Tabletop RPG Tutorial

So I've been thinking about lowering the barrier for entry for RPG's, and that lead me to thinking of the idea of RPG tutorials. The best tutorials are those that are fun, and don't just stop you every five minutes to explain how something works but rather /show/ you how something works through play. The first portal game is a great example of this. Pretty mindbending mechanics but it teaches you the way of thinking in portals throughout basically the first two thirds of the game, leaving you a master when it comes to combining everything in the climactic final act. You don't even really see it as a tutorial but as part of the game itself.

It'd be really interesting to be able to achieve something similar with RPG's, or at least as close as you could get. But Tabletop RPG's tend not to have any sort of tutorial system full stop, let alone a good tutorial system.

So I'm interested to hear, how would you go about making a tutorial for an RPG or Storygame. Something where the players could start by playing through the tutorial without having to read through the whole rulebook. Do you think it's a good idea at all? Do you think it's possible to do well? In the case of games with a GM, could you make a single tutorial that taught both the GM and the players?

I think the difficulty is that the players actions aren't as constrained as they are in most games that feature tutorials, so it's hard to make sure that they are engaging with the tutorial in a way that helps them learn.

The way I can think of approaching it would be basically a choose your own adventure that combined life-path style systems and introductions to the game mechanics.

Another issue is potentially limiting the players creativity through the tutorial, would it be possible to make a tutorial that wasn't just an essentially railroaded mini-adventure? Maybe give the GM a kind of recipe for introducing the different mechanics by telling them the types of scenes to present to the player and letting them fill in the blanks.

Any thoughts, or examples you know of, would be appreciated. I think this is a really interesting subject and difficult to do well.
«1

Comments

  • I thought about this when I had my ideas of doing an OSR game based on Mike Mearl's definitions of what a roleplaying game must include to be considered D&D.

    I was inspired by fluency play, and had thoughts of writing adventures that guided the game master as well as were parts of character creation. Fluency play is introducing elements and repeating them up until the everyone has learned them before moving on. I had in mind to create five adventures with level 0 characters.

    1. Using abilities.
    2. Gaining gear.
    3. Combat
    4. Gaining powers
    5. Alignment system - players are finally level 1

    The last one told the game master how to create own adventures following a simple formula that has been seen in all the other adventures.

    ---

    The strongest way to learn is learn by doing. I would love to see a roleplaying game tutorial based on https://whereareyourkeys.org/
  • Thanks Rickard, great contribution. Exactly the sort of stuff I'm interested in.

    That where are your keys link looks very interesting, from what I can tell it's a series of techniques for rapidly learning languages in order to keep dying languages alive? What a cool concept! Is this the same as what you mean by "Fluency Play" or is that something else? If it's something else do you have some resources where I could read up on fluency play?
  • edited March 2018
    Are you looking more for A or B?

    A: A tutorial for novice roleplayers, teaching them what roleplaying is.

    B: A tutorial for experienced roleplayers, teaching them how to play this game.

    I guess a combo of "learn RP"/"learn this game" is also an option, but I dunno whether that'd work best in sequence or overlapping -- probably depends on the game.
  • My idea was a tutorial for novice roleplayers, teaching them how to play this game, where learning what roleplaying is also part of learning the game I guess?

    I figure experienced roleplayers are fine with and good at reading a rulebook. I'm definitely targeting people who aren't necessarily roleplayers at all for my game, and for them I'd think being able to pick up and play rather than everyone having to read through the rulebook would be appealing.

    I think you can probably have a brief primer that everyone reads, and that might explain a lot of what roleplaying means and the differences between the tutorial and the full game, that sort of thing.

  • Computer game tutorials are just strict rail-roads through the actions that a player can do.
    They make sense because in computer games the player has almost no freedom and the only way to engage the fiction/world is through a limited set of mechanics.

    For RPGs what I'd appreciate are good play examples and a starting scenario - if that makes sense for the game.

    I just finished reading Ten Candles and I think that it's really good in this regard: there are few rules (which is always a plus) and every rule is accompanied by good examples that not only explain how the mechanics work, but also show how to use the narrative authority, set the intended fictional tone, and give some good ideas you can use to jump-start your imagination. And it has several scenarios (or rather starting points), too.
    I really can't imagine how a tutorial for that game could look like.

