I’ve run quite a few one shots for players who have never played. It was quite exciting to see other people I count as dear friends enjoy my hobby, and really get into their characters. Here are a few tips I have when introducing people to role playing, and getting people who don’t know each other to start role playing together.
Don’t leave them “figure it out.” Though it’s great to give the players the handbook and just let make their own character, most RPGs are confusing, especially to people who have never played before. When I bring in new players who haven’t played I sit down with them and get an idea of what type of character they like to play. Usually by asking them questions like “Do you want you want magic? Do you want to be sneaky, or be in the middle of the battle swinging a sword?” As I ask questions I start showing them different classes that might fit what they want.
From there, I go step by step through character design giving them advice when I can, but also allowing people to make their own choices. One person who wanted to play a bard as their class really wanted an animal messenger, despite my advice that it wasn’t a great spell. She felt it really fit her character, and so we put it in. Thankfully, I was able to use that spell. Overall, I had as much fun helping people build their characters as I did running them.
Run a one-shot with the new players. If you can do it, run a story that ends in one session with new players. (Usually 4-6 hours). You don’t want to dump them into long campaigns their first time through. Plus this allows you to see the dynamic of the group.
Have another person who really knows the rules around. When I have a table of new players, I’ll usually ask my friend Jeff to join. He’s much faster than I am in finding rules, and knowing the more obscure items. Plus, he can help out the players while I’m dealing with the NPCs. It’s great to have that second helping hand.
Try to get a group together you think will get along. If you know two personalities aren’t going to work together, it’s best to not try to run them as a party. Part of RPG fun is getting people to work together as one unit. Yes, it’s ok to split the party from time to time, but it’s not great to have everyone running off in different directions just because they can’t decide what to do together.
Even when you think they will, not every set of people are going to work (and that’s ok). I’ve seen groups who I thought would be great together just fall flat. It’s why running a one-shot is a great idea. If that group doesn’t work, you aren’t stuck with everyone together, and when you do find a great group, you can continue to bring that group to play together. If the group doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean anyone is a bad person in the group, but that it might be best not to try and bring that exact group together again.
In the end, make sure everyone is involved and having fun. It’s always great to make sure that the players who aren’t as vocal get a say in what is going on. Make sure you try to get them involved and remind them of their powers and abilities. Try to call on them for the skills that they are good at, and keep them aware of how they can be part of the action. That being said, I’ve had one player who just wanted their pet to bite the bad guy, and it worked. Despite the fact that they never really used their own powers.