D&D 5E So I made a 5 page abridged version of the D&D rules to introduce new players

dregntael

Explorer
In the past, I've had several opportunities to introduce new players to D&D. One of the biggest hurdles is explaining all the rules, many of which are not necessary for a first game but are hard to avoid because they are interleaved with the rest of the rules. This is less of a problem with 5e, but still more than I can explain before people get bored. So I've taken up the idea of making a condensed version of the basic rules with all the fiddly bits removed (I know, I know, I'm not the first person to do this). The result is 5 pages of what I think are the essential rules needed to play a one-shot game at level 1.

I haven't tried out the rules but I will hopefully get a chance in two weeks. In the meantime, I'd love to get your feedback if there's anything that's missing or could be improved.

Here are some of the more prominent simplifications I made:
- only the 4 basic races and classes.
- ability scores range from -1 to +5.
- no class levels beyond the 1st.
- no distinction between attack rolls/ability checks/saving throws.
- no skills, instead use the ability check proficiency rules from the DMG.
- no proficiency bonus, instead you get a bonus to certain abilities based on your class.
- side initiative.
- no distinction between short/long rests, you simply heal 1 hit die worth of hp each rest.
- no rules for dying, you're simply unconscious at 0hp until either someone heals you or finishes you off.
- no long equipment or spell lists, everything is right there in the class description.
- metric system for distances, because.

Credits:
- The idea for a small set of rules to introduce new players comes from this blog post.
- Lots of text was stolen from the D&D Basic rules.
- I used the template available here.
 

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guachi

Adventurer
A good summary of the main classes.

It reads like rules from a board game where choices are restricted for players but still iconic and different from one another.

Would work well for people that just want to start playing.
 
Last edited:

redrick

First Post
Interesting! I recently undertook a similar task, though my goal was to get something down to 1 page (double-sided)! This is both more and less ambitious, as you are trying to actually provide a fully playable rule-set, whereas mine was just meant to be an overview.

I think the introduction is good, though I would maybe change bulletpoint #3 to be a little less prescriptive. Players should be encouraged to speak in character and think like their character, but this can be overwhelming for many beginning players, so I think it's good to let them know it's not required.

I also think a short play sample after "Adventuring" would be great. The Basic Rules play sample is nice, though I think it can be tightened up a bit. (There's a 15 line description of the drawbridge leading up to Castle Ravenloft.)

I would be very curious to hear how a game would work running entirely off of these rules. Would the DM introduce broader rules and concepts over play?

How would you feel if I borrowed/modified this for personal use? (Not to share publicly, but to print and share with new people before a game.)
 

What's the point?

Okay, I get the point. And I don't want to crap all over what was clearly a huge amount of work. So before I go any farther, have some XP. Anyone trying to make it easier for new people to get into the game is doing a service to the gaming community. So good on you.

But... 5e is pretty simple already. Making a character is tricky at times, but if you want to introduce new players to the game, the best way is through pregenerated characters anyway. And, if you're introducing them, you have a great deal of control in what you ask for and rule adjudication, so you can keep things pretty simple.

Also, I worry about the disconnect when the players "graduate" to the "real rules". Which is the issue with running using a variant of the main rules. Suddenly, there's mental contradictions where rules they thought they know no longer work as assumed. You need to learn the rules and then re-learn the rules.
 

dregntael

Explorer
Thanks for the comments!

Interesting! I recently undertook a similar task, though my goal was to get something down to 1 page (double-sided)! This is both more and less ambitious, as you are trying to actually provide a fully playable rule-set, whereas mine was just meant to be an overview.

I think the introduction is good, though I would maybe change bulletpoint #3 to be a little less prescriptive. Players should be encouraged to speak in character and think like their character, but this can be overwhelming for many beginning players, so I think it's good to let them know it's not required.

Yes, I agree. Though I want to leave in some encouragement to roleplay, I don't want people to mistake it for a boardgame.

I also think a short play sample after "Adventuring" would be great. The Basic Rules play sample is nice, though I think it can be tightened up a bit. (There's a 15 line description of the drawbridge leading up to Castle Ravenloft.)

Good idea, I'll see if I can include a shortened version.


