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.