[Advice Please?] Non-Gamers Who Don't Know What They Want

edited April 2012 in Story Games
Okay, this is actually not for me but for one of my friends, a regular group member of mine. He's gotten into a bit of an odd predicament, so I'll relate what he told me over Skype. Sorry if it's not totally clear, I'm working on borrowed info here and just wanted to get another opinion.

He was approached by a few of his non-gamer friends the other day, and they were intrigued and interested in having him run them a game of D&D. Thing is, my friend's general intuition and what he knows from being friends with these guys is that they wouldn't be so hot on the tactical/numbers side of the games, but they were insistent that they wanted actually play D&D in particular. Now, we as a group have only had D&D experience with 3e and a little 4e (didn't like it too much and went back to 3e), so my friend is a bit bewildered. He thinks they'd prefer the sort of play of a lot of the story games we've been experimenting with, but he doesn't know how to go about trying to convince them that this is probably more what they're looking for.
Based on what my friend told me they said, they're looking for the sort of zany, over-the-top style D&D, which I'm feeling a lot in Dungeon World, and I've heard it similar to old-school D&D.
My suggestion to him was to take a look back at old Basic D&D rules, the old-school stuff, but I have very little experience with it myself. Do you guys think that if they're looking for a crazy D&D adventure without the nitty-gritty tactical pieces, pointing them toward old 1e-type stuff is a good idea, or should my friend try to convince them that Dungeon World or even something else might be more their speed? Do you have any other suggestions for games that fit?

To boil it down: They like the idea of playing "Dungeons & Dragons" specifically, pretty much looking for the brand recognition, but don't know what kind of play it would actually entail. Should my friend give them the D&D he knows how to do but might not be what they're looking for, or try to convince them into playing something else that they might prefer stylistically but wouldn't necessarily have the D&D name attached like they're looking for (plus my friend doesn't have experience GMing outside of 3e)? Could using Basic D&D actually solve both problems?
And if Basic-type D&D is the way to go, got any advice on a running it for a guy used to running 3e? (though he's a frequent player in the story games I run, so it's not totally alien to him)

Oh, and my friend IS going to ask them directly about the tactical thing - if it turns out his impression was wrong and that's what they want, he'll totally run the 3e he knows. But he's usually got a pretty good eye for this stuff.

I hope that was easy enough to follow. Thanks in advance for the help!


  • They cannot know what they want, as they have never played.

    Unless they have strong motivations to learn the specific D&D rules I would just go with what your friend wants, as long as it has the kind of zany D&D color they are looking for.

    Also, the last AD&D I played was 2E and I recently looked at 4E. I felt overwhelmed by choices, options and powers and I have no idea how this can be considered a beginner game.
  • Dungeon World works really well for first time players

    If your friend wants to dive into some old school D&D then Moldvay would be the way to go:

    Threads on Moldvay are:
    Tale of Two Maps
    Moldvay Wednesday moved to the ODD forum
    Over at BW headquarters Moldvay and LotFP
  • It sounds like they really want to try Dungeons and Dragons, to say that they've played it.

    So, I'd run them Dungeons and Dragons. 3rd or 4th edition, your pick. Or even go classic with 1st D&D or AD&D.

    If they liked it, and the experience was more to them than some hipster midlife crisis, then work them into another game you like like Dungeon World or whatever.

    But if you bring them any other game, they're gonna be like, "Yeah this is nice, but we REALLY wanted to play DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS". Give it to them. THEN see if they're willing to try something else.

  • Posted By: AndyIt sounds like they really want to try Dungeons and Dragons, to say that they've played it.
    Yeah, seems pretty crap to say "okay, we'll play some D&D" and then don't play any D&D.

