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I've been DMing for a couple of years, and I have this recurrent problem. My players are now quite experienced, they know the rules, they know how to play. But every once in a while, we invite someone new to D&D to play with us (or a couple of people).

When we invite someone new, we describe the classes available, their playstyles, and how the game works. A great majority of the people decide they want to play a caster of some sort (I get the appeal). However, even at level 1, casters have a lot of complexity. Even experienced friends of mine didn't initially quite get the nuances of spells known, spells prepared, spell slots, and arcane foci. In practice, this means the new player faces 2 hours of character creation, which mostly turns them off of playing. Not many people enjoy spending so much time reading something for a game they're not sure they'll enjoy.

To overcome this, I've done a couple of things:

  • Help them build their characters, step by step, keeping it simple when necessary, and allowing them to customize when I feel it's important (weapon or spell choices, for example)
  • Eliminating some more complex mechanics (like spell components)

These work sometimes, other times not. When they do, if the player sticks with the table, I eventually introduce them to the full rule set. (Another idea I had, but haven't tried yet, is to have some prepared character sheets for level 1 and level 3 characters.)

How can we invite new players to our table without overwhelming them with so many rules regarding character creation? I hate to see new players feeling bored and turning away from the game just because they unwittingly chose a class with a steep learning curve.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Re: tagging, we've found that specific questions/problems often generate good answers that explain their thinking and thus find wider applicability. Artificially-generalizing a question, though, usually just leads to poorer answers. The tags look just fine to me. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jan 17 '17 at 12:41
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Pre-generated characters save a lot of time, and remove the need to learn how to create a new character. Make sure everything they need to know is on the character sheet so they don't get distracted while reading the rulebook. D&D books are huge and complex. Another good point with that is that you can choose simple abilities that you know will be useful in your scenario.

Often when you play with the same group of people for a long time some habits of talking tend to replace official terms. When you are playing with beginners avoid the slang as it can be quickly very confusing.

Be helpful and forgiving: If a player move his character without noticing he would trigger an attack of opportunity when he could have avoided it, tell him that he can avoid this, show him how, and let him change his action if he wants to.

Considering rule simplification be careful you keep the game interesting enough for your experienced players. Maybe you can give the new player a free special ability which removes the need for magical components (or simplify an other part of the game). It could make you able to simplify even more the rules for the new players.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, we simplify the rules just for the new players. We let them ignore spell ranges or components, while keeping all of that for the remaining players, who go along and coach them when necessary \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMoon93 Jan 17 '17 at 13:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this answer is already good, so I won't add a secondary answer saying most of the same things. One important point you may want to cover with this approach however, is being careful not to let Learned Helplessness flourish. Simplify early, but slowly add more advanced concepts, and expect the player to start remembering the basics on their own. When they ask a question the 5th time or so, stop others from answering, and ask what they think the answer is. If they're wrong, gently correct them, and if they're right, give them a congratulations and move on. \$\endgroup\$ – Randomorph Jan 17 '17 at 14:38
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The most important part of dealing with new players is teaching them why role playing is fun, and letting them have fun quick enough that they will feel that learning the complexities is a worthwhile activity.

  • Help them make a mechanically simple character with a lot of flavor and personality
  • Give them interesting and important roles both in and out of combat, and make sure that they succeed at those roles often
  • Pay attention to what they are struggling with, and be helpful and supportive as you teach them how to handle it

In my personal experience as DM, this involved doing all of the math for new players, 'misreading' dice during long unlucky streaks, fudging boss HP so that the new player gets the final blow, and odd schemes that inexplicably turn out in the party's favor. Giving a player some great stories early on in a their gaming career will motivate them to want to learn the complexities, instead of having to learn them.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for simple characters with a lot of personality. I've lost count of how many times I've seen brand new players have an absolute blast because of some personality gimmick they decide to role with ...completely regardless of the complexity. \$\endgroup\$ – ThunderGuppy Jan 17 '17 at 18:40
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Something I've found very useful, when I've had the chance, is a preparatory session with the new player(s), the GM, and maybe one other player. This lets you introduce concepts and mechanics without other people either getting bored, or interrupting to explain it their way. It also means you can run the new character through a few simple challenges. That's when having another player there is helpful, since they can act as comrade or opponent.

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