    The only thing I can think of is, if the game has more than a handful of mechanics, it can be nice to explicitly say which rules are core rules that must be in play all the time, and which ones can be considered "optional" or "advanced" or "don't worry to remember this one, just know that if you ever encounter this weird situation, you can check this special rule in the book - or just forget it and fudge you way on ".

    But of course it would depend on the game. Skew is already a tutorial, in a way.

    Other than that, I'd just like to see good actual play transcripts. The actual play podcasts/videos are usually really long, with awful audio quality, and full of of thinking time, side conversations, comments, jokes, pauses: things that are perfectly normal when you're engaged, but as a listener they are annoying.
    There are a couple of annotated actual play transcripts for "Witch: the Road to Lindisfarne" and "Love in the Time of Seiđ" and they're excellent! THAT's the stuff I'd like to see more.
  • I always enjoy good actual play examples. You can definitely lower the barrier to entry with quality writing of the rulebook, but I think a playable tutorial is even lower and potentially more effective if you can do it well. Definitely hard because of the wide possiblity space in RPGs. I'll take a look at Skew
  • edited March 2018
    Fluency play
    https://storybythethroat.wordpress.com/2009/09/21/fluency-play/

    Another way of writing tutorials would be to break the process down into minor exercises. When all of those exercises are put together, that's your roleplaying game:
    https://issuu.com/collegeofmentalhealth/docs/transformational_counselling

    (On another note: the author writes the exercises just like a boardgame would had. Present the goal first, then the "structure of play".)
  • Thanks for those resources Rickard, I'll do a bit of reading :)

    Yeah that's a good idea, reduce the problem space. You could start with some purely roleplaying exercises that was kind of like an improv game, then go through some mechanical exercises that removed the roleplaying component, maybe mixing in a bit more roleplaying as you go along, and then tell them to go back to the initial roleplaying only exercise but when one of the later learned mechanics they've learned comes up they can use that.

    I had been thinking of teaching the mechanics while roleplaying, but I'm getting a lot more ideas for having the roleplaying bit separate from the mechanical bits (these would still have flavour attached but you wouldn't be making roleplaying choices) and eventually weaving that together. Depends on the game of course but that could probably work for mine.
  • You could start with some purely roleplaying exercises that was kind of like an improv game,/.../ I had been thinking of teaching the mechanics while roleplaying, but I'm getting a lot more ideas for having the roleplaying bit separate from the mechanical bits (these would still have flavour attached but you wouldn't be making roleplaying choices) and eventually weaving that together. Depends on the game of course but that could probably work for mine.

    Yep, that's how I'm going to write This is Pulp, but I cannot get it done because I'm treading on uncharted water. It's the hardest game I ever written, and the game is only three pages long. So I need to check out other kinds of resources, hence me finding those psychological exercises.
  • I’ve gotta second @emarsk’s comment – for my money, there’s no better way to learn a tabletop RPG than an actual play video or podcast. I’ve totally internalized the rulesets to dozens of games without ever having played them or seen a written rules document, just because I’ve listened to a compelling actual play podcast of the game. The trick, of course, is producing good content – getting together a strong group of players, keeping your audio quality high, and editing out all the extraneous stuff. But if you can do that, there’s no better way to both teach and sell a game (I think it’s even better than playing, in some cases).
  • Here's what I would love to see:

    An "actual play" video of people playing a game, but with commentary. Perhaps, like YouTube annotations, there would be a little box you can click on, which, when pressed, pauses the video and shows a little bit of text: "Here's what the GM is thinking right now/Here are the player's options, and why she's chosen the fire attack/The group might have chosen to apply this rule instead, but that would require X, Y, and Z/The GM's prep doesn't show what's behind the door, so she's quietly rolling on a random table right now."

    This could keep the video reasonably short but allow the viewer to "click in" for more detailed information and play tips as it goes along.

  • Actual plays have definitely helped me with learning how games work at the table, they are definitely effective for people that enjoy watching them and something annotated nicely would make that even better.

    To the topic at hand, what do you think of their effectiveness over a tutorial that people could play through at the table? Do you think such a tutorial could work effectively or that an actual play video tutorial is as close as you can get / better.