    It's actually a really good intro game (all editions.) 3e is a little harder to get started with due to feat selection and skill points. But you could pregen that?
  • edited April 2012

    Your friend should run Basic D&D - possibly using the Labyrinth Lord retro-clone which is free, if he doesn't have the Basic Rules handy. He should then use some of the One-Page Dungeons. Some of my favorites: Den of Villainy (2010), Vermin Hollow (2011), Egg of the Gazolba (2011). Dyson Logos has some great maps, but I feel that he "stocks" the maps too aggressively (i.e., probably too many monsters and not enough benign-but-weird stuff) for my personal taste.
  • The best solution is for him to run something he likes and feels comfortable running. No use trying to play to what they like when they have no experience and wont be able to give him any informed opinions, especially if it means he'll have to be learning how to run a game differently while trying to teach the game.
  • @Andy & Jason: Yes, I do suspect that they want to play it so that they can say they've played D&D before. That's why I wanted to to come ask you guys to be sure about recommending whether to try convincing them otherwise or sticking to the D&D, and overall reaction seems to say to stick to a D&D (with a pretty good split here between 3e and basic). And yeah, he probably could pregen it if they don't have particular guys in mind, so I bet he'll ask them if they already have particular characters they want. I feel that they'd want to do chargen themselves though if they want to go about saying, "Yeah, I've played D&D before."

    I'm going to send him a link here so he can see all this stuff for himself and let him decide for himself, but this is all great info and he should be able to make a pretty informed decision from it, so thanks guys!

    Also @Vernon: I definitely agree, but I think that my friend is willing and would even be comfortable running either the old-school or the new, despite a lack of actual experience with the older. Of course this will still factor into his decision, so thanks.

    @James: Thanks for bringing those to my attention, I hope he checks th links! He doesn't know anything about one-page dungeons, so I'm posting the link for when he shows up. Thanks.
    One-Page Dungeons: http://campaignwiki.org/wiki/DungeonMaps/One_Page_Dungeon_Contest

    Thanks all, we both appreciate it! So, I have a follow-up question:
    If he chooses to run it as 3e D&D, do you have any advice on making it a less tactical experience?
  • Either run D&D as you know it, or tell them that you don't know how to GM a game of D&D they would find appealing. That's the truth, after all, if the guy doesn't know how to run a version of D&D that would appeal to these people.

    On the other hand, if the guy thinks he can run old-school, then it would make the most sense to do basic D&D or a retroclone - those are the culturally most influential editions, so if you just want to play D&D to see what it's like, then that's the short crash course. Mentzer would be my pick, but that's just me. 3rd edition fails as a beginner-level game and 4th is what it is; of course both can be tricked out, I'm sure, but if the prospective GM thinks that these games are not right for the situation, then surely he knows best.

    If I had to do this with the 3rd edition and the kind of hipsters I know, I'd... fuck it, I'd just throw away most of the rules and use one of the 3rd-inspired retro games. Microlite does the sort of running around the 3rd edition mechanics that I used to do over several years a decade back, and it's sleek enough to facilitate an old school experience while still using 3rd edition mechanics and math.

    If I were absolutely convinced that I wanted to do 3rd edition, perhaps because I was convinced that this is what D&D should be about, I'd play it straight: ask players to develop character backgrounds, perhaps a shared childhood story for their adventurers, then a GM-developed campaign arc that reveals a fated destiny for these compatriots in arms in defense of the kingdom, the race and the universe against an ancient evil. I would definitely attempt to encourage the players to fawn on their characters, this is key to snowflake play: they need to feel that their characters are unique, beautiful and heroic individuals capable of straightening out everything out there. The game will or won't hook the players on the strength of their ability to fall in love with their character visions. Play the rules selectively loose: a player who wants to understand the rules should feel that he can rely on his character's abilities, but one who just wants to narrate fun stuff should have the GM handle all the nitpicky details, with a plenty of "yes" and "yes, but". Cheat like a horse dealer on the dice to provide a sense of danger without succumbing to downers like character death; characters should only die in meaningful situations.
  • Play Dungeon World. That's "playing D&D" to anyone not in the know. Or play Basic.

