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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: komradebob on September 07, 2004, 08:42:59 PM



Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: komradebob on September 07, 2004, 08:42:59 PM
I was reading the WoD thread and the subject came up of new gamer accessibilty in game design.

My question is this:
What sorts of design elements might make a game
a) easily grasped by new gamers?
b) have  a short time between opening the box/book and actually engaging in play?

Thoughts?
K-Bob


Title: Re: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: John Kim on September 07, 2004, 10:23:41 PM
Quote from: komradebob
I was reading the WoD thread and the subject came up of new gamer accessibilty in game design.

My question is this:
What sorts of design elements might make a game
a) easily grasped by new gamers?
b) have  a short time between opening the box/book and actually engaging in play?

Well, there are some very simple principles.  

1) Define yourself and your terms.  
The more specific you can be, the better.  Not just what is an RPG in general, but what do PCs do in your game and how do they do it.  

2) Include good sample characters / archetypes.  
This one is pretty darn obvious.  Even if they make their own characters, it is helpful to have the samples to go by.  

3) Include a good sample adventure.
This is very difficult but IMO worth it, if you care about newbies.  

4) Include a simple formula for adventures.
For example, Basic Set D&D had a very simple template for how to write an adventure: i.e. draw your map and populate your rooms.  James Bond 007 had some random table plot generators.  etc.  Expecting completely original plots and stories out of newbies is unrealistic and daunting.  

On the other hand, I have some caveats.  There was a trend in the 1980's of various rules-light games which followed many of these principles -- along with highly simplified rules.  But they didn't seem to catch on.  I don't have any inside information as to why, but it casts some doubt on the strategy of purely minimizing and simplifying.  Examples include:
1984: Adventures of Indiana Jones (TSR), Chill (Pacesetter),  Marvel Superheroes (TSR), Paranoia (WEG), Toon (SJG)
1986: Ghostbusters (WEG)
1987: Teenagers from Outer Space (RTG)
1988: Macho Women With Guns (BTRC)
1989: Prince Valiant (Chaosium)
1993: Amazing Engine (TSR)

So I would take a grain of salt with this.  I think it's easy to fall into the trap of just dumbing things down for newbies, which I don't think is successful.


Title: Re: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: eyebeams on September 07, 2004, 10:49:14 PM
Quote from: komradebob
I was reading the WoD thread and the subject came up of new gamer accessibilty in game design.

My question is this:
What sorts of design elements might make a game
a) easily grasped by new gamers?
b) have  a short time between opening the box/book and actually engaging in play?

Thoughts?
K-Bob


a) Make it like their visualization of events in game. One of the hardest things for new gamers to get is the artificiality of the conventions used to govern things like the order of actions.

This is why, for instance, my current dice pool-based house system has no damage roll (characters hit, but only players roll damage) but elaborate rules for defense (which players vividly see their characters doing).

b) Many games have a lot of useless detail in some spots and not enough in others, as per a). Generally, elminating any element of chargen which would never be descrobed as a character attribute by the player helps a lot. It cuts down on lots of little annoying skills, for instance, without dropping the details folks actually want.


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: contracycle on September 07, 2004, 11:48:36 PM
IMO, visually and process-oriented structures.  But the drum I have taken to beating in this regard is "bring back the board".  Ideally, a game should teach itself just by the act of looking at it.  I find text pretty poor for conveying ideas like sequence of events or nested decisions.


Title: Re: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: Vaxalon on September 08, 2004, 02:29:42 AM
Quote from: John Kim
 There was a trend in the 1980's of various rules-light games which followed many of these principles -- along with highly simplified rules.  But they didn't seem to catch on. ...

1984: Adventures of Indiana Jones (TSR), Chill (Pacesetter),  Marvel Superheroes (TSR), Paranoia (WEG), Toon (SJG)
1986: Ghostbusters (WEG)
1987: Teenagers from Outer Space (RTG)
1988: Macho Women With Guns (BTRC)
1989: Prince Valiant (Chaosium)
1993: Amazing Engine (TSR)

So I would take a grain of salt with this.  I think it's easy to fall into the trap of just dumbing things down for newbies, which I don't think is successful.


Paranoia was HUGELY successful - sold more than 200,000 copies.  MWWG is one of BTRC's bestselling titles.  I don't think it's fair to say that either of them "didn't catch on".


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: Callan S. on September 08, 2004, 04:48:46 AM
Wow, I would have said make it as gamist as hell. Tell them their goal (get 100 gold, for example) and the basic steps of getting there. Give some hint of what might get in their way.

As for rule light...have simple rules, but damn, rules light can really kill off gamist possiblity and instead make it hard core sim.

Anyway, right in the first steps of play instructions have them slapping down a board (as contra said) and cool little tokens and stuff. The visuals this produces are a potent, instant reward. Get away from me if your going to say 'no, my imagination is far more beutiful and your contrivances only get in the way'. Well I'm cattering to newbies so I don't care about ya for the benefit of this exercise.

Okay, so they have this reward sitting in front of them. It's kind of nifty just to look at and you know, if they look further into the rules they will get to do nifty stuff with it! It's a win/drawn further into the game then win again design. Rewards every step of the way.

Warhammer quest was like this. It was/is beutiful. It had three sections, one for very board game like play, one which was a super extended campaign board game play and then finally the roleplay like section, which fluidly attached itself to all that.


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: Albert of Feh on September 08, 2004, 05:47:50 AM
Aside from the board game direction, you also have those "How to host a mystery" games. Each one was basically an extremely directed (almost Fateplay-like, now that I think about it) one-shot-larp-inna-box. Time delay from box-opening to people-playing was about ten minutes.

Every player had a character, with certain pieces of information that were relevant to the mystery. For each segment of the game, you also had prompts as to lines of questioning to take up with the other players. At the end, of course, everyone tried to figure out whodunnit, before all was finally revealed.

I only played one, and it's been years, but I think it's a worthwhile alternative to the 'board game' approach that's been mentioned so far, if only because it places a higher emphasis on characterization than a game like Warhammer Quest. Of course, it also required more people (6-8, if I recall). A tradeoff, then.


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: Matt Wilson on September 08, 2004, 06:26:39 AM
Quote from: John Kim
3) Include a good sample adventure.
This is very difficult but IMO worth it, if you care about newbies.


I'd say take that further and put in an example of play that relates specifically to that sample adventure. Include the dialogue that you would imagine happening at the table, and so on. The 1979-or-so Basic D&D set did that (Silverleaf and Black Dougal? Morgan Ironwolf?), and it went a long way toward helping me "get it." In fact, I think the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide did that as well.


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: Valamir on September 08, 2004, 06:52:57 AM
IN every mainstream game I've ever read, right back to the ones where the rules were printed on the inside of the box cover, the very first thing articulated from the first is "The Object of the Game".