    One advantage i see of a tutorial is that you get to run through it with your table group whereas it can be difficult to get a group of ppl to do some required watching.
  • I've had a lot of success with my own games when I have a "method" for introducing the rules and procedures, walking the group through them one step at a time. I used to be afraid of doing that, since sometimes it means taking away player agency, but it works really well, so now I consider it more often.
  • I just read a thread on the Big Purple that reminded me of this thread. One of the best tutorials that I can remember/think of is Ruric Runespear. This is a Runequest/Glorantha reference, in case you don't recognize it. He was a character meant to represent a real player-character (maybe he was an actually character in Chaosium's in-house campaign). He appeared in a lot of the accompanying texts for their rules, usually in call-out boxes, as a example of how things could happen in the game. As you were reading through the rules, etc. you could read the story of his adventures. Maybe this was the first occurence of an actual play focusing on a single character? He was an illustration of the rules in action.
  • Ah I've read through RQ6 and they did a similar thing (from what I can tell), different character though. It definitely does a good job of explaining the rules, but I wouldn't say its a tutorial that teaches you the rules, more an accompaniment to the rules that helps via example. Or is Ruric Runespear different

    Paul_T I'd be interested in what kind of methods you've used previously to introduce rules and procedures, even if they're simple or if you just give a brief overview of your approach.
  • I think he was an extended and detailed example of play. But that leaves me wondering what the difference is between that, actual plays, and tutorials.
  • I mean annotated actual plays.
  • @Rhysmakesthings
    Your question made me thing that my post was off-topic (which it may actually be, or not), so I went back and re-read the whole thread and now I am confused. I sort of see the connection between @Rickard 's fluency play and the WAYK learning process he mentions and designing tutorial adventures. @emarsk 's comment about jump-starting imagination, using narrative authority and setting the intended fictional tone are also interesting. Also, some people have talked about the burden of rules texts. Some have talked about modeling their play after watching others actual plays. Some have talked about intentionally crafting interacting actual plays (interesting, Paul!).

    Your initial post talks about lowering the barrier of entry for roleplaying but I'm not sure what the actual barrier to entry is. Is it about assuming different stances, i.e. director, actor, etc. stances? Or the burden of complex rules texts and how they traditionally introduce game concepts? Or overcoming blocked imagination? Or feeling comfortable sharing/collaborating in story creation? Or genre knowledge? Or some combination of all these things? I'm asking you directly because it's your thread, but I'm implicitly asking everyone else as well.

    There's been a lot of good suggestions and ideas here, but it seems like we're not all talking about the same thing.

    And I'd like to add another layer of complexity: age of the players, and audience more generally. I have two relevant experiences: using rules-lite, play-to-find-out RPGs with teenaged-Chinese ESL students, and with native-speaking adults. Although we haven't really gotten started yet, the native-speaking adults are having more difficulty with the idea of role-playing (at least so far) than the teenagers playing in their (less than fluent) second language. So another question would be who are you (and we) imagining these tutorials will be for? In my experience different audiences will have different needs. How does that factor into the choice of format, and what kind of information is delivered?
  • I should make clear that I mean native-English speaking adults.
  • @Paul_T – I really like the idea of annotated actual plays, and I'd love to see more of them. The video idea you're describing is really compelling.

    The Join the Party Podcast does something like this, though in audio-only format. They have an alternate "D&D Beginners" cut of their initial episodes where they occasionally pause the narrative to explain a rule or a game concept. And then they alternate their release schedule between story episodes where they actually play the game and behind-the-scenes episodes where they talk about game mechanics, player & GM decisions, and the like.

    I see the issue of the effectiveness of hands-on versus observed play as pretty closely related to @Hopeless_Wanderer's comments about audience. Who do you have at the table? (Is there a table, even?) If you've got an experienced player or GM who can run a group through a session, learning by doing probably has an edge over watching/listening to an actual play. But if everyone in your group is totally green to the game (or even to RPGs), observing someone else is probably a better teaching tactic.

    Or consider a case where one person learns the game by themselves via an actual play and then teaches a larger group by doing (I've done this a couple of times, with good success). This might actually be the ideal scenario, which also circumvents the issue of getting a large group to sit down and consume unfamiliar media.

