For about 2 years now, I've been part of a free program to teach kids aged 12+ how to play D&D. Listed below are some lessons I've learned in that time:
1. Pre-Made characters aren't all that convenient for brand new players: For learning purposes, I've found that it's better to use do-it-yourself character sheets for any adventure that lasts longer than a single session. For one thing, it's easier for new players to find information they've written down themselves. It also makes them more familiar and invested in their character's strengths and weaknesses.
2. Take time to explain the rules: For new or young players, smooth story pacing is often a secondary priority to helping them understand the game's basic mechanics. For example, if a player asks what they roll to attack, don't hesitate to explain the entire formula from start to finish instead of just telling them to look at their character sheet. Stopping and starting may feel like a slog initially, but both you and your players will develop a better recollection of the rules when you spend a few moments here and there to read them out and paraphrase. Your patience will be rewarded later on as your players become more independent.
3. Plan mostly session-by-session: I used to go overboard when preparing for my program sessions, constructing campaigns similarly to how I would if I was DMing for close friends and family. Unfortunately, playing with more distant acquaintances meant that I couldn't predict their play styles as accurately, leading to a lot of wasted notes. Nowadays, I only prepare a few key scenes and prominent NPCs beyond what can be reasonably encountered within a single session. It has saved me a lot of time and narrative angst, while also helping me mold the adventure around the player's choices and interests.
4. Mix up the treasure and customize shops: While I've basically known about this for a long time, working with teens has truly emphasized how boring and forgettable in-game gold can be. It will pile up in a player's inventory unless you give them a good reason to care about it. To combat this issue, I've begun to outfit each major town shop with a unique, limited-stock list of minor to rare magic items, giving players the option to either buy something immediately or save up their gold for something fancy. Moreover, I tend to replace most gold coins found on monsters with scrolls, potions, sellable equipment, and flavorful knickknacks.
5. If you want more engagement, provide more context: Instead of going with the "characters with potentially nothing in common meet in a tavern to do odd jobs" scenario, I've recently been working with my players to select more specific, unifying motivations and backgrounds from the beginning. These prerequisites have allowed the players open up more to my setting and each other, prompting significantly more in-character interactions than in my generic campaigns. I think this is because they all have a clearer idea of where they stand in relation to each other and my NPCs.
Hope you enjoyed my list! Please feel free to comment or ask questions.
- My players are awesome but refuse to learn the rules
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More about Dungeons & Dragons OnlinePost: "5 Things I Learned from DMing for Young Teens" specifically for the game Dungeons & Dragons Online. Other useful information about this game:
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