I think that is what traditional RPGs lack that contributes alot (the most?) to the inaccessibility of the format to the general populace.  There's no clearly articulated point.  People like games.  Board games, card games, games with marbles, all kinds of games.  But people also like to know what they're supposed to do.  

This is often articulated as "How to Win", but I think the actual winning is seconary to the act of engaging in a social activity.

I think the defining key is that there is a list of options for the player to choose from.  There then must be some ultimate goal to inform the player on what options to choose.  The goal doesn't necessarily have to be how to win.  But it generally should be "how to finish".

My Life with Master has this about as bright line as I've seen in an RPG.  The object is to kill the master and free yourself from his tyranny.  Dust Devils has this.  The object is to reach a point where the character either shoots or gives up the gun.  Sorcerer has this, though not as hard a line.  In Sorcerer the "object of play" is to resolve your character's kicker.  

Universalis kind of has an object of play, but its not a strongly articulated one.  The object is to "tell a story" and its "finished" in the same way as you know any story is finished.  Its not spelled out, but at least its something familiar.

Having an object of play allows the player to filter the many options available to them by "which of these moves me closer to achieving the object of play, and which doesn't".  It gives the player something to hang their hat on, so to speak.  Instead of being overwhelmed with a ton of options with no idea what they're supposed to be doing (and RPGs have more options than any board game in history) having a defined object of play allows them to see how those options interact with it.


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 08, 2004, 09:08:49 AM
Hello,

We are watching the answers to the topic/inquiry of this thread appear right before our eyes, beginning in earnest about two years ago and still evolving, culturally.

These answers have not existed previously. To discuss "success" in the limited (and often laughable) sphere of role-playing commerce to date is irrelevant. There has never existed a role-playing object (by which I mean a saleable, concrete object) which one may acquire and play for maximum enjoyment, if one is inclined to try it out. TSR tried at one point, or rather a short-lived company using that name did, but I think they were off the beam from the start.

Lots of activities require buy-in and learning time. What is a reasonable expectation for a satisfying role-playing activity, for someone who has not played or has played minimally some time ago? No one knows. Should we accept the current standard of, say, two-three months? Should we strive to shorten it? Should we focus on some other element of design and permit a six-month to a year prep period to be required? Repeat: no one knows.

We are not talking about capturing the existing market-share of "gamers." Nor are we talking about becoming a mainstread fad (Jonathan Tweet on the cover of Newsweek! Everway movie from Miramax! Wahoo!). We are talking about something else - the appearance and sustained presence of a hobby. Cultural evolution.

I suggest that many titles and releases since 1974 provide a lot of insight about how to present material in a way which reinforces this process, but only in fits and starts. In my view, if you're interested, you should play the following games and in addition, think very carefully about how they're written and presented.

1. Prince Valiant, Over the Edge, Paranoia, Amber

2. Soap, InSpectres, The Pool, Elfs (and a few others, e.g. Ghost Light, Puppetland)

3. Universalis, Dust Devils, kill puppies for satan (HERE is the door)

4. My Life with Master; arguably FATE and HeroQuest (this is standing on the OTHER SIDE of the door, looking around in wonder)

5. The Mountain Witch, The Great Ork Gods, Primetime Adventures, Fastlane, Trollbabe (I hope), Dogs in the Vineyard, Pace, and hundreds more in preparation even as we speak. (BOOM - the universe opens wide)

You'll see (evolutionarily speaking) a synapomorphy, as well as a couple of direct-from-ancestor modifications. It's moving fast, fast, fast, right now. Too fast for any of us to see which direction, which approach, which phrasing, or which content actually works.

I'm only partly talking about rules/procedures. I'm talking about presentation audience, and instructions, in addition to rules/procedures. That's why Sorcerer is not included, nor is The Burning Wheel or The Riddle of Steel. These are "rumblings" games - you pick them up as a gamer and upon reading and playing, you feel something rev in your belly - you know that to play them to a fullest means you have to stop being a "gamer," culturally. But they are written toward the gamer, or to a subset of them.

I urge anyone who's interested in the topic of this thread to acquire, read, play, and re-read these games. I've done it, and so have many others ... and we all have a different "look" in our eyes, and in our business/design goals, from those who haven't.

Best,
Ron


Title: Can't get no (satisfaction)...but I try
Post by: andy on September 08, 2004, 09:40:29 AM
When it comes to the "object" of RPGs, I have an extremely contrarian view-- I think that one of the strengths of good role playing games is the fact that the object(s) of the game are subjective and player-defined. In the fantasy context, while the wizard's player may want to aquire magic items, the fighter's player may want to build a keep and become Lord over the land (sorry for the tired cliches). The fact that all players can set their own objects and "win" in different ways is one of the things that sets RPGs apart from board games, even really good board games.

This being said, I'm certainly not dissing My Life With Master or any of the other slew of great fixed-object RPGs. They are a blast to play, but are necessarily finite in a hobby that could be infinite.

Finally, as to komradebob's original query, I think that the a good "pick-up-and-play" RPG must be intuitive to new players, perhaps relying on basic mechanics familiar to everyone (ie. roll the dice, move your mice). If you keep the mechanic basic and intuitive (not my forte), entry-level players can jump right in.

I'll shut up now.

Andy


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 08, 2004, 09:48:06 AM
Hi Andy,

Consider this:

Hearts is finite. Cribbage is finite. Go Fish is finite. Bridge, Poker, and all rules-sets of what to do with a deck of cards are each finite.

A deck of cards is not infinite, but its applications might as well be considered so.

Card playing = hobby

Particular game = particular game

The hobby is infinite (or as near as makes no difference to us), but the games are highly specified and fixed.

Role-playing design and publishing has always been hampered, and badly in my view, by confounding this game with the hobby.

I recommend reading Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. The first chapter does a very nice of job of clearing the air, specifically in terms of distinguishing among the thing, the particular medium of a given instance of the thing, and the thing's content in an even smaller-scale of a unit of enjoyment. (minor paraphrasing warning)

Best,
Ron


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: joshua neff on September 08, 2004, 09:56:16 AM
Another game to look at is the Buffy the Vampire Slayer boardgame. Like the Buffy RPG, it's aimed at people who are fans of the show. Like many RPGs, each player plays one character (Buffy, Willow, Xander, or Oz), except for one player, who plays all the antagonists. Each major character, both heroes and villains, have "life points"--when those point go down to zero because of a fight, the character is dead and out of the game. The game is crystal clear in how to play and what to do with it, but it's also easy to customize and hack (Gareth Hanrahan has written alternate rules and expanions for the game on his website).

I don't personally know what the designers intended with the game, but if they didn't plan on making a game to introduce newbies to the world of RPGs, they did it anyway. I think it would work really well for that.


