Some friends and I want to start playing D&D (5e), but none of us, DM included (not me) have played before to any great extent. The DM and I have some cursory experience with 4e, but have never been able to play to any great extent. Is this advisable, or should we play with existing groups first? We live in a relatively remote area, making it hard to find experienced players.
I had a quick look around because I felt sure this would have been asked before but I can't find anything that would qualify as a duplicate.
Short answer - go for it.
I started playing in 1980 with a group of friends none of whom had ever seen or heard of a game anything like D&D. We made it up as we went along, had lots of fun and some of us still do. Oh, and there was no internet with sites like this one!
Its your game - you can't play it wrong!
Read the rules, make an adventure or buy the Starter Set, play it, do things wrong, realise you did them wrong, work out if you like your wrong way better than the official right way, decide how you will play them in the future, check that you are having fun, if so, keep going.
this is advisable!
The adventure included in the boxed 5e "Starter Set"--the Lost Mine of Phandelver--is for you. In fact, the whole starter set is designed with you in mind. The rulebook is a coherent subset of the PHB (and thus simpler to wrap your heads around), the pregenerated characters' sheets nicely explain features, and the adventure has lots of notes to the DM. (Things like: in the next encounter surprise may be a factor; be sure to review the surprise rules on p.xx.)
On a personal note, I'd not played since the 80's and had never GMed when I picked the starter set up and got three other complete newbies to try it. At lunch the other day one of the group asked about starting up a third concurrent campaign so that we-all (and the half-dozen other newbs who've joined us) can 'get our fix.' the starter set works!
Then, while you're GMing or playing, keep a running tally of things to ask about here or in chat. At the beginning of each session you can go over all the questions, and you'll all learn together.
Go for it, absolutely.
Many of the very greatest experiences that are told and re-told come from groups who were completely "green", simply because they didn't know "how it was done properly", and thus experienced things in their own, genuine, unique way.
(Some of the greatest moments in my RPG / LARP career only happened because we were unexperienced.)
Moreover, being on a "common ground" experience-wise is a boon as well. Newbies in an experienced group can work, but can also experience disconnection, or just "following around" because they're overawed by the more experienced players.
This is a game about discovering. Discover what style you want to play, not what style others could teach you. (You can do that later on.)
We played Talislanta once, in a huge group of 12 or more players, with no-one in the room -- GM included -- having any previous experience with the game world, or the game mechanics. The "thing" about Talislanta is that there is nothing "classic" in it. No human cleric, dwarven warrior, or elven ranger. Everyone is completely alien. After a truly enjoyable evening of serious character play, the GM looked at us in a funny way, asking us if we actually realized she hadn't said a word for the last couple of hours... We hadn't. One of the best RPG sessions ever.
My very first LARP (and that's >20 years since) was the first for everybody else in the group as well, except the GM who had played once (!) before. After the first day, well over a dozen players crammed into a single room, keeping a three-man watch at the only door the whole night, because we never even considered that the NPCs would need (or want) sleep as well. I have never since experienced another LARP with that feeling of intense, real, immediate threat, which came from literally no-one knowing what to expect. (Actually we were ambushed in the middle of the night, simply because the GM thought she couldn't all that guarding go to waste.)
Perfectly Fine to Play
You can definitely run the game as a new DM with inexperienced players! Assuming you run the starter set (or any of the other published adventures) I'd strongly recommend reading online for how other groups have played through the adventures. Doing so will help you teeth out any scenarios in the adventure that don't quite make sense or are confusing, while also exposing you to the range of actions that characters could undertake. Knowing those actions will help for at least three reasons:
- so you understand the kinds of things that players might do that deviate from the explicit advice/guidance in the adventure itself, and how to possibly respond;
- so you can give a wider range of suggestions for possible actions if your players are 'stuck';
- so you can see how/why/when other DMs modified the adventure in order to understand, for yourself, when/why/how you might want to modify the adventure.
In effect, by seeing how other groups have played the adventure you'll get the advantage of learning from more experienced DMs while simultaneously preparing yourself for running the game yourself for the first time.
The other answers are very good, but I would add one word of advice:
Don't get hung up on the rules right now.
Rules are great once you've established a good understanding of them, but right now the form of role-playing is much more important than getting bogged down in every little nuance of whether a given skill governs a particular task.
You'll be looking in the rules a lot, but I would suggest if you can't find the answer in 30 seconds or less, just wing it and look it up later. Maybe each player who has a question you couldn't answer can jot the question on a piece of paper, then everybody looks up the answers between sessions and reports back later.
