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Vapourware PnP systems for normals

Discussion in 'The Gazebo' started by Fedora Master, Sep 19, 2019.

  1. Fedora Master Arcane Patron Edgy

    Fedora Master
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    Hello Codex,

    I got it into my head to teach my normie friends - who think of chains and ballgags when they hear the term "roleplaying" - about the joys of Pen and Paper gaming. I'm moderately familiar with most of the common systems but not very experienced as a GM. Now, looking through the various settings and rulesets that might be appropriate for noobs I've had a bit of trouble finding a really good one.

    What I need is basically a ruleset that can be played without minis and doesn't devolve into flowcharts upon flowcharts. It also shouldn't be too "out there" since these people know nothing about the popculture around RPGs. This means no Dark Heresy, probably no World of Darkness. More benign stuff like Forgotten Realms might work but that brings me back to the charts-upon-charts problem.

    What's the best system to introduce clueless people to Pen and Paper?
     
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  2. Popiel Arcane Patron

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  3. Kliwer Learned

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    First option for me is Warhammer 1ed (https://thetrove.net/Books/Games Workshop/Warhammer/Fantasy/Roleplay/1st edition/Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay - A Grim World of Perilous Adventure.pdf).
    The system is very intuitive, players only need to understand attributes and very basic fighting rules, because everything else is arbitrary set by Game Master. Even if someone wish to play spell-caster the way to this goal is long and it is enought time to become familiar with more complicated aspects of the system.

    Generally players chart is just his race (Tolkien-based dwarves, elves, hobbits, humans), his class (mostly something ordinary and non-epic, like lumberjack, bandit or prison guard), his skills (which are mostly just flat bonus to all atribute tests; skills also are quite ordinary like: riding, blacksmithing, sneaking, herbology so nothing paranormal) and equipment.

    You need only one book to star playing.

    You could designe your own character but the system supports totaly random creation - good for begginers. There are also 4 canonic characters to choose (standard: human ranger, hobbit thief, she-elf wizard, dwarven fighter).

    The system uses only two types of dices: d6 (for damage) and d100 (it means: 2xd10, for almost all tests).

    The world is darker version of Tolkiens world, combined with some Cthulhu-like stuff and real Europena history (for example the main country - The Empire - is just a variation of First German Reich), so if Your friends know anything about Middle Ages and if they watched Lord of the Rings - it will be enough to start. A typical adventure in this world (especially for low level characters) is more about earning some silver to not strave to death then epick fights with dragons.

    The secend option, for someone who looks for "D&D but simpler" is Dungeon Crawl Classics. (https://thetrove.net/Books/Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG/DCC - Core Rulebook.pdf)

    Third option is just to play story-telling adventure in any world familiar to your friends (Tolkien, Star Wars, some historical period) almost without any system [let them just describe their characters by text and 4-6 attributes, make simple tests based on d6].
     
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  4. Snorkack Arcane Patron

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    Have had great experience getting noobs into P&P with Dungeon World. It's super lightweight on rules, but it's quite different compared to any other PnP system.

    If you're more interested in a post-apoc setting, there's also the quite similar Apocalypse World.
    Both come without settings, the idea is that you start out with only a rough concept about the world and you and your players flesh it out during play.
     
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  5. Melan Prestigious Gentleman Arcane Patron

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    There are three painless options (which are also reasonably popular and well supported).

    1) Classic D&D editions are light on both player- and GM-facing rules while offering sufficient handholds (play procedures and support material for campaign development). They have a right balance of exploration, combat and freeform problem-solving, and they are strongly polished despite a few wonky-looking rules. The perfect intro pick is probably the Moldvay Basic Set, which is still affordable second-hand (or you can grab and print a PDF). You can also pick a modern reconstruction (Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, Old School Essentials). These are functionally identical, slightly better organised, but tend to be lighter on good GM advice.

    2) The Star Wars RPG from West End Games is the best ruleset to play space opera games (and absolutely superior to the cumbersome and dull modern SW systems). It is easy to learn and gets the feel just right - characters are competent but not superhuman, and the system encourages action-oriented play where you can "trust the Force". In a broader sense, the general "D6 System" is well suited for anything cinematic - from James Bond to Indiana Jones, if it's two-fisted action, D6 has you covered. There is a much stripped down version called Mini-Six that's even easier than the original (it is mostly for building your own setting from scratch).

