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I have a few friends that want to test a RPG game for an evening. We are using the German game system The Dark Eye (TDE or "Das Schwarze Auge", DSA). (1) Since there are no introductory scenarios (only campaigns that last quite long) provided for an aspiring GM, I decided to create something myself.

The main purpose of the scenario is to have the players get used to the rules, engage in some role-playing and explore the environment.

This is the scenario with a small plot I came up with:

A robber stole the treasury of a city, dressed up as a merchant and is now recruiting fighters to defend him on his flight. The players will go on the journey with him, and if they haven't figured out the plot before 10+1d6 days, they will have to face the overpowered city guards and die (2).
On the journey, multiple hints will be dropped so that the players might get a look behind the masquerade of the merchant.
As an example: The coach is so heavy that the horse can't manage to pull it uphill, all players have to help pushing.

So far, I've come up with the following events that can happen during the journey:

  1. A goblin steals their provisions. They can either a) go hunting or b) follow the goblin. This will get them used to the "picking up trails"-system, the hunting system and eventually the fighting system.
  2. A sole wild boar attacks. Not a problem for 3 players to kill a wild boar, but they will get used to the fighting system and (maybe, if they think as far as that) can use it as provision by making a fire and cooking the meat.
  3. A mail coach crash. There will be encrypted messages giving hints about the motivation of the "merchant", but also a sub-plot with fighting two orcs who killed the coachmen, if they choose to investigate. This will get them used to multiple opponent fights, encrypting messages and the whole role-playing, as there will probably be a dispute whether to investigate (given I have a robber and an upright character in my group of heroes).
  4. Poisoned food. Rainy days encourage mould on the provision. One player will get poisoned. This introduces the players to the healing/poison system, regeneration, herbs (as they should be looking for a cure) and more.

Do you know other techniques, tricks or quirks from experience to make an interesting introduction and get players involved in role playing, but also give them a realistic view on the fictional world and the gameplay?

Please note that we will only be playing this for an evening (~6-8 hours) and all players have never done RPG-Games before.

TLDR: How should one introduce the mechanics/world/gameplay of role-playing games to beginners?

Thank you for your help!

(1): The game system doesn't really play an important role in this question, but it explains what the systems are that will be introduced in the following...
(2): Their heroes are the standard beginner heroes of the game. Even if they survive, there will be new heroes the next session as I want the players to create their individual heroes. Therefore, killing the heroes off in this scenario won't be that troubling, but rather gives them a realistic look at their chances.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Narusan Welcome to the site! Feel free to take the tour. To me this seems like a fine question. Generally when a question is closed/put on hold we encourage the OP to edit that question, not ask an entirely new question. I'm not the most experienced, but maybe you should delete the closed question, at which point this won't be a duplicate anymore? \$\endgroup\$ – GreySage Jan 27 '17 at 20:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sure, I shall do this. Thanks for the comment. \$\endgroup\$ – Narusan Jan 27 '17 at 20:16
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Side note
One of the first adventures I played (as GM) was E1 (Der Alchemyst). It is part of a campaign, but can be played stand alone without limitations. But I'm not sure if it is available in English.

I don't know the English names of skills and other system specific parts. So I will try to translate them and mention the German word in parentheses.


Introduction to role playing

If this is not only a system introduction, but also an introduction to roleplaying, you first need the player to get a feeling that there are no restrictions in what they can do (consequence yes, restrictions no) and that they do not just play your story, but forge it with their actions.

In my opinion this is an important part of roleplaying: use common sense instead of rules to keep things smooth and simple. There are rules for almost anything (literally), but you risk to overwhelm your players at this point.

In this stage you also need to act as a moderator so any player is participating. If you have dominant players they can easily take control over the complete group. Try to encourage shy players with 'random' events/interactions to let them choose there own actions.

Introduction to the Talent System

After your players getting feel for their character, they need to know what he is capable of. Let one of your players roll a skill check and give him a bonus on this test (he should pass the test). You can then describe how a skill check works and how boni and mali apply. Shortly after this you should let the whole group make a skill check, so that every one can roll dice and calculate how many skill points remain. For the latter one I would suggest perception (dt. Sinnenschärfe).

Introduction to Fight

Instead of a battle with the complete group I would start with a short fight with only one of your players. Something like a contest. Maybe a wandering swordsman wants to let his pupil train with him. Because it is a one-on-one fight it will be easy to gasp for every one. Also making it a non life-or-death situation helps your player focus on the 'how to fight'. Also the fight will be ended after a short amount of rounds without wounds (only some live points will be lost). Using a human instead an animal also lets you introduce special maneuvers like feint (dt. Finte) that the opponent can use to make the fight a little more interesting.

