Someone’s first session of D&D is very important.
Like anything else, that first impression is huge, and if you want them to enjoy the game, it’s critical that you get that first time at the table just right.
Whether it’s a daughter, a nephew, a co-worker, a friend or a significant other, you ought to plan for that first session by making everything welcoming and fun.
We know more than one person who was so turned off by their first D&D or Pathfinder session that it became their only session. Ever.
Here are some tips to (hopefully) turn that interested player into a longtime fan.
Ask them what they’re into. Most come to fantasy RPGs wanting, well, your standard fantasy story. But if they’re more into horror, you might try a horror adventure. If they’re more into sci-fi, you might try doing Starfinder instead of Pathfinder. If they’re way into “Game of Thrones,” you might want to try to slay some dragons.
Answer all their questions. We’ve been playing for a long time, so we get how the rules work. A newbie might get confused about attacks of opportunity, reach, skill checks and all the other multitude of crazy rules we all take for granted. When they ask how things work or where they find something on their character sheet, pause and help them out.
Be patient. In the same vein as above, inexperienced players might take a while to select their spells, make an attack or otherwise figure out what they’ll do on their turn. The more patience and helpfulness you have, the better experience it will be for everyone.
Start with an introductory adventure or a one-off. Rather than dumping a new guy into your long-running campaign, maybe start with something fresh. Introductory adventures are usually designed to be friendly to new players and low-level characters, and it will let them ease into the game. If you do want to bring your pal into your campaign, perhaps take a break from the big story and do a single session adventure that can similarly ease them into playing.
Use a pre-generated character. Creating a character helps someone understand how their character (and by extension, the game itself) works, but a character sheet, with all its empty boxes and bonuses, is incredibly intimidating. The first time around, it’s usually easier to give them a sheet and just let them enjoy the game.
Help them choose a character. Ask the new player what kind of character they want to play. Their answer could be something specific like a class or a race or it could be more vague such as a favorite movie or comic character. Then help guide them toward something that fits.
Let them have some of the glory. It’s their first game. Let them take big shots on the dragon or unlock the treasure chest or take lead on searching for traps. The more they’re involved in the game, the more they’ll be invested in the game.
Only explain rules when you need to. There’s no need to fill a new player’s head with rules. Ask them what they’d like to do and then guide them through that action. That’s better than overwhelming them with options and complicated rules explanations every time their turn comes up.
Don’t worry too much about roleplaying. Acting in front of a bunch of people might be intimidating for a newbie. Let them enjoy the story and work through some combat. If they’re a natural role player, that side of them will come out when it needs to. If not, they’ll get the hang of it after watching the more experienced players get into it.
The adventures included in our Dungeon Crates make great one-off adventures that are easy to bring new players into. You can modify the difficulty of the adventures as well to start the players at any level you like.