    I think some combination of determining what the principle barrier is (for my money, it's absolutely rules complexity, and nearly every non-RPG player or new RPG player I've spoken to echoes that sentiment) and exactly who your audience is (the age note is a good one, though I wonder how much of this issue is unique to tabletop roleplaying) will tell you a lot about the best tutorial format.

  • Paul_T I'd be interested in what kind of methods you've used previously to introduce rules and procedures, even if they're simple or if you just give a brief overview of your approach.

    My approach is to teach a game (when this is possible or desirable; I've only done it consistently with one game design which is particularly suited to this so far) by walking the players through the steps.

    I've seen this previously with boardgames and video games: "Ok, now another thing you can do is to use a spell. Pick a target and press this key/announce this action/draw a card..." That kind of thing. It means that you're taking away some of the player's agency at first (which is why I mostly do it with first-time non-gamers and only certain types of games), but it's very effective.

    A few RPGs I've seen have a nice way to introduce mechanics:

    For instance, in Dogs in the Vineyard you play out an "initiation conflict" before you start the game proper, which allows you to learn how the mechanics work in a relatively low-stakes and one-on-one context before you jump into the main scenario.

    I used a similar thing in my Lady Blackbird hack, where each player makes a roll before we start playing. It presents a good opportunity for everyone to see how the dice work and how we choose outcomes (from a prepared list) before the game itself begins.

  • DBB said:

    @Paul_T – I really like the idea of annotated actual plays, and I'd love to see more of them. The video idea you're describing is really compelling.

    The Join the Party Podcast does something like this, though in audio-only format. They have an alternate "D&D Beginners" cut of their initial episodes where they occasionally pause the narrative to explain a rule or a game concept.

    Thanks!

    I haven't listened to that podcast, but what you're describing sounds like a good idea.

    However, it's also a) very slow (or requires you to listen to several different recordings in series) and b) is almost useless as a reference, later.

    My idea is that you could skip through parts you don't care about yet, and come back to them later. For instance, at first you just want to see how the game works: the player announces an action, perhaps, the GM announces a DC/target number, and then a roll is made. You might see that and click on "How does the player know which dice to roll?", and you're basically ready to go.

    A month later, though, you're preparing to run your own game, so you go back to the video and the moment where that roll is made. But, this time, you click on "How does the GM know what DC/target number to use?", and read that little bubble (which may send you, with a hyperlink or page reference, to a particular page in the rulebook, perhaps). You no longer care about what dice to roll - you've internalized that part - so you can effectively skip straight to the part you're still trying to learn.
  • I think that's a really smart idea, and I'd love to see it in action (especially for more complex systems). The slowness and lack of reference utility are absolutely the biggest drawbacks to an unannotated podcast, and what you're proposing solves both.

    What I also like about it is that it solves some of the audience problems, too – if the user can select which annotations are important to them, then you can cover a broader set of audiences.
  • @Paul_T and @DBB I'm just going to say that if anyone wanted to really make a tutorial like this happen that there are a lot of great computer tools that linguists and linguistic anthropologists use for research: transcribing, annotating, tagging, etc. audio and video streams that would work well for creating this kind of thing (PM me if you want more information, I have some experience in this area). There are surely other fields as well with similar tools. So, the tools already exist to do what you are suggesting. It's just a question of how much time you have to devote to learning the tools and preparing the material. It's a really good idea.
  • I have another idea which is vaguely similar. What if your rules text was framed around a short story of a character. I'm going back to my Ruric Runespear example from before, but flipping the emphasis of rules and examples of play. Instead of presenting the rules and using a single character to illustrate the rules through examples of play in sideboxes in the margin, you told the character's story as the main texts and the notes in the margins was where the rules could be found. Does that make sense the way I described it? Would it be interesting? Have some utility?
  • A comicbook doing this would be very cool, I think.
  • The comic book presentation format has the advantage that it easily employ Rickard's fluency play method: each issue could introduce a new subsystem. Character creation could be introduced through flashbacks. Additionally, setting, tone and genre details would be easy to communicate visually. I think a rules-lite game, like Ghost Lines, would work especially well for this.
  • OR You could design your tutorial like a good language learning textbook, literally design it to resemble one. I say "good" because there are certainly a lot of bad ones, but... Anyway, now you're getting pretty close to making Rickard's fluency play quite real.