    Either way, they probably want goblins, skeletons, an evil wizard and a dragon in a dark dungeon -- the classic D&D aesthetic is the important thing. I suspect the "snowflake fantasy" thing Eero talked about would be a huge flop.
  • Pick any edition of D&D.
    Make pre-generated characters.
    Figure out what stuff is super complicated (In 4th Edition, one answer is: The Fighter).
    Make sure to gloss over that stuff or omit it, where possible.
    Play D&D.

    Afterwards, say, "So, that was D&D. It's not my favourite game, but it's pretty cool. What did you guys think? You want to try something different next time - maybe a little more modern and new-skool?"
  • I agree with Harper. Dungeon World was WAY easier for my New-To-RPGs friend when he joined our group, and he had a blast. I only too well recall the looks of confusion from new players to the arcane tome that is most editions of D&D, though I suspect that if any of the OSR basic-clones are much better laid out than the originals, they'd be pretty easy too.
  • Whatever game they play, make it as much like this video as possible. That's probably what his friends mean when they say "we want to play D&D."
  • All games can be played StoryTell Style, if your their GM then make it a D&D which ever Ed story tell.
    Heck, Roleplaying mechanics are just that mechanics used to give you a point of reference for a story. You as the GM don't have play heavy on the rules, and you don't have use all the rules and like every other game I have ever play you can use house rule.

    All of this you can tell your players. Suggested way of doing so: "Look guys I don't think D&D is your style of game, but I can cater to what I think you want with some house rules that will make it more fun for you and me. If you like the style maybe we can move over, later, to a more appropriate game system."

    You can adapt D&D to fit other gaming styles/genre's all you need to do is think outside the box. (yes, yes more work for you, but you don't GM cause it's easy.)

    Eero Tuovinen's suggestions have allot of Merit, and probably put more eloquently than me, to add to his stuff. You make the game fun, that's what a GM does, so make it fun when they trust you and it is a matter of Trust; then you can bring them into the unknown.
  • @nightweave: That's true, even things like 4e can be adapted (who was it that did that huge pile of 4e stuff a couple weeks back? I think it was Johnz). But some make it easier than others to play Story Games-style.

    And John and Userclone, you've done a good job of showing the other side to what Andy and Jason were saying and why I asked about it.

    To be totally honest, if it was me (though my friend might feel different) I'd only be debating between Basic and Dungeon World. 3e can be done, and is familiar to us, but Basic is both still D&D and matches the type of feel they seem to want. As long as it's not too hard to comprehend how to GM or explain (since I don't know, I don't actually have the rules), I'd probably go with that and then, if they enjoy that, suggest trying out Dungeon World (in the way Mcdaldno mentioned).

    I could do it like Eero and nightweave suggest, but I think it'd be easier to just use the more adapted systems, at least to start with. Using a modified variation of systems like that might be better used if trying to craft a specific experience that no system is already perfect for - namely, it'd probably be best for a medium level of tactics, less than 3e but more than Basic.

    Thanks again guys. I sent him the link and hope to hear back from him later, and I'll let you folks know what you eventually picks.
  • ...there is always that "magical" land between AD&D and 2e called...RAVENLOFT. LOL
  • Note to my friend: Oh, wow. Hey, uh, Kris? If you're reading this, GO READ JOHNZO'S THREAD.

    Yeah, thanks for sharing that! It's really informative, full of great stuff. Also, John Harper's comment of about how what they ask for isn't necessarily what they want perfectly fits this situation I think. I wouldn't have thought this was a very common situation, it's pretty funny to me that yours was so amazingly similar.

    And Chris, that's true. Ravenloft is indeed there, but I think it's a very different beast with regard to the experience. As far as the balance of tactics, mood, and simplicity it might fit (I do not recall the original Ravenloft rules), but it doesn't deliver the over-the-top, classic D&D feel that I think we're looking for. Now that it's mentioned though I'm sure my friend'll check it out.
  • Huh, I had the same thing happen to me too. Johnzo and I talked a lot about it, and since my 'noobs' were avid boardgamers, they really got behind the tactical skirmish game that is 4e. Which was cool and we are having a blast with the maps and minis and tiles and whole Skyrim 'sandboxy' quest xp analogy.

