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D&Detox

DMMike

Game Masticator
I'm running a non-D&D online game with a couple of seats open for drop-in players (Roll20), and I'm finding that some players can't quite wrap their heads around a non-D&D rule set. It's more of an issue when play wanders away from role-play and into rules-dense territory, like combat.

If you've GMed other bloodlines of games, like Fate or Dungeon World (or Amber?), how did you help players break out of the D&D mindset?

If you've learned a non-d20-style game as a PC while coming from a D&D background, did you have trouble avoiding old habits? What did you do to overcome them?
 

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I have never experienced it taking more than "This game is not like D&D, so play will be different, but I will gladly help you learn as we go." just like I've never had it take more than that to teach someone D&D (or any other game) in the first place.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I assume they've played other (non-RPG) games other than D&D? Just tell them if they can do that, they can play Fate or whatever. Have they played a boardgame before?
 

I've been lucky enough to learn other games with other players that are also new to the game. So it was a learning curve. But, the expectation was there that it will not be exactly like D&D. I have taught others games that I know to novice players, and most of the time it's just patience that sees them through the rocky patches. At least in my experience.
 

I watched this happen with my group. They’re all long time players. They’ve all played multiple games, but primarily D&D and some other games that are similarly structured.

The thing is that they’re really really experienced with D&D. So a game that adjusts the normal flow of play, the normal narrative responsibility and so forth, shows how specialized they are.

We played a year long campaign of Blades in the Dark. The first few sessions I kept very simple and straightforward. I introduced new game elements slowly, a bit at a time rather than all at once. I let them adjust to each new element to get a basic understanding and I kept reminding them of differences as they came up in play.

I think I’d suggest the same. Start off slowly, let them get used to things at their own pace, and don’t be afraid to offer suggestions and remind them of differences.

It took us a few sessions for things to work the way the game expects and for the players to really grasp the bulk of it. But it wasn’t long until they were taking charge and using flashbacks and all the other elements of Blades that makes it different from D&D.
 

With any new rules system (and I did this for 5e when it came out), I generally take a page from videogames and have an introductory "level" section of the adventure. That is to say, a low-risk section that demos the important rules and helps them familiarize themselves with it. Think of the training course section of Half-Life, for example, or more recently, the beginning of God of War.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
The thing is that they’re really really experienced with D&D. So a game that adjusts the normal flow of play, the normal narrative responsibility and so forth, shows how specialized they are.
Narrative responsibility changes can often be hard to make for a long-time D&D player - D&D gives the player very narrow narrative responsibilities, as compared to, say, Fate. It can pay off to introduce these slowly, or to find games that are only smaller steps away from D&D in narrative responsibility.

Others have noted introductory scenarios (hooray, Stuffer Shack!), and introducing new concepts slowly - I second both of those ideas.
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
I assume they've played other (non-RPG) games other than D&D? Just tell them if they can do that, they can play Fate or whatever. Have they played a boardgame before?
I'm not sure that boardgame experience would help. . .

I generally take a page from videogames and have an introductory "level" section of the adventure. . .Think of the training course section of Half-Life, for example, or more recently, the beginning of God of War.
. . . because the problem is too insidious for the suggested fix* of "this is how you do it." To use the video game analogy, it would be like having someone jump into your real-time Elder Scrolls Online game, who had only played turn-based Final Fantasy games in the past. The player takes her time carefully plotting how her characters are going to attack and meanwhile, slaughter ensues. (Or more accurately, a Call of Duty player using CoD tactics in Arma!)

More concrete (and personal): Dungeon World characters operate in "moves." First, there's a nomenclature problem, because a D&D "move" is actually changing position, and it tends to require a grid for representation. Second, a DW move is an opportunity for the player to do some narrating, which doesn't seem to happen in D&D (to the extent that it does in Fate or DW). So you can tell a new DW player what a move is, but it goes against everything they know about moves.

*But I do like the element-by-element introduction approach.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I'm not sure that boardgame experience would help. . .
I don’t see why not. It’s just a different rules structure. If you can switch between board games and learn new rules, I reckon you can probably switch between RPGs.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I'm not sure that boardgame experience would help. . .
It does, but not directly.