    A traveller's phrasebook presents other tutorial design opportunities.
  • @Rhysmakesthings
    Your question made me thing that my post was off-topic (which it may actually be, or not), so I went back and re-read the whole thread and now I am confused. I sort of see the connection between @Rickard 's fluency play and the WAYK learning process he mentions and designing tutorial adventures. @emarsk 's comment about jump-starting imagination, using narrative authority and setting the intended fictional tone are also interesting. Also, some people have talked about the burden of rules texts. Some have talked about modeling their play after watching others actual plays. Some have talked about intentionally crafting interacting actual plays (interesting, Paul!).

    ....

    There's been a lot of good suggestions and ideas here, but it seems like we're not all talking about the same thing.

    Definitely a few different discussions going on. I think I didn't define "tutorial" specifically enough. I'm talking specifically about an interactive experience that teaches through doing, like you would see in a video game tutorial or certain classrooms. The intent is to avoid requiring people to read through the rules in order to understand the game but rather learn the rules as part of a play experience.

    The topic of actual plays and game examples by itself is a bit off topic from that original intent, though I find the discussion interesting in any case and they are certainly closely related, and the comparison/contrasts between the two forms is definitely on topic.


    Your initial post talks about lowering the barrier of entry for roleplaying but I'm not sure what the actual barrier to entry is. Is it about assuming different stances, i.e. director, actor, etc. stances? Or the burden of complex rules texts and how they traditionally introduce game concepts? Or overcoming blocked imagination? Or feeling comfortable sharing/collaborating in story creation? Or genre knowledge? Or some combination of all these things? I'm asking you directly because it's your thread, but I'm implicitly asking everyone else as well.

    Primarily the barrier I'm seeking to overcome is the complex rules texts, but even simplistic rules texts can be daunting to the non-rule savvy. The quantity of text is what I think overwhelms people, and the idea of an interactive tutorial I think allays that fear because you aren't reading a book to start playing you get to start playing straight away - even if what you start playing is not the full game. It would also hopefully allow a group to learn together so that they can start having fun with friends asap.

    However, general comfort and familiarity with the act of roleplaying is also something I'd want the tutorial to at least touch on as well.


    So another question would be who are you (and we) imagining these tutorials will be for?

    In my case the tutorials are for people who are excited about the genre and the idea of roleplaying, but new to actually playing an rpg. But I definitely agree the audience changes a lot of how you would approach it.
    DBB said:



    I see the issue of the effectiveness of hands-on versus observed play as pretty closely related to @Hopeless_Wanderer's comments about audience. Who do you have at the table? (Is there a table, even?) If you've got an experienced player or GM who can run a group through a session, learning by doing probably has an edge over watching/listening to an actual play. But if everyone in your group is totally green to the game (or even to RPGs), observing someone else is probably a better teaching tactic.

    Or consider a case where one person learns the game by themselves via an actual play and then teaches a larger group by doing (I've done this a couple of times, with good success). This might actually be the ideal scenario, which also circumvents the issue of getting a large group to sit down and consume unfamiliar media.


    I think that learning by doing is always better if you can do it effectively. Learning by observing is probably a more convenient way to do it if none of you have experience iwth RPG's but that gap is what I'm trying to find a way to address. Is there a way where we can design a tutorial so that it takes on the role of "experienced player running a group through a session", a guiding hand that allows all the people at the table to learn by doing together.
  • @Rhysmakesthings Thank you for your answers! You've push this thread from the category of being merely interesting for me to being absolutely riveting. I'm a ESL teacher and I think about instructional design all the time. I've had passing daydreams about game design in these terms, but they've usually vanished.
  • So I don't think what you're describing – specifically learning the rules by playing the game – can really work without a heavily railroaded starting scenario (meaning you have to be okay with every 1st session of your game playing exactly the same). Of course, it's easy for a group to play through the railroaded tutorial and then, when they've learned all the rules, go off in whatever direction they'd like. And obviously it's easy for an experienced group to skip the tutorial and start their story wherever they'd like.

