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RPGBOT.Podcast S2E13 – New Players

Show Notes

In this episode of the RPGBOT.Podcast, we discuss bringing new players into the TTRPG hobby. We offer advice on teaching players to play without overwhelming them, how to run games with all new players, and how to bring new players into games with experienced players.

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Materials Referenced in this Episode

Transcript

Randall 

Welcome to the RPGBOT.Podcast. I’m Randall James, and welcome to the RPGBOT.podcast. With me is Tyler Kamstra.

Tyler 

Hi everybody.

Randall 

and Random Powell.

Random 

Howdy.

Randall 

Alright. Folks, tonight we’re doing something a little bit different. We are in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin at Garycon 14 together live on the same person on the same mic. Literally looking eye to eye, we can literally high five. Yeah, so this is going to be great. I’m pretty excited about it. Tyler, what’s happening?

Tyler 

Today, we’re going to talk about bringing new players into the game. If you’ve been playing the game for a while, eventually you will have someone who comes to you and says, “Hey, I would like to play Dungeons and Dragons or some other tabletop RPG”, and you being the wonderful, wonderful person that you are, are going to help them in their journey into the hobby. Today, we’re going to give some advice on how to successfully bring someone into the hobby, and how to keep them in the hobby. So teach them how to play in a way that they will enjoy and want to stick around for a long time.

Random 

Yeah, I’m gonna say keep them in the hobby as much as they want to definitely don’t strap them to your table and say, no, no, this is a three year campaign. But I mean, realistically, if you do a good job of making them feel comfortable, as you bring them into the game as you help them learn, that’s going to do wonders for making sure that they do want to keep playing. Because obviously, if you’re listening to this podcast, you probably think that role playing games are a pretty cool pastime. And so getting to share that with people who have come to you to try and break in. That’s pretty wonderful.

Randall 

Or you’re listening out of spite, and we applaud you.

Random 

And, you know, thanks.

Randall 

Yeah, but no kidding. Somebody comes to you and they say like, “Hey, I hear you play in a D&D game or I hear that…” you actually play Pathfinder. Let’s be very clear with somebody like, Oh, I hear you played in a D&D game or you run one. Yeah, what do you say to them? What are you going to do?

Random 

Well, I mean, there’s really a couple routes, my big push is that you’re going to want to ask a couple questions. I mean, you’re really going to want to feel out? What do they want? Right? You know, we talked about “five why’s” a little bit ago, and I would not advocate for grilling them that hard. But I would realistically say you want to do a couple things to find out. Why do they want to do this? And because if they tell you Oh, man, you know, I just, I love the idea of play acting and I want to be this character, that’s going to be a very different answer than someone, then someone coming up and saying, oh, man, I just, I really like. So I saw this, this build like on on Reddit, and it got me thinking like, oh, man, what if, what if I could do all of this stuff, that those are going to be very different ways that you introduce them. And there’s kind of no meta level too high that you can ask these questions. If you want to get people going, you could very easily introduce them in a one on one session with just you and them, you could bring them into a one shot with a few friends. You could bring them right into the existing campaign that they presumably think you’re playing to have asked you. All of those are going to be very different ways. All of them have benefits, all of them have drawbacks. And so the more information you can get up front from them, the better it’s going to be when you do actually bring them to a table.

Randall 

Yeah, talking about the five whys I feel like what we should do. Let’s talk about the three whys, you want to play. That’s fantastic. From there, like okay, do you want to build your own character? And if they say it’s like, oh, yeah, I’m really excited about building the character. Okay, do you want me to help you, but I’m generally gonna make the argument. I think what you need to do to get somebody into the game, is get them at a table playing the game as quickly as possible. I think the quicker you can get them sitting down, playing actively, engaging, they will realize this game isn’t scary. It isn’t that complicated. And at that point, you know, they’ll get hooked, they’ll get excited, they’ll find the parts of it that they love. And then you can take a step back and say, Okay, there’s a lot of material as far as you want to take this. There’s a lot to learn if you’d like to.

Tyler 

Everyone’s going to learn the game in a different way. A great question to ask people when you get started is just how do they learn things? Playing a tabletop RPG is just like any other skill people learn things in different ways so you could compare it to cooking very easily. Ask them how would they learn to cook do they learn by getting in the kitchen and starting cooking and then trial and error? Do they learn from YouTube videos? Do they learn from big thick books? Like, there’s no wrong way to learn things and everyone learns things a little bit differently

Randall 

Do you just light the kitchen on fire and at some point, extinguish that, and rebuild the kitchen.

Random 

I mean, technically at that point you have cooked whatever food was in the kitchen.

Randall 

the entire fridge ready to go? It’s like, no, there’s absolutely a wrong way to do this. But keep going.

Tyler 

The trial and extreme error.

Randall 

 trial by fire.

Tyler 

It’s very easy when you’re teaching someone how to play to think, okay, new player, I’m just going to hand them the Player’s Handbook and say, go home and read this. But if you’re completely new to tabletop RPGs, the fifth edition Player’s Handbook is about 300 pages. And if you don’t know what you’re getting into, that’s terrifying. You’re being handed like a college textbook, essentially, and said, yeah, no frame of reference. Good luck.

Randall 

On Saturday, I’m going to popcorn. There’s going to be a test!

Tyler 

The test will be combat literal trial by fire.

Random 

No, But it’s even worse than that. Because it’s you know, because if they’re usually running like a standard session, it’s: there’s going to be a test. And four other people are counting on you to not mess it up to have fun.

Randall 

Don’t let them down. Oh, this is getting harsh. Okay. Yeah.

