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Eden Landau
2014-06-15, 01:11 PM
Hi!

My name is Eden. Iím a guy, and I live in Israel. I've been playing and DMing RPGs for the better part of my life, and having a blast throughout. A few months ago, my old group split apart, each for his own reason. I've searched and found a few people for a new group, but not one of them had ever played an RPG before. Never one to give up, Iíve decided to teach any of them who was willing, and though I have done this kind of thing a few times before, I was still somewhat reluctant.

While my own Ďinitiationí into the hobby was relatively smooth, the first time I taught people wentÖ unsmoothly. That was a few years ago, and those who didnít leave after the first session stayed confused for quite a while. We figured it out in the end, but I heard stories worse than my own, with new people being turned off of RPGs entirely, because of that one, easily avoidable bad experience.

So this time around, though I was better than I was before, I wanted to play it safe. I went online, and started looking for something I could give my players (or at least easily copy and teach it myself) that would explain to the players, from the ground up, how to play RPGs, and well. Not for any system in specific, for RPGs in general.

But I couldnít find anything: not books, not blogs, not anything. I knew this was something that would help a lot of people, both players and DMs, but I still couldnít find anything like it. No one seemed to have created something like this.

So Iíve decided to create it.

This was all last week. After asking around in this forum and in other places, and finding a lot of very smart and useful things (full list below!) that werenít quite it, I've put together a tiny survey that I posted here for exactly 3 days to help me focus on exactly what would help people most.

Iíve started work on an ebook. It will be no longer than 15 pages long, all for people whoíve never played an RPG before and want to learn how to. It will be given away absolutely free to anyone who wants it, as soon as itís ready. If all goes well and people use the guide, I also have a few more ideas in store.

But to get there, I need your help. Right here below is a list of all the resources (books, blog posts, tools, whatever) Iíve found with your help. I want to fill that list up. If you know about any book, blog, or anything else, and especially if you just have some good advice, I want to hear all about it.

For questions, feedback, requests, or anything else, you can shoot me a PM or an email at edenlandau.nativ@gmail.com. Iíll be posting updates here in this thread until the blog is up and running, and Iíll link to the blog as soon as itís up. Thank you very much for your help!

And here's the list:

(Things that appear on more than one list belong in more than one list. No mistake there!)

Books:

For players:

Gary Gygax's Role-Playing Mastery (http://www.amazon.com/Role-Playing-Mastery-Gary-Gygax/dp/0399512934)
Graham Walmsley's Play Unsafe (http://www.amazon.com/Play-Unsafe-Improvisation-Change-Roleplay/dp/1434824594)
Greg Stolze's How to Play Roleplaying Games (http://www.gregstolze.com/HowtoPlay.zip)

For GMs:

Gary Gygax's Role-Playing Mastery (http://www.amazon.com/Role-Playing-Mastery-Gary-Gygax/dp/0399512934)
Greg Stolze's How to Run Roleplaying Games (http://www.gregstolze.com/HowtoRun.zip)
Robin Laws's Robin's Laws of Good Game Mastering (http://www.sjgames.com/robinslaws/)
Sly Flourish's The Lazy Dungeon Master (http://slyflourish.com/lazydm/)
Sly Flourish's Dungeon Master Tips (http://slyflourish.com/book/)



Blogs:

Learn Tabletop RPGs (http://learntabletoprpgs.com/)
Deeper in the Game (http://bankuei.wordpress.com/)


Tools and Misc.:

Fenris Wolf's Character Balance Sheet (http://fennu.deviantart.com/art/Balanced-OC-meme-263205287)
(From Deeper in the Game (http://bankuei.wordpress.com/)) The Same Page Tool (http://bankuei.wordpress.com/2010/03/27/the-same-page-tool/)
An excellent article, hosted by our very own Giant in the Playground, Making the Tough Decisions (http://www.giantitp.com/articles/tll307KmEm4H9k6efFP.html).

Melville's Book
2014-06-15, 02:21 PM
You meant it when you said that survey would be tiny. And you're right, a semi-detailed roleplaying guide for newbies would be really useful to show potential players.

Only tip I can offer is to remember that people are much more willing to read about something they're already interested in. If this is for people who have never roleplayed, you want your hook/introduction to be intriguing but not very wordy. If your reader has to get through more than a full screen of text to get a rough idea of what roleplaying is and why they might be interested in continuing to read, you probably need to cut out some excess wordage.

Also, tiptoe the stereotypes a bit. Not every roleplaying game is high fantasy like D&D, but there are too many genres to make a comprehensive list without boring the viewer. Find a nice middle-ground and you'll garner interest in a lot more people.

That's just introductory and "What Is Roleplaying?" stuff though. I'm not a good enough roleplayer to offer tips on the guidelines you might provide the new players, so all I can do is wish you the best of luck on your project.

erikun
2014-06-15, 02:46 PM
One of the biggest concerns is a simple problem of information overload. Your standard D&D player is already asked to be familiar with a 300+ page PHB, and generally assumed a passing familiarity with the other 500+ page DMG/MM. Most other systems don't reach that page count but do ask all players to be familiar with all the content inside. Plus, most of this text is just rules and clarifications - there generally aren't much guidelines for creating a character, leaving players to create their characters and put together backstorys and work with the other PCs with little assistance or guide in doing so. Asking players to absorb another 100+ page book is probably asking too much.