    I'd look at the Beginner Games for the various Fantasy Flight Star Wars RPGs, which embrace this idea. The instructions tell you very specifically NOT to read the rulebook, but to hand out character sheets and start playing the included adventure immediately. The adventure is broken into a series of encounters, each of which introduces a new rule or set of rules, and they're theoretically ordered so that each one builds on what you learned in the previous one.

    In theory, it's a great structure for a game tutorial. In practice... I found it lacking, to say the least. It makes too many assumptions about what players will do, relies too much on the GM steering players into specific encounters to "trigger" the rules lessons, and generally doesn't give a great idea of what play in the real game is like. I'm sure you could do a better job with it if you took the core idea and repurposed it for your own game.

    @Hopeless_Wanderer Using linguistic annotation tools is an awesome idea. I don't have anything I'm working on that would be good for this, but I'd absolutely like to revisit it at some point. Also totally love the story/comic with rules annotations idea.
  • Those Beginner Games sound very useful! I'll have to take a look. That sounds like the kind of thing I'm looking for but obviously there are pitfalls like the one you mention.

    An idea I had was to make the tutorial part a Prologue style of thing, so it was explicitly seperate kind of mode of play. Borrowing from what a lot of game tutorials do, starting the players in the Prologue as important people with high level of power, this gives you a perfect excuse to skip over a lot of conflict resolution mechanics that might come up and introduce things over time. So you could start freeform and since they are so powerful they can basically do what they want with no resistance and introduce mechanics as epic scale challenges. Then when they start as their main character their power level is small and they have that thought of maybe I could be as powerful as that person I was playing in the prologue.

    The other advantage of that is that it clearly separates the tutorial from the actual play part, which could be useful if you've got some training wheels mechanics / principles bolted on that aren't in effect for the actual game.
  • A comicbook doing this would be very cool, I think.

    Do you know Mouse Guard? One of the things that's pretty amazing about it is how the rules map to the comic so well, and the rulebook does do this mapping explicitly at one point, IIRC—the snake fight.

    Also, regarding "tutorial levels" and railroads: to me, I think twenty minutes, maybe a half-hour, of railroaded "this is how you do it" is fine, but more than that is pretty much always unacceptable. I love the FFG SW games, as you know, @DBB , but as we've discussed I also have some qualms with the GMing advice chapters. The fact that their entire introductory adventures are giant railroads is disappointing to me but not surprising. I mean, what you describe, with a very linear scenario that presupposes PC actions, isn't just how they wrote their intro adventures—that's pretty much what the GM chapter tells you to do when designing *any* campaign for that system.
  • @Deliverator I've heard of Mouse Guard here on Story-Games, but I've never got my hands on the game. Now I'll really have to seriously check it out. Thanks.
  • Like, the actual presentation of the rules is pretty traditional, but there are portions of it where it's just a 1-to-1 "here is what's happening in the comic, here is what that means in game terms."
  • @Deliverator Is Mouse Guard both a game and a comic, two separate products?
  • Okay, wikipedia answered that for me.
  • edited March 2018
    I'm currently working on a tutorial/play example for my game.

    German board games are great at explaining themselves.

    Worlds in Peril has an excellent comic explaining roleplaying in general.
  • BeePeeGee said:

    I'm currently working on a tutorial/play example for my game.

    German board games are great at explaining themselves.

    Worlds in Peril has an excellent comic explaining roleplaying in general.

    Tutorial that players play through, or a series of examples to demonstrate the rules that players will read. If the former, how are you structuring the tutorial?

    <

    Also, regarding "tutorial levels" and railroads: to me, I think twenty minutes, maybe a half-hour, of railroaded "this is how you do it" is fine, but more than that is pretty much always unacceptable. I love the FFG SW games, as you know, @DBB , but as we've discussed I also have some qualms with the GMing advice chapters. The fact that their entire introductory adventures are giant railroads is disappointing to me but not surprising. I mean, what you describe, with a very linear scenario that presupposes PC actions, isn't just how they wrote their intro adventures—that's pretty much what the GM chapter tells you to do when designing *any* campaign for that system.