Tyler 

So So I personally love to learn tabletop RPGs by reading that massive 300 page book, but I realized I am in the minority. There tons of other ways to learn. There are no wrong answers.

Randall 

Yeah. And so what I’ll say a lot of people like to consume media. That’s the way that they learn. In particular, I would say podcasts are fantastic. Dear listener, you’re listening to a podcast right now that talks a lot about D&D and more generally, tabletop gaming. We actually have a four episode arc on introducing new players. So if you were a new player coming, you could listen in on what is tabletop games? What are what is a role playing game, you can learn how to build a character in D&D 5E. And then you can listen to an adventure where you learn how to do you know all the great things that happen in a typical D&D 5e adventure. So we’ll put a link in the show notes to Spotify. So you can go and actually pull it as a playlist. We’ll also put a link so you can generally just find those podcasts on RPGBOT.net. RPGBOT.net also has a few articles that I think would kind of be a great guide to getting started. But of course, that’s not the only way, just the best way.

Random 

And there’s definitely a couple other ways to go about it. You know, Tyler talked about handing someone a PHB, which is certainly a way there’s also if you want to go the digital route of functionally the same thing D&D Beyond, particularly if you own the PHB, and you have the master tier, I think, subscription, if you just put them into your campaign, then they can go and make a character based on that stuff. So that’s definitely one thing. I will say I personally am one who kind of tends to just dive in. There’s a lot of ways to go about that. I mean, if if someone really does just say, no, just bring me to a table, and they like, you have found the the person who says anxiety, never heard of her! They can just show up and have fun, that’s awesome. That’s the kind of person I found, they’re mostly going to be there for kind of the story. And so leaning into the story, and then introducing elements one at a time, kind of becomes your job as the DM and that’s that’s a hard skill. But it’s something that if you can get good at that, it can be very valuable. It also means that if you are the person where you know, your friend has asked you to help them into D&D, and you’re not the DM, you’re really going to want to talk to the DM if you want to try and go that route. Because that can very quickly derail things. I’m going to say that, particularly if you’re bringing someone into like a campaign in progress, please, please do another session zero to get them in. Because that’s, that’s going to be very important. Because they don’t have the context of like I talked about when we were talking about the session zero episode, my group that I play regularly with, we’ve all known each other for a long time, we sort of don’t really bother because we know what we’re looking for. And we just go. Bringing someone new, not just to the group, but to the hobby can create a lot of unexpected ways that things can go wrong. So please, just awesome that they want to do that. sit them down. Let’s have a talk first.

Randall 

Yeah, I think that makes sense. And I think walking through like the key things for whatever tabletop game that you’re bringing them into upfront, maybe not diving all the way deep, but giving a breadth first view of what’s coming, I think can really be helpful. And I think we’re going to dive into this a little bit for 5e in a little bit. But but at a high level. We can talk about, you know, how do you mentor and is it the best for the DM? Like let’s say it’s your friend and you’re the DM? Is it best for you to work with that person or is it best to partner them with another player that player table So you can run the game, you can generally keep things moving. But maybe another player is doing that mentoring as we go. Of course, finding the balance, right? You want to mentor you want to help somebody learn, help them discover, help them really grab a hold of it, the thing that you don’t want to do is say like, Alright, give me the steering wheel. And I’ll take care of this. And you watch me how I play your character, because that’s also demoralizing.

Random 

And some people do kind of want that. I mean, that’s, this is really where the more questions you ask up front, the better you’re going to be. Because I have definitely introduced people to the, to the game. And they’ve said, I want to play this character. And I don’t care how we get there and say, Great, let me build you a flying laser ball. And it’s dumb. We joke, but like, that can be a really good way for some people to get exposure, I think to build on what Randall just said, one really particular thing. When you set them down, just tell them what is a conflict resolution mechanic? And what is your system conflict resolution mechanic, you can tell them nothing else. And that will be a good enough place for them to start. If someone if the DM says, Hey, do that thing that you just learned like roll a d20, add a number, tell me that great. Or roll a pile of d6’s. Tell me how many six, great, like, as long as you have that expectation going in. You can fudge basically everything else along the way.

Randall 

And I think what you’ve just said is like really the critical thing. That most games have a mechanism for conflict resolution. So Pathfinder 2, D&D 5E, we’re talking about rolling a d20. Almost no matter what, usually, it’s only one person, sometimes very rarely, it’s two. If we go to a game, like, you know, we’ve talked about One Ring a little bit, I think you’ll hear more about One Ring very soon. All right, I’m gonna roll I’ve got a d12. I’ve got some d6’s. And we’re gonna party on with it. But understanding basically what to reach for, and how we take the first steps for any kind of conflict or any kind of check. It’s a game, part of the game is randomization, where does the randomization come from? I think setting those expectations early on and helping a player know how to use that is pretty empowering.

Tyler 

Yeah, understanding the basic conflict resolution is absolutely critical. And when you think about a role playing game, 90% of the rules are just what is the basic conflict resolution system and in terms of text, like it’s always a very small part of the book, but just the act of rolling a d20, adding a number, and comparing it to a target number is basically 90% of D&D. Everything else is just filling in the gaps. So understanding the core conflict resolution is crucial.