I would be very curious to hear how a game would work running entirely off of these rules. Would the DM introduce broader rules and concepts over play?

I'll let you know once I've tried it out.

How would you feel if I borrowed/modified this for personal use? (Not to share publicly, but to print and share with new people before a game.)
Sure, go ahead.

What's the point?

Okay, I get the point. And I don't want to crap all over what was clearly a huge amount of work. So before I go any farther, have some XP. Anyone trying to make it easier for new people to get into the game is doing a service to the gaming community. So good on you.

But... 5e is pretty simple already. Making a character is tricky at times, but if you want to introduce new players to the game, the best way is through pregenerated characters anyway. And, if you're introducing them, you have a great deal of control in what you ask for and rule adjudication, so you can keep things pretty simple.

Even with pregenerated characters, I'd say the amount of concepts to explain to someone who's never played an RPG before is pretty daunting. Just on the standard character sheet, there's things like skills, saving throws, ability scores and ability modifiers, temporary hit points, hit dice, passive perception, death saves, tool proficiencies, ... Sure, you can just tell 'don't worry about that' but I'd rather have something more streamlined. Also, I was just curious as to how small a ruleset I could create that is still playable and still 'feels' like 5e.

Also, I worry about the disconnect when the players "graduate" to the "real rules". Which is the issue with running using a variant of the main rules. Suddenly, there's mental contradictions where rules they thought they know no longer work as assumed. You need to learn the rules and then re-learn the rules.

That's a valid concern. I tried to keep as many things as possible compatible with the full rules, for example you can tell the fighter: instead of the +2 bonus to all strength and constitution checks, you actually have something called your proficiency bonus that you add to anything you're proficient in. But of course many small bits are incompatible. My philosophy is that it's the trickiest part to get new players to try the game in the first place, once they've started playing it's easier to introduce them to the full rules over time.
 

Baumi

Adventurer
Thats quite an Interesting minimalist Version 8D

Just one thing .. shouldn't the Wizards Spell Resistance be 10+Int (since there is no Proficiency)?
 


...
Even with pregenerated characters, I'd say the amount of concepts to explain to someone who's never played an RPG before is pretty daunting. Just on the standard character sheet, there's things like skills, saving throws, ability scores and ability modifiers, temporary hit points, hit dice, passive perception, death saves, tool proficiencies, ... Sure, you can just tell 'don't worry about that' but I'd rather have something more streamlined. Also, I was just curious as to how small a ruleset I could create that is still playable and still 'feels' like 5e....
I have found that it is really not as difficult as you make it seem. I've taught kids as young as 6 to play as well as many teenagers and adults of all intellectual levels.

The mistake that maybe you and other make is trying to explain everything. Don't. Don't explain the character sheet. Don't explain the available combat actions. Don't explain what an action is. Don't explain. Play.

"Ok, here's your character sheet. She's a elven wizard. Here are some of the spells she knows and here's what she carrying. Take just a second to look it over."

(Once everyone has their character sheets, you start)

"So, you live in this small farming village called Telair. It's a peaceful place on the edge of the Riverlands Kingdom. But that never really seems of much importance because though you hear stories of the King and the lords, you never seen them as Telair is on the end of a long road that goes nowhere but here. I want each of you to tell me one or two things about yourself (your character) and in character introduce yourselves to the others and figure out if you grew up here or are a traveler."

Encourage a little role-play. Help them out. Describe the village hall and anything else they ask about. Then get ready to start the adventure.

"The sun is well set, dinner has been eaten, and even those who have chosen to drink a mug have finished and headed home. Children are asleep and only a handful of the adults are still awake flirting or otherwise indulging in their youth. It is then that the peace of the night is shattered by a woman’s piercing scream from the north. The scream is quickly followed by the blowing of several hunting horns and a dozen guttural war cries. What do you do?"

See? Now you are playing. The players are involved. They don't care about the rules, and they don't need to at this point. Just keep asking them "what do you do?" And then telling them the consequence or impact based on your knowledge of the rules.