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: John Kim on September 08, 2004, 12:59:30 PM
Quote from: Valamir
IN every mainstream game I've ever read, right back to the ones where the rules were printed on the inside of the box cover, the very first thing articulated from the first is "The Object of the Game".
...
My Life with Master has this about as bright line as I've seen in an RPG.  The object is to kill the master and free yourself from his tyranny.  Dust Devils has this.  The object is to reach a point where the character either shoots or gives up the gun.  Sorcerer has this, though not as hard a line.  In Sorcerer the "object of play" is to resolve your character's kicker.  

OK, I'm not seeing this.  I have MLWM in hand and I'm GMing a game of it.  As far as I can see, that the master is killed isn't even mentioned until page 37, and it is never clearly stated as the goal of the game.  It's just something that happens to end the game.  Notably, I don't think my players are all playing with that as their goal.  

Quote from: Ron Edwards
 I suggest that many titles and releases since 1974 provide a lot of insight about how to present material in a way which reinforces this process, but only in fits and starts. In my view, if you're interested, you should play the following games and in addition, think very carefully about how they're written and presented.

Of these, I've played Over the Edge, Paranoia, Amber, HeroQuest, Soap, and My Life With Master.  I also have read in detail and thought about Prince Valiant, Puppetland, The Pool, Primetime Adventures, and Trollbabe.  

Quote from: Ron Edwards
 I urge anyone who's interested in the topic of this thread to acquire, read, play, and re-read these games. I've done it, and so have many others ... and we all have a different "look" in our eyes, and in our business/design goals, from those who haven't.  

I'll buy that I have a different look in my eye from playing these games.  On the other hand, talking about these games in general is off-topic.  The specific questions are: what design elements make a game easily grasped by new gamers?  And what design elements make a game have a short time between opening the box/book and actually engaging in play?

None of the games mentioned top my personal list for these purposes, but some of them are good.  Prince Valiant stands out as a game that was really designed for beginners and has a bunch of starting scenarios which were carefully considered.  There are many innovations in these games, but I think most of them aren't relevant for helping newbies or time-to-play.  For example, freeform character traits (OtE, Soap, MLWM) are in my opinion an impediment for newbies.  It's much easier to grasp to have a short, defined list of traits.


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: MalteseChangeling on September 08, 2004, 01:34:19 PM
Ron,

Where would you place Everway in the list of titles you've named?  I've been rereading the rules in preparation for running a game, and my sense is that Jonathan Tweet is writing for utter newbies.  (In fact, many of the reviews of the game criticized his tone for being overly obvious and simplistic--reviews from long-established gamers, of course).

Obviously Everway has some problems when it comes to novice GMs handling the Fortune Deck and constructing Quests (although even here Tweet is careful to provide lots of examples).

But I do think that Tweet's text could be considered a model of how to introduce gaming to newbies.  Not at the Prince Valiant level, but at a fairly high one nonetheless.

Best,

Rob


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: ffilz on September 08, 2004, 02:06:36 PM
Something I wanted to toss in to this discussion is the position of a dumbed down version of a more advanced game. I think the various incarnations of "all you need to play D&D" in a box are valuable. I strongly suspect that the copy of Basic D&D that my friend got that introduced me to the hobby came from either his mother or his older brother. His older brother was playing some D&D in high school and my friend was into wargames (which was my connection to him). I can see his mother seeing his interest, and then finding the boxed set and purchasing that as a gift without having to worry if she was giving him everything he needed (the old "batteries included" consumer confidence trick for toys). Once we started playing, his mom showed me a copy of Chivalry and Sorcery and asked if I thought that would be a good Christmas present (I now own that copy of C&S - I got far more use out of it than my friend did).

So we were able to self start with Basic D&D and some vague ideas of what the game was supposed to be from the older brother and as noted in Are we as cool as Shakespeare? (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=12627&start=15) I point out that I was able to run a game based on reading the rules and watching my friends play once.

Of course I was already used to miniatures gaming. I also realized I was doing unstructured character based role play. Even in high school, I was using those little characters that were made of 2 1" puff balls glued together with felt details. Sheriff had a distinct personality, different from Bat, and different from the Fox Twins (in fact, after playing D&D a few times, I actually wrote up some quick combat rules for the toys).

So I think there is definitely a place for an all in one box introductory set for any game which has name recognition outside the hobby.

As to Everway as an introduction: it definitely is an interesting tool for bringing others in to your hobby. I'm not sure how well it would have worked for a non-gamer, but I guess it couldn't be any worse than Basic D&D and is probably better.

Wargames are also a good intermediary step. I didn't have any trouble self starting on war games, though along the line I did have some interjection of help from more experienced gamers. I'm not sure how old I was when I got a copy of Tactics II as a present, I was probably somewhere in the 8-10 range. I quickly soaked it up, and even started designing my own boards and writing my own games.

I have to admit that I have bypassed almost all the games from Ron's list though. I have read Universalis and FATE cover to cover (I also own Over the Edge, Dust Devils, and HeroQuest).

Frank


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: inky on September 08, 2004, 02:18:40 PM
Quote from: John Kim
For example, freeform character traits (OtE, Soap, MLWM) are in my opinion an impediment for newbies.  It's much easier to grasp to have a short, defined list of traits.


Interesting -- can you expand on this a little?

It seems to me that this is the sort of thing that depends on what sort of game and what sort of player you're talking about. If the pitch goes like "ok, you're all brave adventurers heading into a dungeon in search of treasure" the response might be "er .. ok .. I'll be .. uh .. a guy with a sword?", or it might be more like "great! I want to be like legolas, only with black hair, and I'm really brave, and I have a pony friend, and I'm looking for my lost true love who was kidnapped by orcs".

In the former case it's probably nice for the player to see rules like "ok, you have ten points to assign to your strength, dexterity, and constitution -- do you want to be stronger or nimbler?" and "you can cast spells, or you can be really good with your sword, which is it?". In the latter, though, you can either spend time trying to fit the player's idea into the system, or you can just underline a couple phrases in their description and you're good to go.

Nobilis is one of the systems with a nice compromise, since it's freeform-with-point-buy and has plenty of examples. The players I had tended to have a mix of "ok, I want this power, how much is it?" and "hmm, I have a few points left, I'll get, let's see .. flying."


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: ffilz on September 08, 2004, 02:29:09 PM
Freeform traits definitely have potential if an experienced gamer is introducing the game to newbies. I would tend to agree with John Kim that a newbie trying to pick up and play the game with his buddies is going to have a harder time. I guess it could wind up like cops and robbers with dice ("Gimli can beat Legolas any day of the week so I should get a +10, roll it and weep Fred").

Frank


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: Walt Freitag on September 08, 2004, 02:53:48 PM
Like everyone else, I have beliefs about factors that can make a game more or less accessible. Many of them, I expressed in a thread about a year ago called Popular and damaging. (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=8471) (A read/reread of that thread, with its diversity of opinions, might be worthwhile for anyone posting to this one.)