    I think this comes to good tutorial design, if you compare the tutorial in a game like portal where you feel like you're playing and its fun, as opposed to something like runescape (first one i could think of) where its go here do this, go here do this, and doesn't feel like play but rather a task.

    Keeping it short is a good idea too though, maybe you could have a brief bit that's very tutorial heavy and then say start playing the game regularly now and as you play introduce these extra mechanics so they go off the "railroad" part but are still in a quasi tutorial environment for a while until the more complex / additional mechanics are all introduced.

    I also think you could reduce boredom / frustration from the railroad section by still allowing creative player input around the edges of the tutorial.

    So as a very rough example [RAILROAD] you are a group of four heroes and you are about to kill an epic beast, [CREATIVE INPUT] what is the beast and why must it die? Ok now that we know that, here are the rules for killing a beast try them out.
  • Does anybody remember the old boxed set re-release of Basic D&D from the early 90's? It came with a gamebook-style solo campaign that, scene-by-scene, introduced the various concepts and rules of the game, and frankly I thought it was pretty fantastically done. Basically building you up to run the same scenario for a group as the DM.

    Also, the Japanese RPG company Adventure Planning Service has been releasing most of their new games for the past several years as a combination of Actual Play and Rules Text. The Actual Play parts really help with understanding and contextualizing the rules, and are usually entertaining in their own right as well (it doesn't hurt that Japanese RPG culture has a long history of publishing Actual Plays as general entertainment reading, and they've become really popular on video sharing websites too in recent years, apparently fueling a new boom of RPG fandom).

    Whenever I see Andy K talk about Shinobigami, he stresses that people really should read the Actual Play part, that it's not just some supplemental thing or a means to pad out page count or whatever. They definitely give a better understanding of what the game actually is than you get from just the rules (whether or not this is just a "failure" of rules writing is a question worth asking, but based on this thread I think there's a lot of agreement that there's something lacking in just explaining what something looks like compared to seeing it in action). Not only that, but since they're complete, uninterrupted sessions, you get a much better sense of the totality of the fiction, the emotional impact the game can have, the players' reactions to it, etc... That's something I think is missing from isolated examples of play that a lot of rulebooks use.
  • I should mention that I've never used a "structured playthrough" in an RPG (except for, for example, introducing Apocalypse World moves one after another as they come in a game for new players), but I have done so in more procedural games (mainly in my various storytelling games).

    I did so in games where choosing the *type* of move or action you make doesn't mean you have no input into the game.

    Imagine how you would teach someone to play Chess, for instance - my approach was similar to that.

    e.g.

    * "Ok, you're White, so you start. You can move a pawn or one of the knights - none of the other pieces can move just yet, until others have made way. Which piece would you like to move first?"
    * "Ok, now that you've chosen your piece, here are the possible moves. Which square do you want to move to?"
    * Etc.

    I'll grant that this approach works better with a in-the-flesh facilitator than "on paper", but it's very effective.

    In an RPG it might look like:

    "You're standing in front of a locked door. What would you like to do?

    * Listen, with your ear to the door. (Make sure to tell everyone else to be quiet!)
    * Try to pick the lock. Does your character carry lockpicks?
    * Try to knock the door down. If so, how?
    * Try something completely different, of your own invention.
    * Leave the door alone and go somewhere else. If so, say where you'd like to go next."
  • edited March 2018
    @rhysmakesthings : at the moment, it is "demonstrate by example". This really works well because a lot of the negotiation/collaboration between players is a silent agreement. The _style_ of play is hard to put down as rules, so the demonstration really helps.

    I'm also thinking of offering "My first session" for players to play through. It will probably include:
    - a simple interaction/action scene
    - a negotiation (social conflict)
    - maybe an emotional scene
    - maybe an investigation
    - a complex action scene, i.e. a heist or car chase

    Where I still have questions:
    - Should it be a separate setting or the one they will actually use for playing later?
    - How can I railroad them through what I want them to experience anđ still keep it interesting & open ended play?
    - How do I write the instructions (it is a GMless collaborative game, so there is not central GM I could emulate in the writing...)
  • BeePeeGee said:

    The _style_ of play is hard to put down as rules, so the demonstration really helps.

    +1
    BeePeeGee said:

    - How can I railroad them through what I want them to experience and still keep it interesting & open ended play?