    On the other hand, I have been playing Dungeon World for the last year or so with two mates when we go camping, whose prior knowledge of roleplaying as a pastime was synonymous with D&D, so when we played DW 'round the campfire, the boys told everyone when we came home that we were playing 'D&D'. So I can totally go with Mr. Harpers suggestion that this method of introduction to 'D&D' works like a charm. It helps a little to have a few D&D rule books lying around for visual and colour reference though! I particularly like the digest essentials stuff. I reference them all the time when playing DW, especially the monster manual. I also use the Dungeon Building guidelines in my ancient Moldvay rules B51-4 to stock out my dungeons for some lonely DM fun AFTER I have developed the major fronts and dangers, works like a charm. I generally steal a blank Dyson Logos map and go from there. As Jen says, DW is effectively hipster D&D, which it sounds like the group wants.

    Dingledale AP :)
  • Max,
    The advice I give is this, play the version of D&D that you love most. That enthusiasm can carry a player through a less than perfect game and into territory you enjoy batter. If you play a version you don't know or like, there will be no way to come out the other end alive. the first game the noobies in my group were exposed to was a high XP (700+) campaign of Exalted 1e. This is by far the most complicated game we have player before or since. But we were all super enthusiastic about it and it carried the group forward long enough to try games that they were enthusiastic about. Also, don't underestimate your friends. If their enthusiasm and the GMs enthusiasm is high enough, they c an learn HERO system as their first game and love it. It just takes a level of excitement to pay off the hard work of learning the rules and genre.
    Dave M
  • I'd do original D&D because otherwise character creation takes forever.
  • edited April 2012
    Well, I fully support playing the edition you love the most, but the question comes up: What if you don't know an edition very well? Maybe you DO love it the most and just don't know it yet. I see the wisdom in not trying out something you don't know all that well on new players, but I do think that my friend will be enthusiastic and excited *regardless* of game.

    An aye, Bret, I can see the merit in that. How about compared to Dungeon World though? From what I can tell they'd take about the same amount of time. Either way, I agree about not taking too long for character creation - if it's 3e, I'd definitely say to use pregens.

    EDIT: Whoops, meant to mention to Noofy that I'm a big fan of a couple of the things you said, as well as that AP. I love comparing some of it to Skyrim - it will definitely appeal to a lot of gamers minds, and that page in Moldvay looks very cool. Also, I'd never heard of Dyson Logos's maps before, they're really great, so thanks!
  • That seems deceptive to me. I mean, the one thing that they're extremely clear that they do want is to play D&D. And yeah Dungeon World is D&D-esque and D&D-inspired, but if they say they want to play D&D then running not-D&D seems sneaky to me. I don't think it's some huge ethical transgression to run Dungeon World, but if they are loudly and enthusiastically shouting for D&D then by god I'd give it to them.
  • I'd agree with it sounding deceptive, but I personally am somewhat swayed by the idea that, since they're relying on popular culture's vision of D&D, what they think they want and the experience they'd like to have aren't necessarily the same thing. I would never run DW and CALL it D&D to them without telling them of course (that's just dishonest), but I would try to let them know that they may be making a mistake with regards to which game they actually want. But really I'm leaving this up to my friend to decide based on the advice here.

    But, specifically with regard to speed of character creation, do original D&D and DW take about the same time?
  • Basic D&D (Moldvay) has super-fast character creation. Shopping for equipment can slow things down a little. Also, picking spells (let them pick from the spell names, instead of trying to read all of them).
  • edited April 2012
    If you do 3e, you can still keep it simple.

    Limit their choices ahead of time. Figure out what sorts of characters they are interested in before they show up. Then give a couple of good choices to choose from. Weed out the bad choices for them up front.

    For each class, give them 2-3 skill setups that make sense. Give them 2-3 feat sets that make sense. Give them 2-3 gear packages that make sense. Give them 2-3 spell sets that make sense. Have them pick one of each and be good to go.