Quoting myself from that thread, re early D&D:

Quote
Sure, the [1978-80 core] books are long. But the books contain mostly lists of things. By picking things off these lists (either at random, or based on some idea in mind), you can create your own dungeon crawl adventure. You can do this without having to make up any plot. Ever. Not in preparation, not in play. Nobody has to author anything.

That certainly isn't everyone's ideal form of play, but it is a form of play. (And once you learn to do it, you can move onto other forms, if you want.)

Quote
In '77 I played OD&D for a year before any notion that play or preparation for play had anything to do with stories or storytelling crossed my mind.


Earlier in the thread, I also used character creation in Vampire: The Masquerade as an example of system conducive to accessibility. Interesting characters can be created, step by step, in which most steps consist of picking options off of lists. Some of the lists (like the Personality Archetypes for Nature and Demeanor) are supposed to be suggestions toward an open-ended choice, but there's nothing stopping anyone from picking from the specific choices listed. Other lists, like Clans and Disciplines, are presented as complete enumerations of all the available options.

Ever seen a newbie Vampire player get hung up on picking a character name? I have. There's no list to pick from for that item!

(The accessibility of the char gen would be more helpful to the overall game's accessibility if the actual play of the game consisted of thinking about the same sort of stuff that players are thinking about in character creation. But it doesn't; the actual play is supposed to emphasize what it calls storytelling (primarily, confict-charged situation), and unlike with early dunegon crawls, there's no similarly constrained fill-in-the-blanks option for creating the specifics of adventures. That leaves the GM with the usual uncomfortable choice between pre-planned plot and concomittant illusionism or railroadiness, causally-driven plot with is necessary extensive advance world-building or world-sourcebook collecting, or making the leap to no-myth play.)

So, my quest is to find better ways of using "prescriptive system" and pre-enumerated content (like the lists of stuff in Vampire char gen and early AD&D monster and treasure lists, or like the content of a module) during play itself rather than just in preparation, while still allowing players to express themselves in play. Player self-expression generally requires open-ended choices, so meshing the enumerated or "finite" choices with the open-ended aspects of game play is the design challenge. I also think of this as "reinventing the module" but only in the sense that a car is "reinventing the horse" -- I don't expect the results to look much like a traditional role playing module, but I expect the system to be able to do what modules were supposed to do (but never did very well) for play.

I agree only partially with those who point to game boards as a good visual representation of how to play. I see more potential in a tableau of cards, like in most CCGs (but even MORE like a solitaire game or a tarot spread, which present a lot more interconnected information than most CCG card layouts do). I see potential for such a layout representing not just the character's state in the character sheet sense, but also the current situation. If there's also a "board" or a central tableau of some sort, it would represent the shared or global aspects of the situation -- but not a spatial map. Many recent German board games such as Puerto Rico use a combination of individual status card arrays or mini-boards and a central common board or tile tableau. As does Monopoly.

This doesn't mean I don't dig Ron's new place beyond the door. It's just not where I'm going as a designer. Though I think where I'm trying to get may end up closer to that place than it appears right now.

- Walt


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: komradebob on September 08, 2004, 07:35:38 PM
Wow, surprising large response.

Note to self: Phrase posts as a quest for info and opinions on Forge...

Okay, lots of great stuff. Apologies to anyone I'm skipping. I do feel all posters had some interesting things to say.

John Kim wrote:
Quote
1) Define yourself and your terms.
The more specific you can be, the better. Not just what is an RPG in general, but what do PCs do in your game and how do they do it.


Quote
2) Include good sample characters / archetypes.
This one is pretty darn obvious. Even if they make their own characters, it is helpful to have the samples to go by.


Would you feel it is helpful to have fully premade characters available initially? Several of the games you mention later in your post were related to other media (comics, movies) and had completely premade characters. Of course, MSH and IJ died out, too. Can premade characters be helpful in easy intro? At what point should chargen be introduced, assuming it is appropriate to the game?

I recall some Masquerade (LARP) supplement that included premade, colorful, somewhat stereotyped, characters that all had connections to one another, with a bunch of in-built motivations. Unfortunately, there didn't seem to be much advice on what to do with those characters...

Quote
3) Include a good sample adventure.
This is very difficult but IMO worth it, if you care about newbies.


Might it be beter to shoot for multiple intro adventures? This sort of ties in with both your fourth point below, and Callan's comments about Warhammer Quest. Should the game start with the sample adventure, rather than have it near the end of a rulesbook. I seem to recall a late '90s DnD boxed set that had the sample adventure very near the beginning. Did anyone have experience with that set? In terms of format, would it be better or worse to follow the example of Avalon Hill with many of their old hex-n-chip wargames: Introduce core rules->follow up with a scenario->introduce more complex rules->second scenario, utilizing more complex rules just introduced->repeat as necessary?

Quote
4) Include a simple formula for adventures.
For example, Basic Set D&D had a very simple template for how to write an adventure: i.e. draw your map and populate your rooms. James Bond 007 had some random table plot generators. etc. Expecting completely original plots and stories out of newbies is unrealistic and daunting.


Y'know, I hadn't thought of that.  I suspect, very important also. I'm curious how, say Callan ( who seems very fond of gamist design) would approach this, versus someone more interested in sim or narr design.

Noon (Callan) wrote:

Quote
Wow, I would have said make it as gamist as hell. Tell them their goal (get 100 gold, for example) and the basic steps of getting there. Give some hint of what might get in their way.


I've developed a much better appreciation for gamist designs after starting to visit the Forge regularly. Side question: Is there a way to work in character identification/representation into a gamist reward system?

Quote
As for rule light...have simple rules, but damn, rules light can really kill off gamist possiblity and instead make it hard core sim.


I can see where you're coming from generally on this. I would however point to Chris Engle's Matrix Game as a rules-lite, high player-on-player competition design.

Quote
Anyway, right in the first steps of play instructions have them slapping down a board (as contra said) and cool little tokens and stuff. The visuals this produces are a potent, instant reward. Get away from me if your going to say 'no, my imagination is far more beutiful and your contrivances only get in the way'. Well I'm cattering to newbies so I don't care about ya for the benefit of this exercise.


IMO that artwork and artifacts have an enormous amount to do with new player accessibilty. I can't imagine them being taken for granted and having the thing be successful. What particular form they take ( board, card layout, whatever), I'm flexible about.

Quote
Warhammer quest was like this. It was/is beutiful. It had three sections, one for very board game like play, one which was a super extended campaign board game play and then finally the roleplay like section, which fluidly attached itself to all that.


I think this is a really interesting concept, in terms of easing players into roleplay. Can anyone think of other rp games that take a similar approach?

Albert of Feh wrote:

Quote
Aside from the board game direction, you also have those "How to host a mystery" games. Each one was basically an extremely directed (almost Fateplay-like, now that I think about it) one-shot-larp-inna-box. Time delay from box-opening to people-playing was about ten minutes.