    This is the crucial point that makes me think that a written RPG tutorial can't be much good, or not much else than choose-your-own-adventure.

    How can you write a tutorial to address these two points?:
    Paul_T said:

    * Try something completely different, of your own invention.
    * Leave the door alone and go somewhere else. If so, say where you'd like to go next.

    An experienced (as in "knows the rules") GM/facilitator can provide a tutorial for novice players. Absolutely. She can react to players' choices and chance outcomes. But a pre-written tutorial?
    And then again, an experienced GM/facilitator probably has little reason to play a tutorial instead of jumping straight into the "proper" game and explaining the rules as the need arises. Maybe a simplified and slightly railroadey first session is all it's needed.
  • It's hard to speak in general terms - at this point you're getting into details which will really matter on the specific game being taught. It may be possible, or it may not. (For example, "choose to go somewhere else" is a totally reasonable prompt in an underground dungeon with three rooms.)

    If you're hoping for a general tutorial for all roleplaying games... that's not going to happen, and I would even say that there is no such thing.
  • In regards to the railroad aspect, I think that the hybrid approach really helps with this. Freeform to learn about roleplaying and parts of style of play, railroad when you need to teach mechanics, then a good starting scenario to combine the two and help with style of play.

    This last step is exemplified by "Tomb of the Serpent King" which is an OSR adventure designed to teach players how to deal with OSR challenges.

    A good tutorial I think would have multiple phases like this and focus on teaching one aspect at a time, rather than teaching all of what the RPG encompasses in a single step somehow which no doubt would just result in an unsatisfying railroad.

    Though I also agree with Paul that different games would be very different in terms of how easily you could create a tutorial for them and each tutorial needs to be specifically designed for a particular game.
  • I wrote a 200 word game recently called The Master's Gambit, for two players.

    It's addressed to the GM in-character, describing the mechanics to them and how they are used. Then as part of the (very minimal) story, it asks them to train their disciple in the ways of the Glyph (the main mechanic). But this is also in-character, so the Master describes actions they are doing, and the Apprentice just has to sort of cotton on. Once they "do it right" (include certain words in the description of their action), the Master gives them dice to actually roll for it.

    Once they're ready, the Master introduces a mission to them--where the Master will not directly help them. The Apprentice must use their understanding of the mechanics to do things within the scene until they complete their goal.

    But between missions, the Master may want to train them more--showing them other ways the same mechanic can be used, to give them a better understanding of it. All the while, never simply explaining the mechanics of the game.

    I'm pretty sure that's not really the kind of thing you're looking for. But it's along the same lines: the GM putting a player through a "tutorial" of sorts.

    You could have a similar thing with more regular rules, and the GM explaining them as they become relevant, so as to not overburden the players. All the players need to know is they can say anything they want to do, and the GM will tell them how to do it.

    There's a superb video by Runerhammer along these lines--targetted specifically at D&D. He describes a few simple encounters where the players are eased into the situations, into roleplaying, and are given tiny dribs and drabs of simplified mechanics along the way. So they're learning the basic principles used throughout D&D as a system. I'd enourage checking it out, even if D&D and trad games aren't your thing! [VIDEO]
  • Thanks for the video! I'll check that out.

    I like your explanation of your game here, it's definitely the kind of thing I was looking for. Essentially you get the player to engage in trial and error, rather than explaining the rules to them, and you do that through positive reinforcement. Could be a useful technique for parts of a game tutorial, though you have to make sure you as ways to avoid frustration and I think it definitely works better as the premise of the game so the player is ready to try and work the mechanics out as part of the initial buy in.
  • https://dig1000holes.wordpress.com/what-is-a-roleplaying-game/

    Found this game, pretty interesting implementation of something along the lines of what i've been looking for.
  • https://dig1000holes.wordpress.com/what-is-a-roleplaying-game/

    Found this game, pretty interesting implementation of something along the lines of what i've been looking for.

    This was a sort of 'movement', a lot of people like Vincent Baker created their version of WiaRG.
  • @rhysmakesthings, since you're touching on Epidiah stuff, check out The City of Fire & Coin: it's a (free) step-by-step tutorial for Swords Without Master.
Sign In or Register to comment.