Ideally, I'd like to see a short guide explaining what to expect from a RPG and some tips on how to work together better in a roleplaying game aimed at the players. This would preferably be more in depth than the one-paragraph "What is a RPG?" introduction in most systems along with an example of play, but I doubt it would be a book-length description. I would also like to see a more lengthy discussion and help book aimed towards GMs, as they are frequently the ones who need more assistance between working with people, running a game, assembling a setting and running it successfully. I'd also like to see help with actually running the game in such a book, not stuff like "The ten most common problem players" or stuff like that. Not only are such guides marginally helpful - they don't help someone run the game better - but they set up the expectation that problem players are the standard and some solution needs to be in place against them.


I'm not a fan of submitting forms asking for my email address. I can certainly understand why you'd do it (to prevent duplicates) but I'll just post responses here if it's okay with you.

Eden Landau
2014-06-15, 03:23 PM
Also, tiptoe the stereotypes a bit. Not every roleplaying game is high fantasy like D&D, but there are too many genres to make a comprehensive list without boring the viewer. Find a nice middle-ground and you'll garner interest in a lot more people.

Thank you for the tip. My intention was not to compile a collection of tips for specific system, but rather to teach methods and principles that are true and useful in any system. I'm sorry if that wasn't clear. :smallsmile:


I'm not a fan of submitting forms asking for my email address. I can certainly understand why you'd do it (to prevent duplicates) but I'll just post responses here if it's okay with you.

I asked for an email address for two purposes: (1) is, as you said, to prevent duplicates, but (2) is to keep people who are interested in this project 'in the loop', and send them updates about it, or at least a link to find the end result. Of course, it'll be very easy to unsubscribe, and this is all written in the survey itself. And of course it's okay! And perfectly understandable. I'll post updates here, as well.

And thank you both very much for the input and the advice! I'll put them to good use. :smallsmile:

rlc
2014-06-15, 08:33 PM
When talking about settings, it might be enough to just say, "While most rpgs are fantasy-based, they can be about anything you can think of, especially if you're the game master (or dungeon master, as some games will call it)."
You'll also want to talk about the suspension of disbelief, probably relating it to a tv show or video game. Probably a definition of roleplaying. And give some kind of help with character sheets.

Eden Landau
2014-06-16, 03:30 AM
When talking about settings, it might be enough to just say, "While most rpgs are fantasy-based, they can be about anything you can think of, especially if you're the game master (or dungeon master, as some games will call it)."
You'll also want to talk about the suspension of disbelief, probably relating it to a tv show or video game. Probably a definition of roleplaying. And give some kind of help with character sheets.

A definition of roleplaying is certainly called for, and so is rudimentary help with character sheets. The line you wrote is excellent! Do you mind if I use it? Although, I feel adding 'dungeon master' may be unwise, because there are many other names for it. Would you agree it'd be better to add those bits about names and pseudonyms in a lexicon of some sort, or maybe a sidebar?

Airk
2014-06-16, 09:40 AM
I don't want to steal your thunder or anything, but there're quite a few solid resources for this already.

I particularly think Greg Stolze's work: "How to Play Roleplaying Games" (http://www.gregstolze.com/downloads.html) (Download link at the bottom of that page) pretty much covers it, but a quick google search finds a bunch of alternatives including http://learntabletoprpgs.com/ which looks pretty solid.

Eden Landau
2014-06-16, 11:44 AM
I don't want to steal your thunder or anything, but there're quite a few solid resources for this already.

I particularly think Greg Stolze's work: "How to Play Roleplaying Games" (http://www.gregstolze.com/downloads.html) (Download link at the bottom of that page) pretty much covers it, but a quick google search finds a bunch of alternatives including http://learntabletoprpgs.com/ which looks pretty solid.

Not at all, and thank you very much for sharing! I was aware of Greg Stolze's guide, and have read it. It still didn't quite feel right to me. In my feelings, Greg missed the point in his guide. While it was short, simple, and encompassed the basics of roleplaying games, it still felt to me like it didn't teach it. Like a dictionary tells you what a thing is, but doesn't show it.

I felt like I could give it to someone who never played before, and he'd read it, and nod his head intelligently, and then put it down and ask, "So... How do we do this?" It would make my job as a GM easier, because he might know some terms and have a general picture of what this thing is, but he won't get it. Which is, I feel, a shame. Am I explaining myself clearly?

As for the blog, that looks really interesting! I haven't found it when I looked. I'll read through it. Thanks!

Gemini Lupus
2014-06-16, 12:21 PM
Gary Gygax himself also wrote a book on Role Playing: Role-Playing Mastery (http://www.amazon.com/Role-Playing-Mastery-Gary-Gygax/dp/0399512934), which is an excellent resource for the principles of generic role playing games. I'd give it a quick look and it may be a good source to cite. Having other books on the same topic does not detract from what you are doing, as you may be going about it in a different way, and a properly researched and cited book carries a lot more weight than a book that is just about your own thoughts and ideas about the hobby.

Good luck in your endeavor!