Introduction to Magic

You should skip this when you have no mage/witch/...
It is most likely that a mage player will want to use his magic early in the game. However if your magic user is something like a witch call him to attention that he does not want anybody to know that he actually uses magic. Not even his group (which he maybe met a couple of days ago).

Introduction to the World

This is the trickiest part. You can give your players a short introduction of the world and the gods before the play and that is (depending where you actually play) orientated on a specific time period.

You should not pack everything in the first adventure. Pick only one or two aspects in detail.

  • Let a votary (dt. Geweihter) of one of the main gods appear and interact with the group or let them perform miracles. (In later sessions you can start introducing lesser gods like Aves.)
  • An easy part is the gender equality. Let women appear in jobs that where men dominated in our history. Like Guards, Woodcutter and official politicians.
  • For your adventure of course also law aspects.

Additional notes

  • I wouldn't use many fights. Those cost much time. Maximum one big fight and a medium or two small. What a small fight is depends a little bit on your group. You can start with a knight or rondra warrior that is capable to hold his stand against two guards without problem. An ambush with some thugs would for him be a small fly, while for group which best fighting character is a dwarf smith this could get already challenging.
  • I wouldn't be sure about using poison on a character. You could put him out of the game until he is cured. Even if he can still move giving a start character some mali will render him almost useless whenever he tries to accomplish something over skills.
  • If you want to use the poison you can poison an NPC that the group depends on. Maybe he got some information or can transport them over a river.
  • Regeneration and healing can already be introduced through the fights. It is unlikely that your group gets through it without a screech. You can postpone poison and illness for later sessions.
  • Don't use 10+d6 days to solve the puzzle or die mechanic. Why +d6? This sounds like some generic quest generator. There is a reason it takes 11 days or 16. And as a GM you should have control and not the dices about how the world works. The time your group has is an elemental part of the plot and how you plan the events on their journey.
  • You maybe should not kill the group at the end. When I get it correct you want to show them that the World has consequences and that their characters can die. However this experience can be demotivation for players. You should first encourage your players before showing them how cruel the world is. This will motivate them for the next sessions.
  • Show them that characters can die when they get to over confident. Your overall goal should be to have fun. Demotivating the group is not the best method to let them remember the session as funny as it was.
  • Especially in the first adventure the group should succeed somehow as long as they don't behave like idiots. If they fail it could be something like the antagonist got away but they still could secure the stolen material. It should be challenging but not to hard. It is not about if they play the character again but the moral of the group.

One last advice especially for investigative adventures: I often have seen GM's having a complete picture of the story in their mind and what should happen when. (I can't always exclude myself here (=_ =;)) But keep in mind that you should be open to suggestions of your players.

If they have an idea describe what's happens and don't just say it does not work or it will have no effect. After all, it is all about fun. The first time is not that bad when you say it, the second it gets unpleasant for the players and after the third time they will just sit there and wait what will happen next.

You have the plan they don't. If your group needs 3 clues to get the information they need, you need at least 30 opportunity's where they can get them. Half of the locations they won't visit. Another half of the time they will be interested in some other aspect of the current location. And the third half they won't get the clue because they fail some important skill check. This leads to 3.75 clues they gather (\$30 / 2 / 2 / 2 = 3.75\$).

tl;dr

In short: plan for many ways to solve this adventure not only one (and also for ways you haven't imaged). Let your group (and yourself) have a nice evening.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm German too and yep, I had trouble translating everything into English. Additionally, I don't plan to kill them, but if they don't get that the merchant is "bad" after many hints it is not a problem if I do \$\endgroup\$ – Narusan Jan 28 '17 at 10:49
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Actually, there is a Quickstart document for TDE/DSA5. It contains very simplified rules, a few premade characters and a short scenario to get you started.

Maybe that's a good start to give your players a glimpse of the roleplaying world and ease them into the basics, before getting into the full set of core rules and character creation.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi, and welcome to RPG Stack Exchange! I see from your Informed badge you've already read our tour — thanks for doing that. Once you reach 20 reputation you'll also be able to join us in Role-playing Games Chat. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jan 30 '17 at 11:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have these, but they are only the rules, not a campaign/szenario. Thanks anyway! \$\endgroup\$ – Narusan Jan 30 '17 at 12:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Narusan Pages 10ff of the German document is a scenario called "Die Sklavenhändler vom Reichsforst - Ein Mini-Szenario". Did you notice that I'm talking about a document in the Downloads section of the linked product page, not the product - the core rule book - itself? \$\endgroup\$ – TheNickOfTime Jan 30 '17 at 12:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I did. I'll have to re-read the document then. Sorry... \$\endgroup\$ – Narusan Jan 30 '17 at 12:58

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