Introducing New Players to D&D

Are you needing to enlarge you D&D group, but don't have any experienced players? How do you introduce new players to the game?  Since we have two new people that we are introducing to our game sessions, I figured I would start a series featuring how we introduce the new players to Dungeons and Dragons.

So how do you introduce new players to their characters?  When we introduced the new players to our game, we let them take an existing character from the party.  Previously, we had too few players, so we had people playing multiple characters.  In our case we just had to explain what the existing character already had setup and it allowed us to not to over burden the new players with character creation and how to play them. By giving them pre-made characters to use in order to get a feel for the game mechanics it allows them to step into a game already in progress and have no down time for character creation due to time restraints. 

Since we are using D&D 4th Edition, characters created in Wizard's Character Builder have the advantage of the player character's powers being generated onto power cards.  These power cards give the low down on each power and ability, so a new player has all their reference in front of them and doesn't have to go scouring through the player's handbook to understand the power.  After explaining the power cards to the new players we tossed our new characters into the game to have a trial by fire.  This allows them to get a grasp for how the game plays, such as during combat, instead of just telling them how to do it.

Our newbies first combat encounter was the second to last encounter in Wizard's published adventure: Thunderspire Labyrinth.  Since this is a higher level encounter there were a lot of things that were thrown at the new players for their first time out.  This might have been a bit overwhelming at first, but it also gave them a chance to encounter and learn just about everything that could be used in combat such as, ranged casters, opportunity attacks, large creatures and attacks that require saves.  We also used readied actions and explained how they worked during the combat to our new players as it happened.  The only things that our new players did not experience was an actual trap.  Players still checked for them, but there were not any traps to set off on them.  This trial by fire might have been a bit much, but it allowed the new players to see things first hand and not have everything just verbalized for understanding.

Our group also moves a bit slower compared to other groups, which is also advantages to new players.  They are able to absorb more and have pauses for explanation of everything that is going on.  It also can keep things a bit more lighthearted for the first time player.  Some players feel overwhelmed and that they will be left behind compared to more experienced players and might not enjoy the session.  Be patience, willing to help your new players and also keep it fun so your new players will return for the next game! 

All in all our players' first experience playing went quite well, but could we have done more to make their first experience better?  The new players did not get to use any skill checks as it was a pure combat encounter.  They might also not have gotten to experience any deeper role-playing since our encounters end up being a very strategic and fighting focused event.  And while some people may think that role-playing is a side effect of D&D, it is also one of the key things that a player needs to experience in D&D.  Guess we will get to that in our next session.