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Newbs with Boobs: The play report

Posted By Scott Martin On March 3, 2009 @ 1:43 am In GMing Advice | 18 Comments

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.

Afterwards

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.

About  Scott Martin

Scott is an engineer turned gnome and game store owner. He lies awake at night building intriguing worlds and plotting your character's demise.




18 Comments (Open | Close)

18 Comments To "Newbs with Boobs: The play report"

#1 Comment By Rafe On March 3, 2009 @ 7:38 am

That’s great! Glad to hear it went so well!

#2 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On March 3, 2009 @ 9:59 am

Awesome! I’m glad it went well, and that the preparation y’all put into it paid off.

Of course the players critted over and over… Dice love new players.

#3 Comment By deadlytoque On March 3, 2009 @ 10:17 am

“Newbs with boobs”? Really?

OK, granted, I laughed. And when I shared it with my friend Emily, she also laughed, but said that it probably didn’t put the best face on These Games of Ours and the people who play them to the outside world.

I mean, when one of the biggest critiques of RPGs is that there aren’t a lot of female players, shouldn’t we be treading really carefully on issues like that?

Anyway, great to hear that the game went well! Prep is so important for starting GMs, and will go one of two ways: either prep becomes ESSENTIAL, or it fades into the background, depending on style.

#4 Comment By Scott Martin On March 3, 2009 @ 12:03 pm

Thanks for the congratulations Rafe, Telas and Deadlytoque! I suspect she’ll be along to tell some of the better bits. And you’re right, the dice do love new players! If only to make the new GMs lose all concept of challenging…

@deadlytoque – My wife suggested the title for the first article, but I chickened out. A little taunting since then and I decided to run with it this time. You don’t want to know how gnomish women keep their menfolk in line. ;)

#5 Comment By John Arcadian On March 3, 2009 @ 3:32 pm

Sounds like a great experience all around. I was impressed that she also got the “I am going to need to improv and switch it up in order to keep it fun.” That is often a hard lesson for first time GMs.

#6 Comment By Jennifer_W On March 3, 2009 @ 4:54 pm

I’m not sure, but I think I was just called a gnomish woman. Hmmm …

I do wish I’d put in some more prep — work took over for a while and I neglected getting an early start. On the flip side, everything I planned was fresh in my mind the next day.

Scott’s got a good report, the only glaring difference is that the poor kobold’s name was Churk not Meepo.

This encounter was by far my favorite. We were about halfway through the day. The women had started to create personalities for their characters and they really began to shine here. Plus, at one point everyone was laughing over the situation and having a good time — I couldn’t have asked for higher praise or a better way to introduce new players.

My goal for the day was to introduce people to not only the mechanics but also why I (or their significant others) love to game. I really wanted them to get to use their imagination in bringing their character to life as well as interact with the other players as characters and as friends.

And we did have some classic moments:
- One player had her husband’s lucky die. Only it didn’t prove lucky for her. Soon everyone was making sure she didn’t used the “cursed” die.

- One player wanted to let Churk live while others were calling for his death. This resulted in some good discussion and some good character development.

- The melee fighter got low on hp and rallied to live on.

I’ve had some good feedback, including people asking me about some characters in the game (some that were ad-libbed on the moment), one person said one of the best parts was that I “did the voices,” which I was really hesitant about doing. Another asked me if we play again will we learn more about the world — a world they’d just had a glance at and one that I was making up as I either wrote it or went along. I was so thrilled that this one-shot I’d put together on the fly was so well received and kept a good pace. It took us about 6 hours for everyone to choose characters and get through the adventure (and the cake and the muffins and the chips and the …).

BTW, I really did love the WotC DnDInsider — especially the compendium. Made it incredibly fast to find monster stats and other info. Also like the encounter developer, but it is very basic — as a new GM I could have used some suggestions about critters to use.

Also, I would have highlighted two lines on the character sheets: the top line and bottom line of the powers boxes. Top is “X vs AC or Reflex or Etc” and bottom is bonus to attack and damage dice to roll. Those seemed the most used and often confusing.

Also, one comment I got was that the player was very thankful the game started and finished in one sitting — she didn’t understand how people play the weekly games with “no ending.”

I was absolutely thrilled overall and would love to lead this group (or a similar one) again. We’ll probably tackle organizing another one in a month or so when everyone’s done with vacations and such.

Again, I loved everyone’s suggestions. I hope I can be as helpful to you as you all were to me.

#7 Comment By Scott Martin On March 3, 2009 @ 5:11 pm

(Your eyes do not deceive you; Churk has replaced Meepo in the post. Don’t know where I came up with that…)

#8 Comment By Tony Graham On March 3, 2009 @ 5:34 pm

Congrats on a very successful game. When players start asking questions about the world and/or want to know more about NPCs, you’ve set the hook for what should become a great story/game experience.

I’m an instant fan of Churk/Meep – “one kobold is asleep on watch, with his leg tied to a bucket of rocks” – in a word, brilliant!

