Pitching to Newbies

edited November 2006 in Play Advice
I'm looking to run a story game for some friends over Thanksgiving. Their experience with role-playing is minimal - probably a smidge of DND and console/computer RPGs - and they probably have a bit of a jaundiced view of the hobby, based on trad games. I want to pitch several different games at them beforehand, so I can brush up on the chosen game prior to Thanksgiving, but I want to make the pitches short, sweet, and specific as to certain elements about the game. Here are the criteria I have so far:

GM: Does it have one? How much power does the GM have, relative to trad games? (I.e. "Polaris has no GM - we all take turns focusing on our character or playing that character's supporting cast" or "The Producer in PTA is like a GM but won't always narrate the outcome of conflicts.")

Narration: Who gets to narrate and when? (I.e. "In The Mountain Witch, whoever wins the conflict gets to narrate the outcome, unless someone decides to buy the rights to narration with Trust.")

Mechanics: Does it use dice? If so, what kind and how many? Cards? Diceless? (I.e. "PTA uses cards to resolve conflicts, with red cards counting as successess, the most successes winning the conlict and the highest card winning narration - even if that person lost the conflict!")

Setting: What's neat about the game's setting.

Premise: What the characters *do* in the game.

Are there any important elements I've left out? I want enough material on the table to inform their choices - he plays a lot of board games, so mechanics will be a consideration for him; she probably equates RPGs with DND or Baldur's Gate on the PC, so all the others should be important to her, depending on how she wants to participate in the game.

As for games, I'm looking at Polaris, Dogs, PTA, Hero's Banner, Best Friends, Don't Rest Your Head, Mountain Witch, and Shab-Al-Hiri Roach. I own/will own all of these and have read/can have read any of these prior to Thanksgiving. (If anyone, especially a game's designer, would like to write a pitch for me for a certain games, I certainly won't object!)

Thanks for the input!


  • Actually, dude, if I were you, I wouldn't just pitch a bunch of games to them and ask them what they want. It would be like my cousin (who is into racecars) telling me he'll take me out test-driving, and pitching a number of performance steering wheels, and asking which I would like to use. I can "understand" his explanations, but since I have little experience I really wouldn't competently choose, or even really care all that much.

    I'd just pick two that you would guess that people would have the most fun with (Dogs and PTA, maybe? Roach?) and prep for those. And then bring those down at the meetup. If anything, give them a choice between two, rather than a choice of 6-7.

    Good luck!

  • Play Contenders. It is easily understood thematically and mechanically, loads of fun, and does not use scary dice. I hate boxing and I love Contenders.

    GM: Not necessary.
    Narration: Rotating scenes of various types decided by players in turn. Plus multi-player boxing matches.
    Mechanics: Red cards win, black cards lose, very simple, very fun. You fight, you have paired pain and hope stats, connections to people who need to take things from you, plus you beat the crap out of each other.
    Setting: Anywhere/anywhen people fight with their hands.
    Premise: Will pain drag you down? Will hope lift you up? Will you give up your connections to win in the ring?
  • Andy's dead-on, here. Maybe grab two-three games you love and know well, and whichever one they grab, go with that. You've got two other players, and this is a one-shot, right? I'd go for Best Friends or SAH-Roach, because these both play really well as one-shots (pure projection on the BF part). If they dig Westerns, go for Dogs. If they dig TV, go for PTA. I find PTA to be more challenging to run as a one-shot, unless you just do the pilot and accept that you're going to have loose ends all over.
  • Andy: Point well taken. I'll have to think about which are the best bets.

    Jason: Although I continue to hear great things about Contenders, I can afford neither the money nor the delivery time before Thanksgiving. I'll add it to my "To Get" list, definitely.
  • Meg: Thanks for the input. The game should be me, my wife, and these two friends. I'm getting BF this weekend and own the rest, and I think that BF, Roach, Dogs, and PTA are the best possibilities. Yeah, PTA isn't great for a one-shot, but I'm playing a con game of it this weekend, so I'll have better context after that.
  • I'm bringing my copy of Contenders to the indie games roundup at MACE, so you can borrow it if you like, if you promise to buy a copy later! We can also talk about how to make The Roach work - I've played it with non-gamers and it's lots of fun. But Andy's right - less choice, more deciding for them.
  • I pitched The Mountain Witch to some grognard types at work who hadn't played for years, simply by describing the game, and telling them I was running it. They're lapping it up.
  • With Andy all the way. In fact, what ever game you play you'll probably find yourself kind of GMing anyway, and these guys sound like most of their experience is based on characters vs. Worlds anyway, so they'll understand that much faster. Even if you play a non-GM'd game you'll be doing half the job, so prepare and make it as smooth as possible.

    And I'm going to recommend Dust Devils yet again, because the system is simple, there's a good mix of Narration and... wangdoodle*, for want of a better word, and the genre is easy as pie to get to grips with, whilst still viscerally appealing.

    (*GMing. I'd like to apologise for that fact that I'm actually using the 'New Lexicon', but damn it, its good stuff!)
  • 1001 Nights is your dog, man.

    Agreed about the "only one game." Also, I wouldn't demonstrate it as a "sample of all role-playing games" but just as "a fun game we can play." Pitch it as its own thing.

    You don't say "Let's play a board game!" after all. You say "Let's play Monopoly!"

  • Thanks for bringing this topic up, Matthew. I too am planning on gaming over the holidays with a few old friends who don't do much gaming. I'm reading this thread at work, and then I looked in my backpack and saw The Mountain Witch and Contenders waiting for my ferry ride home. Sounds like those could be a lot of fun with a new group! I would agree not to give them too many choices. Just tell them they are going to have a fun time!

  • Ok, Ben's right. 1001 Nights is almost *made* for this sort of situation :)
  • edited November 2006
    Here's an AP thread about a Halloween game presented in similar circumstances. Good luck!
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