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D&D 5E Introducing the greenest of players to D&D

TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
So, I've introduced ton of people to D&D. But most of them were people of around my page that have some good grasp of popular culture (fantasy, sci-fi, superheroes, etc), played some board games before and just generally have similar references as I do. It's been pretty easy to use these references to offer something that is both new and familiar.

I've taken upon myself to introduce my father and his girlfriend because they're both very curious. I'm not too worried with the mechanical aspect of it, or running the game. But I normally write elaborate settings with tons of lore and really craft things for the characters that my players created. I want something much simpler this time. They don't get the superheroes reference, they're not consumers of fantasy or sci-fi. They played some classic board games like Monopoly and Clue. I will most definitely craft a micro-setting with a simple situation, a few interesting spots to explore and let them play in it.

I'm just curious if anyone has suggestion for plots/adventures that they had success with for introducing this type of player to D&D. It can be the outline of plot you wrote yourself, or a published adventure that you used. I don't have a ton of experience with short and sweet adventures.

I also welcome any additional tips!
 

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Aging Bard

Mac-Fuirmidh
Don't stress yourself out. If you have the tables, consider complete procedural generation of the whole adventure. But with each encounter, parley, trap, trick, or puzzle, always stress to your players that they may interact with the encounter any way they want. Be as descriptive as you want and let them respond. Don't encourage combat. Encourage novel reactions by the NPCs/monsters based upon what the players want to do. You might want to consult older methods like reaction rolls and morale rolls to produce unexpected reactions from your NPCs. You can't be infinitely creative, so let random tables spur your imagination.
 

The adventure that comes with the 5E Starter Set, Lost Mines of Phandelver is a solid intro adventure.

It starts off with an immediate need to act, then brings the players to the town of Phandalin, where there’s plenty to discover. If your players take the initiative, there’s plenty for them to learn and then follow up. If they don’t take to that immediately, you have plenty of NPCs to help them along the way.

There are several different areas around the town with several encounter types and different enemies. Most situations allow for more than one approach or solution.

It’s inexpensive and it’s bot too long, so it’s easy to prepare. I really don't think you can go wrong with that adventure.
 

The should have some references, even if they are not the ones you think of.

For instance,
  • the Hobbit was a TV movie in 1977 that regularly was replayed though the decades.
  • Numerous adaptations of Robin Hood as movies and TV
  • the Lion , the Witch and the Wardrobe is pretty much classic fantasy
  • The Earthsea trilogy if they read dates back to 1968
  • The Magnificent Seven is no doubt a movie they are familiar with, and the Seven Samurai it is an adaptation of is pretty much a heroic fantasy.
  • Conan the Barbarian goes back to 1953
  • John Carter of Mars to 1912

All that is to say, they probably are not ignorant of heroic fantasy, just D&D and we think of it. Whatever setting you put them in, think of it like a point of lights setting. They know their little village, but nothing outside of it. Nentir Vale is good for this, but again so is the Hobbit. Those poor little hobbits only know peace and prosperity until they left their lands. Then everything was new to them. Do they same thing for your father and his girlfriend. Give them a small simple starting point, and the introduce them to the wider world one challenge, or travesty, at a time.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
Don’t start big, just think of a simple adventure that can be run as one-shot with pre-gen characters. A simple fetch quest would do.

This is teaching them the game so don’t overthink it.

If they enjoy it and want more then you can think about making characters and a longer story.
 

KISS ("Keep it Simple ....")

They're curious, so treat this like you're at a convention and someone new to D&D signed up for your table. Pre-fab characters with a simple story to link them to a simple plot, all doable in a 4 hour setting.

Personally, I really liked the premise of this beginner DMsGuild adventure: The Boneyard.

In summary, the players are a failed adventuring group who come back every year to toast the death of their fallen comrade. This year, the "Boneyard" is locked up tight. To start the adventure, I printed a picture of the fallen PC (I used Kevin Sorbo in his Hercules days) and a "fill in the blanks" obituary. The players went around the table adding to the story of what happened to him, and how the PCs failed to save him, and how this caused them all to hang up their adventuring hats. This kind of stuff is golden to new players. You are collaborating to create a story. You can add to this by having them make up how they knew each other. It doesn't need to be Oscar worthy. Just encourage fun.

