Sitting Down to Run a New Game

Originally written for a Gnome Stew contest, but never completed

Since starting this blog back in February of 2011, I have played several new Role Playing Games (RPGs 🔍):

  • Diaspora
  • Microscope
  • Fiasco
  • Burning Wheel Gold
  • Bulldogs!
  • Hollowpoint
  • Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple
  • Dungeon World
  • Labyrinth Lord / D&D Rules Encyclopedia

And several new board games:

  • Eminent Domain
  • Ascension
  • Artus
  • Castle Ravenloft

I’ve also written about the . When I decide that I want to run a new game, I sit down and do some research.

The Process

Learn The Rules

First, I read the book, not necessarily cover to cover. I need to have a working familiarity with the game.

With a large repertoire of games that I’ve played, I am able to fairly quickly ingest a rules set. This can lead to overlooking rules nuances (e.g. exactly how do you populate the colonist ship in Puerto Rico). But as a whole, it means I can get going rather quickly.

In the case of an RPG, I try to go through the various procedures for pre-session work. Make a character.

If I have time I might give the game a dry run. For RPGs this might mean having a quick conflict, as that is what many RPGs spend a lot of pages describing.

Remember, the goal of this preparation is to best sell the game to the other players. Getting buy-in from them is key for repeat plays of the game.

Gather Friends Sympathetic to the Cause

It is very frustrating trying to teach someone a new game when they are content with the games they have. So don’t invite them – and instead set aside another night to play their favorite game.

Instead invite those willing to try a new game. Especially those with a bit of time to talk it over afterwards. With your friends convened, explain the game.

Explain the Game

If there is a win or session ending condition, explain that up front. Let the players all know what they are working towards. In RPGs, win conditions are likely a non-issue.

Keep the pre-game explanation to around 5 minutes. No one really wants to hear you read the rules, nor narrate each component. If you have some real rules lawyer types, let everyone know that you’ll allow take backs of moves – unless its Jenga and the tower toppled. Its a first game, don’t spoil everyone initial experience.

Dive In

And most importantly, just get started. In the case of a boardgame, ask if someone wants to go first. If no one quickly volunteers, then step in and take the first turn.

While you are taking your turn, explain out loud your thought process and any actions you are taking. This can help other people understand the game…of course your thinking may be misguided, but if you say it out loud others may be able to help correct you.

Wrap Up

If there is still plenty of time remaining and there is interest in another round, by all means play it. In this way, everyone can and apply their new understanding to the game.

If you don’t have enough time, try to get other players input on the game. Maybe what they wished they would have done.