I am first time DM and I have to run one game for 5 people whose gaming habits I don't really know (except that they are gamers and/or bookworms and excited to try - good candidates). DnD 4e and yes, I have played before. A lot. However for those 5 people it will be their first roleplaying game ever.

The question is - do you have any tips for running a game of their lifetime I wont screw up as a first time DM? Or maybe there is some good quiz to determine what they like?

I am very well aware that in order to make something very enjoyable you have to hit things that people on your gaming table enjoy a lot. Since it is their first, I want to hit on those things as accurately as I can. I know that for my gaming group the quality of games rose rapidly when DM finally realized which of 8 archetypes of players we are (mentioned in DMG) [or when DM actually started reading other DMs' advice, lol]. Which is nothing other than 8 aestetics of games mentioned here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uepAJ-rqJKA . Point is, I've observed a bit what works for whom.

If I could just somehow figure out who is who, my quest would be a lot easier. And without some sort of quiz it is impossible. I could just ask - which archetypes suit you? But in reality such quiz would bring no benefits, just because people tend to lie to themselves - especially when it comes to admitting that you are a powergamer or grinder over storyteller. Or they simply don't realize that they like something. 1st time players don't really know what they like, they even don't know what to expect from game. I thought about asking indirectly - about study and TV-series habits, life goals and such - but in order to make the quiz any good, awful lot of work must be done. Is it even necessary? I guess I better use it to figure out some good plot points.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ must...resist...urge...to...type...just...ask \$\endgroup\$
    – Tritium21
    Mar 24, 2015 at 2:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tritium21 I will, if I will not get any advice :C. My idea under main question is just terribly time consuming. I scratched it already. I'll ask directly. It doesn't really work. Newbies don't know what they like. They are hardly understanding what to expect from game. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rena
    Mar 24, 2015 at 2:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ You've said that it's the first game for these people, by which I'm guessing you mean their first tabletop RPG, and you've also said that they are gamers, by which I'm guessing you mean players of video games? If this isn't right, please explain how they are gamers who have never played a game before. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Mar 24, 2015 at 3:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you change easiest to most time-efficient we can do this. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 24, 2015 at 6:14

3 Answers 3


Start simple

You're getting ahead of yourself. Way ahead of yourself.

Imagine if someone doesn't know how to swim at all, but their first question is "What is the optimal stroke for competition?"... the question is useless at this time, because even if it's explained to you, you have to learn some basic skills before the words can mean something useful.

Don't try to make a perfect game straight out. Figure out what's fun for you and the group. Much of it should become apparent DURING play, and questions otherwise are basically fine tuning. Doing this as you go, you'll find yourself improving and producing more fun as you go.

The one useful thing to do

Pick an adventure or a dungeon or whatever. Tell your group whether it's:

a) "This is a dungeon crawl, go in, fight the bad guys, get the treasure."

b) "This is a story path - there's a limited number of ways the adventure can go. I'm new, so please work with me on this. If you are lost as to what to do next, let me know. If I'm throwing hook or direction for you to go, please take it."

c) "This is a big map with lots of dungeons on it. You can go wherever and you'll need to be proactive".

This will set the expectations for the group, and it will help them work with you. It's hard enough learning how to run a game to begin with, if players know what they're supposed to be doing in the broad sense, and what you're trying to do, it becomes a lot easier.

After a few sessions, the group can tell you if they don't like that type, but at least you'll have had a chance to learn the rules of the game better and now you'll know what kind of adventure to NOT buy.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I like your answer. I realized now that my question is sort of arrogant. I've played so long I've forgotten that learning the basics can be fun too. Have to focus on that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rena
    Mar 24, 2015 at 10:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's all good. We all want best practices and to have the most fun possible, but we also need to understand that some things take time to gain mastery of. One step at a time. \$\endgroup\$
    – user9935
    Mar 24, 2015 at 18:21

If asking them isn't an option, the only thing you can do is try stuff, observe your players to see which parts of it they like, and then do more of those bits.

There is no magical way to determine your players likes and dislikes with surety and certainty. Ultimately, it comes down to your observation of their reactions, and your judgement of what those reactions mean. If you know your players well, you might already be able to make an educated guess as to what they'd enjoy, and if they know themselves well, they might be able to give you guesses of similar accuracy - but ultimately, the only way to find out what they like is to see whether they like it.

You've already looked at at least one list of player types; Reading more of them will give you a good idea of what kinds of likes and dislikes are likely and possible. Stereotypes are rarely a perfect fit for real people, of course, so your players almost certainly don't fit perfectly into any of the categories on any one list - but the categories are still a good starting point.

(Oh, and reconsider asking your players what they like. Even if they give you inaccurate information, it's unlikely to be completely inaccurate.)


It doesn't have to be "the game of their lifetime", just one that everyone enjoys.

If this is really just getting started, I hope you have an idea of a campaign to begin the process. You can lead them to a degree with some back story, and an introduction that might help them to choose characters that will mesh fairly well with your backstory.

Do they need to be tank-heavy, magic-heavy, or balanced. Set some fairly lax boundaries on the character creation so they aren't jumping in with classes that are more difficult to manage. Your experience should help guide, and start them off with lighter/'easier' adventures to get their feet wet.

I always started parties in a town, where some monied person, the patron, was looking for adventurers to help solve some local 'problems'. At first, little risk for little reward. Escorting a pack train through "dangerous" woods, clearing a den of {name your critter here} that's been harrying his farms/mines/fishery/etc.

Then, after they prove themselves (and get used to the game and the mechanics), the 'patron' would present bigger, longer, riskier, and more rewarding tasks.

When you feel they are ready, the patron can always say "Thank you, you have done all that I have asked, but I have no more work for you.", and kick them out of the nest so to speak.

Then the REAL fun begins, and you have a party acquainted with the game, your 'rules', and their own characters.


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