What is a good introduction to Role Playing? I have a friend who has some anxiety around it, as he is afraid of being judged. I've suggested a couple of things, namely an RPG that would be right up his alley and Fiasco which I saw as a step in, however he sees both of those as too confronting. As a side note, he is fine with PC/Console RPG's but that is because the console cant judge what he does.

What would be a good way to introduce Role Playing ideas without throwing him in the deep end?

Just to clarify: this is more about how do I give him the support he needs in order to feel like he is able to role play, as it is something that I am sure he would enjoy - and would help him in real world environments as well...

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    \$\begingroup\$ (rpg.stackexchange.com/q/7517/9058) Not a duplicate, but may be helpful / insightful for you after resolving the issues specific to this question. \$\endgroup\$
    – GamerJosh
    Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 23:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you looking for systems? Techniques? Tutorials? Is dig1000holes.wordpress.com/what-is-a-roleplaying-game along the lines of what you're looking for? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 0:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ More along the lines of techniques I think. More so I can ease him into interacting with others in a pretend mindset. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 0:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a great question. My girlfriend is facing much the same anxiety, and I have so far not been too successfully at assuaging those concerns, so I look forward to these answers. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 0:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is this not an effective duplicate of rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/4457/… ("my friend" vs "me" being the change)? \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 1:32

5 Answers 5


Start one-on-one

When I have introduced new players to role playing, I often start with at least one one-on-one session. Exactly how you handle that session depends on what system you want to run and your friends personality.

But what I have done before is explain the basics of the system, some of the background knowledge, and then helped them make their character. It also wouldn't hurt to give them an easy solo mission so they can get the feel for it. You can let them keep any rewards they earn for the real group session later. Experienced players should not begrudge giving a new learner a small leg up (and may even appreciate it in a tactical game since it will help the new player be more useful).

Assure them that the table is not judgemental.

You specifically mentioned they were afraid of judgement. With most tables, you can assure them that it isn't the case. This is a game, recreation. Everyone is there to enjoy it.

If your table actually is judgemental, remind the other players that he is new and that they should help him rather than giving him a hard time about it, at least for the first several sessions.

Provide assistance during the play

Liberally provide assitance, and let him know you will provide assitance, for his first few game sessions. In a narrative type game (or narrative portions) feel free to give him suggestions of things he might want to think about. During the tactical portions, the GM probably shouldn't give those types of suggestions, but a more experienced player could.

Depending on his personality and how nervous he is, you might want to give him a "Deus Ex Machina Shield". I would not do this for a confident new player (or anyone who might feel patronized by it), but for a nervous one, it might help them relax to know that in-game-reality will bend itself to ensure that he can't get his character killed or even harmed in a permenant way. Let him know of course that it is temporary and that it will only step in to prevent really bad things from happening, othewise it could impair his agency. But knowing you are safe from the worst results can help you relax at first, much like training wheels.


Your friend doesn't seemed concerned with the concepts of playing a pen and paper RPG, but rather the act of role playing a character (essentially acting) in front of other people...

This is why your suggestion of Fiasco (which you saw as an easy entry point because of its rules-lite nature) was rejected. Your friend would probably be more comfortable with a rules heavy game that he could lose himself in the details of it than a story oriented game like Fiasco.

Instead play a combat focused game in a system that has all the tropes and genre expectations he's used from his background

Your friend hasn't played pen and paper games, but his time spent playing RPG video games have probably embedded into him a lot of knowledge about the genre and certain expectations. Play a high fantasy game where all of these tropes are present and he can lean on them like a crutch to help himself through the process of playing with other people vs. a computer and characters realized through voice actors and writers.

My suggested first games: D&D 4e Encounters w/pregens or Gamma World 4e.

Both are rules heavy and combat focused games. Gamma World's character creation and setting is inherently random and off the wall, you'll be playing a character made of nanobot bugs one moment and if you die you could comeback as a psionic rockman the next.