Such as:
"I put on my armor and grab my sword!"
"Great, putting on your armor by yourself is going to take a couple of minutes. Do you want to take that long or go outside with just your sword?"
 

dave2008

Legend
Even with pregenerated characters, I'd say the amount of concepts to explain to someone who's never played an RPG before is pretty daunting. Just on the standard character sheet, there's things like skills, saving throws, ability scores and ability modifiers, temporary hit points, hit dice, passive perception, death saves, tool proficiencies, ... Sure, you can just tell 'don't worry about that' but I'd rather have something more streamlined. Also, I was just curious as to how small a ruleset I could create that is still playable and still 'feels' like 5e.

I think you are under estimating people. I was able to introduce D&D to my sons and their friends when they were 6-8 years old. I didn't change any of the rules. With a brief (15min +/-) explanation of the basics we were up and running. If we came to a situation we hadn't covered previously, I explained the rule then and there. The best way to learn the rules is play. You don't need to give them anything to read, just decribe the basics of combat / checks and off you go!

My philosophy is that it's the trickiest part to get new players to try the game in the first place, once they've started playing it's easier to introduce them to the full rules over time.

But you have really made it trickier by creating another set of rules (and a 5 page document to boot). You really need very few rules to start play and then just introduce new rules as they come up. I don't typically give new players written rules until after we have play 2-3 sessions.
 

dave2008

Legend
I have found that it is really not as difficult as you make it seem. I've taught kids as young as 6 to play as well as many teenagers and adults of all intellectual levels.

The mistake that maybe you and other make is trying to explain everything. Don't. Don't explain the character sheet. Don't explain the available combat actions. Don't explain what an action is. Don't explain. Play.

"Ok, here's your character sheet. She's a elven wizard. Here are some of the spells she knows and here's what she carrying. Take just a second to look it over."

(Once everyone has their character sheets, you start)

"So, you live in this small farming village called Telair. It's a peaceful place on the edge of the Riverlands Kingdom. But that never really seems of much importance because though you hear stories of the King and the lords, you never seen them as Telair is on the end of a long road that goes nowhere but here. I want each of you to tell me one or two things about yourself (your character) and in character introduce yourselves to the others and figure out if you grew up here or are a traveler."

Encourage a little role-play. Help them out. Describe the village hall and anything else they ask about. Then get ready to start the adventure.

"The sun is well set, dinner has been eaten, and even those who have chosen to drink a mug have finished and headed home. Children are asleep and only a handful of the adults are still awake flirting or otherwise indulging in their youth. It is then that the peace of the night is shattered by a woman’s piercing scream from the north. The scream is quickly followed by the blowing of several hunting horns and a dozen guttural war cries. What do you do?"

See? Now you are playing. The players are involved. They don't care about the rules, and they don't need to at this point. Just keep asking them "what do you do?" And then telling them the consequence or impact based on your knowledge of the rules.

Such as:
"I put on my armor and grab my sword!"
"Great, putting on your armor by yourself is going to take a couple of minutes. Do you want to take that long or go outside with just your sword?"

OK - LordEntrails just said it better than me.
 

Even with pregenerated characters, I'd say the amount of concepts to explain to someone who's never played an RPG before is pretty daunting. Just on the standard character sheet, there's things like skills, saving throws, ability scores and ability modifiers, temporary hit points, hit dice, passive perception, death saves, tool proficiencies, ... Sure, you can just tell 'don't worry about that' but I'd rather have something more streamlined.
They may never have played a Tabletop RPG before, but even odds most "new players" will have played some kind of RPG before. Years of videogames have made elements of D&D almost ubiquitous. Terms like "ability scores" and "hit points" will already be known, as will the concept of derived stats.

This is the paradox of modern "new players". They may never have played D&D before, but they might have watched a video or two, and have experience with something like World of Warcraft.

As for ability modifiers vs scores, the 5e character sheets can help. You can have the modifier in the big box and include the actual ability score in the small box. If asked, you can explain (that's your ability score which doesn't have any mechanical impact, but exists for flavour. It's a nod to earlier versions of the game).

Also, I was just curious as to how small a ruleset I could create that is still playable and still 'feels' like 5e.Also, I was just curious as to how small a ruleset I could create that is still playable and still 'feels' like 5e.
Which is fair and a neat little project.