Airk
2014-06-16, 12:33 PM
Not at all, and thank you very much for sharing! I was aware of Greg Stolze's guide, and have read it. It still didn't quite feel right to me. In my feelings, Greg missed the point in his guide. While it was short, simple, and encompassed the basics of roleplaying games, it still felt to me like it didn't teach it. Like a dictionary tells you what a thing is, but doesn't show it.

I think you lost me with this bit.



I felt like I could give it to someone who never played before, and he'd read it, and nod his head intelligently, and then put it down and ask, "So... How do we do this?" It would make my job as a GM easier, because he might know some terms and have a general picture of what this thing is, but he won't get it. Which is, I feel, a shame. Am I explaining myself clearly?

I'm not sure if you're explaining clearly; It seems to me like most games at this point contain the 'how' in some capacity, or maybe I've just spoiled by the huge section in TBZ on this stuff, I dunno. The mechanical "how" of "someone is the GM and they will do X, while you with your character do Y" seems like it's already in most game books.

Calen
2014-06-16, 01:03 PM
I think you lost me with this bit.

I think what the OP is saying is that the source is a great example of what RP is but not tips on how to RP.

Its like defining stew as a mixture of meats and vegetables in a broth. That is a fine definition but to would not tell you how to cook a stew.

Airk
2014-06-16, 01:48 PM
I think what the OP is saying is that the source is a great example of what RP is but not tips on how to RP.

Its like defining stew as a mixture of meats and vegetables in a broth. That is a fine definition but to would not tell you how to cook a stew.

I think I understood the metaphor somewhat, but I wasn't sure how it applied in context.

But "tips on how to RP"? Can we even agree on what 'RP' is? x.x

Eden Landau
2014-06-16, 01:52 PM
Gary Gygax himself also wrote a book on Role Playing: Role-Playing Mastery (http://www.amazon.com/Role-Playing-Mastery-Gary-Gygax/dp/0399512934), which is an excellent resource for the principles of generic role playing games. I'd give it a quick look and it may be a good source to cite. Having other books on the same topic does not detract from what you are doing, as you may be going about it in a different way, and a properly researched and cited book carries a lot more weight than a book that is just about your own thoughts and ideas about the hobby.

Good luck in your endeavor!

I have seen it before. It seems excellent! I've added it to the list. I'm certainly aiming at a different direction here, but you're absolutely right; it is an excellent source. Thank you very much!


I think you lost me with this bit. I'm not sure if you're explaining clearly; It seems to me like most games at this point contain the 'how' in some capacity, or maybe I've just spoiled by the huge section in TBZ on this stuff, I dunno. The mechanical "how" of "someone is the GM and they will do X, while you with your character do Y" seems like it's already in most game books.

Calen's put it excellently. Back when I was a new player I was always frustrated about this, because I felt that no matter how much technical knowledge I read from the D&D books, I'd still need my DM to walk me through it, up to a point, of course. Granted, I was only about 8 at the time, but that's still a need I see in anyone I ever teach how to play roleplaying games.

If to build up on the stew metaphor, even if I did have a recipe, I still had no idea what a pot is or how to use it. I didn't even recognize most of the vegetables, and the meats were all from weird animals I've never heard of.

...I didn't confuse you even more, did I? :smallredface:

Airk
2014-06-16, 01:58 PM
Calen's put it excellently. Back when I was a new player I was always frustrated about this, because I felt that no matter how much technical knowledge I read from the D&D books, I'd still need my DM to walk me through it, up to a point, of course. Granted, I was only about 8 at the time, but that's still a need I see in anyone I ever teach how to play roleplaying games.

Yeah, but the D&D books were incredible examples of A) S**** writing and B) Assuming you already knew how to play and were playing, and just needed something to codify the 'rules' for you.



If to build up on the stew metaphor, even if I did have a recipe, I still had no idea what a pot is or how to use it. I didn't even recognize most of the vegetables, and the meats were all from weird animals I've never heard of.

...I didn't confuse you even more, did I? :smallredface:

But...what does this mean? What PARTS of the actual game do you feel need to be explained or demonstrated? It's fine to make a metaphor, but you have to map the metaphor to something. Otherwise it's like me saying "If RPGs are the Serengeti, nobody tells me how to hunt a Blue Wildebeest!" Uh. Okay? But what do you really feel isn't being explained? Even your original post seems painfully schizophrenic, talking about GMs AND players, and talking about "How to run a game" on one hand and "How to create good characters" on the other. I guess I feel like you don't even know what you are looking for at this point?

Eden Landau
2014-06-16, 02:24 PM
What do you really feel isn't being explained? Even your original post seems painfully schizophrenic, talking about GMs AND players, and talking about "How to run a game" on one hand and "How to create good characters" on the other. I guess I feel like you don't even know what you are looking for at this point?

I'm sorry it came off that way to you. It wasn't my intention. What I feel isn't being explained is all of these things, really. This is why every one of them is an option in the survey ("https://rpguides.wufoo.com/forms/the-new-roleplaying-guide/), because I feel there are no books I know of that really explain how to play roleplaying games, as well as run them, and make characters (while world creation is something that's covered in a fair number of books, those are exclusively aimed for writers, and are adapted for fiction writing, and not for players rummaging through).

