Sunday, May 6, 2012

Dungeons & Chimneys: Noobz & Prohs, Or The Other Way Round

New players are just great.

Don't misunderstand me: I'm not being sarcastic. Honestly, players with absolutely no experience in RPGs are the best role-players at the end of the day, because they lack everything that regular videogamers expect of an RPG. Experienced players often forget how to think as their characters and tend to commit meta-gaming — which is not very convenient in a D&D game.

Let me show you a couple examples.

One of my players (let's call him Player A) has been playing Zelda, Final Fantasy, MMORPGs and countless other videogames for years. He is an expert when it comes to get quest items, defeat enemies and use the right skill on the right moment.

Nevertheless, he is a complete noob when trying to get information from NPCs. Videogames hardly ever consider diplomacy or dialogs with other characters, and when they do, there are very few options (if any at all) and the characters tend to be quite plain, emotionless. They are just NPCs, not real people with their personalities.

This is different in D&D. In my campaign, half of the NPCs the characters have come across think that Player A is a lunatic drunk. He has been threatened to be taken to the authorities in more than one occasion. And two. And it won't be the last. He tried to bluff the blacksmith in order to sell him an axe for a ridicuous price. He pretended to be a god in front of that god's cleric. He tried to bribe the High Priest's helper with — I still can't believe it — a pound of turnips. He insisted in buying a bottle of disgusting soup to "use it as a weapon".

I can understand this, or most of this. In videogames, every single item is somehow useful. Even apparently useless items can be sold for gold. Not in D&D. Here, turnips are just turnips. You eat them. That's it.

On the other hand, we have Player B. Player B told me he wasn't a great fan of videogames. I don't know whether he has played any RPGs beore, but it's his very first time in D&D. As such, I explained to him the basic rules, specially combat rules. For non-combat situations, I told him to look at his skills just to know what his character excels at. Besides from that, I told him: "You can do anything. Just think what your character would do and say it out loud."

That's the core rule of this game. Playing your role. "I would ask the captain about Lucius, in order to check if he gets nervous when talking about the subject." That is an excellent choice. Much better than "I'll kill the pirate and search his body for clues afterwards." Dead men don't tell tales, remember that.

Anyway, I'm not saying combat situations should be avoided. It's part of the game, of course. Unfortunately, in combat situations, beginners show they are beginners — which is perfectly ok. Combat rules can be complicated, and new players usually rely on what they know, avoiding changing anyhing. I'm sure everybody here will remember me saying: "I throw a dagger" again and again. "Can I use my longbow, please?" is another sentence that I'll remember as an example of this, although it's not mine.

One day, I found out about flanking enemies, and I remembered I had a light crossbow (quite more effective than a dagger at medium range). I learnt about grappling and some other new and interesting strategies. I didn't try them all, but now I know they are there if needed. Probably so do my players, and they shall use them when the time comes, but I don't see the problem in reminding them every now and then.

In conclusion, D&D is quite unlike other RPGs. Having a great deal of experience on those doesn't guarantee you'll stand out here. It helps, sure, but don't look down the nose at new players, for they could outrole-play you.


  1. And what about player C?

    PD: TURNIPS!!!

  2. Player C is in an intermediate state between A and B. I don't have any major comments about him for the time being.

  3. I guess I'm Player B, am I not? Fucking noob. Looking forward to new adventure and fighting in the "temple/dungeon/filthy basement", though.

    See ya!