Thank you to everyone who commented on the Intro Games for New Players  post last month. Jennifer ran her intro game for her group– and it went extremely well.
A number of your tricks really helped people dig into their characters. Highlighting key skills was a nice touch– making it obvious at a glance which characters were good at which tasks. We made use of a number of other tools– her first adventure design and she already spurns copying stat-blocks by hand.
After deciding to do the game, she spent some time juggling player availability. The players were all thirty-somethingish professionals who aren’t used to blocking out Saturday afternoons for gaming. Despite a scare or two as sickness and babysitter issues loomed, everyone made it.
Long Range Prep
Jennifer sent out a teaser email and directions to keep the afternoon in everyone’s mind. She read through some Dragon magazine adventures and started fleshing out her idea. It was going to be a little like the Neverwinter Nights 2 festival at the start of the game… but hers would be the Festival of the Blue Moon. Then work rose up and swamped her.
The night before the game
Jennifer got home, set her work aside, and relaxed for a moment. Our home game was canceled for the night, so I offered to help. After dinner she started telling me about her adventure, reading off of a brief outline. It already sounded pretty good, but as she went along she noticed some elements that would be cool to repeat.
She had already decided that the contest was a cavern complex with some thinking puzzles and some fights. The adventure was going to start in town with some roleplaying and maybe a fist fight with bullies to let everyone get a handle on the system without much risk.
After going through the adventure outline, she visited the Wizards of the Coast site. Since she was pressed for time, she decided to use the encounter builder to suggest some good challenges, and paid to copy out stat blocks, etc. [It turns out that cutting and pasting into google-docs largely keeps the formatting.] Despite some frustrations with login management, it was soon spitting out encounters. She looked them over and thought about werewolves (to go with the moon theme). When it appeared they’d be too stiff an opponent, she looked for other lycanthropes and saw the humble wererat. She read the wererat entry notes and noted that they often hang out with kobolds.
With her tentative foe list laid out (rats, giant rats, wererats, kobolds, and a rival gang of town youth), she retold the story, fleshing out some descriptions to emphasize the rat and moon elements. The cave soon became a rat overrun dwarven Temple of the Moon and the town bully became a wererat in disguise. One of her thinking challenges turned out to be a ghostly moon bridge, triggered when the appropriate icon was shot.
Meanwhile,I created several characters– a few more than the number of players, so they’d have some choices. I wandered back to the room while she copied stat blocks and prepared encounter sheets. (With more time, she would have been better served knowing the PC builds, and making sure that any problems she brought up would be solveable in the adventure. Fortunately, I didn’t mix in anything tricky to trip her up.) The character sheet and power card printout proved incredibly nice. Just the back page, with stat card and power cards, was a great thumbnail sketch.
Morning, day of the game
We woke up and had a nice breakfast. Jennifer checked her email to ensure everyone was still on schedule– they were– and read through her notes again. I tossed together a tasty cake and stayed out of the way as everyone rolled in.
Everyone rolled in a little early, each bringing some kind of snack. I emerged from the kitchen just long enough to nab a “pumpkin crack” muffin (as good as titled). In the kitchen I juggled bread and cake while everyone met, introduced themselves, and looked over characters.
I bit my tongue a time or two as Jennifer explained the rules; there were nuances that she glossed over that I wanted to geek out about. Once my bread was out of the oven I placed it and half of the cake out with their snacks and headed off to my own afternoon game.
The game in play
When I returned that evening, Jennifer was still twitching with excitement. The game went extremely well, but not at all as she’d anticipated. I laughed, and we agreed that that’s the GM’s curse.
The town scenes became more elaborate than she’d imagined, with the group looking for rumors about their rivals, teasing secrets out of the townsfolk, and generally turning her town upside down.
On the spot, she decided that rather than the fight with thugs originally planned, the elders would stage an arm wrestling competition for the right to enter first. From there things went mostly on course, though her players were reluctant to take on the squeeking rat swarm near the entrance to the tower. Finally she let them know that the rats wouldn’t just be walking away…
Once inside the cavern, they had a great scene. Jennifer had a note about “one kobold is asleep on watch, with his leg tied to a bucket of rocks”. The PCs started trying to sneak by, but one character failed her sneak roll waking poor Churk up. That wound up being the star scene of the night, as the players started roleplaying threats, while Jennifer had poor Churk begging and bartering to keep his life. He earned a reprieve, but he’d better not do anything… or else. Poor Churk swore himself to silence and stillness as the players all laughed.
The final scene was a dramatic confrontation with the bully and his dad– both wererats, and a room full of giant rats and a rat swarm. When she’d built the encounter, Jennifer worried that it’d be too much. The players solved that by blowing through the encounter with crit after crit, quickly downing their foes.
From there, the PCs returned to town and were lavishly rewarded. In fact, their indentures were purchased, leaving them free to begin a life of adventure.
The first positive feedback came right away. The session ran long, but everyone wanted to stay until the end and see the story through.
Over the next few days she got a few emails asking when they’d do it again. While everyone enjoyed the session, it’ll be interesting to see how many people want to keep going. At least one player went out and bought some dice…
So that’s the tale of Jennifer’s first girl gamer adventure. She learned a lot and came out of the experience much more confident about running games in general.