A friend of mine is interested in exploring this whole "role-playing thing." Contrary to my usual approach, I've decided that the kinda-system roll-for-shoes is the most appropriate introduction, due to the ease of system mastery.

Being used to rather more elaborate games, what do I need to keep in mind (from a pedagogical or game perspective) while introducing this friend of mine to RPing via this game?

Specifically, while I'm happy teaching "how to roleplay" in general, I have no experience with the union set "how to roleplay" and "roll for shoes" and am interested in any "teachable moments" or traps that can arise from using this system for this purpose.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Today I learned about a new RPG to use to introduce people to the concept of RPGs. Thanks Brian :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 12, 2015 at 8:10

2 Answers 2


I have introduced a good number of people to rpgs over the years, and I recently played Roll for Shoes with inexperienced players (with only a couple of sessions Dungeon Squad and a couple more of D&D 5e under their belts), so I think I have the combined experience to give an answer to this.

Start in the players' world

One great thing about Roll for Shoes is that it is completely setting neutral, so anything goes. You could either get the players to play themselves, even starting in your current location "So while we're sitting here talking, you hear something like fingers scraping against the window over there. How do you react?" Or you could get them to pick a genre from film, TV, computer games or literature and run with that. In pedagogical terms, this is all about working with the players' preexisting schemata, linking the knowledge they already have to the knowledge they need for the game.

Keep it simple

The GM having too much rpg experience can be a problem for new players, and plot ideas which can be pleasantly challenging to experienced players can be impossibly daunting to new ones. I would suggest keeping the premise of the adventure super simple: Escape from the zombies trying to get into your living room, or whatever cliché is suggested by the genre they chose. In any case the skill mechanic of Roll for Shoes means that things very quickly go off in unexpected directions, so a subtle plot line is almost certainly wasted.

Trust the players' imagination

I'm constantly surprised when playing with new players what cool creative ideas they can have. They might be new to rpgs, but they are not new to using their imagination. Work with this (with their schemata) and at least give them the chance to come up with cool skill descriptors, effects of actions etc. My inexperienced players were great at this. In some ways rpg experience can be a problem when playing more narrative and creative systems like rfs, as people have got used to the rules dictating what is allowed. With rfs the only limits are those set by your (shared) imagination.

Teachable moments? Yes.

Despite its diminutive size, you can use rfs to teach some important basic concepts of roleplaying, including:

  • playing a character
  • conflict resolution
  • skills
  • experience
  • character progression

All in just eight lines of rules!

Pitfalls? Not really

I honestly can't think of any real disadvantages of rfs as a way of introducing new players to the hobby. I suppose the only problem might come if you as a GM find it hard to manage on so few rules but I take it this isn't the case considering your experience and the choice of the game.

Because of its brevity, there are of course some things missing from rfs which are common in other rpgs, for example:

  • chargen
  • character facets (classes, aspects, feats/edges/stunts etc - though these can be covered by skills in different play styles)
  • any health stat (hit points, damage track etc)

And more, but some of these are questionably good for beginners due to their potential complexity, and none of them are necessary to convey the idea of roleplaying to beginners.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for "start in the players' world." All my most successful RFS games have involved a setting that the players are already at least a little bit familiar with, enough so that they have some pre-existing ideas about how their characters might behave in the situation they find themselves in. Combined with the minimal (one might almost say nonexistent) chargen in RFS, that lets you start in media res and skip any awkward setup and orientation steps. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 12, 2015 at 16:21

I recently did exactly what you're talking about, and RFS was awesome for the job: its open structure let me model many different play strategies and styles quickly and easily just by applying different philosophies to different actions and scenes.

First, the big pitfall I encountered: Roll For Shoes doesn't do much heavy lifting. The burden to make the game work falls entirely on its participants. As a teaching tool the system creates many opportunities for learning, but it's the responsibility of the GM and players to recognise and exploit them. Following are some opportunities I took advantage of.

Talk about choices.

I attribute my success mostly to frequently pausing the action to discuss what was going on in terms of playstyle choices. Instead of expecting the player to pick stuff up through osmosis, we had explicit conversations about the choices I was making, the choices I was asking him to make, and how they influenced the game experience. This also helped establish the collaborative environment I've come to value in my groups, blurring the lines between the social roles of player and GM at the table.

Trade off narrative duties.

Roll For Shoes has no interest in dictating who's responsible for determining outcomes. I'd frequently ask the player to describe what he learnt from a successful roll or how he failed his action on an unsuccessful roll: when the ninjas knocked him out, I asked him where he woke up and who was nearby. Similarly sometimes I'd tell him the cost of success, and sometimes he'd tell me.

Zoom in, zoom out.

We started with a "traditional" combat scene with turns and rounds: one character rolled to take cover, then the next PC rolled to attack, and so on. Each roll corresponded to one granular action.

Two scenes later, I told my player that we'd zoom out for a kind of "montage" effect: we used a small handful of rolls to describe the entire process of PC's infiltrating a space station. Each roll corresponded to multiple actions over minutes or hours of time.

Games like D&D can do this to some extent with skills, but can't handle combat on anything except a turn/round basis; Fate's contests and challenges are designed for zooming out the action, but it's got a pretty rigid structure for it. Roll For Shoes just lets you wave your hands and make a roll's effect be as narrow or wide as seems right, so the new player can see how this is done before learning a specific structure for it.

Roll to act, roll to discover, roll to declare.

Roll For Shoes is at its best when you're rolling for everything. If the player asks whether there's a koi pond in the zen garden, or says he wants his character to have a space ship, or has his character try to catch a shuriken and throw it back at the ninja, I call for a roll. This provides speedy growth of skill trees, and also gives lots of opportunities for learning stuff like...

Failing forward and succeeding at cost.

When the player first failed a roll, I talked about failing forward: the idea that failure should never stop the story, but instead reveal alternate avenues of action. This made him less afraid of being defeated by the attacking ninjas, because he knew defeat wouldn't bring the game to a halt.

(RFS helps reinforce a positive attitude toward failure through its XP mechanic, which I pointed out to the player: failure provides the building blocks for future growth. This is a role-playing lesson I can't emphasise enough, so it pleases me that RFS supports it mechanically.)

And when he failed at a roll for something he really wanted to have happen, I introduced success at cost: a failed roll doesn't have to mean you failed at the action, but instead that some new complication is introduced in addition to your success. Thus, while the PC was sneaking onto the space station his inside accomplice got caught and the station security went on high alert.

Success at cost (a phrase I'm borrowing from Fate) isn't baked into the Roll For Shoes rules, but is the result of a liberal interpretation of "the thing you wanted to happen, happens" in the second bullet point. Your mileage may vary on whether you're comfortable using this approach, but it's been very useful for me--so long as the costs have bite.


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