D&D 4e's encounters (available on drivethrurpg) were a series of events that WOTC ran at local gameshops that let newer players ease into the game. Adventure ran from levels 1-3 and came with a series of pre-made characters. The plot and story was heavily written out so that the PCs followed a story line and got plot told to them via NPCs. Check out the 4e quickstart guide.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with your post in general, +1. This one bit I think can be refined though: "but rather the act of role playing a character" I believe it's the more general "making a creative contribution to the group". Anxious people have a hard time with exposing their creations to possible criticism, and it sounds like that to me, more than it sounds like a "public speaking" anxiety. I've known a few anxious players, and it's having your creativity accepted by peers that's the sticking point. Acting is a problem yeah, but it's really any creative decision that could be "wrong". \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 15:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ So I don't see acting as simply public speaking, if it was good actors would be far more common and acting a more common hobby. Acting is embodying and roleplaying a character and along with that is choices, choices in tone, choices in body language, choices in what to say. So yeah I agree with you but I don't think you disagree with me. My wife is a person similar to this, she took to 4e pretty well especially when she got to play a warforged monk punching things in the face (all the time), but when wont play Dungeon world (similar tone) because of its narrative focus. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 15:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ No, I'm not disagreeing. :) I just think it's a more general "can't create; people might judge me" rather than just the persona-creation of acting. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 16:36

Since your friend is already comfortable with PC-based RPGs, maybe you can reduce the "training burden" by using the computer game to train all the mundane mechanics and terminology, then all you have to do is introduce them to how interactive play and role-playing enhance the experience.

Grab a copy of Baldur's Gate I and play that through (you can even play it with them in multi-player mode to speed up the learning curve). You can pretty much snag their entire character from there onto a character sheet and jump right into a D&D 2e setting for tabletop play. You can even "un-hide" the mechanics in BG1 by turning on the "turn mode" and "show dice rolls" kind of options so they get a feel for the mechanics. Then you can concentrate on teaching them the interplay between DM and players, how to get into character, and all those other juicy bits.


First off, really invest a lot of time into helping him make a character. Make a character that's interesting and effective. Warn him ahead of time what his character's weaknesses are ("You're a wizard, so we're going to make your dump stat Strength. So he's probably not going to do too well in an arm-wrestling contest.') You want him to have a good sense of what his character can and can't do, so he doesn't try to take a flying leap off a building and end up pancaking himself because he didn't have enough ranks in Fly.

Also, choose a silly game - something which is supposed to be lighthearted and comedic. If everyone is supposed to be laughing at everyone else, it might help your friend feel more at ease. I'm primarily a White Wolf player, so my knowledge of funny games is sorely lacking. The old Changeling: the Dreaming game certainly has it's moments of levity. There's also some humor potential in 7th Sea, and I've heard good things about Pandemonium. Though I suppose any game can be humorous if the GM designs in that way. You could also try and adapt his favorite video game RPG to a tabletop - he might feel more at ease if the setting is familiar to him.

When you run this game for him, make sure you choose the other people at the table carefully. Let them know that this is a game that's supposed to be fun, and primarily to help your friend learn how to RP. Pick your table carefully, and don't let it get too big - 3-4 players should be fine. Enough for your friend to be able to bounce off others, but not so many that he starts to feel he's got an audience.

Lastly, devise some kind of reward for good RP. Bonus points or candy or something. Hand them out liberally, so people are encouraged to try and earn them. I have had some success in using this technique. Really, you can reconcile your concern by only giving out the reward when the player makes a choice which is fun for the group. I understand your objection to feeling like this is a training thing, but on the other hand, this is to teach a newbie how to play RPGs. The technique which has been the most successful is using what I've heard called Fraternitas - little chits that go in the middle of the table, that players can use to give them small bonuses on rolls.

Good luck creating a new gamer!

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    \$\begingroup\$ Be careful with the "reward for good RP," because it can lead to players trying to guess what the GM wants instead of doing what is fun for the group. The idea works best when it's a cooperative group dynamic, not the GM giving players treats to train them to act the way he likes. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 5:27

I've had good luck with non-gamer friends of mine and once a stereotypical non-gamer wife killing time at a con using Universalis. I'm pretty well convinced that anyone can play this game because we all like stories.

Play Universalis (or something similar) where almost all the play takes place in director-stance instead of actor-stance. Call it a story-telling game instead of a role-playing game. Explain the central currency system as a measure of story-power and explain the challenge mechanic as a release valve so that the game handles any differences in aesthetic agenda which prevents there from being any such thing as doing it wrong.

If that works out to be fun, a good next step is Microscope which is also largely director-stance but has individual low-stakes scenes that get played out like a micro RPG.


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