    There's lots and lots of crappy, suboptimal choices available in 3e. Just weed those out ahead of time. Once you do that work for them, the rest should be easy.

    That way, they're still making real, meaningful choices. They're just making them from a highlights list.
  • @John Harper: Thanks for clearing that up, never really used Basic so I hadn't used it and thus wasn't sure quite how fast it was. And it's nice to hear that you can just pick from names without worrying if they're going to be awful choices, that always made me take so much time preparing spells in 3e.

    @Rob: That's some awesome help, thanks. If he goes with 3e, I hope he follows that because it makes a lot of sense and would really simplify the character creation issue, though he might want to mention that this is taking the pitfalls out of the process that would make the game no fun so they know that a slight modification has been made.
    Any similar pieces of wisdom for removing some of the heavy tactics from 3e? I know it isn't nearly as in-depth as 4e, but it still has quite a bit. Perhaps take a more story-game approach to spells or something, drop them from their highly complex forms in 3e to older edition simplicity or something. And of course, I'm guessing it'd be alright to just wing the grapple/sunder/disarm whatevers that require so much rulebook lookup - I know we always just winged (wung?) it, just because it was so opaque.
    Thanks for those pieces, very helpful!
  • Posted By: horn_head_oBut, specifically with regard to speed of character creation, do original D&D and DW take about the same time?
    DW is probably just a touch slower because of the Bonds, but that might even out as I think it'd be easier to explain. Moldvay has you buying gear though, if your players get into that DW will certainly be faster (as of Beta 1 of the full game gear is from a list, I'd be happy to send a pdf).

    As far as honesty and games that are D&D vs games that feel like D&D: oh man, I have no clue. That's a tough call.

    I echo the Moldvay or DW recommendation though. Get right to the core of the adventuring experience, that's most likely what they're looking for.
  • Oh, that's true. So I guess it really hinges on whether they're shopping or if my friend makes a couple lists of options (in the fashion described by Rob). And I've already got the Beta, it's great :)
    (as a side note I did bunch of annotations and pre-game commentaries on the Beta text on my blog, since I know you guys are looking for feedback, it's linked in my profile if you're interested).

    But back to the topic, I agree, it's a tough call. I'm a bit surprised by how split the responses are, though it's all good advice. I definitely personally agree with picking Moldvay or DW instead of 3e, for exactly that reason.
  • Posted By: horn_head_oBased on what my friend told me they said, they're looking for the sort of zany, over-the-top style D&D, which I'm feeling a lot in Dungeon World, and I've heard it similar to old-school D&D.
    Yes and no, no, no. It's zany and over-the-top but if they were looking for that, they're almost certainly not expecing old school D&D. That's kind of like someone saying, "I've never seen a movie, but I want something ground breaking and political. The most mind blowing movie ever." And then I show them Birth of a Nation.

    Old D&D was made for the lifestyles and the times of 1970s wargamers. If these people were into that style of game, they would already be roleplayers. Or, if not, they'd be hardcore gamers, EVE online fans, or something else with a lot of numbers and planning required for success.

    If he's going to do D&D, any style, he should probably make characters for them. I can't really objectively measure 4E, although that's the most beginner friendly - it's still a poor choice for completely new introductions compared to many indie games. Dungeon World is probably a better introduction - although I hesitate as I think it relies a LOT on being nostalgic for old school gaming (without wanting an old school game).

    All in all, he should make sure they really want to play, and give them an indication of what they're getting into by showing them some examples of the rules or character sheets. And then he should run the version of D&D that he knows the best and is most comfortable and flexible with. He's going to be most capable of running a version he's comfortable with (sounds like 3E) and respond to their interest or frustration quickly. If he's trying to unlearn D&D to run an older system that he's not quite comfortable with, then that sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.