Randall 

Yeah, I mean, just to dive in a little bit, right. So for 5e, what do we really have? We have skill checks. Roll a d20. Did you hit the target number? We have attack rolls, roll a d20. Did you hit a target number? And saving throws: you roll a d 20. And did you hit my target number? That’s it? Yeah. Cool. Yeah,

Random 

no, exactly right. And other systems do do things like like dice pool games. That’s why I was talking about you know, roll your pile of d 6’s. Tell me how many. I’ll be putting out an article soon on one of those that I would read up on that’s very cool. Really, just once you get that down, that solves the vast majority of the mechanical anxiety. Because if your DM says make an attack roll, and you just like, pick up a d 20. Great! If something if they say roll damage, you pick up a d 20. Like, Well, probably not. But yeah, unless for some reason you’re a monk in 3.0 Because that’s what they did. Yes. Really?

Randall 

Wait, okay, wait, no. Pause. So they weren’t rolling like piles of d 4s d 6s? They were rolling d20s?

Random 

So yeah, the way that martial arts dice scale in 3.0. Specifically, they fixed that one in 3.5. They wanted d 20s to only be used for d 20 things. And so they turned it from a d 20 into 2 d 10. But yes, in 3.0 as a Monk, your fists would do d 20 damage at high levels.

Randall 

Okay, and then what would like if I had like a great sword, what kind of dice..?

Tyler 

2 d 6

Randall  

The whole time? That feels silly

Tyler 

a little bit.

Random 

Correct!

Randall 

Okay. All right.

Random 

Yeah, so there’s your Monk history lesson for the day.

Randall 

Yeah, they got nerfed.

Random 

One thing I will say we talked about some of the mechanics role playing is also very important here, it being a role playing game. That’s something that you really want to introduce them to a few styles of, you know, some people are just immediately ready to hop in and say, I’m going to do this I’m going to do this and just be in character and that’s awesome. Some people prefer to maintain some distance a really easy way that that they may not think of, if they haven’t had this experience is to basically roleplay in third person. So you just describe the actions that your character takes, you know, that might be something like Corrine walks into the room and looks around trying to spot what evil lurks in the shadows.

Randall 

brooding but cool, okay.

Random 

Paladin. Yeah, it’s the job

Tyler 

right brooding Paladin standing in the dark corner of the tavern. Wait,

Randall 

it’s like the evil is usually dancing on the table.

Random 

No, no see you stand in the dark,  brooding corner. So the thing that tries to stay in the dark brooding corner can’t.

Randall 

Wait! The corner is brooding now?

Random 

Yes, it’s the dark brooding corner. So that the dark brooding people hide in it. So yeah, that’s that’s something to be very cognizant of. The other thing: learning styles. I mean, we’ve talked about this a little bit, but you can I mean, you can really dig into this, on average, about 50 to 60% of people are primarily visual learners, this means that they’re going to learn best by doing things like some amount of reading, please still don’t just slap them with a PHB and walk away, they’re going to do really good with watching videos of people doing a thing. Auditory learning is actually the least, that like the least common the thing that people are usually least good at, which is ironic that it’s how most information is presented in our education system. But that’s an entirely different story. And then kinesthetic. So the act of doing. so this is where you’re going to want to..

Randall 

People who can like move things on tables?

Random 

That’s. It’s. Well, you’re not wrong, even though you didn’t mean that. But no, this is people who are gonna do really well with like, you know, you hand them things, you hand them a character sheet, you hand them dice, and just say okay, so you see how I just like roll this attack roll great, you do the same thing. Everyone is a mix. Some people particularly as the professional world catches up to the fact that this is kind of where education has been for the last 20, 30 years. Some people will actually know how they best learn in that sort of classified manner I guess I’m not sure the adjective I was going for there.

Randall 

Was it a trichotomy? I think it’s a trichotomy. you’ve defined an ontology of learning. I where one of the entries in this is visual, audio, auditory, auditory, acoustic, auditory. And finally, finally. Telekinesis.

Random 

Correct. Perfect. I am speechless, but right so that they may know if they do when you ask them. That’s awesome. And if they don’t just know that your best bet is lean into visual with some kinesthetic, and then try and keep the things that you’re talking at them to a succinct and supporting fashion.

Randall 

That makes it so if you have no prior, you should probably assume that somebody is a visual learner. Because most folks are visual learners. I’m falling apart because I have this idea right now like if you’re ever in like the the kitchen at work, and you see things moving across the table. There’s your telekinetic learner, identify them now before it’s too late.

Random 

Or, you know, more likely ants. But I guess if we’re going with telekinesis over ants, I can’t stop you.

Tyler 

So we should also discuss teaching combat rules because a lot of tabletop RPGs, especially big ones, like D&D, and Pathfinder combat is a big part of the game. And if you open up the rulebook, and just count the page count, combat rules make up the vast majority of the rules content. And a lot of people, a lot of people look at that with a skeptical eye, especially if you prefer more story based, less crunchy games and say, Why do I need so many rules for combat and two pages of rules for social situations? The simple answer is combat is contentious and consequential. Usually, if you say something dumb in a social situation, you don’t immediately die. If you do something immediate. If you do something dumb in a combat situation, you’re probably gonna die.

Randall 

If you do something dumb in a social situation sometimes it leads to combat.

Tyler 

Exactly.

Randall 

But then death.

Tyler 

But you always have that combat as a backstop

Randall 

and hopefully you’re smarter in the combat. Yeah, exactly. Makes perfect sense. Yeah.

Tyler 

Even just starting with the very basics of how combat works in your RPG is very important explaining to people how the action economy works during a turn. So like, you’re playing D&D, you have an action and movement. And sometimes you might have a bonus action depending on your character and circumstances and stuff. But if people can figure out how to use their action to do something important and how to use their movement to either gain an advantage, not get themselves killed, that is usually enough to get them going.

