Thursday, October 17, 2013

Defining RPGs for a Non-Gamer

So I was talking to two friends last night and my hobby came up (while discussing model UN, which I never was involved in, but I did once help run a Federal Government Simulation once - GMing is GMing, really.) I said that I generally don't look for people who are involved in my hobby to play with, but instead recruit my friends to play games with me. Also, that I played regularly, running a fantasy game. This almost immediately resulted in me being asked they could play. Since once lives very close to our host's house (lactaully, closer than I live to his house) nearby, I invited said friend to join. I invited both, but one lives too far to join.

But this person had never played RPGs. In fact, I said "Do you know D&D?" - No. So I basically explained in a very short version what it was.

Then I wrote down that description and emailed it along with an invite to show up next game session. Here is word-for-word what I wrote to explain RPGs, and what kind of RPG I run.

"Like I said [tonight], you play the game by making up an imaginary avatar that fits into the scenario we set out to play. One person referees the game, and basically acts as a neutral arbiter for everything else in the imaginary scenario. The ref tells you what's happening in the world around your character. You play the part of your character and determine what he or she says, does, wants, reacts, etc. - you can attempt just about anything a real person could. To find out the results of things you try to do, we use dice. Dice rolls compared the abilities of the character and the difficulty of the task let the referee determine how your actions work out. Or the ref can just rule on what happens without a roll of the dice. You keep playing the same character, who can develop over time - get better, learn new abilities, and so on.

As for the scenario, basically the way we're playing this game is that there is a mysterious ruined castle outside of a city, in a fantasy world full of wizards, knights, shady thieves, barbarian warriors, etc. and monsters. Underneath the castle is a series of tunnels of unknown size and depth. In those tunnels are both monsters and treasure - and the players take the part of adventurous folks willing to fight monsters to get the treasure. It's pretty simple stuff, but it's great for a pickup game we can play with whomever shows up on a given Sunday."

I'm rather proud of how that came out. I never have to explain RPGs to people who have never gamed before, so I didn't have a spiel handy. I said basically the same thing as in the first paragraph, above, and then wrote it down quickly before I forgot the gist of what I'd said. The second paragraph was email only, because I originally intended to just link this blog but decided none of my session summaries really would clear things up for a non-gamer.

Also, I mentioned there would be drinks and pie. Well, not pie. There is never pie. Sadly.

But if this happens to work out, I have a new player for my GURPS game. I do think my beer-and-dungeons DF game is a bit harsh of an introduction to gaming. So I also offered to run something else if fantasy seemed uninteresting. But hopefully it sounds fun, and we've got another gamer to toss into the mix. We'll see. At least I have a spiel out of it, if nothing else!

And yes, I do teach new gamers GURPS. Of course. Teach what you know, love, and use!


  1. I've had the pleasure of teaching 5 out of 8 of the players in my game how to play GURPS. Coming in, only one was a 'true rpg gamer', two had minimal rpg experience, 1 had only played computer based rpgs and the last one's only gaming experience consisted of games like monopoly and uno. I love teaching GURPS too!

    1. I think I taught GURPS to most of my group. At least half of the current batch - let's see . . . the players of Vryce, Dryst, Chuck, Borriz, and Honus all first played GURPS with me. My record on new players is smaller, though - Honus's player started RPGing with me, I think, and so did a former player (wife of a current player). This would be interesting, though, if I get this new player!

  2. Nothing wrong at all with teaching a new gamer GURPS. I think for any system, a player really doesn't have to know every single rule, option, detail, exception, etc. from the start. What really matters is having a helpful GM to guide you.

    1. Yeah, I agree. It would be easier if I was running a different kind of campaign. And another system might be easier to drop someone in with less explanation. But I'll be running GURPS so you may as well start there if you want to stick around. ;)

    2. I don't know, your strict adherence to templates will help with one of the most daunting parts- character generation. The actual game, well, your friend won't have a basis for comparison.

      In my group (playing Dungeon Fantasy, too), I have three players with table top paper and pencil RPG experience, three with computer RPG backgrounds, and four more with little to no RPG experience prior to playing with me. None had played GURPS.


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