    3) Call of Cthulhu remains easy to understand for newbies. It is sometimes considered a bit dated these days, but it is better described as a timeless classic. Most of it is percentile rolls, or refering to a single action/reaction matrix. Character creation is longer than in D&D or SW, but it is not particularly hard. It comes with a recognisable pop culture setting (Lovecraft is "geek mainstream"), a good framework for supernatural investigative adventures, and plenty of things to play with.
     
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  6. Melan Prestigious Gentleman Arcane Patron

    Melan
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    I like Blades in the Dark, but the setting is fairly high-concept, and the rules are more fiddly than they seem on first sight. I would not use it as a first game. Same thing with DCC - it is a good RPG, but perhaps not a really good newbie RPG.
     
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  7. Silva Arcane

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    Yep, echoing others, "Powered by the Apocalypse" games like Dungeon World are the easiest shit there is nowadays that's also fun. And it has no obsession at all with flowcharts or arcane stuff like "Thac0" or something.

    I recommend Monster of the Week myself. Players are supernatural/ghosts/monster hunters in modern world, an easy enough theme for newbies to grok, and the game is versatile enough so the group can dial the tone darker or light-hearted as they wish.
     
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  8. catfood AGAIN

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    Call of Cthulhu is extremely easy to understand for new players. Mechanically, the only thing that they need to know is that they roll a percentile dice and if you roll under the score on your sheet you've succeed. It doesn't get much simpler than this. I also think that normies would find it easier to identify with, let's say, a private eye set in our world, than an elf wizard in a fantasy setting. Also the character creation process is extremely simple, provided you know to do 2nd grade math and can follow a few instructions.

    Since you live in Merkellandia and if you want to do fantasy, there's a cool Sword & Wizardry hack (which is itself an OD&D clone) called Sword & Wizardry Continual Light which is a short, 50 page long system with big ass font and pictures that is specifically designed to help people get into role-playing. The only dice that you need are d20's and d6 so that normies won't feel too intimidated.
    https://www.system-matters.de/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/SW-Continual-Light-Download.pdf
    It has everything you need for the players, plus GM rules including monsters and a short adventure to boot! Highly recommended.

    Black Hack is very similar, this time and only 30 pages.
    https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/255088/The-Black-Hack-Second-Edition
     
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  9. spectre Arcane

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    I think this depends entirely on the group of "normals". I remember back when WoD was introduced it drew a good bunch of decline folks into the hobby, precisely because it focuses on storytelling and can be played with little to no rules, no miniatures, etc. Apparently these are the things a good bunch of people don't want in their RPG. Because of that, it just might be a good starter system. While delving into the world of the more obscure undead or mages might be too much, the vampire tropes should be reasonably accessible. Not to mention, it had the best resources for running it if you don't trust yourself as a GM.

    Stuff like Warhammer FRP or D&D is great if you want to give them the classic RPG experience (again, depends on the people). Cyberpunk can also be quite accessible if you just stick with the basics and focus on the story and the themes of corporations, big city survival and technology going too far should resonate with regular people.

    Most normal people respond well to board games, so it might be a good alternative approach - fire up a boardgame and let them focus on the banter. I think Arkham Horror lends itself pretty well to this approach. You can do it with Descent clones as well.
     
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  10. Fedora Master Arcane Patron Edgy

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    Thanks for the recommendations so far guys. Dungeon World seems the most appropriate so far since it allows for narrative combat and is a blank slate. Warhammer Fantasy RPG could work since I know all about WHF and it's less... involved... than 40k form a normals point of view but afaik the various version that are out there all play very differently. I looked at the 3rd edition and it introduced cards, which is something I dont really like. It's Pen and Paper, not Pen and A Deck Of Cards, okay?

    You don't quite understand. We're talking "Has never read Lord of the Rings" levels of normal here.
     
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  11. Melan Prestigious Gentleman Arcane Patron

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    Even the most mundane mundanes should understand horror, even if the Lovecraftian brand is unfamiliar (actually, CoC is probably best with people who don't know the Mythos too well, and aren't jaded about it).