Randall 

Yeah, and even calling out. 5E in particular, right? We have opportunity attacks. So the idea that oh, you’re, you’re a Fighter, you want to move in and you want to strike. You can’t just move out of the space. So explaining that early on, that’s something that you can’t really like introduce as another layer of layer of difficulty, it’s something you need to bring to the first game. So understanding how that motion, I think is really important. To compare it to something. So wondering, for instance, has this idea not of movement, it’s actually side based. So one, one group goes, then the next group goes, but you declare basically like a forward, middle or back position. And then that dictates when you go, and it also has mechanical effects. So again, that’s a critical part of combat kind of equivalent to what we consider for motion in 5E, that you should nail down early when you’re explaining the rules, so that that player can kind of feel comfortable in combat. Because again, that’s one of the most important things that you’re going to do in your game. See, you just talked for about two minutes, and all I took was that the One Ring is a JRPG. And you can’t change my mind. You are really not wrong. Well, except for most JRPGs will at least give you the option of like moving forward or back in the middle of combat, you’re like, Oh, we started in the wrong order, because they’re behind us. So we have to flip. No, you don’t get any of that.

Random 

I do want to point out for our listeners that I just momentarily killed Tyler,

Tyler 

right? If you’ve played Darkest Dungeon, and you have your order for dudes in a line, that is pretty much… No, because people can share order but. Oh, God, my brain.

Randall 

That’s an important part of control in Darkest Dungeon right is like having controllers that move things back and forth.

Tyler 

Yeah, and and actually, that’s a great comparison is like in any video game where positioning is important understanding the basics of the positioning system. Same as a tabletop RPG, you have to understand like having having my big durable guy between me and the danger is really great if you’re soft and squishy. So if you’ve played like World of Warcraft or something, you’ve got your tanks up in front, your blasters way in the back doing the damage per second and throwing dots and all those things. I’m making Random cringe. I have never actually played World of Warcraft.

Random 

Oh, no, I’m not cringing. I am internally replaying the entire Onyxia wipe animation and just laughing. We’ve covered like what you do when they ask which is awesome. And so if they do say great, I want to build a character. Alright, there’s some things to do with that. The very first thing and you’re going to hear this more than once tonight. Don’t make them a healer. Unless they want to be a healer. Please ask them what they want to do and give them some guardrails. You know, I typically when I’ve done this for people, you know if they say, oh, yeah, I want to make a character. My first question is usually: “Great. What do you want that character to do?” And that is a frustratingly vague question. So I then go on to provide about four or five options like okay, well, you can get your power from your devotion to nature, you can get your power from devotion to particular God, you can be sneaky and stabby. You can get your power from memorizing funny hand waves and Latin or you know, you can just walk up in a suit of armor and stab people to death. These are all valid choices.

Randall 

Man in tuna can with sword does damage.

Random 

Yes! Man and tuna can with sword does damage. And that’s like fighters are honestly a great way to introduce people because most Fighter subclasses have very few buttons. Your whole thing is about building in passive bonuses with the greater than usual ASI’s that the Fighter class gets. And so you just like I’m going to walk up. My job is to hit things. And my job is to hit things. And then my job is to hit things. And then when I get to 17 level, my job is to hit things. Good. And congratulations. I’ve hit things four times in one turn.

Randall 

I can’t wait to get to tier four play I can really hit things. And ASI is ability score increase.

Random 

Yes, yeah, ability score increase, which of course, technically speaking is an optional rule that you can trade them for feats, but. You can trade them for feats.

Tyler 

It’s also really important to set expectations for new players building their first character for people who are coming into the game with no frame of reference, they generally don’t have any idea how strong a first level character will be. And maybe you’re not playing at first level. But bear with me on the assumption here. I have had plenty of people come to me trying to build their first character and I’m like, Okay, let’s let’s compare it to like something you’ve seen a video game or something that you want to replicate. And I’ve had people come to me and say,

Randall 

I want to play Luigi.

Tyler 

But weirdly, I’ve never gotten that one.

Randall 

Okay, just checking.

Random 

This is important. Is this regular Luigi? Is this vacuum Luigi?

Randall 

Absolutely. No. Yeah, it’s a it’s Luigi in the hotel sucking up the ghost. 100%

Random 

great. You’re an Artificer. carry on.

Tyler 

Done. I’ve had people come to me and say, Okay, have you played Final Fantasy VII? My answer is no, because I live in a cave, but I get all the references. And they’ll inevitably say, okay, you know how at the end, you’re facing the final boss. I’m like, Okay, you can’t play Cloud at the end of the game. They’re like, No, no, I want to summon meteors from space to crush planets.

Randall 

That’s an option!

Tyler 

But, not at level one!

Randall 

We can work towards it, we can get there.

Tyler 

Yes. So setting those expectations, a lot of times it’s simple enough to just say your character is at the beginning of their story. So this is your character at the start of your video game. This is Bilbo leaving the Shire for the first time like, you are not the “I have finished my story, I have defeated the big bad, and I am on my way home.” So like the the power scale is very different. And just setting that basic expectation. This is what a level one character can do. If you’re a Fighter, you’re going to hit someone with a sort, if you’re a Wizard, you’ve got like two or three spell slots. And then cantrips. Setting the expectations for what characters can do at the beginning of the game, in whatever system you’re playing is absolutely crucial. And that will help people decide like, what can I reasonably achieve with this character to start with, and what do I eventually want to grow towards?