 I bought a couple of MurderParty games for study purposes. I like the quick-to-start-play aspect. One complaint I've heard is that they are, indeed, one shots. As I peer over at my bookshelf, I can see a couple of Pagan Publishing CoC adventure anthologies. Any of them, especially if one were to create some premade characters and maybe get into some r-map stuff ( Murder Mysteries almost require relationships between the characters..), I could see some great gaming events. I wonder if folks are missing a great "chocolate+peanut butter=reeses peanubutter cups" ( as per the old commercials) opportunity...

Valamir (Ralph) wrote:
Quote
I think the defining key is that there is a list of options for the player to choose from. There then must be some ultimate goal to inform the player on what options to choose. The goal doesn't necessarily have to be how to win. But it generally should be "how to finish".


I think that some sort of solid "endgame" advice is an important and overlooked part of design, whether per adventure, or per game ( in the case of kickers, MLWM,etc). Many rules still treat extended/open-ended and/or campaign play as the norm. Is that style of play better considered an advanced, rather than introductory, play style?

Andy wrote:
Quote
Finally, as to komradebob's original query, I think that the a good "pick-up-and-play" RPG must be intuitive to new players, perhaps relying on basic mechanics familiar to everyone (ie. roll the dice, move your mice). If you keep the mechanic basic and intuitive (not my forte), entry-level players can jump right in.


I'm quilty of that, too.
What particular things can you think of that might be considered intuitive. A couple of people ave mentioned turns and play order. What about terminology, or story arc concepts?

John Kim, in response to Ron's post listing some game designs to consider, wrote:
Quote
For example, freeform character traits (OtE, Soap, MLWM) are in my opinion an impediment for newbies. It's much easier to grasp to have a short, defined list of traits.


Would you relate this to the concept of niche characters, that is, characters who have a certain set of abilities/qualities that allow them to shine and perform specific game functions? This seems to be a supporting argument for the initial use of premade characters. Anyone?

Walt Freitag wrote:
Quote
So, my quest is to find better ways of using "prescriptive system" and pre-enumerated content (like the lists of stuff in Vampire char gen and early AD&D monster and treasure lists, or like the content of a module) during play itself rather than just in preparation, while still allowing players to express themselves in play. Player self-expression generally requires open-ended choices, so meshing the enumerated or "finite" choices with the open-ended aspects of game play is the design challenge. I also think of this as "reinventing the module" but only in the sense that a car is "reinventing the horse" -- I don't expect the results to look much like a traditional role playing module, but I expect the system to be able to do what modules were supposed to do (but never did very well) for play.


I'm kinda-sorta-not quite thinking something similar about "module" design. What I've been thinking about might be described more like open-source adventures. It would sort of be like allowing all players to have access to all setting/adventure materials, rather than a player section and a seperate ( sneaky secrets) GM section. But, unlike a simple setting sourcebook, it would give a bit more focus to play. I find it hard to describe exactly what I'm thinking of, so I'll try a couple of examples, that I think might be close:

1) Grabbing an old Unspeakable Oath issue and picking one of their "Fragments of Terror" one page story seeds. All the players read it. Said players have some grounding in the HPL Mythos and stories. Play proceeds with players introducing CoC elements, but with the specific focus on the Fragment set up.

2) Taking Rage Across New York, letting everyone read it. Let them read whatever WW:tA material you have on hand. Skip individual character creation- players utilize the NPCs already in the book. Throw away the ST rules and use Universalis. Again, the focus is on the material in RANY, not Apocalypse generally.

Whew, that was lengthy.
Anybody else got thoughts to add?
Thanks,
Robert


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 08, 2004, 08:26:08 PM
Hiya,

Actually, I should have included Everway in my early-influences list.

However, I think my whole list is being misinterpreted. These game texts are not examples of how to present role-playing information to newcomers. They are examples of attempts or partial attempts to do so which offer insight into what does and doesn't (apparently) work.

We are all still struggling in various ways about this issue. What excites me is that, at last, the issue is overtly in flux.

The door I mentioned is not really about how effective or perfect they are in this goal, but more about the author really saying, "Hey! I'm not writing to gamers! At all!" So far, I think Dogs in the Vineyard has managed to shake off more moss than anyone in this regard. I'm hoping my rewrite of Trollbabe will too, and also that if Matt revises and expands Dust Devils, that it will go even further.

Best,
Ron


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: Callan S. on September 08, 2004, 09:40:38 PM
Hi Robert,

Quote
I've developed a much better appreciation for gamist designs after starting to visit the Forge regularly. Side question: Is there a way to work in character identification/representation into a gamist reward system?

Easy. Reduce damage recieved if they grunt when their character gets hit. Give them a list of things to choose from in terms of what their character thinks is important (with one important option being 'Or make one up!'), then give a reward for something like bringing it into play this way 'For castle greyskull I smite thee ork'. Even give them a reward every time they say their characters name 'I, Ashbane, destroy you ork in the name of the forrests'. Make sure they can just keep getting these rewards every time they do it.

All sorts of things along these lines. It may sound kind of small and twee, but if your aiming for people who's last pawn was a top hat in monopoly, this is the way to get them thinking 'Hey, I said Ashbane was fighting for the forests so many times...it's starting to leave an impression of him on me'. That way your getting closer to the doorway Ron mentions above.

Quote
I can see where you're coming from generally on this. I would however point to Chris Engle's Matrix Game as a rules-lite, high player-on-player competition design.

I'll pay that. It's just hard, IMO, to do rules light that assists gamist.

Quote
IMO that artwork and artifacts have an enormous amount to do with new player accessibilty. I can't imagine them being taken for granted and having the thing be successful. What particular form they take ( board, card layout, whatever), I'm flexible about.

It doesn't really matter what it is, as long as it rewards the instant it falls out of the opened box. For example, c'mon, weve all fondled the monopoly money. Now, you don't need it to do a dungeon crawl. But imagine opening the box and getting a bag full of gold coins...and then playing and having a stack next to you!

Shiney widgets really start the reward process early. Despite what Ron says about not knowing what works right now...keep hitting them with any type of reward you can muster. Rewards work (to some degree, at least).

On warhammer quest, yeah, the three stage book was beutiful. Of course the game, although it had tons of great figures, cost $100 in Australia and was on a high shelf in one of the few minatures stores (in my city).

Great material to penetrate the market, not the right distribution method to give it a chance to, it's interesting to note.

Edit: I may have missinterpreted Ron's doorway reference. Anyway, I meant the point where someone goes from what they're used to, to a matrix like 'Whoa' as they see the more RP'ish potential.


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: timfire on September 09, 2004, 09:05:05 AM
I think a distinction needs to be made between games that are designed to be easily understood/learned, and games designed to attract non-gamers. I'm not sure those two have go together, or rather, I don't think a game has to be easy to learn to attract non-gamers.