For the adventure, besides a few fixes (the caretaker is supposed to know them but does his best to keep them out, there's no map, and one of the human foes is from Lost Mines of Phandelver, which not everyone may have) it's solid. Just make the caretaker scared and cranky, the map fits one of a gazillion free online fantasy graveyard maps (just make one for you, one for your players), and the human foes just replace with a CR appropriate humanoid from your manuals.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
I'll 2nd Lost Mines of Phandelver. It's a very solid intro adventure.

I usually homebrew, but my son talked my niece into trying out D&D (she was mildly curious because she had friends who play, but she hasn't tried it). Then my wife, who is not really a fan, decided she wanted to play; because her niece was doing it. So one sort of experienced player, one mostly newbie and one complete newbie.

I decided on Lost Mines because I wanted to keep it simple and because I had zero time to prep (sprung on me this morning, DMed tonight). First part of the adventure went great with both my Niece and my wife having a blast (with a great nail biting moment where my wife's PC went down and my niece going "wait, you can die!?!")

So as stated above, keep it simple.

Encounters, like a simple goblin fight, can be amazing to someone who hasn't done it before (as opposed to us jaded old timers).

Teach as you go, don't try to info dump - it will get lost.

Make sure they understand their charactets. And make small suggestions as you go (without telling them what to do).

IMO, Tempting as it may be to start higher, start at 1st level and move up from there. Gives them a better chance to absorb everything.
 



JustinCase

the magical equivalent to the number zero
Call it collaborative storytelling, keep the story simple, and don't bother explaining every feature their character can do.

When I DM'd a one-shot for colleagues who were likewise extremely green to both D&D and (mostly) fantasy, I gave them a tiny bit of RP, introduced the call for action, and let their actions lead the way. A good call for action (in my case finding an injured person who'd fallen from the window of the creepy house next door, and seeing someone move away from the broken window) means the players will want to play your story.
 

D1Tremere

Adventurer
So, I've introduced ton of people to D&D. But most of them were people of around my page that have some good grasp of popular culture (fantasy, sci-fi, superheroes, etc), played some board games before and just generally have similar references as I do. It's been pretty easy to use these references to offer something that is both new and familiar.

I've taken upon myself to introduce my father and his girlfriend because they're both very curious. I'm not too worried with the mechanical aspect of it, or running the game. But I normally write elaborate settings with tons of lore and really craft things for the characters that my players created. I want something much simpler this time. They don't get the superheroes reference, they're not consumers of fantasy or sci-fi. They played some classic board games like Monopoly and Clue. I will most definitely craft a micro-setting with a simple situation, a few interesting spots to explore and let them play in it.

I'm just curious if anyone has suggestion for plots/adventures that they had success with for introducing this type of player to D&D. It can be the outline of plot you wrote yourself, or a published adventure that you used. I don't have a ton of experience with short and sweet adventures.

I also welcome any additional tips!
Use this as an opportunity to grow your own knowledge base. If they do not have the same cultural references as you, learn the references they do have. What are their favorite bands, movies, shows, books, hobbies, actors, historical events, etc.? Use this as an opportunity to learn more about them, and customize based on that.
 

Voadam

Legend
A haunted house story should be relatable for someone not that familiar with fantasy stuff. It provides some explanations of background magical phenomena and creatures like specters while having some neat opportunities for exploration.

Indiana Jones would be another relatable adventure theme option, "You are adventuresome archaelogists who have tracked down rumors of a newly uncovered burial ruin possibly with valuable artifacts inside. Beware spiders, snakes, and possible elaborate death traps left by the builders!"
 

TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
The should have some references, even if they are not the ones you think of.

For instance,
  • the Hobbit was a TV movie in 1977 that regularly was replayed though the decades.
  • Numerous adaptations of Robin Hood as movies and TV
  • the Lion , the Witch and the Wardrobe is pretty much classic fantasy
  • The Earthsea trilogy if they read dates back to 1968
  • The Magnificent Seven is no doubt a movie they are familiar with, and the Seven Samurai it is an adaptation of is pretty much a heroic fantasy.
  • Conan the Barbarian goes back to 1953
  • John Carter of Mars to 1912

All that is to say, they probably are not ignorant of heroic fantasy, just D&D and we think of it. Whatever setting you put them in, think of it like a point of lights setting. They know their little village, but nothing outside of it. Nentir Vale is good for this, but again so is the Hobbit. Those poor little hobbits only know peace and prosperity until they left their lands. Then everything was new to them. Do they same thing for your father and his girlfriend. Give them a small simple starting point, and the introduce them to the wider world one challenge, or travesty, at a time.
Surprisingly enough, I don't think they have seen/read any of what you listed! But you made me realize that they do know Indiana Jones and such movies.