If you already know how to play roleplaying games, you can pick up any corebook for almost any system, read it, and be able to play it. But I have yet to find a book that teaches the core principles of roleplaying games in general, for people who've never played/GMed before.

Like if someone handed you a cookbook with baking recipes but you had no idea how to work an oven, or roll out dough, or to be precise with your measurements, you'd have no idea what to do with. Like an experienced programmer could see code from pretty much any programming language and understand it, because he understood the core principals of computer code. Like a talented linguist who knows enough Russian, English, French and Arabic, could (roughly) understand any Cyrillic, Indo-European, or Semitic language.

Do you see what I mean?

Airk
2014-06-16, 03:03 PM
Like if someone handed you a cookbook with baking recipes but you had no idea how to work an oven, or roll out dough, or to be precise with your measurements, you'd have no idea what to do with. Like an experienced programmer could see code from pretty much any programming language and understand it, because he understood the core principals of computer code. Like a talented linguist who knows enough Russian, English, French and Arabic, could (roughly) understand any Cyrillic, Indo-European, or Semitic language.

Do you see what I mean?

I do and I don't. Can you cite a specific thing that you feel is not being taught? Because I feel like all of the things on your survey are things I have read about on the interwebs, some of them quite recently. Sure, there may not be a 'book' on the topic of how to create an interesting character, but A) I'm not sure a 'book' is the right format for any of this (see below) and B) There are tons of articles on this topic already.

Here's the see below: Are we sure that a 'book' is a good idea? I mean, "Sure you can play in our game, you just have to read this book first" isn't really a particularly exciting proposition in the first place, and RPGs already HAVE that to a certain extent - lots of people complain about the difficult of getting new players into the hobby when they feel like have to read (sometimes multiple) 300 page rulebook(s).

In fact, to some extent, I feel like the best way to 'solve' the situation defined in your original post is to have the new player come watch a session (or even half a session) of the game. That's going to give them much more information about how the game actually works for this group than any book.

Eden Landau
2014-06-16, 03:24 PM
I do and I don't. Can you cite a specific thing that you feel is not being taught?
Well, yes and no. It isn't really that a there's specific thing that I've noticed wasn't mentioned anywhere else before, but more that I haven't seen anything for people with no experience. Like you've said, the best (and in my feelings, only) way to teach new players is to come watch sessions, or sit him down and explain everything to him.

I don't know of any way in which someone who's interested in roleplaying games, and, say, can't find a group, or doesn't want to approach one without knowing a bit first can learn anything about roleplaying games, not really. The closest thing is to watch recordings of people play roleplaying games, which really is not an ideal way to learn, at least for me.


Are we sure that a 'book' is a good idea?
Sure? No. That's, in part, what the survey is for: to know what people want more of, and what isn't such a good idea. However, a book does seem like a good idea to me because:

(a) it's the standard medium in our industry;
(b) it's something a lot of people can relate to (opposed, say, to a podcast, which I personally find less agreeable than books);
(c) it's relatively easy to revise and add things to books (and generally improve), as opposed to video recordings, for example; and, most importantly
(d) because -- while I am biased, being an avid book reader myself -- I firmly believe that a teaching book that's short (30-60 pages long), easily digested, light and just plain fun is a much better way to test the waters on a something new than (like I did) to read the 300-something pages books before I knew I'd even like it.

Of course, if you have different ideas I'd love to hear them! What do you feel would be a better format?

kyoryu
2014-06-16, 03:48 PM
The one thing I'd recommend is this:

Play different games

There are lots of different games out there, some of which have very different takes on what roleplaying means. Playing a number of them (and trying to understand them) will broaden your ideas of what "roleplaying" is, and improve your ability to have fun, no matter what game you're playing.

And by "different games", I don't mean D&D 3.0, 3.5, and Pathfinder. I mean play AD&D 1e (yes, with GP for XP). Play D&D 3.x/PF. Play some Fate. Play Apocalypse World. Play Fiasco. Play some Paranoia or World of Darkness.

Play them, understand that they're different, and try to find what's good in each of them.

All of these games will help you expand your understanding of RPGs in general, and each will teach you things that, while other games may not *focus* on them, will be useful in other games.

Airk
2014-06-16, 04:21 PM
The one thing I'd recommend is this:

Play different games

There are lots of different games out there, some of which have very different takes on what roleplaying means. Playing a number of them (and trying to understand them) will broaden your ideas of what "roleplaying" is, and improve your ability to have fun, no matter what game you're playing.

And by "different games", I don't mean D&D 3.0, 3.5, and Pathfinder. I mean play AD&D 1e (yes, with GP for XP). Play D&D 3.x/PF. Play some Fate. Play Apocalypse World. Play Fiasco. Play some Paranoia or World of Darkness.

Play them, understand that they're different, and try to find what's good in each of them.

All of these games will help you expand your understanding of RPGs in general, and each will teach you things that, while other games may not *focus* on them, will be useful in other games.


While this is good advice, I'm not sure this is good advice HERE in this thread. I think the OP is asking for stuff to help people who have NEVER played an RPG before enjoy their first one. (I think. The purpose of the OP still seems a bit ill defined to me.) Saying "Play lots of games." is like someone asking "How do I use my stove?" and getting a response that says "Cook lots of different food!"

kyoryu
2014-06-16, 05:45 PM
While this is good advice, I'm not sure this is good advice HERE in this thread.