As long the game is coherently designed - and I'm using 'coherence' in the non-GNS sense - I think a reasonably intelligent person will be able fumble their way through it, regardless of the 'complexity' of the game.


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: Callan S. on September 09, 2004, 04:36:00 PM
Yes, they can. But what is their reward for it? Remember, they're a newbie...they don't have an idea of what a session ends up feeling like.

What gets them through this task of reading?

I'm not saying it's impossible to reward them enough to get them to read it. It's just its easier to reward someone enough to pay off their reading a smaller set of rules Vs the bigger reward you need to give for a larger set. Unless your banking on the delayed gratification trait, which a recent post was about but everyone seemed to say there was no delayed grat involved.


Personally I'm reminded of a story a dragon magazine staff member gave a few years ago. He said that when they first started playing, they walked around behind the wizard of the party in a forest. They'd sneak up on bandits, he'd cast cloud kill, they'd loot the bodies. Repeat. They enjoyed it.

It was clear the dude running it had no idea how to run combat. He'd read a bit, but obviously hadn't found the rules engaging enough to learn them. Then had the balls to just wing a game.

I think the story is endearing and quite healthy. But if any designer thinks it's okay to design for that outcome, they deserve a sock full of doorknobs. The heros of that story were the gamers, not the author. I'd say he was the villain they beat, just about (unless the appeal here is to beat poor design, which I've started threads about before).


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: tj333 on September 09, 2004, 07:11:16 PM
Three things that I think will help to make a game easy to get into are pre-made characters, a pre-made dungeon, and a sample of play that the character can read through.
Perhaps a small book that comes with the game like the one that the Vampire: The Requiem has. The little book has sample characters, basic rules, and some sample play designed to teach the players about the game and setting. All this can be done in a 3 or so hours before opening the big book.

A direction that I have been looking into is character generation that can be done during play. It is a point buy system where you spend at least 1/3 of the points off the start, just enough to keep you alive.
Then during play you can spend the remaining points as if you were still in character creation. The only requirement to spending the points is that you add something to the character’s background that explains why the points were spent that way.
The idea is to let someone who doesn’t know what he is up to make his character as he learns the game while developing his character.


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: John Kim on September 09, 2004, 08:25:43 PM
Quote from: Noon
  What gets them through this task of reading?

I'm not saying it's impossible to reward them enough to get them to read it. It's just its easier to reward someone enough to pay off their reading a smaller set of rules Vs the bigger reward you need to give for a larger set. Unless your banking on the delayed gratification trait, which a recent post was about but everyone seemed to say there was no delayed grat involved.  

Well, this presumes that reading is always a painful chore for people, who necessarily need to be paid off to engage in that hateful task.  

I don't think that's necessarily true.  Indeed, this was the consensus answer to the "delayed gratification" hypothesis as well -- it's based on a false assumption.  Plenty of people actually (gasp) enjoy reading, if the material is interesting to them and well-written.  These people can enjoy reading about fictional worlds and inventing characters to be in them.

I would say it is more important that your game be fun to read than it is to be short.  If it's not fun to read, no one's going to get through it no matter how short it is.  If it is fun to read, then the book can be part of the draw of play rather than a barrier.


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: Callan S. on September 10, 2004, 12:53:39 AM
Quote from: Kim
if the material is interesting to them and well-written.

Arg! I just said what rewards will get them through reading it. The nebulous 'interesting' and more solid 'well-written' are both reward types.

Now, if someone can manage to write well and interestingly all through a thicker tome/keep that reward going, good on them. I think its easier to write well over a shorter space. And I think what is interesting is really is a bit vague...you mean content of interest to the demographic your aiming at, right?

Anyway, it's not delayed gratification if the reading is enjoyable/rewarding in its own right. But I do think rules are hard to 'sex up' enough to reward much as you read them. Especially gobs of them!


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: Eric Provost on September 10, 2004, 04:47:07 AM
Quote from: Walt Freitag

Ever seen a newbie Vampire player get hung up on picking a character name? I have. There's no list to pick from for that item!

(The accessibility of the char gen would be more helpful to the overall game's accessibility if the actual play of the game consisted of thinking about the same sort of stuff that players are thinking about in character creation. But it doesn't; the actual play is supposed to emphasize what it calls storytelling (primarily, confict-charged situation), and unlike with early dunegon crawls, there's no similarly constrained fill-in-the-blanks option for creating the specifics of adventures. That leaves the GM with the usual uncomfortable choice between pre-planned plot and concomittant illusionism or railroadiness, causally-driven plot with is necessary extensive advance world-building or world-sourcebook collecting, or making the leap to no-myth play.)

So, my quest is to find better ways of using "prescriptive system" and pre-enumerated content (like the lists of stuff in Vampire char gen and early AD&D monster and treasure lists, or like the content of a module) during play itself rather than just in preparation, while still allowing players to express themselves in play. Player self-expression generally requires open-ended choices, so meshing the enumerated or "finite" choices with the open-ended aspects of game play is the design challenge. I also think of this as "reinventing the module" but only in the sense that a car is "reinventing the horse" -- I don't expect the results to look much like a traditional role playing module, but I expect the system to be able to do what modules were supposed to do (but never did very well) for play.


Hello everyone,

I usually just sit back & listen around here, but what Walt said here is so terribly inspiring I just had to share my thoughts on this subject.

My first thought is, to facilitate speedy play in a game where a GM will be present, the speedyness should be directed to the GM.  After all, when we go out and pick up a new game to play we don't hand it off to a friend to ask them to run it, we usually imagine ourselves running the new game, right?

Next, following that same train of thought, character generation might ought to be an 'advanced rule'.  I think there ought to be a plethora of fun pre-generated character choices just ready to go for the players to choose from.  While they aren't RPGs I point out BattleTech and HeavyGear as examples.  In both games there are wonderfully complex rules for creating your own custom giant-robots, but there are so many wonderful pre-created choices that almost everyone can find one that they find interesting.  I've never seen an RPG that had as many pre-generated character choices as even my old boxed-set BattleTech game.  Imagine finding an RPG rule book that had dozens of pages of characters to choose from, each having a nice little list of cliche names to choose from, bits of motivation to pick from.  

My next thought is that a quick-to-play game should have several simple short stories to play out.  They should speak directly to the GM, treating him as the noob that we would hope he is.  Each story would gradually take away the 'training wheels' of game mastering.  For example, the first story might give room or NPC descriptions that the GM would read verbatum to the players, while the second story might instead tell the GM to use a provided list of adjectives to describe the scene in a similar manner as the previous story.  That is, as the GM leads the players through the stories, the GM is being led through the 'lessions' of how to run the game.  And I mean that the GM should learn how to run THIS game, not RPGS in general.  

