A long time ago, when I first got into web design, I had written a series of articles called the “Uncle Figgy’s Guides”. They were a huge hit, and before long I was getting emails from people asking for advice about problems they were having in their tabletop roleplaying games (RPGs). In preparation for writing the second edition of “Uncle Figgy’s Guide to Good RolePlaying”, I’ve been going through a lot of those questions and decided to share some of them here on the new site. Hope you enjoy!
Dear Uncle Figgy,
I want to start roleplaying with a few of my friends but none of us have ever roleplayed a real RPG. Do you have any tips for beginners such as who should be the GM and what type of game we should try out? What about making up rules on the spot like you suggest?
To start, select the kind of game that you all agree would be the most fun — the most like what you all want to play. Once you’ve all looked at some different systems and decided on one, everybody should read the rules of the game. All of them. You don’t have to memorize them or anything, just read through them. Have everybody make a few characters. Take them and do some arena-style combat with them to help you get more familiar with the character-creation and combat rules. As you play the combats, you may find that one of you might understand the rules better than the others or might naturally assume the role of the referee. While this may not be the best person to be the GM, he or she is probably the best place to start.
Once you get into the actual playing, don’t start with a huge, extended campaign. Start with a couple of “one-shot” adventures, instead — adventures that can be played through in one gaming session. Like anything else, you’ll get better and more comfortable with practice. As you do, take turns GMing until the person who enjoys it most (and whom the rest of you enjoy the most as GM) decides to become the regular GM.
As for making up rules on the spot, that’s for trained professionals only — don’t worry about that until you are totally comfortable with the rules for your game and you know the ones that work and don’t work for you and your players and why they work or don’t work. After all, you have to know what the rules are before you know how to change them for the better.
Good luck and here’s to a long gaming career!
To add to what I said so long ago, if your area has a gaming store or comic shop, these often are good places to find other gamers who might be willing to give you advice or show you the ropes. Probably one of the best places to pick up how to roleplay fairly quickly is the gaming convention (if you have one nearby). These often have panels or games meant for RPG newbies. Science-Fiction/Fantasy conventions usually have a gaming division, also. And, of course, the internet is your friend — you can find all kinds of gaming information for players ranging from totally new to extremely advanced.