In a previous post I talked about the lesson plan I had created to teach new players how to create a character. The next step in showing new players how to play the game is by giving them their first adventure.
A first adventure, or an adventure aimed at teaching new players the mechanics of the game, needs to have several parts to it. The adventure should be set up in a way that it gives all classes a moment to try out their key abilities; traps for the rogue to disarm, rowdy tavern patriots for the bard to charm, ferocious monsters for the fighter to overcome, etc.
Timing and pacing is also key to the initial experience. First impressions count, and if someones first experience of play is sitting around for ten minutes waiting for their turn, then they are unlikely to play again, and worse than that, are likely to put off other people from playing. The DM must ensure that rounds are snappy, and the chapters or scenes of the session dont drag. It’s difficult to describe how to do this, without lots of practice, and being able to read a room. Look at the players faces if you think that something is dragging, do they look bored, are they scrolling through their phone, or flicking through the players handbook? if they are, best to wrap it up and move on. Same goes for non-combat scenarios, if one or two players are dominating the conversation, keep checking back to the other people at the table and asking them what they are doing.
The easiest way I’ve found to do this, is to go around the table, asking everyone what they are doing, some people are happy to pass or drink their mead, that’s fine too, but if the barbarian is bored with listening to the bard flirt with the innkeeper, it gives them a chance to start a drinking contest, or whatever it is that barbarians do.
As well as timing of chapters, the overall timing needs to be appropriate for the game you are playing. There is no point planning a five-hour epic journey if you only have two hours to complete it. As most DMs know, the best laid plans are always disrupted by players, and new players are even more likely to do this, as they investigate every nook and cranny, or talk to every patron at the inn. There is no issue with this, and should be celebrated, but you would have wasted your own time if you have five more hours of adventuring sitting in your DM folder.
I rarely try to reinvent the wheel, and instead think of what I want an adventure to look like, and then search for something that is close. I then take that pre-made adventure, and change it to such an extent it is barely recognisable. Prepare intelligently, with whatever takes the least amount of time, but has the largest impact.
I found a self-contained adventure that was system neutral, and set about redesigning it to my darker preference. I’ll talk more about that in the adventure design section.
– The adventure should give each class a moment to try out their abilities.
– It should be designed to come to a close within the time constraints of where you are playing.
– Be prepared for a slower pace because of new player questions
– Read the room to ensure everyone is enjoying the experience.