Finally, my last thought is similar to what Walt had to say.  In most games, players get a list of options to pick from & explicit instructions on how to create their characters.  Rarely do GMs get that same advice (at least in the games I've read).  Once the noob GM has 'graduated' from the lessons of the sample storylines he should feel comfortable in reading over a list of items, bits, scenes that may be selected to form a story-arc.  I imaging that if the selectable arc bits remain simple, yet entertaning for an extended period of time, and are prehaps followed with yet more vague ideas on further expanding the skills of the GM, then one may have taken someone who has never played an RPG in their life all the way to skilled and functional GMing in a single informative, inspirational text.

Well, that's all that's on my brain.  I hope I didn't ramble too much.

-Eric

[Edit P.S.]  I fully intend to take these thoughts into the game I've been working on.  Even though I have no intention of publishing my work for public consumption, I believe that these ideas will help my game be playable as a stand-alone text without me standing behind it to explain to my friends how to play.


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: John Kim on September 10, 2004, 12:43:41 PM
Quote from: Technocrat13
  I've never seen an RPG that had as many pre-generated character choices as even my old boxed-set BattleTech game.  Imagine finding an RPG rule book that had dozens of pages of characters to choose from, each having a nice little list of cliche names to choose from, bits of motivation to pick from.  

Well, a typical game whill only provide sample characters -- which in practice are there to look at as a guide rather than to actually play.  I'd point to the Lord of the Rings RPG as an example, with it's six characters.    They are often lousy as a result of lack of attention.  A good template-based game will have one to two dozen.  For example, I think the Buffy RPG has 16 or 18 (though that's including the characters from the series).  I also haven't seen an RPG which provides more than that.  

Quote from: Technocrat13
  My next thought is that a quick-to-play game should have several simple short stories to play out.  They should speak directly to the GM, treating him as the noob that we would hope he is.  Each story would gradually take away the 'training wheels' of game mastering.  

I completely agree that sample scenarios are very important.  Maybe this is just a disagreement in phrasing, but I don't like how that sounds.  Rather than thinking of them as "training wheels" for "the real thing", I think you should think of those quick-to-play games as "the real thing".  i.e. They should be fun for themselves.  Now, I know you're not suggesting that they should be un-fun, but I think the fun-ness should come before the training.  

Put another way, I consider the main problem to be motivational.  If the players have fun with the introductory scenario, then they will dive in and learn more.  If they didn't have fun, then it's likely that what they learned is irrelevant because they aren't going to keep playing.


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: Russell Impagliazzo on September 10, 2004, 02:02:19 PM
I don't know any groups of adults who learned role-playing with each other as non-gamers.  I know many adults who learned by joining role-playing groups with experienced players.  This seems the more typical way that non-players evolve into players.  (I think this is largely true for card and board games as well.  I've rarely played a game straight out of the box with no one that's played before.)  Most popular games can be played enjoyably  by a newbie if they have an experienced coach without  ever having to read a rule-book thoroughly.  

In my experience, newbies come in three varieties:

1.  ``Give me a short, simple list of options at each decision point, and a step-by-step procedure of how things get done.''  These people are drawing on board-game experience, I believe.

2.  ``Here's what I'm doing in story terms.  Help me translate that into your game mechanics''.  These new players draw from acting/pretending  game experience.

3.  ``This is neat.  Lend me your game books until next time, so that I can
memorize all the rules and optimize my character's strategies...''  This would be the player with computer game experience.  

Note that what appeals to one type of new player might well be a turn-off
for other types.  So my guess is that game designers should pick a type of new player they want to encourage, rather than trying to please all new gamers.

 Also, if you really want to have new players play without any coaches, you probably need a very simplified game that won't also appeal to experienced players.    Such a game could sacrifice flexibility and replay enjoyment for simplicity and immediate access.  For example, a game where there are ONLY pregren characters and pregen scenarios might
be fine as a ``starter's kit''.  (By comparison, people are expected to play a ``murder mystery'' game only once.)


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: Walt Freitag on September 10, 2004, 06:52:28 PM
Rusell, you're a genius.

What he said. That just crystallized the nagging reservations that have been in the back of my mind throughout the recent threads on this topic.

A lot of disagreement about what games, design techniques, and/or instructional styles do and don't "appeal to newbies" or "work for newbies" are really just differences of opinion about which of Russell's varieties of newbie one is likely to be dealing with the most. This is probably true even if that exact enumeration of newbie types is inaccurate or incomplete.

- Walt


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: M. J. Young on September 10, 2004, 11:52:39 PM
Well, Russell may be a genius, and certainly his distinctions between types of newbies is excellent.
Quote from: However, I must object to part of what he
I don't know any groups of adults who learned role-playing with each other as non-gamers.  I know many adults who learned by joining role-playing groups with experienced players.  This seems the more typical way that non-players evolve into players.  (I think this is largely true for card and board games as well.  I've rarely played a game straight out of the box with no one that's played before.)
Our gaming group was four adults who played mostly board and card games together, sometimes did bowling, pinball, and miniature golf, and had our eyes on the then-emerging world of video games. We read about D&D in Psychology Today, and tracked down the boxed Basic set somewhere (a Farmers' Market, I think), other books in book stores later. I played for five years with no more contact with other "experienced" gamers than a couple conversations with a guy I met at work.

Of course, we were also exactly the kind of people who would buy an interesting looking board game and play it out of the box. We still are. We very much enjoy Malarkey, but I don't much care for Cranium. I expect that Tom Vassel (who reviews several board games a week in various fora) buys a lot of games and teaches himself to play them. We're also the sort of people who have several times replaced worn out copies of According to Hoyle so we can learn new card games no one else knows.

Someone has to be that person. We do exist. Now, of the maybe fifty or sixty people who played role playing games in my home since then, I can think of four who learned how to play from someone other than us, and only one who learned their first role playing game cold as we did. (However, I think just about all of those who ever played any other role playing game developed the habit of buying such games without knowing someone who played them, and learning the rules themselves.)

In a previous thread on this subject, I pointed out that it's standard among all gaming groups of any sort that one person reads the rules and teaches everyone else how to play. That's the way we do our card games, our board games, our parlor games, the few war games and bookcase games we've played, our individual sports, and, yes, our role playing games. As John says, usually there's someone in the group who is happy to read the rules and be the authority on how the game is played. In most role playing game groups, that person becomes the referee, and everyone else plays characters--and the traditional game setup is very supportive of that model.

Multiverser has a rather steep learning curve for whoever wants to be the referee. But guess what. The other players don't need to know squat. To create your character, you don't need to know anything about the game rules. Answer a few questions, and write what the referee says to write, and you're ready to play. If I've got one person who can run the game, the rest get a free ride.

In that sense, the game is very friendly to newbies. It just needs one person who knows what he's doing.

--M. J. Young


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: Eric Provost on September 11, 2004, 06:32:33 AM
Quote from: John Kim
I completely agree that sample scenarios are very important.  Maybe this is just a disagreement in phrasing, but I don't like how that sounds.  Rather than thinking of them as "training wheels" for "the real thing", I think you should think of those quick-to-play games as "the real thing".  i.e. They should be fun for themselves.  Now, I know you're not suggesting that they should be un-fun, but I think the fun-ness should come before the training.  