Fair 'nuff.

That said, the advice I'd give for a *specific* game would be completely dependent on the game - I'd give way different advice for AD&D 1e, 3.x/PF, and Fate.

Airk
2014-06-17, 08:50 AM
Fair 'nuff.

That said, the advice I'd give for a *specific* game would be completely dependent on the game - I'd give way different advice for AD&D 1e, 3.x/PF, and Fate.

Yeah; I dunno, I think the OP is looking for "lower level" advice than anything that might be system specific. Stuff like...uh... I dunno, how to behave at a gaming table? I'm still really a little vague, but the intent seems to be 'generic advice for first time players'.

Eden Landau
2014-06-17, 09:12 AM
Yeah; I dunno, I think the OP is looking for "lower level" advice than anything that might be system specific. Stuff like...uh... I dunno, how to behave at a gaming table? I'm still really a little vague, but the intent seems to be 'generic advice for first time players'.

Quite right. I'm not looking for anything system-specific, but I'm not looking just for generic advice, either. I'm also looking for advice on specific parts of roleplaying, for novices. For instance, something like Fennu's Balanced OC meme (http://fennu.deviantart.com/art/Balanced-OC-meme-263205287) is great for newbie roleplayers, but it's hardly generic.

Anything that'll be helpful to newbie players, newbie GMs, and anything in between is most welcome. And thank you!

Airk
2014-06-17, 10:34 AM
Quite right. I'm not looking for anything system-specific, but I'm not looking just for generic advice, either. I'm also looking for advice on specific parts of roleplaying, for novices. For instance, something like Fennu's Balanced OC meme (http://fennu.deviantart.com/art/Balanced-OC-meme-263205287) is great for newbie roleplayers, but it's hardly generic.

Really? What do you feel the function of that is? o.o

Eden Landau
2014-06-17, 04:40 PM
Really? What do you feel the function of that is? o.o
I'm bringing it up as an example for a resource that could be helpful to novice roleplayers, but isn't generic. It works specifically on character creation, and not on roleplaying games in general.

It could be helpful to people who feel their characters are unbalanced roleplay wise, and they can't seem to get it right by themselves. It's not something to write a book about, but it could be helpful.

kyoryu
2014-06-17, 05:09 PM
Here's the advice I'd give for a novice roleplayer, system agnostic.

(Keep in mind, "system agnostic" means I literally don't assume *anything* about the game they're playing - Fiasco, AD&D, 3.PF, Fate, Kingdom, Apocalypse World, whatever.)

1) Don't make a loner. RPGs are social, and a lot of the enjoyment comes out of the interactions. A loner PC will, by definition, not interact and can be very, very dull to play.

2) Things won't go your way. This is inevitable. Suck it up. If you disagree with a call the GM (if there is one) makes, express your disagreement, let him/her evaluate, and then *live with that decision*. If you still disagree, bring it up after the game.

3) There's lots of things your character might do. Unless playing in a heavily PVP game, find one that doesn't completely screw up the game for everybody.

4) Have social skills. Let other people be the center of attention on occasion.

kyoryu
2014-06-17, 05:11 PM
For new GMs:

1) Run a few games of something based on Apocalypse World. Dungeon World and Monster of the Week are probably the most accessible, but any will do.

2) Remember that the game is about the *players*. Make sure they have interesting things to do, and interesting choices to make. Don't make their choices for them. Try not to even predict what they'll do.

3) Give anything a player says consideration, even if it's not what you imagined would work. Unless there's *no way* something could possibly work under any circumstances, give it a difficulty and let the dice decide. Nothing sucks the fun out of a game faster than the GM saying "no" to everything - the game devolves into "guess what the GM wants", which is less fun than "guess the verb" in a text adventure.

Eden Landau
2014-06-17, 06:09 PM
Kyoryu, these are excellent! Thank you so much for taking the time to write it all down.

Airk
2014-06-18, 09:35 AM
So here then?

http://www.giantitp.com/articles/tll307KmEm4H9k6efFP.html :)

Garimeth
2014-06-18, 02:48 PM
@OP:

I think what will help us to help you is to define your goals a little more. As a Thought Excercise consider this:

What: I want a book for prospective/novicee roleplayers. (I'd recommend a PDF over a 60 page book, but that's me.)
Why: To help them decide if they are interested in roleplay/get started with roleplaying.
How: Content. List out some of the stuff you KNOW you want included - this will give us an idea of your direction, and help you organize your thoughts. I.E.

-discuss genres
-discuss the role of the GM
-discuss the need fo player investment and their role
-discuss table ettiquette.
-discuss common vocabulary
-list several different systems with tag words for their "style" (you will open yourself up to alot of criticism here, so you may just want to list the title and genre.)


Make an outline:

Intro: What is a Rolplaying Game? (brief description of the hobby, mention several different syles.)
Chapter 1: Role of the Player
Chapter 2: Role of the GM
Chapter 3: Commons Terms in RPGs
Chapter 4: Table Ettiqutte.
Chapter 5: Examples of Play
Glossary
Appendix 1: List of several RPGs by Genre.

