New players are a fact of life for GMs. They may have never played a tabletop RPG before, or only using vastly different systems. How do you introduce yourself? How do you lay the ground rules?
I’m still figuring it out, but I do have a few things I make sure to go through.
- I describe my policy on character death, that while I don’t actively try to kill player-characters, neither will I re-arrange the laws of physics to prevent willful character death.
- I explain what I love about GMing. This lets players know what to expect from me. I explain that I love to create worlds, so my games tend to be expansive and original, but not heavily detailed.
- I describe what excites me in players. I figure, as a player, I’d want to know what sort of player the GM expects. Heavy role-playing? Intimate knowledge of the rules? Whatever. For me, I love players who really get into their characters, and who are ready when their turn comes up in combat.
- I describe what gets me angry. I think this is vitally important, yet I never see folks write about it. What are those hot-button issues? Let’s get them out in the open, so they don’t surprise anybody. Mine are dealing with too many questions at once, and stubborn insistence on looking up every rule even when it halts gameplay for 10 minutes. So I explain that I’ll sometimes come up with a reasonable temporary ruling if a rule look-up takes too long.
I also talk about a few of our house rules and social policies, such as:
- Cell phones should be turned to vibrate or switched off.
- If anyone has to leave the table, they should announce where they’re going. They can leave instructions on what to do with their character while they’re gone. If they don’t, and they’re gone for a full round, we’ll skip their turn for that round.
- The GM is happy to keep character sheets if players have trouble remembering to bring them.
- We use “luck tokens,” which can be turned in to either immediately succeed on a die roll, or add one fact to the world. The only restrictions on the latter are that the new faact cannot change history, and that if a luck token is traded in to immediately resolve a fight or problem, the players get no experience points for it. Players start with one luck token per session, and win more for good role-playing.
Once I began explaining this to new players, everyone gets up to speed much more quickly, and we don’t spend valuable playing time with unhappy players.
How do you tell new players about house rules and such? And what are your house rules?