Call it collaborative storytelling, keep the story simple, and don't bother explaining every feature their character can do.
Yes! I was planning on starting them at 2nd level. But I changed my mind. Trying to keep the number of features low.

Use this as an opportunity to grow your own knowledge base. If they do not have the same cultural references as you, learn the references they do have. What are their favorite bands, movies, shows, books, hobbies, actors, historical events, etc.? Use this as an opportunity to learn more about them, and customize based on that.
Great suggestion! I don't enough time until the first session, but if they want to keep playing longer I will definitely expand my references.

A haunted house story should be relatable for someone not that familiar with fantasy stuff. It provides some explanations of background magical phenomena and creatures like specters while having some neat opportunities for exploration.

Indiana Jones would be another relatable adventure theme option, "You are adventuresome archaelogists who have tracked down rumors of a newly uncovered burial ruin possibly with valuable artifacts inside. Beware spiders, snakes, and possible elaborate death traps left by the builders!"
Indiana Jones is what I thought about after putting up my post. But haunted house is a great idea!
 


J-H

Adventurer
They probably know basic Greek mythology. You can use the Greek pantheon and some of the backdrop, so you have minotaurs and chimerae and manticores and Nemean lions and various polities, bandits, adventurers, etc. all floating around.
 


Don’t start big, just think of a simple adventure that can be run as one-shot with pre-gen characters. A simple fetch quest would do.

This is teaching them the game so don’t overthink it.

If they enjoy it and want more then you can think about making characters and a longer story.
I absolutely second the idea of using pregens. Here is what I do when introducing new players. About a week before, I e-mail the players a list of 10-12 two line writing prompts for characters that still leave room for customization:

The Paragon - at a young age, you heard a voice exhorting you to lead and help others. You have trained with sword and shied to achieve this command and supplement this with a little magic.
“The Exile” - exiled from dwarven lands due to your refusal to conform with the stifling dwarven traditions, you make your way from town-to-town calling upon your arcane power to keep you safe.

That way, you only have to create characters for those who are chosen.

In terms of adventure prompts, if they are not really into fantasy I would take that as an excuse to lean into some less-traditional adventures.

The following writing prompt is inspired by Shemshine’s bedtime Rhyme in Candlekeep mysteries. Spoilers

********
The characters arrive at the inn after a long day of riding. As they check in, they notice the innkeeper is humming a very catchy song. Pretty soon, everyone is humming it, and even if they stop, they immediately start up again if they stop concentrating. One of the patrons blocks the door, concerned that whatever this is, it is better to contain it inside the inn. The characters must solve the mystery.

What happened: the rhyme is contained in a book and will summon an evil fey if it is continued long enough. As the rhyme continues, it causes increasingly challenging effects to manifest in the inn, culminating in a battle with the evil fey itself.

The book also contains clues on how to permanently defeat the fey. It was brought into the inn yesterday by an unfortunate traveller, who realizing the risk, killed themselves rather than potentially bring the fey into the world. Unfortunately, the innkeeper’s daughter heard the rhyme before the traveller killed himself and continued it.

The innkeeper, worried about the reputation to their inn (and not understanding the situation) hid the body in the cellar and locked the door. They have no reason to associate the rhyme with the traveller.
 


Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
The first adventure I ever ran was when I was 13 years old. It was from the "advanced dungeoneering" system, which was based on the fighting fantasy series of "choose your own adventure" book.

The princess has been kidnapped. The king ask you to rescue her, She's in the tower of an evil wizard. Each floor of the tower is one room/encounter.

simple, classic.
 

Couple years ago I introduced five players with zero previous RPG experience to D&D. I used Dragon of Icespire Peak from the Essentials Kit sprinkled with a little bit of Lost Mine of Phandelver from the Starter Set. I started off the player characters in a tavern, explained that a dragon was menacing Phandalin, and gave them two opening quests from the job board to choose from. Once they selected the job they wanted to pursue, the door to the tavern burst open, and a band of hobgoblins poured in. The leader pointed to the old dwarf in the corner. "Get the dwarf, grab the bag, and kill everybody else!" Initiative was rolled and adventure followed.

That single session expanded into twenty more sessions. Three of those five players are still with me and recruiting other friends into the game.

My reasoning for using that opening was to introduce the main storyline and give players meaningful choices. But then I introduced a second storyline to show the world was alive. Finally, I wanted to get to the action quickly. All of this, to me, is the essence of D&D. I still love that opening and have plans to use it again.
 
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