Randall 

So you’ve reminded me in everything that you said, setting those expectations, but then if that person goes away, and brings back a character sheet, reviewing that character sheet before you sit down at the table of play is also really important. So I have two older boys. One of them really wants to DM so invited some kids from the neighborhood over and they played a game and partway through, they’re like oh, yeah, you know, we had a combat, it was really tough. And so I’m coaching him on, like, how to build an encounter and how to think about it. And he’s like, but don’t worry, one of the guys made it. Because he had 47 hit points. Oh, I thought you were starting level one. We are starting level one. But he had 47 points. Son, I’m not gonna you know, your game your game. I don’t think that’s possible. No, dad, it was written on his character sheet.

Tyler 

Well, this may have been a lot of people’s first game. And first time playing this may have been their first character. So if they made some math errors. I’m impressed that they got to 47. But I mean,

Randall 

that’s a really cool math error.

Random 

I’m gonna say, you know, if you just take the plus sign, and you’ve rotated 45 degrees, it’s a multiplication sign. And then, um, anyway, so moving on.

Tyler 

Isn’t 47 a prime number.

Random 

So, anyway, moving on!

Randall 

Okay, nobody said anyone was good at math here.

Random 

Yeah, so there’s there’s a few things right. So Tyler, obviously covered like you are going to be a standard character. One of the other really important things to tell people coming in, and that we’ve touched on actually, ironically, in the last episode, where we talked about backstory, no one person is a main character, right. And this is something that especially people who have played some video games are going to be sort of particularly prone to because you know, you’re coming in and you’re like, oh, man, I am used to being the chosen one. I am the thing preventing the world from dying. Your character is not that. Your character is definitely strong and may grow to be one of a group of people preventing the world from ending, particularly if this campaign goes on long enough. But even when your character is that strong, you are still not the most important thing, and you are still not the main character. And so you really want to coach them through maybe a little bit of the backstory. But again, don’t expect that the first character that someone makes is going to have this elaborate backstory, although some people’s will, but you definitely want to make sure that they’re not trying to come in with the expectation of “I need to build this Savior who will pick whatever random fantasy genre you want to say, Oh, yes, I am this flavor of the MacGuffin person.” Definitely steer them away from that. Make sure that they also know that they’re very intentionally not trying to do everything and they’re not going to be good at everything. The reason why I typically ask people what they want to do is because I want to set the expectation that you cannot be really good at being man in tin can swinging sword and be really good at casting spells to summon meteors? And yes, I know that cloud could swing a huge sword and summon meteors. You are still not Cloud Strife. And just be aware that you are going to want to specialize because if you specialize you can get really good at one of those things. You will never be really good at a lot of things.

Randall 

Because uh, is it a blade song Wizard? Is that the

Tyler 

blade singer.

Randall 

Blade singer? Yeah, But except for that.

Tyler 

But they’re still not very good rogues. Wait, no wizards are really good rogues, but they’re still not very good clerics. Wait, they can cast a wish so they can be really good clerics. Okay, so what I’m saying is 20th level fighters. Sorry 20th level Wizard is really good.  But yes, Random’s point is absolutely correct. No one person in the party can do all of the things. The main character syndrome problem like your Skyrim, any game where you’re just one character by yourself, Legend of Zelda, like you have to be able to do all the things you have to be able to pick the locks. You have to be able to heal yourself, you have to be able to blow stuff up. You have to be able to like tank damage. You have to do all those things because you’re one person. D&D and other tabletop RPGs are typically party games where you’re playing with a team. So it’s more like a JRPG like Final Fantasy or something where you’ve got your your healer, your blaster mage, and your sneaky TPS guy and then your Fighter equivalent. Quick, what’s the name of?

Random 

Dragoon.

Tyler 

Sure? Yes. Okay. Isn’t that the one that like jumps into space?

Random 

Well, I mean, not all the way into space. But yes, you’re the one making the Final Fantasy references and then you get snippy with me for dragoon. Come on.

Tyler 

Look, I I played very few of the Final Fantasy games. Very few of the good ones.

Randall  

you also literally had fighters that could just use blitzes. Right. Sure.

Tyler 

Yes?

Randall 

No, that was a whole thing. Yeah. Okay, Sabin and his blitzes. I actually, they just put out like a re-pixel version of Final Fantasy VI anyway. Yeah. So characters, you know, so this person has come to you. And they said, I want to play the game, and I’m gonna build a character. And what I really want to do I heard this great idea, I read this book once. I am gonna be a Ranger.

Random 

No.

Randall 

Gonna have a panther companion.

Random 

No.

Randall 

I’m gonna have two,  dual wielded sweet sweet scimitars,

Random 

No!

Randall 

This isn’t cool? I can’t do this?

Tyler 

Only if you’re a dark elf.

Random 

How’d you know!?! As much as I would like to stop you playing that character, I can’t, I just need you to know. We’ve all played that character. It was good none of the times. I understand that you had a lot of fun reading. They’re really good books. But, boy, honestly, we we could really go into a lot of this. Although since we did just do backstory, I feel like a lot of this is going to be just listened to that section where we told you what not to do. And help them not do that.

Randall 

So you can’t be Drizz’t. You can’t be Master Chief. You can’t be Cloud Strife.

Tyler 

You could be Master Cchief if you’re playing Halo RPG.

Randall 

That’s fair.

Random 

Is that a thing?

Tyler 

I believe they were working on a Halo supplement for GURPS that never made it to publication.

Randall 

That’s fair.

Random 

That checks out.

Randall 

Alright, so at a high level, seeing something being inspired by it and thinking I want to play a character in the vein of a fantasy character, that could be a lot of fun.

Tyler 

Absolutely.

