also not looking at learning materials for particular games; the only exception is when games may have educational things created for them that are particularly useful in a general sense.
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related (because the various guides and such might be useful for working out the contents of your course): rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/4457/… \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Sep 9, 2013 at 5:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's actually one of the threads that got me thinking about something like this. I've got a "recommended reading" list that's growing pretty quickly. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 9, 2013 at 16:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd start with the D+D for Dummies, as it is a rather well- structured for teaching as well as learning. There's a worldbuilding site that someone brought up here as a question that is tagged that has a plithora of modules for it; might be worth checking out. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jersey
    Sep 10, 2013 at 18:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ I just went and checked it out-seems a little too system specific and oddly high on the metagaming/powergaming side. At most nine of the chapters seem to be applicable to roleplaying as a whole and most just talk about the actual process of playing the game, which is beyond the scope of a system-neutral class. However, DM for Dummies looks interesting. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 10, 2013 at 18:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ I just learned about learntabletoprpgs.com, but I can't say I know it well enough to recommend it. \$\endgroup\$
    – okeefe
    Sep 11, 2013 at 5:46

2 Answers 2


Can you really teach someone how to make-believe?

There is no set guidelines for Roleplaying. Roleplaying is playing make-believe.

Now a tutorial can show you how the rules for a particular game work. Most rule systems are for physical and sometimes social conflict resolution. There isn't much you can do to teach someone how to use their imagination and make-believe.

The gamebooks for any good roleplaying game are going to also set the stage and explain the setting of the game such that it sparks the imaginations of the players. However the way in which a player plays their character, how involved they become in acting out a role, and the methods in which they achieve this is largely a matter of creativity and imagination. Some game mechanics can be designed to promote roleplaying, but great mechanics never stifles or limits roleplaying potential.

There are plenty of methods, tricks and organizational styles that a GM can adopt to run their game. However most GMs figure out what's best for themselves and their game. Creating props such as maps or puzzle pieces, designing dungeons with specific traps and themes in mind that tell a story instead of just creating them on the fly during play. Or even just working on the fly or fictitiously take notes and organize well.

There are also plenty of books on gamemastery, which allows you to get an idea of how other people do it. As well there are lots of videos and podcasts of 'actual play' so you can also get an idea of how RPGs are played and run.

The brilliant thing about RPGs is that you don't need an instructor to govern over students. One of the students with sufficient knowledge of the game-rules and a nifty idea for a setting, plot and some villains can run the game. I would highly advise any instructor not familiar with the game play it a few times to get a good idea of what it is all about. Perhaps even run a game or two.

General Knowledge

There is no general knowledge, except for a handful of concepts, terminology and lingo that RPGs have. Every game has a different setting, mechanics, feel, and styles of game-play that they all individually invoke to make each their own unique gaming experience.

Gaming Basics

At one time you could point to the funny-shaped polyhedral dice that gamers use and know that you were dealing with a gamer. But nowadays there are lots of games that only use 6-sided dice, 10-sided dice exclusively, or no dice at all. But lots of us still love our polyhedral dice.

Narrative Design & Focus

To really run a good long-term game the use of narrative models, story archs, and dramatic devices all should be utilized to create interesting, adventurous and fun stories in an interactive storytelling method that includes the input and feedback of all the players involved. This is something that roleplaying games rarely teaches gamemasters to any lengthy degree. This is what higher educational institutions and self-education is for, and there is only so much room for material in a gaming book.

Some games focus on the gamemaster being the narrative focus of the game, some games don't have a gamemaster at all and narrative focus is equally shared amongst all the players. Which lends itself to a different feel of game that is more structured and randomness comes from the interactions of players with one another.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Please take a look at the tour and the help; they're a useful introduction to the site. Since the question is asking for specific resources rather than general theory, could you provide links (or at least names) to some of the "plenty of methods" and "books on gamemastery" you mention? And once you have 20+ rep, feel free to join the chat! \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Sep 18, 2013 at 6:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ I like some of the thought here, but I'm not accepting it as an answer because roleplaying isn't, strictly speaking, make-believe. It is much more of a group narrative experience, rather, and my experience with many, many, many different systems, settings, and games has led me to believe that there is actually a very large amount of information that can be generalized. In addition, the question is asking more whether a thing exists than if it can be done. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 18, 2013 at 13:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Roleplaying is, strictly speaking, make-believe. Like it or not. As much as a cooperative group narrative enriches the experience for the players, it is something that can be removed or downplayed in RPGs. Whereas the players need not role-play their character to any great depth. They can choose to play it as superficially as one would get involved in the role as if they were playing a video game. What information can be generalized is dramatic narrative storytelling and structure. But then, there are lots of different ways to tell a story too. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 19, 2013 at 15:58

There was a board game from MB called Hero Quest. Hero Quest came loaded with miniatures and a DM screen. Fancy Dice for hit and miss chances, etched in stone character sheets, the basic of the basics. The game came with a preCon board and tiles, there was even a video that you as the players watched to get a feel for the the 4 characters and got you in the mind set for being the warrior the dwarf the rogue or the mage. The video had a GM segment that was GM's eyes only to give advice on the how to for storytelling and some "Yay You GM speeches".

Sadly, the game was released in 1989, and pieces alone sell for $10 to $80 and a complete, brand new, still in the shrink wrap will run you about $300. But read what you can. Should give you some incite to taking someone who knows nothing and giving them their first step into the RPG realm.

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    \$\begingroup\$ And here's Dragon Strike video youtube.com/watch?v=B8LBpMuSTrQ \$\endgroup\$
    – Flamma
    Sep 16, 2013 at 16:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Quite possibly one of the cheesiest VHS productions out there, but I'd upvote it as an answer if someone wants to post the Dragon Strike thing as one. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 16, 2013 at 17:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ AFAIK, Dragon Strike's video doesn't hit the question's criteria. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 16, 2013 at 19:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ No, but it gets about 75%, at least if you're very generous and willing to grant a lot of credence to the viewer. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 18, 2013 at 13:03

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