    Likewise, D&D's hook - explore dangerous underground mazes, avoid getting killed by the monsters, steal the treasures and become more powerful - is a relatively easy sell even if they aren't fantasy buffs.

    WRT narrative games like Dungeon World, they may be a bit harder for complete newbies. These games require a degree of player narration, something that's natural for experienced players. I would stay with the traditional DM/player split for an intro experience.
     
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  12. Silva Arcane

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    I must disagree here. In my experience it's the RPG vets who have difficulty grasping the more narrative games, while newbies - coming from a movies/stories reference - grok it easier.

    And Fedora Master , my Monster of the Week recommendation above is the same engine as Dungeon World but in a more mainstream theme (Buffy, X-Files, Stranger Things, Resident Evil, Castlevania, etc). So if your friends are not familiar with Tolkien, maybe they grok this easier.
     
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  13. Silva Arcane

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    Actually the playbooks/character archetypes come with embed setting elements, so I wouldn't say they come with no setting.

    And watch out for Apocalypse World: it's got Sex moves, that can sound weird to some people. These are easily ignored, though.
     
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  14. L'ennui Magister

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    For complete newbies, something simple and flexible like Freeform Universal RPG might be good. Easy on you as the GM too, and you can play in any setting your group would enjoy.

    It's free and a short read, so maybe worth checking it out. If your players dig the experience, you can opt for a more mechanically complex system afterwards (or not, it's perfectly fine to play rules-light games as a preference).

    EDIT: link http://freeformuniversal.com/
     
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  15. udm Arcane Patron

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  16. Fedora Master Arcane Patron Edgy

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    I appreciate the recommendation but holy lol the entire German translation is written in the female form. :lol:
     
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  17. Glop_dweller Cipher

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    Steve Jackson's Toon. A very modest ruleset, based on six sided dice; (that everybody has, and is familiar with).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toon_(role-playing_game)


    http://www.sjgames.com/toon/deluxe_edition.html

    (And everyone has the idea...)

     
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  18. Stormcrowfleet Arcane

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    Someone said Blade in the Dark and it's true that it's not bad.

    Just go B/X or if you feel badass OD&D (or Sword and Wizardry as someone suggested) and run the B2 Module. You can even take pre-made character if you wish to simplify it.
     
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  19. Garbage Learned

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    It might take longer, but I think easing people into pen and paper through board games like Gloomhaven might be a good path.
     
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  20. deuxhero Arcane

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    I actually think superheros is the best for introducing new people to roleplaying. Unless they're into cRPGs, the conventions of murderhoboing thing tends to be foreign to people. On the other hand, everyone understands the superhero conventions: Bad guy tries to rob a bank/lab with materials he needs for his divice/hold the world hostage, you track him to his lair and punch him and save the day. Decent number of modules to rip from for a non-fantasy setting too. Most superhero systems are also flexible and easy to play. Mutants and Masterminds 3E is a good one, and it has a set of official DC comics books for it if you want to use an established universe, plus stat blocks for pretty much every superpowered popculture character out there to serve as examples.

    Other than that... Savage Worlds? Newest edition (which is a straight upgrade unless you're dependent upon a supplement for older setting) is out soon (already out for backers and can easily be found if you know where to look). It's about being easy to play but with meaningful customization.
     
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  21. Fedora Master Arcane Patron Edgy

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    I feel a little bad for asking this but how viable would it be to play DnD 5E without minis? I know 4E was terrible about the whole battle grid stuff. I just feel like the most "classic" option would be to dump my players into a session of actual DnD for a really basic dungeon crawl session.
     
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  22. Snorkack Arcane Patron

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    But why. DnD is basically a board game. There's little RPG left if you skip the tactical combat.
    Maybe get the AD&D starter box?
     
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  23. Garbage Learned

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    Even if 5e has gutted a lot of stuff, it's still a tabletop roleplaying game.
     
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  24. Silva Arcane

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    Well, if the players are not into tactical combats then D&D is a bad option indeed. On the other hand tactical combats are a big part of the hobby, so..
     
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  25. Stormcrowfleet Arcane

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    I play it without mini and it's fine.
     
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