I think we're very close to seeing eye to eye on this, if not for some minor details.

I think that the fun is in the pre-written scenarios, and the training is in addition to the fun.  If the intro scenarios ~feel~ like training, then one's failed in making them fun (I imagine).  

I also have to disagree with the idea that the training wheels prepare one for the real thing.  That's certainly not what I meant to imply.  The training wheels are part of the real thing.  There're just there to give you a little momentum, and should be removed when they'd just get in the way.  I had a blast on my first set of training wheels.  But eventually I wanted to take them off, as they were just getting in the way.

*ponderponderponder*

See... now, I think I'm imagining something that I'm having a hard time communicating.  Lemmie see if I can get my brain to boil it down the essential bits...

1)  I don't know of any adults who learned to play straight from the box without experienced gamer assistance either (even though I'm sure they're out there), but isn't the objective of this thread to contemplate ways to get them to do just that?

2)  I propose that, if one intentionally builds learning the game into playing the game, then you wouldn't have to sacrifice anything to be more noob friendly.

3)  It seems to me that Character Generation is something that some noobs may want to do, but just as many others are intimidated by.  With that in mind, I propose that a game that has a substantial number of interesting pre-generated characters that a noob may choose from will not only keep from scaring off some noobs, but will also decrease the delay between opening the book and playing the game.  This is especially true in games where CharGen might take a substantial amount of time.

4)  Just as the players' prep time can be severly cut down by providing PreGenChars, the GMs prep time can be similarly reduced by providing interesting PreGenAdventures to choose from.  If we're talking about Noob GMs, then the PreGenAventures should have step-by-step instructions on how to run them, such as the ol' Read Me To the Players boxes.

5)  If the game is fun enough to keep playing, then noobs will not remain noobs.  Players will want a method to make their own characters, or to modify the pregen char they've become attached to.  GMs will want to write their own stories, or at least, they'll want some of the noob-level instructions kicked out of their way.

5b)  None of the games I've played have ever had useful instructions to the GM on how to write his own adventures.  I believe that a good set of instructions would increase the chances of continued enjoyment from that particular game.

6)  Finally, I feel that minimizing box-to-play time for any new player is valuable.  I'm sitting here, remembering all the times over the years that I've introduced new players to new games.  Heck, it's really the same for all the experienced players I've introduced to new games.  Someone always gets stuck in character generation.  "What skills (feats, spells, powers, etc) should I take??"  I can't even seem to count in my head the number of times a player has languished over character creation the first time through.  On the other hand, I remember quite a few really fun sessions where I knew that we wouldn't have time, so I made up a handfull of characters for the players to choose from, tossed them on the table, and given the players ten minutes to pick one and come up with a name for the character.

*re-reads a couple times*

Okies... I think that covers what was in my noggin.

Looking forward to more,

-Eric


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: Doctor Xero on September 14, 2004, 02:51:03 PM
Quote from: M. J. Young
Well, Russell may be a genius, and certainly his distinctions between types of newbies is excellent.
Quote from: However, I must object to part of what he
I don't know any groups of adults who learned role-playing with each other as non-gamers.  I know many adults who learned by joining role-playing groups with experienced players.  This seems the more typical way that non-players evolve into players.  (I think this is largely true for card and board games as well.  I've rarely played a game straight out of the box with no one that's played before.)
Our gaming group was four adults who played mostly board and card games together, sometimes did bowling, pinball, and miniature golf, and had our eyes on the then-emerging world of video games. We read about D&D in Psychology Today, and tracked down the boxed Basic set somewhere (a Farmers' Market, I think), other books in book stores later. I played for five years with no more contact with other "experienced" gamers than a couple conversations with a guy I met at work.

I have to agree with M. J. here.

I knew nothing about roleplaying games when I came across my first SF RPG.  All I knew was that I loved SF books and films.  I took it home and recruited several other friends who all loved SF books and films and who all had no familiarity with roleplaying games, no familiarity with war games, no familiarity with RenFaire or MedFaire, no familiarity with Collectible Card Games nor any familiarity with computer games beyond arcade style.  The one relevant thing we all knew was impromptu theatre from working in college plays and community theatre.

But we were intelligent enough to figure out how to operate a roleplaying gaming system, and I created a space opera campaign in which we played for a number of years, only breaking up when our youngest player headed off to university at the same time that I headed off to earn my Ph.D.

Doctor Xero


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: Callan S. on September 14, 2004, 03:24:38 PM
I can't help but think that some newbs don't learn to operate an RPG so much, as they are capable of percieving (to some extent) the extra infrastructure needed to use this RP book.

That infrastructure consists of various skills and self discipline. But I'm not sure it's generally acknowledged that RP actually consists of quite a range of skills, and someone might come up and say "Nah, running a game is a doddle, I don't feel I'm using any skills at all. And after 10+ years I should know' which is kind of ironic to say when your talking a decade or whatever years of experience.

Quite frankly, if your on the forge I think your a person with a knack for RPG's and quite an interest in them. Note how there are plenty of roleplayers who aren't registered at the forge or not even registered at any RPG forum. So this whole 'Ah, I started with no help and look how well I've done' is kind of pointless. Look how far you've come...most don't get that far. So lets focus on that majority of newbs who don't come so far or even gave up at the starting post, rather than the minority who made it all the way to the forge.


Title: Rapid deployment rpgs
Post by: ragnar on October 06, 2004, 02:11:20 PM
Hi all...my first post on the forum. :)

I'll get to the point now. I got started in role-playing through (the other) Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone's Fighting Fantasy pick-a-path books. After having read through a pile of those, me and a friend found a D&D basic set and took it from there. The point being is that I think using a pick-a-path story as part of the rule book can be a good way to teach new players about role play and about the game. You can run them through how to handle some situations, give them a taste of role playing and at the same time entertain them (i.e. getting them interested in discovering the rest of the rules). It's not perfect, but at least it gets the player interacting with a story early on and making choices for his character. The only rule book that I can remember taking this approach was GURPS 3rd edition (maybe only early printings), and it worked fine there...even though GURPS is a rather complex set of rules covering 250 (now 500+) pages.

Personally, I think a rule lite system is preferable when introducing new players to role play, especially if that system has plenty of samples of play, ready made scenarios, sample adventures and usefull GM info. I believe complex rules can just confuse them or get them to focused on getting it right, rather than focusing on the creative part of role playing and on making an entertaining story for everyone. The fact that you haven't role played before, does not mean you're new to story telling...at least as an audience (films, books etc.). If you want to look for an element that everyone knows instinctively, than a good story would be it. This is of course entierly a personal preference based on the kind of role playing I like to do, and in the hope that new players will find their way to character and story based role playing from day one.

 Ragnar