Need advice - How to get non-gamers into a story game?

Started by iluxan, November 11, 2010, 08:05:35 AM

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[Cross-Post from story-games - ]
[I hope that's not a faux-pas.  I just really want to run a game this Saturday, so I'd like to get as much advice as possible so I can prepare accordingly.]

Hi guys,

Need advice.

I'm really excited about story games, based on what I've read here and on my one experience so far (Mars Colony, read: )

But my friends don't play these.  I'm thinking of trying to run a casual game with/for them this weekend, but have a ton of questions.

1) How do you approach getting non-gamers interested and motivated for a 2+ hour session of something like this?

Background on my gamers:
* They've done a murder mystery dinner once, and they do play Eurogames pretty regularly.  But no roleplaying, and they're not even all nerdy enough to be into steampunk or sci-fi all that heavily.

2) Am I just deluding myself?  Should I just stick to doing this with nerds I find on nerdnyc, instead of torturing my firends?

3) What are some of the best games to choose for a group of 4 people who are novices to story games?

So far looking at:
* Lady Blackbird
* Fiasco (maybe, haven't read in detail yet, but looks like fun)
* Hero's Banner - looks like a great system, but I'd have to gut it and make up my own world - no-one's really into fantasy (ok, that's probably out of the question for a first game)

4) Any quick links to help for first-time GMs, if you have them handy?

Actually, I think that's the end of my questions :)

Basically - your advice for running story games that are not too hard for novices to understand, to run and to play.

(If there's already a similar thread that answers my questions, please just link to it - I haven't found though I searched).

Moreno R.

If they liked that murder mystery dinner, I would suggest "A taste for Murder" by Graham Walmsley. 
This is the page on the unstore:
This is a review by Sebastian Hickey
This is a video interview with Graham. It was done for the Italian edition, but the question and answers are in English:

The problem with this kind of thread is that often they devolve in a very long list of post by people who propose their favorite game, even if it's not the right one, because there is not much to base the advice. It would be very useful if you talked about which games YOU enjoyed, and what you enjoyed about them, talking about the experience at the table. Because this way we could better understand the kind of games you want to propose to your friends ("story games" can mean anything from D&D to Jeepforms). And some information about their reaction to the murder mystery dinner (and the way it was done: there are a lot of different kind. They were involved in some manner in the fiction or they were only an audience?) would also be useful.

For example, the advice I gave you above with aTfM presume that your friends appreciated the playing out of the murder mystery and like murder mysteries as literature / entertainment. If they don't, and appreciated the murder mystery only for the "mental puzzle" elements (or, even worse, for the food) that advice would be completely wrong.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)



Motivation-wise, I find it's identical to selling players on trying a new boardgame.  "Hey, we've got a few hours, wanna play X?  It's a game about Y, where you Z, and it takes about this long."  Obviously, this works best if you have a group of folks who are used to playing boardgames for 2-4 hours anyway (or, would have played videogames, cards, whatever for an equivalent time frame).

Non-roleplayers are actually easier to get into this, because you don't have to jump a bunch of gamer hurdles in dealing with preconceptions and "one-true-way-ism" that roleplayers often pick up.   That is, long time roleplayers often need to be -convinced- to try a new game, new people are willing to do so without a fuss.

The games I have done in the past include 1001 Nights, Primetime Adventures, and Inspectres.  Obviously, there's probably a lot more games that could easily fit the bill (Breaking the Ice, Shab Al-Hiri Roach, for example).

Mostly, you're looking for games that:  a) don't require deep mastery to build a character, b) don't require deep mastery to engage the mechanics, c) have an easy to grab-on-to setting and situation and d) have clear goals.

If you're new to GMing, start with whatever game you've played a fair amount and had a chance to run, and are the most comfortable with.

QuoteAm I just deluding myself?  Should I just stick to doing this with nerds I find on nerdnyc, instead of torturing my firends?

So, I'm not sure if this is just usual performance anxiety, or like, something more.   You've played these games before, right?  Have you consistently had a great time with them?