#9 Comment By shytrblemaker On March 3, 2009 @ 9:07 pm

Ya know. You never listen to us dwarves. We may be short, but we have might, o great GM. I told everyone to cut the damn rope! Fool Churk wouldn’t have woken anyone up. We would have had surprise on our side. Ah but since we vanquished in the end, mayhap you’ll stop with the short jokes?

OOC: Even for a gnomish wife, you rock. Thanks so much for the adventure. I’m looking forward to moving on to even more adventures!

Desia

#10 Comment By sonipitts On March 3, 2009 @ 10:42 pm

As an old school GM and player from back in the 2.0 days who possesses some impressive tracts of land myself, I squeed at the title of this post. Succinct, descriptive and funny. I think it’s more than okay for us gamers to quit taking ourselves so seriously. Roll well and no one cares what you’re packing upstairs (well, except for that one creepy guy who always insists on playing a lecherous monk, but nobody will touch his dice anyway).

Post = win.

#11 Comment By Scott Martin On March 4, 2009 @ 10:49 am

@John Arcadian – Improv was the hardest thing for me when I started… everyone knows it’s the quality of prep that sets a good GM apart, right? I’m glad that I’ve drifted from that since then… and that Jennifer was smart enough not to fall in that trap from the start.

@Tony Graham – I agree– when the players want more world and people details (instead of resisting and trying to “skip to the fun stuff”), they’re hooked. If you’re very quiet about it, you could probably steal poor Churk for your own group…

@shytrblemaker – Was there a cool scene that my second hand summary missed? I’m glad that you enjoyed it and want more… it sounds like Jennifer’s thinking along the same lines.

@sonipitts – Glad you enjoyed the post. Have you ever played in an all girl group? This was Jennifer’s first time, and she’s convinced that there’s a very different feel around the table.

#12 Comment By Alnakar On March 4, 2009 @ 8:05 pm

I’m always glad to hear that new players have been recruited to the cause — especially if they have great tracts of land.

I’ll definitely have to name an NPC Churk at some point. Nicely done.

#13 Comment By sonipitts On March 4, 2009 @ 11:20 pm

@Scott Martin
Have you ever played in an all girl group? This was Jennifer’s first time, and she’s convinced that there’s a very different feel around the table.

No, never did. Did most of my playing in the 80′s and early 90′s (I’ve been out of the game for a while and looking forward to trying out v4.0), and the tables were still pretty testicular in makeup. To many chicks trying to be preppies and Madonna, not enough self-actualized nerds, lol.

I imagine the tone and feel of the table would be different, and it’s something I’d love to try.

Did they all play female characters, as well? I and most of the groups I played in basically played whatever character we thought would be fun or interesting, sex/gender notwithstanding, so I’m wondering if there was an assumption of an all-female party simply because all the players were female.

#14 Comment By Scott Martin On March 5, 2009 @ 4:39 pm

@sonipitts – They did all play females, but there was some debate on whether they would. I suspect it was easier for first timers not to change everything… thinking like a Dragonborn is tough enough, much less a guy!

I suspect you’ll find it very different, just playing with adults. I’ve always enjoyed my gaming, but I don’t think I’d happily go back to adventures geared for grade schoolers.

#15 Comment By sonipitts On March 5, 2009 @ 10:09 pm

Heh, I’m older than you think. In the 80s and 90s, I (and my fellow players) *were* adults, albeit young ones. I was 18 when I graduated in ’87.

I was an early teen when I started, though. Fondly remember being chastised by my HS science teacher once when I was rolling up dungeons during class time. I say fondly because the guy actually didn’t care that I was designing games – being a true nerd, my work was done early and almost always A material. He just wanted me to keep my dice from rolling across the metal dissection trays and disturbing my fellow students, lol! Ah, the good old days.

But it being the mid-west and all, I was almost the only player in school, period, let alone being a girl.

But yeah, most of my gaming was done with grown ups. Didn’t stop us from running completely hysterical, juvenile and hi-camp campaigns, though. Remind me to tell you about the infamous Kender Blender one day…

#16 Comment By Martin Ralya On March 7, 2009 @ 11:51 am

I will have to remind Alysia that she’s technically a gnomish wife. I’m sure she’ll just love that. ;-)

#17 Comment By BryanB On March 8, 2009 @ 12:26 pm

I’m the owner of the “cursed” die. It always did well for me, but now it won’t roll high at all. So let that be a lesson to each of you. Never loan out the “one.” Pinky is still mad at me for loaning it out. Hopefully, it will get over it soon. :)

My wife had a very good time and she can now understand what the hell I am talking about when I babble about a particularly good game session. I knew that she had a good time when she started recapping the session for me and used geek terminology to do so. Ah yes, the stew works… no matter whether the Gnome or their spouse prepares it!

It is always nice to see newbies take to the game and have fun. Good job Jennifer!

#18 Comment By roamer On March 13, 2009 @ 9:15 am

@sonipitts
what exactly is the kender blender? you have me intrigued.


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