My gaming group many moons ago started with zero understanding of tabletop RPGs and this was probably our biggest issue. Some of us *cough* me *cough* were treating it too much like a board game where the rules are critical to understanding the game, and had trouble recognizing that it's not about rolling dice and crunching numbers -- it's about smashing some bad guys and saving the hapless villagers and rolling around in the loot afterwards.
Note this mainly applies during gameplay -- the DM should spend as much time as they can reading the rules right now and getting as familiar as possible with the nuances. But they can't learn everything in a week (or a lifetime, really), so they should just do what they can once you're playing to keep things running smoothly.
I would also recommend not spending too much time in the first character creation session. Some of your players may want to get every detail right, but remind them the character sheet is just an interface. The real character is in their head, waiting to come out during the gaming session.
Acceptable And Recommendable
Although DND has a depth that can make playing the game daunting, among a small group of people just starting out, you're not likely to run into that depth, and will find the simpler end of DND isn't too difficult to get the hang of - provided at least one of your group is at least moderately good at math, since adding up die rolls and HP and various other character stats is still required. Since you and the DM have cursory 4E experience, you should already be familiar with that type of math, so you'll be fine.
As previously suggested, the Starter Set is a good place to start for new players, though any pre-packaged campaign should be good for new players too (as long as it's not explicitly marked for more experienced players). The pre-generated characters should help get things going.
If you decide not to use the starter set, you can still have fun - though you'll need to guide your players through character creation to help set up a party that can do what they want. This can be fun and enjoyable, but if you plan to go this route, you should dedicate a whole session, or even some one-on-one time with each individual player, to decide how their character should be (And try to get plenty of input from them - players, even new ones, will be more invested in characters they've had a hand in building).
Be prepared to be patient though - new players tend to need to look up the rules, or flat-out forget them in the middle of their turn, and may need a little hand-holding to keep things moving along. But my all means, it is an enjoyable experience, and a good way to get new players into gaming.
Yes, but the GM and players should do some reading online of good practice and the kinds of behaviour that kill games. If these are the only people you've got to play with locally be careful not to screw that relationship up with a beginner mistake. Start out by playing some short scenarios with throw-away characters to get a feel for how everyone plays and what you have in common.
I agree with MichaelS that playing well is more important that getting the rules exactly right.
Make sure that you all agree on how you want to play. It's easy for a beginning GM to over-control the game or under-control player behaviour. It's a partnership that's easy to get wrong but truly magic if you get it right. There's a good chance that you'll have people who want different things out of the game - every group has people that love debating the rules, people who just want to get more powerful and don't care how, people for whom the integrity of the character and the story is everything. Those differences are going to cause friction so you need to recognise them early and agree on how you're going to manage it.
Some example of behaviour rules that I enforced to keep the game from bogging down (you'll find variations of these online - go look for them):
All rules can be changed but not while playing. The groups I played with routinely wrote new rules to handle things we wanted our characters to be able to do, and re-wrote those rules when they didn't work. But once the game started there were no rule debates allowed - the GM makes a quick ruling that's as balanced as possible and then you get on with the game (this is the "The GM's word is final" rule). After the play session work out how the rule should really work and write it down for next time. Work out if anyone was disadvantaged by the GM's quick ruling and work out how to correct that.
The GM doesn't own the world. He's the referee, not the owner. He's got to play by the rules the same as every one else and can't just rip out part of the world or rewrite something if it would mess up someone's character. It's easy to forget that every player invests in the richness and depth of the world and deserves some say in how it changes.
The GM's word is final. This is the person that's going to put twice the hours in that anyone else will (if you can build a group where everyone contributes world content, plot lines, etc and take turns GMing that's awesome, but it's rare). From time to time you're going to get disagreements that can't be resolved and someone has to make a call. That's what the GM is there for so both the players and the GM need to respect the authority, use it wisely and abide by it.
If you can't trust the GM don't play in the world. This one you'll learn over time and unfortunately some people make awesome players but just can't resisting cheating as GMs. Don't step into those games. If you're one of those people don't GM. I sometimes worked with someone like that who would write scenarios and get me to GM them.
Don't marginalise characters. Some people build characters that have a different roles. They might be protectors of the truth in a party of "bash and loot" warriors or druidic mystics in a party of bandits. Try to give those characters the focus sometimes and let them have the impact they deserve. This is a message to the players as much as to the GM: sometimes the story isn't about you.
That's not all but I'm meant to be working and there are other people who write this stuff better than I do, just make sure that you focus on eliminating stuff that's not fun.