The problem is you propose 2 very different areas of focus when you say:

"So I was browsing the internet the other day. I was looking for books, blogs, or anything else on how to roleplay, how to run roleplaying games, etc. But just the very basics of the art in general, with no references to specific systems or settings. I'm Eden, by the way.

I wanted to be able to walk up to someone who's never played a roleplaying game before, but who is interested in starting, and say to him, "Hey, Bob. You wanna join our roleplaying group? Excellent. But before you do, please read [INSERT_BOOK_HERE]. That should give you a very clear idea of what roleplaying games are, and then you could decide for yourself if it's the right kind of game for you. If you'll still be interested, just come along, I'll explain the system and the setting and we'll be good to go."

I couldn't find anything like that. In fact, despite the huge number of of books about specific roleplaying games like D&D or WoD, I've discovered a startling lack of books about how to roleplay, or how to run roleplaying games, or create good characters or setting worlds (with the exception of Robin Laws's Robin's Laws of Good Game Mastering and Graham Walmsley's Play Unsafe, both of which are excellent but neither of which cater to novices)."


Paragraphs 1&3 have a different focus from Paragraph 2. My above outline would be an example of something for paragraph 2, but for paragraphs 1 and 3 you want a few more sections and design goals, such as:

-Helpful ways to think up unique PCs
-Discuss how to make a party function well together in game.
-Discuss different ways of handling loot.
-Discuss ways to work with the DM on XXXX

Or any other number of things, and that's just for players, leave the DM stuff alone, your new player is probably not about to GM, it happens, but not often - there are more players than DMs. Focus on the Player stuff and just kinda of explain wht the DM does. Also, keep it brief. 30-60 pages? Dude, like 20 tops. This is a handout or lengthy article for somebody to read to see if they are interested in the hobby. Maybe have a longer one available for if they decide they want to do it, but your stated design goal seemed to be to help them decide if they want to try the game, not make them proficient at playing it.

Anyway, outlining your thoughts will make this easier for both yourself and us. Good Luck and have fun!

Eden Landau
2014-06-18, 02:49 PM
So here then?

http://www.giantitp.com/articles/tll307KmEm4H9k6efFP.html :)

These are great! Thank you very much. They're still not exactly what I'm looking for, since they don't mean anything to people who've never GMed before, but every little bit helps. It's added to the list.

I've also just edited the original post. The survey is now closed. Thank you all! See the original post for more details. I still intend to keep maintaining this thread and to keep posting updates here.

Eden Landau
2014-06-18, 03:27 PM
Anyway, outlining your thoughts will make this easier for both yourself and us. Good Luck and have fun!

You're absolutely right. I just re-read my post, and it's quite... not good, at least in some things. :smallredface:

The purpose of the survey I've put up was to gauge if people felt something like the book I was talking about would help them, and and if so, exactly what they wanted. Through it, I reached the conclusion that it could help many people, so I've actually started working on a specific outline earlier.

It's still not done, but here's what I have so far. First of all, it'll come in ebook form (pdf, epub, and mobi), mainly because that's the easiest format to edit and add to. As for the content itself, the book will be split in two: the first section being for people who've never played before and want to know what RPGs are and how they are played in general, and the second for people who are novice players, and do know how to play, but want to improve.

The first section would be no longer than 15 pages at the most, and the second would span across a few topics, and could be as long as 70-something pages. Also, appendices, which weren't chosen so far. So it's a total page count of about 90, maybe a bit more, and gives great value to both people who have never played an RPG before and to novice players in general. Do you feel the same way?

As for the post, tomorrow I'll rewrite it entirely to reflect the lessons I've made so far, and to incorporate the excellent criticisms, that you and others have offered. Thank you all very much!

Garimeth
2014-06-19, 02:34 PM
I would maybe recommend making it two seperate documents, the intro one, and the advanced one. Unless its a big pain to do so, in which case you can totally be like "hey read the 20 pages of this".

I for one think that a book that emphasizes system agnostic ways for players to up their game would be nice.

Eden Landau
2014-06-20, 08:27 PM
I would maybe recommend making it two seperate documents, the intro one, and the advanced one. Unless its a big pain to do so, in which case you can totally be like "hey read the 20 pages of this".

I for one think that a book that emphasizes system agnostic ways for players to up their game would be nice.

I completely agree on both accounts. Moreover, I know at least some people will pick something like that up not even sure if they want to play or not. So that's what's the first few pages are about: defining what a roleplaying game is, what it's good for, and why the hell should you care.

I've also updated the post, a day late. I have to admit, it was much more daunting than I suspected. I've noticed while I worked that I am afraid to read the things I write. So, of course, I started reading what I wrote, and then I rewrote it. Then I read that, and rewrote again, and again. I finally posted the (I think) 5th version or so, but I'm really happy with it. So thank you, Garimeth, for that epiphanous moment. :smallbiggrin:

But if any of you do see ways to improve anything I write or do here, please feel absolutely free to tell me about it. I'd love to hear it!

elliott20
2014-06-25, 02:07 PM
there are two things that I know are always helpful for GMs: The SRD for Spirits of the Century has a whole section on GMing, which are just damn good GMing advice.

