Crossing the Threshold: Introducing your friends to Role Playing Games

You played Dungeons & Dragons in college and you’re getting the urge for a new adventure. Or perhaps you’ve moved recently and you’re hoping to assemble an RPG group among your new found tabletop friends. Or maybe you just found a theme with a great system that you’ve fallen in love with and you’re ready to jump in feet first.

Whatever the reason you’re ready to introduce your friends to role playing games, it doesn’t have to be intimidating for them OR you. The myriad charts and books and resources can seem overwhelming to someone new, but with a good start start you can build some adventures you’ll all be recounting for years to come.

Storytell your board games – Given the thematic nature of so many board games, its easy to introduce a story. Why did Long John hide his loot in Treasure Island? What caused the Pandemic plague? Try actually inhabiting the character – play the detective of Mystery Express or a guinea pig in Aftermath. Board games with a solid theme give a natural overlay and boundaries that players new to role playing might find a comfortable place to start trying on characters.

Make it relatable – Do your friends already play video game RPGs like Skyrim? Have they read a choose your own adventure book? Is the IP you want to set your campaign in something they’ve watched/read? (Take a look, there’s everything from fantasy to westerns, popular book series and TV shows.) Familiarity with the setting and how storytelling works will make your friends more comfortable with the idea of wading in.

Play a legacy game – The week to week continuance of the same game may seem unfamiliar to some. To break that ice, start a legacy game campaign. Your group will get used to coming back week to week to tackle challenges introduced in previous parts of the story (and bonus – games like Gloomhaven contain a lot of DnD mechanics!)

Consume some RPG media – Role Playing Game videos and streams have exploded in the last year. Critical Role is a phenomenon, but its hardly the only one – there are hundreds and hundreds to choose from (like Rivals of Waterdeep and Roll for Change.) Following along is reminiscent of listening to a radio play, and can make a great commute or road trip listening.

Play a storytelling game – Games like Reigns, Ghost Court, and Someone has Died bridge the gap between tabletop board games and tabletop role playing. With simply elements and roles (draw a couple cards, relate them together with a few sentences) you can help get into the spirit of story crafting in a more defined setting.

Talk to an established group – Check locally for groups that are already running. Most role players LOVE to share their adventures, and you’ll likely find dozens of players happy to answer questions and share their experiences.

Start with short, pre planned sessions – The idea of playing something for 4+ hours might be completely overwhelming to some. Ditto having to come up with lots of detailed story elements and decisions on the fly. Leave complicated backstories behind and just have some fun with it! Try short sessions that have a definitive purpose. An hour long Scooby Doo like mystery to solve. A quick dungeon delve. While endless, open choices can seem daunting, streamlining will help new players stretch into their roles.

Use Pre Generated characters – Character building is another area that can be simplified to help new players not feel burdened with too many choices. Create (or find on the internet – there are dozens of resources) a couple for each player and limit their choice to the role they’ll play for the session.

Make the first game night an event – Issue some thematic invites. Decorate. Put together food and drinks. Make a spotify playlist. Not only will this set the tone for your game, the party like atmosphere will help people loosen up and be ready for some shenanigans. (We have hosting tips here!)

Just have fun – Ultimately, these are your friends. Change gears if someone isn’t feeling it. Try new experiences. Stick with simple systems or familiar settings. Work together to build an amazing adventure together. Because the real treasure and story are the friendships we make along the way. 😊