So back at the end of April, I did an article about my friend Sam and how she had finally admitted she wouldn’t mind playing D&D after years of shooting down the idea. This past weekend, while enjoying the Memorial Day holiday, Sam played her first game of D&D. I’ve already talked about how I intended to hook Sam in. As the actual time to play approached, however, I found other tricks that I used to make it a fun experience.
Since people had expressed an interest in hearing how the game went, and since I found I had more tips to offer, I thought it warranted a follow-up article.
Choose Your Ammo with Care…for Everyone
Because I knew Sam was a big zombie fan, I mentioned in my previous article that I intended to have zombies play a role in the adventure I wrote for her. I started to design a module centering around zombies, but then I realized I wanted to make sure everyone else was going to be happy, too. I’d already run a “nothing but zombies” adventure for my a game that my husband, Steve, and our friend Jay had played. Since they were both going to be playing with Sam, I decided I didn’t want to go all zombies, since that would be redundant for them.
I asked them what low level monster they wanted to fight. Steve immediately piped up with “Kobolds. I want to fight hordes of kobolds,” and Jay agreed immediately. Well, that was easy! Now I had a central monster to work the zombies around. This also suggested to me a main villain (a kobold wyrmpriest) and a setting (a shrine to Tiamat).
Since Steve and Jay were already excited to fight kobolds, their enthusiasm rubbed off. And when they entered the shrine, I had described the corpses of humans strewn about. Later when I said that the wyrmpriest gestured and the corpses started to ride, Sam exclaimed, “Zombies!” She was so excited.
Cut to the Heart of the Characters
The week before the game, Jamie, Sam’s husband, told me, “Sam wants to play a warrior wizard robot.” To me, that sounded like Jamie asked her what she wanted to play, and she started throwing things out there. But I decided to do what I could to accommodate.
Robot? That was easy. I’d give her a Warforged to play. Warrior wizard was a little harder. I could make her a swordmage, a bladesinger, or a hybrid, I figured, but what was she really asking? I decided to push back. I asked Jamie to see what she really wanted. Did she want to fight in close combat? Cast spells from the back? Do a lot of damage? Be more of a controller?
Jamie made inquiries and told me he thought she liked the idea of staying back and doing lots of damage. That made it easy. I created a Warforged Warlock for her. When I showed her a Warforged picture, she was happy, and she liked the idea of being able to stand back and dish out lots of damage.
Don’t Sweat the Little Details
“I want to have rabbit ears,” she announced to me as we sat down to play.
I nodded. “Rabbit ears are cosmetic. If your warforged was created with Rabbit Ears, then so be it.”
She pondered. “I want to have laser eyes.”
I nodded. “Well, you have a power called Eldritch Blast, which lets you zap an enemy from a distance. If you want that to be your laser eyes, I have no problem with it.”
She seemed pleased. How easy was that? I had made her happy with two little concessions. I just kept in mind that when she said she was zapping a monster with her laser eyes, she meant her Eldritch Blast. And the rabbit ears added to her roleplaying. Her Warforged, Peter (who may have been named that due to his ears, she suggested), was sensitive to having people bring up his odd ears. In retrospect, I should’ve had a villain mock the ears. It would’ve made her want to take out the villains and monsters that much more.
Bring Your A Game
When you run a game for someone new, you should always put your best foot forward. I knew I wanted Sam’s first D&D game to be a memorable one for her. So I brought my Aspect of Tiamat figure to stand in for the statue of Tiamat in the shrine (which convinced everyone they’d have to fight an avatar of hers.)
I also broke out some of my parchment and created a letter prop to be found in the possession of the Wyrmpriest. Props make me gleeful, and I love to make them, use them, receive them, and so on in RPGs. Nice paper, a cool font, and a bit of ribbon to tie it rolled up. I saw her eyes as I pulled it out. She was intrigued.
End It, But Leave It Open-Ended
The letter turned out to be from someone named Hrithsuul. Back in town, the locals had never heard of Hrithsuul, but they did think of dragonborn, and, sure enough, the locals agreed that a group of dragonborn mercenaries had been causing trouble of late on the King’s Road. “If Peter wants to pursue this, I guess you’ll have to play again.”
A bit sneaky, perhaps, but I wanted to give her an in-game reason that the adventure might continue.
So How Did It Go?
Well, our adventurers were hired to root out a kobold infestation in the old Temple of Tiamat. They fought an ambush on the King’s Road and dispatched them, then engaged in a skill challenge to interrogate a kobold prisoner and then track the kobolds back to their lair. Once there, they tried to bluff their way past the loyal old custodian of the temple (actually a kobold rat-master), which worked only until they asked him to check with his master to see if they’d been invited.
Once the master said, “No, I didn’t invite any non-kobolds,” the custodian return and a fierce battle ensued. This was a tough fight for them, especially once he called in his two dire rats, but the party prevailed. The wyrmpriest emerged to see how the custodian was doing against the intruders, found that it hadn’t gone as he’d hoped, and raised the corpses of the temple sacrifices as zombies. Although the battle was pitched at first, the party’s wizard used burning hands to excellent effect on the zombies (dropping the only non-minion one by Critting it with the spell and taking out a couple of minions, too).
The wyrmpriest’s pike wielding guardians gave the party some trouble, making it hard to get by them to the artillery of the wyrmpriest’s attacks. But here came Peter the Warforged Warlock. Sam had him take advantage of a magic circle on the floor to pick up a +2 to attack and tossed a daily power for a massively devastating amount of damage on the wyrmpriest, taking him out of the fight. The party mopped up the pikemen, found some treasure, and headed back to town pondering the mysterious message they’d found. They were about 200 gp richer, had found 2 magic items, and were halfway to 2nd level.
Sam enjoyed herself a lot and talked about the game off and on the rest of the weekend. She’s said that she’d like to try playing again, especially now that she understands the rules better.
Patting myself on the back? Maybe just a little. After all, Sam had been so dead-set against playing, and she’d obviously turned 180 from that. That makes me feel pretty good.
And next time Sam sits at the table, you can bet Hrithsuul will be waiting.
Have you ever been able to bring someone from “There’s no way I’m going to play this game” to “when can we play again?” Do you have any tried and true tricks to lure gamers to the table? Let us all know.