Jan 102012

Good day! I’m Brent P. Newhall, the RPG Doctor. I run a site called, well, The RPG Doctor. Ben was kind enough to bring me on board Troll In The Corner.

I’m an odd duck, as RPG enthusiasts go. I didn’t play D&D when I was a kid. I flipped through RPG books occasionally, and I spent many hours writing adventure games in BASIC on my 8088, but none of my friends were into that sort of thing.

My first tabletop role-playing game came after I graduated college. I was working at a tech startup, and my friendships gravitated towards a couple of fellow software guys. They eventually invited me to their house to play a role-playing game. I walked in and gaped at a bookshelf that sagged under the weight of role-playing books (they may have owned every Dungeons & Dragons 3.x book ever published). We sat down and one of the guys pushed a book towards me: the rules for Nobilis.

If you haven’t played it, Nobilis is a game of gods. You literally play as a god or a god’s servant, with power over some aspect of nature. There’s not even any dice. I sucked at playing—I was way too passive—but I loved the system’s concepts.

I think this illustrates an important guideline: don’t worry about the “best” RPG for newbies. I’ve been remarkably poor at predicting the games that friends will like. Just try stuff.

That Nobilis group only lasted for a few sessions, but shortly thereafter some other friends mentioned an interest in role-playing. We started with a very rules-lite, free system (SHERPA) so we didn’t have to buy those expensive books.

We played all sorts of games: one set in the Cowboy Bebop universe, and another set in ancient Greece. The system’s simplicity allowed us great flexibility.

There’s another guideline: have a simple system in your back pocket. If you want to introduce someone to role-playing, pull out a system that only requires a d6 or two. Heck, you can demonstrate gaming with a little one-on-one session, improv. In half an hour, you may have created a new player.

About Brent Newhall

I'm a 21st Century Renaissance Man. I work at Amazon, I make and run RPGs, I write fantasy books (none published yet), and I'm a huge anime and manga fan. I wrote the OSR Handbook (a profile of many old-school tabletop RPG systems), the Original D&D retroclone Dungeon Raiders, a mecha RPG called Gunwave that tries to actually simulate mecha anime series, a kid-friendly animal RPG called Weasels!, and a tile-based board game called Zeppelins vs. Pterodactyls.

  5 Responses to “The Doctor Is In”

  1. Hi Brent. Phew! I was afraid that I would be alone since I didn’t play D&D until I got older. It is nice to know others have done the same. You illustrate a great point in recommending gamers to carry a simple system in their back pocket.

    Some of the most enjoyable games I’ve played have been very accessible. In fact, one I regularly enjoy uses nothing more than six dice. Farkle, as it is marketed, is a blast. What gamer doesn’t have some d6 on or near their person at all times?

  2. Welcome Brent!

  3. Welcome to the party.

  4. Ben and Nakedhobo: Thanks!

    Jonathan: Thanks very much; I’ll keep an eye on Farkle.

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