And Simple World, a narrativist game that is super lean, also has an entire section on how GMs should think about setting up difficulties and conflicts from a narrative standpoint. Both are great systems and fun reads. I can't link them since I'm at work, but those two I would definitely try to incorporate somehow.

Martin Greywolf
2014-06-26, 02:37 PM
First, an introduction: I have played TTRPGs for some 10 years now, mostly as a DM, went through 4 different systems, and won a couple of awards for creating new game content for one of them. I had an opportunity to observe newbie and veteran players in their natural, mountain-dew-saturated (well, the beverage is kofola 'round these parts, but still) habitat, some of them enthusiastic, some just curious what this hu-man thing called roleplaying is. As a re-enactor, I also had an opportunity to get into acting, and wrote some of our short plays.

I can easily see how a first time roleplaying might be terrible for pretty much anyone, and it's basically DMs fault (well, not really, more on that later):

1) Wrong genre. Simple, but true, someone who is all about being Harry Potter will not appreciate wuxia. This goes way, way beyond systems, and is too big a topic for one post, but as an example: compare what one successful attack with a sword should do in wuxia, as opposed to low fantasy setting. Even if they are both fatal, wuxia guy will, by genre conventions, get a dying speech, or a last stand. Low fantasy guy, not so much, though he might. If it's Lovecraft-verse, though...

Things like being too poor, not having samurai, being too rich, (not) wiping floor with normal mooks and so on all fall here.

2) TMI. Most systems have what you call a core mechanic, that is simple and essentially used to resolve all conflict - like roll 2d6 against target number. Most systems swiftly complicate it by adding more and more complications, more dice, more spells, effects, feats, perks, skills, ...

This can be really overwhelming for a first-time player, especially if his class/specialization/skillset is particularly text-heavy. Just look at DnD wizard.

3) Kid with a sword syndrome. If there's one thing I learned, if you give a kid a sword and tell him to try and hit you, you better be ready to protect your fingers. Many, many first time players aren't really interested in some deep character arcs or histories, and just want to screw around with your world, kinda like starting up GTA just to blow up some bicycles with a harrier BECAUSE REASONS!

This can make them pretty disruptive to other players, as is expected with sword-wielding child harriers (can someone draw a picture of that?). This may or may not stop over time, but there are plenty threads dealing with the problem player types and how to fix them.

4) That's no moon problem. The big one. TTRPGs are, by their very nature, quite different from books, movies, theater or even computer games. If someone gets into TTRPG because he wants to be like Frodo (fine, fine, Aragorn), he will be pretty disappointed, especially after the first session.



Thing is, a good DM can and will mitigate all of these problems. I cannot count the number of times I stripped system to its' core for a new player, and played like that for a session before I ramped up the complexity, or punished the disruptive jerk with amusing in-game consequences. Or how I, as a rule, always explain what the genre of the game will be, and what that means for the players.

Sometimes you do this by talking to players, sometimes sneakily educate them through play (oh, hey, that guy just used a cool spell combo, maybe I should try something like that, too). If it sounds hard, well, that's because it is.

What you really need, then, is a guide for good DMing. And there aren't any of those. If you think there are, how many times did you read about key concepts in story building and analysis like pacing, heroes' journey or story-arc-episode structure? And how many of them did discuss in what way they relate to storytelling in general and to TTRPGs in particular? After all, pacing for a horror session and for an action session looks about the same - it is merely the principal engagement that is different (fear vs. excitement).

What such a guide would also need is instructions of how to make newbies more familiar with the system - this is slowly creeping its' way into the DM guides. Things like recommendation for stripping down the system, essentially steps in a tutorial that you can then slap on a random adventure. And no, sample first adventure isn't enough, you can have many, many examples, but unless the DM knows what he is trying to do, and how, the battle is lost before it began.

That said, once players are a bit more invested in the game (as in, willing to read more pages), it's a good idea to let them read story-oriented parts of such a guide. After all, they want to have fun too, and once they understand how pacing works, they can start working for you, and help you build awesomer stories.

For total newbies, though, no amount of reading will work. There is one concept related to theories about how people learn stuff (got into that as part of my martial arts instructions, but that is a story for another thread), it's called magic number 7. It basically means that any one person can keep at most 7 things in mind at once. What constitutes a thing - a piece of information, to be more formal - is a bit complicated, but for something new, you can assume 2 things for a simple sentence. That's why reading won't help - there will be too many things at once for the poor guy to remember.

Airk
2014-06-26, 03:50 PM
What you really need, then, is a guide for good DMing. And there aren't any of those. If you think there are, how many times did you read about key concepts in story building and analysis like pacing, heroes' journey or story-arc-episode structure? And how many of them did discuss in what way they relate to storytelling in general and to TTRPGs in particular? After all, pacing for a horror session and for an action session looks about the same - it is merely the principal engagement that is different (fear vs. excitement).

Are you saying that this storybuilding stuff is, or is NOT relevant to TTRPGs? Because I've seen credible arguments in both directions. And because I've seen plenty of GMing guides that talk about storybuilding and story-arc structure and frankly I don't think they are very useful.

kyoryu
2014-06-26, 05:02 PM
Are you saying that this storybuilding stuff is, or is NOT relevant to TTRPGs? Because I've seen credible arguments in both directions. And because I've seen plenty of GMing guides that talk about storybuilding and story-arc structure and frankly I don't think they are very useful.