    Show them the game by showing his favorite bits about the game. Don't try to please the audience with something unfamiliar and risky. Chances are if he's having fun, they will.
  • edited April 2012
    So I'm not going to turn this into a threadbattle! But I know people who are right now playing Moldvay D&D as their never-before-played-RPGs introduction to gaming and they are having an absolute blast, and they are not at all like the type of person you describe. They are your average, gaming curious folks. So I think you're wacky.
  • Two anecdotes: I'll second Bret that Moldvay still works as an introduction, I've seen it. I don't think all those kids who bought D&D during the boom period were all 1970s war gamers. It works.

    Second anecdote: DW works fine without the nostalgia, one of the first games I ran (at GPNW nearly two years ago) had a non-D&D gamer who was probably the most into it at the table. Adam and I are both young; I'm only 26 and 3E was the first D&D I played. So nostalgia is an odd thing to have drive us as we both came to early-D&D as a choice, not the version we grew up with.

    To my mind Moldvay is one of the clearest, most focused versions of D&D. DW is a tribute to that kind of D&D, but a little more frontloaded, and with the advantage of years and years of game design to build on.

    Granted, I am totally biased on both of those, so take an entire mountain of salt with my opinions.
  • Also, when we played Moldvay as early teens, we ignored a lot of the awesome focused ruleset within and discarded what we didn't 'get into' about the game, with the concept of system matters the furthest reasoning from our fledgling roleplaying minds as we did so. Coming back to Moldvay and playing B/X D&D as intended, without the overwhelming influence of AD&D or Dungeon or 2nd Ed, is such a breath of fresh air. This is the epiphany of the OSR. Basic D&D RAW gives you an experience unlike most and quite satisfying for a broad audience. Dungeon World pays homage to the spirit of adventure advocated on the back of the redbox, retains the tropes therein and does so with thoroughly modern sensibilities. They are both brilliant games in their own right, and do the 'adventure thang'.

    I'd go with Moldvay and play a dungeon, and make sure there is a dragon! If they dig it well, they can keep on keeping on. If they are a bit meh, then play Dungeonworld next time and see what they think. Its not like you are restricted to a one and only ruleset. I'm sure the gang would be as keen as the rest of us to give a different system a shot.
  • I would definitely say that nostalgia isn't necessary - we don't have any old-school experience at all (let along experience from when that old-school was still considered new-school) and we've been really enjoying it. And hey, maybe they ARE already roleplayers and just haven't discovered that there's games to use it with.

    I gotta say though Jogesh, those last three sentences are awesome advice.

    And as for which game to use, I think you hit it Noofy, that's what sounds right to me. And yesss, there must be a dragon! Can't go giving them "real D&D" and leave out the second D! And I say to make it a Red one, fire breathing! He can tell them about how we color-code our dragons later.
    Actually, how do you throw a dragon at the party in Basic if the heroes are Level 1? Does it need rewriting as a lower level creature? Because as-is, the lowest one has 6 HD. This is my own lack of knowledge about the levels and balance of Basic.

    In fact, does anyone have a good reference or cheat sheet on what's really important in Basic, or know the kind of stuff that'd go on one? If my friend uses it, the copy will be digital so it'd probably be helpful to know the important parts. And I'd like to know for myself as well. This is just in addition to/on the side of the original questions.
  • Posted By: horn_head_oActually, how do you throw a dragon at the party in Basic if the heroes are Level 1? Does it need rewriting as a lower level creature? Because as-is, the lowest one has 6 HD.
    The method of it is to just put the dragon there, make sure there is advance warning, enable the players to find out how tough a "dragon" is exactly (NPCs to talk to, Int checks, a layout that enables a chance encounter and a living retreat, whatever), and make sure that they know that in old school D&D you're not guaranteed to win every fight, but are rather supposed to judge for yourself. If after all these steps the players decide to go encounter the dragon, you've established a compact where it's not the GM's problem whether the dragon is too hard or whatever - the players chose to go for it, they knew that it might be too tough, they should have planned better if they lose.