Randall 

And I think the rule set for 5e or PF2, for that matter, is flexible enough to let you probably pull that off for most fantasy characters as long as you recognize that you are not the only hero of the story, one. And two, it’s fine that you mechanically resemble that character. The narrative is not yours to own. The narrative you are co-developing with the other players at the table and with the DM. And so if you’re the friend bringing this person and you’re the DM bringing this person in, that’s something that you should try to take responsibility for. And if you have to go for the social fix and having that conversation of like, hey, you know, you don’t get to make every decision. You don’t get to run everything when it’s somebody else’s turn. Let them really combat. Having a good relationship and kind of setting the tone early on. They’re like, Yeah, you know, and hey, I’ll coach you on the dynamics, setting up an expectation that you’re going to give feedback, and then giving that feedback, both positive and negative, can really help that person develop. I think that’s a good exercise for everybody to generally practice.

Random 

Yeah, I mean, basically, a lot of that comes down to I’m going to reiterate that thing that I said: bring them into a session zero. Because that’s gonna set you the groundwork, if you do have to have a conversation later on. Or, you know, even if you like, if you’re doing things just in front of people along the way, that’s awesome. If you’re doing things like, Yo, we need to have a social fix later on. You laid the groundwork so you’re not just coming out of these, er, coming out of left field at your friend, which is a good way to have people not react well.

Randall 

Yeah, so we’re…, you have to have an expectation every three months, we have Festivus. Airing of grievances.

Tyler 

Well, I’ve got a lot of problems with your character, and I’m going to tell you what they are right now.

Randall 

Don’t do… To be clear, don’t do that.

Tyler 

Yeah.

Random 

And while we’re reiterating things, you know, as they’re making their character, don’t make them play a healer. If they want to play a healer, that’s awesome. You know, there are a lot of… I will say that there are two and a half classes that heal very well. And one other class that can heal. And if you happen to be playing in Eberron and you play a mark of healing halfling you can play a Wizard that heals. I’m not saying that I was salivating at that for a moment there, but I did. I mean, realistically, while there are a lot of fun ways to play a healing-focused character, and if that’s what they want to do, that’s awesome. A lot of times since no one has tended to pick up that role in some parties, new players tend to get like, oh, yeah, you’re joining this campaign. Oh, we need a healer. And they’ll, you know, the person wanting to be a helpful person says, oh, yeah, sure, I’ll do that. Without realizing that if you don’t know how to build a healer competently, you’re going to end up not having a lot to do. And that feels terrible when a lot of the game is combat focused.

Randall 

Yeah, I mean, 100%. So you target back to Final Fantasy seven. It’s like having Aerith in your party, right? Like you… a lot of fun. But maybe not really. More you just carry her around to make sure that she’s at an appropriate level. And then terrible things happened. And that person doesn’t show up for the next session and you cry.

Random 

Did you just try to avoid spoilers in a, like, 15 year old game?

Randall 

Correct. Yeah. But also I kind of spoiled a little bit to. It was… yeah. Anyway,

Tyler 

You spoiled the crying. I’ll never enjoy the game now.

Randall 

That’s fair. But I want to, like, dive a little bit deeper into what you’re saying. A healer is a great example of nobody wanted to play the healer when the party initially got together. So you had no healer. Then you got into the game and you discovered, it sure would have been nice to have a healer. And so you’re trying to pigeonhole this person into playing a healer. And healer is the role that this happens with most often. But this could kind of happen with anybody. Like, Oh, every, you know, oops, all wizards and you realize it sure would be nice to have somebody standing up front getting hit in the face and somebody else comes along, say, you know, I love magic and I want to come in and like I’ve heard about these Warlocks and warlocks are really cool. And you’re like, well, actually great. Here’s the deal. We got three Warlocks right now. So I’m going to need you to put on this tin can, carry the sword, and stand up there. You’re again taking this person who wants to learn about the game, and you’re trying to make them fix your party instead of learning the game for the first time and actually developing a passion for it. So I’d argue the thing that you should do if you find yourself in a situation, separate the concerns. Your party sucks, because you all made selfish choices, and you weren’t considerate of what you were really going to need to survive despite the fact that DM Ward you like three times during session zero. Are you sure you want to do it this way? You said yes. You regret it now. What if you developed a fix for that? Like, what if one person started multiclassing early? What if somebody said, okay, look, let me just… I’m going to run in and die and then we’re going to create new character, I’m going to retire this character create new character. Separate from that, let’s bring this friend in. And let’s let them do the thing that they have passion for, so that they can develop a love for the game.

Tyler 

Absolutely. And if people are struggling to come up with a concept for their first character, it’s pretty easy to draw comparisons to whatever media is popular at the time. Recently, I’ve been using the Avengers. Because, I mean, there’s a whole bunch of them. They’re all… you could say mechanically distinct. And you can very easily say, pick a character whose powers they want to emulate and build something, like, help them build something similar to that. Like you’ve got Iron Man artificer. Hawkeye is a ranger or rogue. Black Widow’s definitely a Rogue. Anyway. I was about to joke that nobody ever picks being a Ranger again, but…

Random 

I liked the Hawkeye series. And also I will say that the first time I made an Artificer, I definitely named it an anagram of Tony Stark, so don’t worry about it. Right? It’s it’s definitely a thing.

Randall 

Was it Sony Tark?

Random 

Well, actually, I mean, technically speaking, I took… so Tony Stark’s middle name is Edward. And because all dwarves as we know are Scottish.

Randall 

Correct. But not all Scottish people are doors.