Totally depends on the game.

An old-school, dungeon-crawling, open-table game with stables of characters per player? Probably not useful.

Fate? Invaluable.

This is the difficulty I have with "resources for people that have never played". The breadth of RPG games is so wide that most advice is going to be targeted at a particular type of game.

It's almost like someone asking "what advice would you give for someone just starting to play sports?" The first question you'd ask is "what sport?", though there's no real equivalent question in RPGs. Even "what game" doesn't really cut it, as most games can be played in a great variety of styles - AD&D 1e was used for everything from dungeon crawling to DragonLance, after all!

Airk
2014-06-26, 08:17 PM
Totally depends on the game.

An old-school, dungeon-crawling, open-table game with stables of characters per player? Probably not useful.

Fate? Invaluable.


I sortof disagree even for games like Fate with extreme story focus, because I don't think that stealing models and ideas from other media and then trying to work them into your game is an entirely good idea.
On that topic, I believe I should refer people to The Angry DM (http://angrydm.com/); Sadly, I can't find the article where he says to toss the whole 'traditional storytelling' thing but pretty much everything he has to say is smart stuff, IMHO (though you do have to get past his persona, a little bit.)

kyoryu
2014-06-26, 08:50 PM
I sortof disagree even for games like Fate with extreme story focus, because I don't think that stealing models and ideas from other media and then trying to work them into your game is an entirely good idea.
On that topic, I believe I should refer people to The Angry DM (http://angrydm.com/); Sadly, I can't find the article where he says to toss the whole 'traditional storytelling' thing but pretty much everything he has to say is smart stuff, IMHO (though you do have to get past his persona, a little bit.)

No, I agree with that. I mean, really, chuck the idea of "storytelling" as a whole, because you're not telling a story, you're playing a game, and as soon as you think of "telling" a "story", you're minimizing player agency. Which is the suck.

But ideas about character arcs and the like? Very useful in Fate. It often has to be applied quite differently, but the basic ideas are there.

I mean this article is pretty much the *EXACT* idea that Angry puts forward when he talks about stakes in conflicts. But this is about screenwriting. http://io9.com/why-you-should-never-write-action-scenes-into-your-tent-511712234

Airk
2014-06-26, 08:56 PM
No, I agree with that. I mean, really, chuck the idea of "storytelling" as a whole, because you're not telling a story, you're playing a game, and as soon as you think of "telling" a "story", you're minimizing player agency. Which is the suck.

But ideas about character arcs and the like? Very useful in Fate. It often has to be applied quite differently, but the basic ideas are there.

I mean this article is pretty much the *EXACT* idea that Angry puts forward when he talks about stakes in conflicts. But this is about screenwriting. http://io9.com/why-you-should-never-write-action-scenes-into-your-tent-511712234

I read that one after following a link from somewhere. It was a smart article.

Doorhandle
2014-06-26, 11:58 PM
I'm going to drop this (http://lookrobot.co.uk/2013/06/20/11-ways-to-be-a-better-roleplayer/) article in your laps. While some of it has already been said, it's still all sound advice.

kyoryu
2014-06-26, 11:58 PM
I read that one after following a link from somewhere. It was a smart article.

Probably me. I repost it everywhere, all the time.

Martin Greywolf
2014-06-29, 03:03 AM
You can't just throw out all the "traditional" storytelling thing out, mind, your players, especially as first-time players, are expecting it, that's probably what got them to the table - desire to actually be Harry Potter as opposed to just observing him.

Since theory of stories is a big topic, I'll just focus on pacing here, as an example. First, go watch this, it's a good video for understanding what pacing is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LScL4CWe5E

Now, why wouldn't I be able to apply that in an old-school dungeon? The lulls in action are actually already in it (you don't fight all the time, after clearing each room, you have time to heal), all I need to do is slowly increase the stakes as time goes by. Angry DM actually talks about something like this, his example is princess being sacrificed at the top of a tower. Or look at his chase scene example (series about how to build skill challenges, IIRC) and examine how that builds up tension.

As for FATE, note how it already has the pacing built into mechanics - you have scenes with lull at the end, you gain more and more FATE points and troubles as you go, meaning that both stakes and your resources will be (probably) at their top during the final confrontation.

What you shouldn't do is expect to control all aspects (pardon the FATE pun) of the story. And yes, this may destroy pacing at times - when the party goes nova on some minor mook before the final boss, well, that's how it is. As a DM, however, you have the power to make these hurdles seem less anticlimatic - all your villain has to do is gloat "just as planned" after the PCs obliterated 1 HP mook with a meteor swarm. The burning hatred of players is assured, and they will be talking about how the villain tricked them for days (they will also be more careful with their resources).

In conclusion, you can't dismiss studying how people experience stories (and what makes them work) as something unnecessary when you are trying to be a better DM - telling a story (well, half of a story) is what you are supposed to do. Maybe it's a simple story about how a bunch of murder-hobos stormed home of some monsters, killed them, and took their stuff, but a story it is. That said, you can't use all the techniques available to non-cooperative genres (books, movies, etc) as they are, or at all.