Musings Of The Bard: The Joy Of Running For New Players

Today is March the 4th, International Game Master's Day, and the anniversary of the passing of a pioneer in out little world of dungeons, and the dragons that inhabit them Gary “I am killing all of you” Gygax.. I felt it was a good day to relay this particular musing, as it has done a great deal to shape how I game, and how I run said games.

There is nothing quite like the first time you play an RPG. Everything is new, different, and sparkly. It's unlike anything you've ever done before, because frankly, there is nothing quite like it. From the perspective of a Game Master, it is quite the event to witness that for yourself, to see budding new gamers taking their first steps into a wider world. In a way you get to relive that very first time for yourself all over again.

 "Results may vary"

I began my Dragonslayer campaign back in July of 2015. My players consisted of people who had either played very little D&D (a session or two tops) or those who had never played any kind of tabletop roleplaying game before. This was new ground for me because my previous outings as a Dungeon Master were for long time veterans of the game who had ventured through tombs of horror and players that knew the books inside and out. It quite the prospect to run a game for, lacking a better term, virgins.

"There is a Madonna reference begging to be made here."

As we delved into the adventure, I realized very quickly that I was going to responsible for many, if not all of their gaming firsts. I guided them through their very first dungeon crawl, ambushed them with the first band of kobolds they had ever seen, and terrified them with the first dragon any of them had ever fought. Each new turn, each new encounter, every magic item was happening to them for the very first time. When they looted a bag of holding from a treasure hoard, they looked at me in disbelief, inquiring “It does what? Wow, that's really neat!”

 "It's bigger on the inside!"

Things we take for granted were completely new and alien to them. Rules, monsters, and do's and don'ts. When they rested for the first time in their inaugural dungeon, they didn't take shifts. They all slept at the same time. We long-time players would never imagine such a thing, but they had no idea, nor did they have any clue that a couple of grey oozes lurked in the room. Thankfully some awoke in time to see the oozes descend on them. Now, they know they know that rule of the dungeon. They learned it. That is the niftiest thing about running. They are learning the ropes of adventuring through trail and error, like real adventurers.

 It was in that first dungeon that I realized that this campaign would be the standard for which they would judge any future games they played. There is a certain amount of pressure that come with that kind of thing. As such, I wanted everything to be perfect for them. Every monster had to be a spot on representation, the paragon of its type. Every magic sword or cloak of elven kind had to be unique, and full of awe and wonder. And they were/
 "The dice... they're so beautiful..."

Can you imagine what is like to see a gelatinous cube without immediately knowing what it is, or what it is capable of? Or that the player near you doesn't know either Do you remember those halcyon days? It's pure, and I would be lying if I said it didn't make me reevaluate how I run my games. Perhaps years of running had made me jaded. It seems insane to me to expect players to recognize monsters on sight, or to realize that those holes in the wall may be part of a trap.I feel guilty for not taking the time to make each new encounter like it were the first time any player at that table had seen such a thing..

There is another fantastic thing that happens with new players, that only they can seem to replicate, though it is all too fleeting.. They aren't sure of the rules, or the conventions that many veteran players hold dear. A lot of the time they think of solutions that most of us would never even consider, because they have not been told by other players that it's something they can't do, or been jaded by a Game Master who won't hear of such “nonsense”.

It has been an unexpected pleasure running for new players, an experience I highly recommend to any Game Master, new or old. If you are feeling burnt out, or want to trek new ground, or if you are a first time GM yourself, introducing new players is rewarding as all get-the-hell-out.

Until next time, make it feel like the first time,
+Ed The Bard 

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