Teaching new games to an old group …

485236I think a lot of GMs love to try new stuff: new games, new rules, new campaigns. But more often than not players are hesitant to try something new. Some groups never want to adopt new rules, getting them to leave the well-trodden paths is like pulling teeth.

As I wrote in the comments of yesterday’s post, there’s only one thing you can do when you want to try something new: don’t expect them to buy rulebooks and learn rules. You have to do the heavy lifting all by yourself. Learn the rules, teach them to your players, and help them to create characters. When you expect your players to take initiative you can often wait until hell freezes over.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not scolding players for this. Buying new games might be expensive, learning rules costs time, and if not everyone is happy with the new game, it was a waste of time and effort. Not everyone is willing to take that risk.

But there are ways to make the transition to a new game easier for your group. Yes, this involves work on the GMs part again, but it’s worth it.

If there’s a free version of the rules, a quickstart PDF or something similar, print it out and make one copy for each of your players. Talk with them about the new game you plan to run and hand them the quickstart rules you prepared. If the player in question is not so much into rules, try not to focus on the rules but sell him or her on the background of the game in question. Tell your players what you love about that game and why you want to run it.

When it comes to creating characters don’t ask them to create them on their own, but offer your help and advice. If they have special wishes try to grant them a few of those if they are not too abusive. Remember that you want them to feel good about the new game. Try to avoid “No” but try to employ the “Yes, but…” method instead.

I have to admit that I am quite lucky with the groups I’ve run games for. They were always willing to try new things, and in some cases they even bought and read the rules themselves. But that’s not the norm. Chances are high that your group consists of players hesitant to change. The best way to get them to agree to give something new a try is to ease them in. Expecting them to dive in head first will usually end in disappointment on your part.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

5 thoughts on “Teaching new games to an old group …”

  1. I agree that you should not expect the other to buy the books. I have shared a “Lite” version of GURPS with my players in hopes that they at least look at it. I do not expect that they will look at it but I do hope.

    I also try to get them interested in the genre and possibilities of the system. I agree that the rules are not always the best to show the merits of the system. That is something that should come later.

  2. I agree that it’s quite difficult to introduce a new game to the gaming group. I’m currently trying to get my gaming group interested in Eclipse Phase, and although most of them like EP they prefer to play the most classic games… Seems like I’ll have to convince them a bit more… Thanks for the post!

  3. When I start a new game with players I will always sit down and make characters with them. Usually one-on-one.

    Some times I’ll talk to them about the world and ask them what kind of character interests them and then make their characters for them while we discuss things, always getting their input at each step of the creation process. This seems to work well and gets them invested in the character without having to stress out about mechanics.

    Once they have a character I’ll make up some sample bad guys and just run them through a few sample combat rounds, or hacking tests, or something like that to get them looking at their sheet and familiar with the numbers and the system.

    When everyone shows up for the first session everyone has a character made that they are now somewhat familiar with and have some rolls under their belt so aren’t going into things blind.

    For a first session I usually start things off in-media-res with a straight forward obstacle: get out of the jail cell, catch up to the car, kill all the enemies you’re assaulting…etc, which gets everyone rolling right away and into the action.

  4. Hey Stargazer,

    This post made me reflect on the processes I employ when attempting to teach a new game to my occasionally change-resistant group.

    I started looking into individual learning styles and trying to see if tailoring the first session of a new game to match my players’ learning styles would yield better results than previously experienced.

    I thought dumped the idea over here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.