Monday, December 21, 2015

Don't Fear the Noobs

I appreciate that there will always be some who feel that the role-playing game/D&D needs to stay accessible for the general audience, particularly in the game books that are sold in stores. Frankly, however, I can’t say I care much about that any more.

Yesterday I wrote a post about taking the time to talk to genre-savvy folk about house rules. I’d like to take a moment and express myself regarding complete noobies who have never played a game before: they’re no problem at all.

Oh, of course not every noob likes the game. It’s a strange culture, it’s odd to compare a Saturday night of gaming with Saturday night at the bar and certainly it becomes a ‘thing’ that the new player can’t talk about what happened with the co-workers on Monday. I have lost players in the past because they found themselves thinking too much about the game (because they really liked it) only to feel isolated by the experience because talking about it to family or acquaintances was just ‘weird.’

Even now I get someone who makes the connection between D&D and Satan-worship. That campaign decades ago was very, very pervasive.

So a noob will come out and play a few games and feel pressure to quit because they’re having a good time. That happens.

On the other hand, if the noob possesses a strong sense of individuality, doesn’t identify too strongly with the opinions of ordinary people and has the imagination (and patience) to apply themselves to the game, I usually discover that they’re infatuation gets a good, solid grip on their psyche. A passionate grip, even.

This is why I can never take seriously those people who claim that table-top RPGs are declining. When I see fifty people in a room (as I did recently, at the local gaming club) playing in a manner I would describe as absolute crap-design (5th edition tournament/pre-generated style play), I don’t worry about a good DM finding players. There are millions of people with the right qualifications (individual, imaginative) who have simply never been given the opportunity to play. That’s a tremendous, untapped resource, one that exists among the common people, that is nearly always overlooked by the community.

It’s really just a matter of reaching out to people we already know and encouraging them to give the game a chance. We don’t, however, because . . . well, some of us feel shame.

I ran into that in Edmonton this year and Toronto last year. There are a surprising number of people who approach this sort of gaming with a great deal of shyness and doubt; they only know what’s been depicted in the media (not good) or by journalists (exceptionally simplified), and this has encouraged many DMs to believe that role-playing is better done with a small group of people we can trust. Reaching out to others would be embarrassing. This is why a lot of games break up when the participants get to university; it just seems too childish to approach people at 19 or 20 about a game we played in high school.

So, no new blood and the old group disintegrates because of life. Leading many to think, might as well quit. Better that than putting it on the line and finding new players – or worse, introducing new people to the game.


  1. I always thought it easier to introduce a new player to my game - with its custom rules and outlook - than an RPG experienced player. This puts it in a different light: neither is easier beacause each requires a unique approach. The trick is in keeping the player.

  2. This post was just what I needed. I recently moved, and haven't been able to get a group together for the last few months. From certain experiences in the last few years I had decided not to play with anyone I wasn't already good friends with. However, this post reminded me that any issues I had were with experenced gamers, and any non gamers I had introduced to my games were my best players. As a result, I think I will start a group of complete 'noobs'.

  3. I do love introducing D&D (or role-playing in general) to noobs. They invariably enjoy it and often approach play with imagination and a serious mind which, for me, makes a much better experience (for everyone).

    What's tougher is the noob who's played a lot of "role-playing" video games...sometimes these bring preconceived notions that shortcut their own play/enjoyment. However, their experience means they identify some of the genre tropes faster and have an easier learning curve.

    I don't fear noobs...I LOVE noobs. The hardest part about noobs is just getting them to sit down in the first place.

  4. I second everything both you and have JB said. For me, college has actually been a boon to finding new players, if only because my high school was so tiny (graduating senior class was 36). There's been a mix of complete newbies, people who've done other editions, and one exceptionally knowledgeable long-time gamer.

    Granted, some versions are better for introducing the hobby as a whole to those who have never played; this is one reason I've been using B/X of late, as AD&D (or, God forbid, 3.5e) tends to intimidate potential players. I'm not sure if this is due to laziness (most people can't be assed to read a ten-page videogame manual, let alone a 100+ page rulebook), fear of excessive complexity (in the vein of Spawn of Fashan), or both.


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