Content of the article: "Using Teacher Strategies to Onboard Players"
I teach high school and run a game for a party of 8 adults. Of them, one has played D&D before playing with me. We have met at least 2x/month for coming up on 3 years now. We play online (Dndbeyond, Roll20, and Discord) It's only dawning on me now how frequently I use teacher strategies to help them with rules.
Here's what I'm doing:
-Have a "do now" to start the session. There's always some bookkeeping, retcon, whatever that needs to be addressed. I have a welcome screen in Roll20 that the players see at the start and end of every session. Housekeeping stuff is posted there (like the time we didn't give the players money during session zero: "everyone takes x money")
-Focus on discreet skills. The game is too complex to expect everyone to read the rulebooks and learn everything and be ready to go.1 Today, we're gonna focus on saving throws. Put saving throw rules on welcome screen, include explanation of the difference between a save and a check, and then start the sesh (and then there are traps, enemies with aoe attacks, etc.) My players just found a cache of magic items that are unidentified. The Welcome Screen has a rules reminder for ways to identify items, each item has been put into their inventory with a note "please identify." This might sound like it takes a long time to manage, but it really only took about 5 minutes at the end of the last session because:
-Make tools for efficiency. If you reinvent the wheel every lesson, you're sunk. In this case, I'd been grappling with the unidentified magic items thing for a week, and finally decided that I needed to make 3 "unidentified" items in Dndbeyond for this purpose. One Item, one weapon, and one armor. I can assign those things as many times as I want and tweak what I need to in the notes. Itd be great if Dndbeyond had an "unidentified" option, but they seem to not atm.
-The plan will always fail. This is so true in teaching, and in both D&D and teaching, nobody knows what the plan is but you, so they can't know if the plan has gone off the rails or not. The party went down the 20' hallway with 25 visible traps instead of either of the easy doors? Ooohhhhkay…. shift your set pieces so that they're not dying in the dumpster fire you were hoping to have them slowly defuse. (And then, if you don't want them to go to the place, don't have a door to the place next time). Half the party called out? The Bossfight is next session, you stumble into his treasure room and get all the free shit. You take a long rest? Cool. You spring a fireball trap while opening the treasure chest. You take ANOTHER long rest? Sure. You can try that, and we'll end the session there (and next sesh, this mofo is going to have this whole chamber surrounded because you've given him 16 hours and change to do so. Bonus points for choosing a room to rest in where there's a lava vent in the floor for heating. That's definitely gonna flood).
-As bad as your session was, remember that the kids probably still like you, and you're probably still a good teacher/DM. They literally can't do the thing without you Do, reflect, do batter.
I feel like I could write a bunch more. Be forgiving. Listen to your players so you can be sure to give them what they need (they play for a reason). Have fun because if you're not, what's the point?
Last thing tho: start now. It's not easy to ask if people want to play a game with you. Do it anyway. Be bad at this and learn to be better. Start where you are.
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