"Torturing", "inflicting" and similar words are what people use when it's not a fun experience (for example, when I was 12 I "inflicted" trying to run Red Box D&D upon friends and family).   If you've played some of these games and had a great time, then you shouldn't feel this way in any serious way.

I consistently play/run PTA thinking, "This will be good" and usually walk away, "Wow, that was better than I expected!".  You pick your go-to games because they regularly deliver.


David Artman

I agree with Moreno, in that this thread could fast become a "my favorite light game" thread (light because most folks won't suggest, say, HERO System for non-gamers, because of the huge learning curve to be able to play it at all).

That said, there are a couple games with proven track records for bringing the heat without melting newbie's heads:
* Primetime Adventures is #1 - Folks watch so much TV that the structure and spotlight stuff, etc, is obvious to them.
* Dread (Jenga) - If they like suspense/horror, and if you can work up evocative questionnaires, this is a non-gamer hit every time. Make use of the Dead Man Walking rule (or whatever it's called) so that no one is knocked out of play too early. (I've been the DMW every game, because I get the shakes BAD when forced to do fine manipulation; I can bring down a tower that's only had a few pulls taken from it!)

And the ever-popular advice of "play what YOU love and it is infectious" holds true here, too. I'd append "...and that you know WELL" because nothing kills interest like a GM pouring over rules, or confusing/inconsistent implementation of rules. Also, the less "rules dump" you have to give to get into play, the better. Lean towards games that are procedurally straight-forward or that are modular (so that you can introduce the whole system in small doses during play). If one must know the bulk of the system to make the most basic decision during play, move on. That siad, if they're big board gamers, they might be used to a modicum of rules dump and better able to grok such stuff.

Have fun!
Designer - GLASS, Icehouse Games
Editor - Perfect, Passages

Callan S.

Hi iluxan,

Is your problem here that you'll ask the non-gamers and they'll just say no? And perhaps that precludes ever, ever asking them again?

It might be better to describe it more like a session you run on a regular basis, in much the same tradition of friday night drinks. That way if they say no one week, like friday night drinks, you can always offer it casually again the next week.

Of course the thing about roleplay games is that unlike musicians in a band who can actually have a solo jam session without anyone else (maybe just called a practice session), with roleplay the way it's usually designed, saying your going to run a session when you have no one else booked in seems like an impossible thing to say. But anyway, instead of phrasing it "Do you want to roleplay", perhaps phrase it "Do you want to come to this regular occasion we have?"

BTW, if you were already in a series of very regular story game sessions, would you be inviting these guys?


I'd love to know how this went if you tried it.  What game did you pick?  What kind of story did you tell? Did the players have fun?

I've got a couple of go-to games that I'd try for this situation, not all of which are RPGs.  One Upon a Time is excellent for these kinds of situations.
Clay Dowling - Online Campaign Planning and Management


The truth is that I haven't done it.  I've only played Mars Colony and Lady Blackbird myself so far.  And I haven't yet managed to subject my friends to my inept GMing attempts.  Still scheming, though.  Once Upon a Time looks promising to test the waters.

Cliff H

Quote from: iluxan on January 18, 2011, 04:16:34 PM
And I haven't yet managed to subject my friends to my inept GMing attempts.

If this really is a concern, it sounds like you're well situated. I say that because breaking into the role with a bunch of poeple new to gaming is probably the easier path to take. I remember my first times at the helm were with people just as new to the hobby as I, and because of that we all shared a sense of discovery; no one was concerned about "doing it right," which is something I've noticed in games with new GMs I've been in since. In those cases the new folk kept demuring to the veterans and there was a lot of performance anxiety.

Think of it like that and the fact you've got a group of people who have no prior expectations is cause for relief, not anxiety.


The other game I might recommend is GURPS Ultra-Lite.  It's an ultra-minimalist RPG, so small it fits on a single page, one sided.  I haven't tried it for introducing people, but I did conveniently produce an adventure for it a while back: The Liberation of Jorge Ramirez.
Clay Dowling - Online Campaign Planning and Management

Ron Edwards

Hi everyone,

This thread isn't evolving into an actual play topic. Therefore, with thanks to everyone and good wishes to the original poster, it's time to say, it's closed.

Best, Ron