Random 

I  Correct? Keep going. I took it hard, which is the Scots Gaelic version of Edward made that his first name and then made his last name Tarrasque, which is an anagram of Stark. And there we go. I darn Tarrasque my, my armor Artificer? But yeah, I mean, with that said, there’s gonna be a couple situations when you’re bringing people in, right? So maybe this is, you know, like, a friend who has walked up and said, I want to join and you’re like, Oh, great. We happened to have one person flee the country and we need someone to fill in our long-term campaign. That’s awesome. Or, you know, maybe this is like, hey, we have this bunch of friends who, like, we’ve been hanging out for a while and we kind of want something to do because we’re all bored of each other. What if four people who have never played before want to play Dungeons and Dragons? That was the situation with the long-running game that I talked about. You can do that and it was awesome. But there’s a lot, a lot to learn there. And this is where you’re going to really have to lean on the DM there. People are going to really lean on you. The DM might lean on you, if you are the person who has been playing a lot, but someone else wants to lead the game. Just… this is kind of one of the scariest places to be. I think that you can do it well, you just have to be aware that there’s going to be a lot of hand holding, there’s going to be a lot of times where things get done, what you may know to be wrong. Remember that even if there is a thing that is not correct in the rulebook, rule zero. If the DM is adjudicating it that way, let them adjudicate it that way. Maybe you talk to them after be like, Hey, did you know that the rule actually does this thing? And if they say, yep, then you say, Cool, thanks, Chief, and you walk away. Because it’s their table. Let them do that. There’s that. You could also very, very easily end up with like, one person who comes into a veteran table. And that’s a thing where, rather than having the the conversation, I mean, you’re still gonna want to have the conversation with the person coming in, you’re still gonna have the session zero, you may also want to have a bit of a session zero before the new player comes in, saying, Hey, I have this new person. They want to play. You’re going to have that conversation with them anyway, because you’re a reasonable human being. But as part of that conversation, you’re going to want to talk about things like, please help me be a little bit more descriptive than usual, you know, don’t just, like,I’m roll some dice, and then you tell your DM do takes 23 damage, because you know that you hit. No. Spell things out. Because the more that they can see how the veterans are doing it, the better chance they’re going to have of picking it up. Of learning, and importantly, of seeing why it’s fun. If they see you doing these things, then they can become more comfortable more quickly. And the more comfortable someone gets, the more they’re going to be able to enjoy what they’re doing.

Tyler 

And at the same time, you don’t want to make those new players in the group feel like everything’s slowing down on their behalf. You want to make them feel like an important, contributing member of the party. As quickly as you can get them into the game, get them doing something useful, and highlight their accomplishments. Offer praise. Encourage them to succeed. Make them feel like they are an A new but important part of the team. So, new player comes in, they are suddenly your party’s best frontline tank, like, go get into a situation where they’re important. And, you know, make them feel like a hero because that that feels very satisfying. And that makes people want to come back. If they want to build a character who’s charming and can talk their way out of any situation, then get into some high stakes social situation like maybe go a little further than interacting with the guy selling hot dogs on the corner. Like get into some political intrigue or get in an argument with an NPC or something and have them pull your party out of a bad situation. But…

Randall 

Steal some hotdogs.

Tyler 

Steal some hotdogs from the guy on the corner if they want to play a Rogue like hey, we’re uh we’re out of pocket money, go sort it out, rogue. Pull some hotdogs out of bad situations. No, wait, that is the stealing.

Randall 

No, those hotdogs were in a great situation on the heater.

Tyler 

So yeah, having the new player feel important, feel like they’re contributing, and feeling like what they’re doing is meaningful to the party is really important so that they don’t feel like,,, you don’t want them to feel like you’re just humoring them or bringing them in like okay, we’re gonna play a few low-stakes sessions while you get up to speed and then we’ll go back to the real game. Like, make them feel like a part of the group.

Randall 

Alright, I think we did it. Yeah. Alright, so we have a question of the week this week. This week’s question of the week comes to us from Stubbens on the RPGBOT.Discord. Are there any subclasses that are unique and interesting enough that you’d like to see an entirely new class based around that concept?

Random 

So one thing that I do just want to kind of preface this on. This is a really interesting question for Tyler and I coming from 3.x because a lot of things that are subclasses in fifth edition were actually full classes called prestige classes in 3.x. 3.x was a very different system. You weren’t really intended to be your base class for very long. If you did you were kind of gimping yourself, unless you were a straight class Wizard. But even so, I mean, there were some prestige classes that were worth going into. So like things like assassin for Rogue, horizon walker, uh… various things. I mean, like

Tyler 

Eldritch knight.

Random 

Eldritch knight, yeah, there were a lot of things that are now subclasses that were already whole other classes because classes were very limited. And, you know, there was just like if you were Rogue, you were just a Rogue. You never did anything besides Rogue things, unless you went and turned into something besides the Rogue. With that out of the way, I’ll just go firs on this. My personal one. So diviner, the diviner Wizard is really cool. They, I mean, being a Wizard, a lot of their stuff is divination focused, er, spellcasting focused. And they’re not too much into the divination stuff. I’ve recently been, well, not recently. I have played a decent amount of Gloomhaven. And recently in Gloomhaven, I have been playing a character called a diviner whose whole thing is like, manipulating the decks that people draw off of for their attack modifiers.

Randall 

That’d be really cool, actually. Okay.

Random 

Right? And so you know, if you if there was a way to do something like that, that could be its whole own class where like, ah, yes, I am just messing with time. I’m like, I know what the future is going to be. So I can just be like, oh, and yeah, I actually saw it slightly alternate timeline where you were 30 feet to the right of where you are now. Snap. It’s done. Right? Something like that. I think that would be really cool.