    For what it's worth, after soon-to-be 80 sessions our crew could totally take down a 6 HD dragon in our campaign with 1st level characters given sufficient motivation and a few hundred gold pieces for equipment. I would not expect this feat of green players, but I would still have the dragon because old school D&D is not itself if all challenges are intended to be winnable. The dragon can be there as a tantalizing presence in the dungeon, and something to bring the players back: given that they succeeded in their first foray, do they want to play a second session and perhaps try to take out that dragon they deemed too hard the first time around? Or if they're chaotic risk-takers who got their first party killed by going to meet the dragon face-on, do they want to roll up a new set of adventurers and see if they can take on the dragon now that they know what they're doing.
  • That's very true. I suppose that an issue I personally have (though I know this afflicts many - Chris Perkins has written several times in his WotC column about it) is that the concept that the DM won't put anything too tough for us in the path is ingrained in my mind. I know it's not true, and I'm working on it, but he'll definitely need to let the players know that. Hey, maybe their lack of experience will actually benefit them here, no pre-established assumptions stuck in their head (mechanical ones, at least).

    That was more or less exactly what I was looking for, so thanks.
  • Yeah, it's a given in an old school version of the game that the players are responsible for the welfare of their characters. This changes in 3rd edition particularly, and is biggest reason I can see for choosing one or other sort of game to play: if you believe that the GM is responsible for the party getting "satisfactory" outcomes from their adventures, then the basic D&D toolset will be merely mediocre for your purposes, and using e.g. 3rd edition with its encounter challenge ratings and other assumptions about game content might be better. The simplest of things, like how many combats are faced per day and whether combats are even desired, are entirely different between these games.

    What I want to say is that these games are more different from each other than they're often given credit for. It's not just mechanical differences, and I think that it's entirely valid for somebody to specifically choose 3rd edition over the to my mind superior basic D&D because of these fundamental differences on what the agenda of the game is. 3rd edition provides a balance of sorts, and it's written specifically from the viewpoint that adventuring is fun and profitable and satisfying. Older D&D is horrifying, absurd survival struggle, unless you go out of your way to change how it plays. If your friend finds it a problem that the new players might get into the game and have all of their characters gruesomely and entertainingly killed underground, then old school is not the better choice.
  • edited April 2012
    It's going to be a one-shot session, right? Ending with a small dragon is perfect.

    Give them opportunities to get some stuff that will help with the fight if they use it cleverly, like a potion of invisibility or something. Or a Mace +2 vs dragons called EggSmasher.

    And suggest to the GM that they hold off on a breath weapon attack until about the 3rd round, after the players have had a chance to put some hurt on it.

    At that point - bring the pain. An excellent ending would be if 1, maybe 2 players got dropped in the last fight, and then they beat the dragon. Holding off a little with the breath weapon should be a good way to make that outcome likely.

    After you've planned for likely, let the dice roll as they may. A TPK in a first game is fun too.

    Suggest to the GM that he hand each player whose character dies a beer as a thank you for being a good sport. TPK = beers for everyone. Yay!
  • Encourage alternate means of encountering the dragon too. What does the dragon covet? (treasure, peace and solitude, intelligent company, maidens) What can the PC's offer? What does it protect? (eggs, treasure, a wounded mate). There are great rules for subduing a dragon on B34 too, along with the associated problems of dealing with a cowed dragon. Awesome stuff!
  • Posted By: McdaldnoPick any edition of D&D.
    Make pre-generated characters.
    Figure out what stuff is super complicated (In 4th Edition, one answer is: The Fighter).
    Make sure to gloss over that stuff or omit it, where possible.
    Play D&D.

    Afterwards, say, "So, that was D&D. It's not my favourite game, but it's pretty cool. What did you guys think? You want to try something different next time - maybe a little more modern and new-skool?"
    ^This. So if he's familiar with 3E but not with Classic, he should run 3E. Pre-generated characters are a must because character generation in 3E is a pain in the ass for anyone unfamiliar with the gameplay (to say the least). Shouldn't be too difficult to find some evocative pre-generated 3E characters, now should it. Then, by all means, do run a dungeon.
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