The point is that folks who have played only D&D, but have done so for years, get an idea that, "This is how RPGs are done," which becomes a barrier to RPGs that do things differently.

What you need first and foremost is for players to recognize that changing RPGs is not fundamentally different than switching from Catan to Cribbage.
 

Theo R Cwithin

I cast "Baconstorm!"
Personally, I've found that watching a few videos of others playing a game using that ruleset helps me grasp game flow and player responsibilities. It's never taken a whole lot of time to get the "aha!" moment, usually just two or three sessions. (It's also nice just to grasp basic rules, especially when the GM makes questionable calls and forces me to go look it up.)
 

atanakar

Hero
My current group is very open minded. We played D&D5e, Coriolis, Modern AGE and CoC 7e so far. There is talk of playing Barbarians of Lumeria and Romance of the Perilous Lands. No problems of adaptation when we change rpgs.

I did have a group during 3e that flat refused to play anything not d20. I bought Vampire the Mascarade. I was disappointed when they couldn't change their D&D vampire mind frame to fit the WW vision during my explanation of what the setting was about. Star Wars d6 lasted two games. We switched to SW d20. They just didn't want to invest time in learning another system.
 



I get how this could seem confusing....but I don't think there's ever been a game that was so synonymous with "boardgame" as Dungeons & Dragons tends to be with "roleplaying game". For many people....even many people actively involved in the hobby....there is no difference. This is why it can be so challenging for some people to learn a new RPG.....they think that it must work like the one they've always played, and any difference is hard to adjust for.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Is Dungeon World the game you're running? I can see people having some issues adapting to a PtbA style game. It's very different, and there is a lot more responsibility in the player, at least compared to a more passive D&D style player. They just arent used to playing to find out what happens. It'll come though, and it'll be worth it.
 

Stormonu

Hero
The problem I often found myself in trouble with other games (Pendragon, Doctor Who) was combat. D&D expects a very heroic level of action where you're supposed to jump in with both feet at every opportunity and come out alive and only slightly scuffed.

Games where combat is more gritty or isn't the focus - lingering wounds, opponents that can't be overcome by clubbing them with weapons or spells, intrigue-based games - require some initial telegraphing how the players should respond to threats.

If its expected that the system is going to have a different feel, I agree with the posters above in performing an introductory episode where they players can learn both how things work and participate in the activity.

If combat in the game is deadly and the players should avoid it or is going to be significantly different? Run a combat of player-run NPC "mooks"/town guard against a bog-standard opponent and let the players learn how combat works while getting hammered. The player's regular characters can stumble onto the aftermath once the enemy has moved on. (examples: players play a criminal group divvying up the loot when the town guard or a rival gang busts in; marauders ambush the locals and the local militia needs to drive them off; A monster makes mince-meat of those who got in its way/summoned it).

You can do similar things with other aspects of the game. If it is going to introduce mechanics or a style of play different than what the players are used to, set that up as a session 0 encounter and walk the players through it. It helps set expectations, sets the mood and lets players see the new mechanics in action. It's usually far better than leaving players to do a dry read-through to puzzle out information they'll need to know.
 

I think the big issue is using a VTT is really different than IRL. With IRL, you can work with the players over the character sheet so they understand everything. With a VTT, you have to do it all via description, which is much harder.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I still don’t understand people who look at learning how to play a game like it’s work.
I can't speak to all of them, but to some... and Morrus, you're awesome, but you seem to like crunchy games, and that may be getting in the way of understanding.

There are players out there for whom playing with the rules is not itself fun. The rules are a not-particularly-fun means to an end that is fun. For them, "work" is precisely what picking up a new set of rules is - an effort that isn't pleasant, that will hopefully eventually get them a payoff.

Asking them to pick up a new ruleset can be... like asking them to come to your house, where you will serve them a wonderful home-cooked meal. But first, they have to help you clean up the living room and dining room.

And, for a lot of games, what they are asked to learn... is a lot. Hours of reading. Trying to stuff a bunch of new stuff into their head that they don't really have context for, but they typically need to grasp without using it before they can even figure out what kind of character they want to play. Yeah, that's not a small effort for everyone. And it isn't fun for everyone.

Not small effort + not fun = work. Does that make it understandable?
 

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