Three DM Hacks to introduce new players to D&D

Quite a start of the year for the Dungeons & Dragons community! With the OGL drama, the shadow of Hasbro spreads over our lands and an ORC horde sharpens their weapons. On the other hand, we cannot deny that 2023 is one of the most important years in the history of our beloved game, with the movie ahead and all the cross-promotion in other media, RPGs are becoming big stuff. And as expected, each day are more and more curious enthusiasts who want to be part of this game and go from commoners to heroes.

So, what role do you wanna play in these weird times?

I’ve recently come across a pattern on D&D community:
People interested in learning to play ask for help → A wild Gatekeeper appeared!

These specimens think that people have to read all the books or more to enter the game, so if you are new in the town, you HAVE TO PROVE THEM SOMETHING or don’t have the right to ask or even to play, now, that bullshit have a name: Gatekeeping. Don’t do it, don’t be an ass. Don’t wanna help? It’s ok, somebody will, but stop throwing books to newcomers faces that’s not cool.

But let’s say you are a healthy human being who loves to play Dungeons & Dragons and accept the quest to introduce new players to our game, here it is:

“Three DM Hacks to introduce new players to Dungeons & Dragons”

First of all, imagine for a moment that Dungeons & Dragons is a rollercoaster, and you are selling tickets. How do you promote the rollercoaster to newcomers?

Do you show them the rollercoaster’s blueprint to explain the experience?
Or do you give them a free ride?

There you have, it’s all about the experience. And believe me, if you do a good job with the first approach, they will read the books, cause now they have a reason to, and you know, people need reasons to do stuff.

So, to help the noble quest to introduce new players, I suggest to invite them to play, as simple as that, in this first game, keep in mind these three hacks:

  • Pregenerated Characters
    DM Hack: “Press start – Choose your player”

It’s quite probable that the first time player in your table has some key D&D tropes in mind from the media, cause you know, that’s why is in your table in the first instance and maybe also knows a thing or two about video game RPGs, so use that in your favor.

Choose your character

Choose your character

The best way to start playing is actually playing, don’t put an empty character sheet in the first time player’s face, that has no sense, they doesn’t know the system yet, better offer options from a premade characters selection you make for that specific purpose, keep it simple, keep it working, and go for a fresh and easy start, just like a video game, ”choose your character and play”

  • Play with ideas, not with rules
    DM Hack: “The answer is not in the character sheet”

So, your first time player chooses a character, and you put a character sheet in his hands, now, what that character sheet is really for?

The purpose of the character sheet is to contain info, that’s all. It’s a tool in service of the player. A full character sheet for a new player can be intimidating, so let them know that is, not a test to decipher but a source to use.

Is this supposed to be fun?

So each time a player is looking for options in his character sheet in his first game, remember asking:
What do you wanna do? And ask for ideas, not for game mechanics, let them know that the game works with this workflow:

  • Have an idea in your head.
  • Use the mechanics in the character sheet TO TRY to make it real.

And not the other way round. Help players to try ideas through their character sheets and not vice versa.

  • A game with one mechanic
    DM Hack: “One d20 to rule them all”

One of my favorites things about Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, or maybe about d20 System, it’s really that, you only need one mechanic to play:

Propose an idea, roll a d20 to see if you succeed or fail. If you have a big number you more probably succeed if you have a low number you probably not.

Once your first time player has a character sheet and know the game is about trying ideas through it, put a d20 on their hands and play the game. Literally explain that the only mechanic is to roll a d20, and wait for the DM to turn that into narrative.

Roll & Role

Roll & Role, Baby!

Here you can point two things around the d20 System to involve some specific game mechanics without losing the “easy game mode”, just two things one for empowering player choices, the other for gaming.

  • The d20 modifiers in the character sheet.
    Some characters have better modifiers for specific things, and you can have an idea about your own character by consulting your character sheet. Good Strength score? Feel confident to move that rock, Low Charisma score? Better to let that other guy to talk the King. You don´t need to know how it works in formulas, you only need to check one number, the system already do the math and put it in your character sheet, so you can play.
  • The second thing is the Advantage and Disadvantage mechanic.
    You roll two d20 and have to take the best number if advantage roll or the worst in disadvantage roll. That’s all, now, any player can look for advantage, go creative, and beware for disadvantage, cause is a real thing to make the game challenging.

So, “keep in mind your character stats” and “keep in mind advantages and disadvantages” joins the d20 rolls…Now we´re playing Dungeons & Dragons!

I know there is a lot more involved in our RPG gameverse, but let the deeper parts of the game be discovered by your players when they feel they need to, and make them know that playing D&D is easy, and being better is an exciting exploration process.

Just as DMing a game, teaching how to play is all about narrative, keep it simple, keep it safe. And let the players play. I would love to know your DM Hacks to introduce new players to the game if you want to share, to improve our gaming experience together.

See you next time and keep rolling, remember: Crit Happens.


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