Have you been interested in playing D&D or Pathfinder, but avoided it because of its complexity? Maybe you want to introduce the world of RPGs to friends who are only familiar with games like Monopoly and Settlers of Catan. Sometimes it’s best to start with simpler RPGs to help them get the feel of the game mechanics and what’s expected from players. Here are three good introductory RPGs that are less intimidating, ranging from simple to more complex:
ROLL FOR SHOES
Roll for Shoes is probably the simplest RPG out there. Listed as a “micro-dungeon,” the instructions can fit in seven bullet points. Each player gets a 6-sided die and one skill: “Do Anything”. They perform skill checks against the GM and if they pass their skill check, they get to do that “thing.” As the game goes on, they can develop new skills by rolling a 6. This is a good intro to the GM-to-player dynamic without needing much preparation from the GM, or needing lists of stats for players to keep referring to. With such a low-pressure environment, it’s hard not to have fun. Roll for Shoes‘ loose structure allows players to feel free to do whatever they want with often hilarious results. This RPG can get ridiculous really fast making it a good game for players to exercise their imagination with low-risk. You can also set this game anywhere, so the options are virtually endless.
Fiasco is a GM-less game with a fairly loose structure and no pre-planning required. All you need is the pdf or physical book, 6 sided die and index cards. Originally modeled after Coen brothers’ movies, the game is broken up into 2 acts, with a “Tilt” in between and “Aftermath” at the end. Each player is a character with relationships to the others and goals that often conflict with them. You roll dice to determine the outcome and act out how the characters get to that outcome. By the end, you feel like you and your friends have written a movie together. Over the years, the makers of Fiasco have come out with new storylines and playsets like “Transatlantic” (modeled after Titanic and Poseidon), “Camp Death” (modeled after Friday the 13th) and “The Last Christmas in O’Hare” (an apocalyptic Christmas scenario). All of these and many more scenarios are available in pdf for free or by donation.
Dungeon World is probably the closest in structure and setting to D&D and Pathfinder but with some differences that make it easier for newcomers. The GM actually needs to prepare for this game and get a sense of the rules. However, the emphasis is more on narrative so it isn’t too big of a deal if you stray from the rules. There is no rolling for initiative so players can do what they want in a more organic, narrative way. They only roll for skill checks and there are degrees of success and failure. For instance, if a player succeeds on a roll to shoot a troll with an arrow, they may hit the troll but the troll could fall over and hurt one of their fellow players. Since Dungeon World does not have turn-based combat, it keeps the action going and gets beginners comfortable with dice-rolling without having to start and stop too much. It keeps the excitement and immersion in the game going without lags that are often felt in D&D and Pathfinder. It’s less restrictive about what choices and actions you can make, so new players can be more adventurous. Once they feel comfortable with this RPG, they can easily move to more complex games with confidence.
Can you think of other beginner-friendly RPGs not mentioned? What are your experiences playing these games as a beginner or with beginners? Let us know in the comments!
Featured Image: Bully Pulpit Games
Other Images: Zontik Games, Bully Pulpit Games and Necropraxis