Randall 

Nice. So yeah, I gave a little bit of time for this and actually started heckling Tyler and R andom beforehand. So I’ve never played any martial class in 5e. Looking at the Battlemaster under the Fighter to me seems really interesting. So I’ve also never played a controller. The controllers that I’m familiar with, right, you know, as a spellcaster, picking lots of spells that allow you to be a controller, in particular being a Bard, right? That’s a fairly common thing. The idea of, like, having maneuvers and being able to use this as a controller on the battlefield, while being a really martial character seems really exciting. And I feel like the idea of the maneuvers is something you could almost just extract and make it its own thing. But let’s blow up this tree because I feel like out of like everything that’s happening within 5e, that feels like one of the least explored maybe most unique mechanisms for providing skills.

Tyler 

So calling back to third edition again, there was a book released late in three five called Tome of Battle, which introduced martial maneuvers, which is what was the inspiration for the Battle Master. So in Tome of Battle, there are three distinct classes that had this whole elaborate system of maneuvers that were kind of like spells, basically. Like there were maneuver levels, and they have recharge mechanic and all those things. So..

Randall 

Did you have a maneuver book and like, you could write a maneuver in the book, and then you could share it with other maneuverists?

Random 

There were no wizards. There were paladins and there were fighters, and there was a Monk,

Randall 

Okay. Yeah, all these things. Makes sense.

Tyler 

Yeah, the not a Monk, not a Fighter, and not a Paladin.

Random 

Exactly.

Tyler 

Yeah. And the the book at the time was very controversial, because a lot of people really, really liked it. And a lot of it were like, this is too different. And they also published that during the design phase for fourth edition and used the reception of Tome of Battle to then design fourth edition.

Randall 

Oh. So the overaction literally led to… okay.

Random 

It was also really rough, because… due to the fact that it came in so late in 3.x, they no longer hear about balancing, and so they just kind of didn’t.

Randall 

Yeah, we’re never gonna have to answer for this.

Random 

I mean, you could have a build that could functionally at around… I think I did the math on this, it was like 13th or 14th level, you could have a character that could cast Heal every other round forever.

Randall 

Good. Yeah, okay.

Tyler 

Balance. So maneuvers they were once an entire… Not only a class, but an entire book. And there were some good ideas in the book. I’m really glad that the Battle Master is a thing in fifth edition, because I mean, it is, to this day, one of the most satisfying classes to play and one of the most beloved Fighter options because the concept of maneuvers works so well on the Fighter.

Random 

And it’s just so unique. I mean, like there’s, there’s hardly infective basically nothing else that says, I’m going to take a reaction after I roll my attack die to just say, but what if it was four higher and also have some damage?

Tyler 

And as someone who frequently rolls garbage, I really like that maneuver.

Randall 

Just the best. The best maneuver is rerolling.

Tyler 

So psionics. Another, again, we’re going to call back to third edition. So psionics. Wizards has tried for years in fifth edition to nail psionics down. They’ve been through several iterations of Unearthed Arcana. The Mystic class was like, What 40, 50 page Unearthed Arcana document. Boy, it was a mess. But they’ve tried so hard and eventually they landed on the aberrant mind Sorcerer, the psi warrior Fighter, and the soulknife Rogue. We got all three of those in Tasha’s, and that is what we got from psionics. But people really, really like psionics really want psionics to be its own classes. In third edition, the Mystic, the Soulknife, and was it actually psi warrior? Help me out.

Random 

Yeah, it was. But psion. Yeah, well, so all of those. I mean, there was like a there was like a psionic Cleric, which was the Mystic, but the psionic Wizard was the psion. And yeah, psionics was very different. It was basically just the spell point system. I think we talked about this in the variant rules episode.

Tyler 

Yeah. Yeah. So I’m sure a lot of people would love to see standalone psionics classes. Probably the closest we’re ever going to bet and going to get in fifth edition is just play a Sorcerer with this sepll point system and just call it psionics.

Randall 

All right, all hail the Leisure Illuminati. Hey, Dan.

Random 

A single dispirited wave.

Randall 

Alright, I’m Randall James. You can find me at AmateurJack.com and on Twitter and Instagram @JackAmateur.

Tyler 

I’m Tyler Kamstra. You’ll find me at RPGBOT.net. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @RPGBOTDOTNET and patreon.com/rpgbot.

Random 

And I’m Random Powell. For the next 48 hours or so you can find me in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. But realistically, you’re going to have a better time finding me on RPGBOT.net, here contributing to the podcast, or some articles. In places or even play games I am frequently there as Hartlequin or Hartlequint.

Randall 

If you’ve enjoyed the show, please rate and review us on Apple podcast and rate us on Spotify or your favorite podcast app. It’s a quick free way to support the podcast and helps us to reach new listeners. You can find links in the show notes. You’ll find the affiliate links for source books and other materials linked in the show notes as well as on RPGBOT.net. Following these links helps us to make this show happen every week. If your question should be the question of the week next week, please email podcast@RPGBOT.net or message us on Twitter at RPGBOTDOTNET. Please also consider supporting us on Patreon where you will find early access to RPGBOT.Content, polls for future content and access to the RPGBOT.Discord. You can find us at www.patreon.com/rpgbot.

Tyler 

We did it, folks. Our first all in-person podcast.

Random 

Nailed it.

Randall 

Absolutely.

Tyler 

Yeah.

Randall 

There was probably more clicking than there needed to be.

Tyler 

Old joints, yeah.

One Response

  1. Keovar April 2, 2022

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