This makes this game a little like Basic D&D from the early 1980s (opposed to Advanced D&D). The funny thing is, historically, new players rejected starting with Basic and jumped right to advanced. Because they wanted to play the real game. Young players especially, who didn't want to play the simplified version dismissing that as the "kiddie version". (Unsurprising for teenagers really, who always want to take the more "adult" option.) BECMI was more popular with experienced players who wanted a more simple ruleset (basically OSR/ rules lite players).

That's a valid concern. I tried to keep as many things as possible compatible with the full rules, for example you can tell the fighter: instead of the +2 bonus to all strength and constitution checks, you actually have something called your proficiency bonus that you add to anything you're proficient in. But of course many small bits are incompatible. My philosophy is that it's the trickiest part to get new players to try the game in the first place, once they've started playing it's easier to introduce them to the full rules over time.
Haven't had much trouble getting people to try. But different experiences and such. Most new players I've introduced have already been sold on the game by other people or curious about the game.

I tend to focus my efforts on the adventure less than the rules. Designing the adventure in such a way as to introduce various aspects of the rules in a controlled fashion. "This is an ability check/ this is an attack roll/ this is a saving throw." And then introducing bits of roleplaying and exploration before a combat.

Because new players are only new players for a finite length of time. Two or three sessions. At most. Having to change the rules after a single session is funky.
 

redrick

First Post
I have found that it is really not as difficult as you make it seem. I've taught kids as young as 6 to play as well as many teenagers and adults of all intellectual levels.

The mistake that maybe you and other make is trying to explain everything. Don't. Don't explain the character sheet. Don't explain the available combat actions. Don't explain what an action is. Don't explain. Play.

"Ok, here's your character sheet. She's a elven wizard. Here are some of the spells she knows and here's what she carrying. Take just a second to look it over."

(Once everyone has their character sheets, you start)

"So, you live in this small farming village called Telair. It's a peaceful place on the edge of the Riverlands Kingdom. But that never really seems of much importance because though you hear stories of the King and the lords, you never seen them as Telair is on the end of a long road that goes nowhere but here. I want each of you to tell me one or two things about yourself (your character) and in character introduce yourselves to the others and figure out if you grew up here or are a traveler."

Encourage a little role-play. Help them out. Describe the village hall and anything else they ask about. Then get ready to start the adventure.

"The sun is well set, dinner has been eaten, and even those who have chosen to drink a mug have finished and headed home. Children are asleep and only a handful of the adults are still awake flirting or otherwise indulging in their youth. It is then that the peace of the night is shattered by a woman’s piercing scream from the north. The scream is quickly followed by the blowing of several hunting horns and a dozen guttural war cries. What do you do?"

See? Now you are playing. The players are involved. They don't care about the rules, and they don't need to at this point. Just keep asking them "what do you do?" And then telling them the consequence or impact based on your knowledge of the rules.

Such as:
"I put on my armor and grab my sword!"
"Great, putting on your armor by yourself is going to take a couple of minutes. Do you want to take that long or go outside with just your sword?"

This has always been my theory of introducing new players to D&D — explain as little of the rules as possible, and pull them into playing the game. Focus on the role play and the idea that "you can try anything that makes sense" and explain the rules and the character sheet as they come up. This has worked well for me, and I've had first time players walk in, grab a pregen and start playing, without any preamble, and have a great time.

That being said, some people are more willing to walk into a game without knowing any of the rules that other people. Some people just want to be able to sit down and say, "how do I play?" Those aren't bad people. Some DM's also don't feel as comfortable unfolding the game for people. Maybe it's because they can't resist the urge to sit down and explain the whole game for an entire session, or maybe it's because they feel a little too much like they are running a game of Calvin Ball if the players don't know the rules that hold the structure of the game together. So I can see the value of having a completely digestible game of D&D, that is not a board game, and puts the fundamental aspect of D&D role-playing at the center. (The DM describes the scene, the players narrate their actions, the DM narrates the results.)

So I'm curious to see how using a document like this would be helpful.

Though, yeah, [MENTION=6790458]dregntael[/MENTION], if you haven't tried the "explain as little as possible" approach to teaching D&D to newcomers, that is worth a try as well.
 

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