Introducing New Systems

by | Jul 22, 2015 | Notes From the Dungeon Master

I guess I’ll be the first one to tackle the sometimes tricky topic of introducing new gaming systems to your group.  I am not as loquacious as either Neil or Jesse so this could be pretty short, we’ll see.

When I got back into gaming it was with D&D 4E.  No problem, we had 2 players handbooks between a few of us and we went to town.  Shortly thereafter I was introduced to the wonderful world of podcasting which in turn opened my eyes to a wide variety of RPGS.

This will all lead somewhere eventually just go with it.

While perusing the tremendous number of podcasts that can be found on the internet, I stumbled across NerdBound.  These were the guys who welcomed me with open arms and really got me hooked on tabletop gaming.  It was a heady time, so many games, so many systems, so little time.  My first non D&D game was Rogue Trader, it was also marked the first time I was on a podcast.

Rogue Trader was followed up by many other games played both on the NerdBound forums and for the podcast.  Fear Itself, Trail of Cthulhu, Savage Worlds, Death Watch, Dark Heresy, Star Wars Saga edition, All Flesh Must Be Eaten, Fiasco, the games were endless.  If someone was running something I was trying to get in on it.  This was in addition to  my normal bi-monthly D&D games in meat space (or, you know, my basement).

So what I’m trying to say is I was a free agent gamer.  As a single player I was ready to try anything, it was all new uncharted territory.

Then the talk about 5th edition started and my first reaction was no F’ing way are we switching to a new edition.  It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense given my current immersion in all things tabletop but there it was.  The reaction was visceral.  Maybe there was some sort of subconscious delineation in my mind that said it was ok to dabble online but the home game was sacrosanct.

Looking at it objectively now I could say that neither my brother or my (then) wife  would have made any sort of change.  They were extreme casual gamers and they weren’t going to learn a new system.  Everybody knew the system and we enjoyed it and you what, that’s ok.

Then one day I was talking to the home group about about a Star Wars game I was playing online and they said, “We want to play Star Wars.”  I thought I could probably run that, so I went out and picked up a copy of the Saga Edition rules.  Next I talked to the players about what they wanted to do.  Did we want to keep to the canon or were we going to just run amok in the universe.  As it turns out we did a little of both.  It was our “off” game so we only played like every other month and that was great because it gave me plenty of time to prepare.

Alright what does this all have to do with introducing new systems to your group?  I dunno probably nothing as I sit here and reread what I wrote but stick with me here a little longer.  I tend to digress, if you’ve looked at my personal blog it’s no surprise.

So you want to try a new system.  Maybe your old game is getting stale or you got cool idea but it’s a completely different setting, what do you do?

Hey these are you friends, just bring it up while your waiting to play your normal game.  A lot of times the game is just an excuse to get together and hang out.  So maybe they don’t really care what your playing.

Don’t suggest scrapping or replacing your current campaign but instead see if they would be interested in playing a one shot.  That gives everyone a chance to get their feet wet.  If they are resistant to go out and buy a new book, (and rightly so perhaps) pick up a pdf copy and have a character creation session or make pregens.  You know your friends and the kinds of characters they normally play, make characters they would drool over.

Set the expectations, have a conversation and find out what your group would like to get out of your new game.  If you decide on a Deadlands game one player may want to play a badass gunslinger who wants to fight monsters while another player may want to run the towns brothel and collect information and favors ala Littlefinger from Game of Thrones.  Two widely different expectations and if you cater to one or the other somebody is going to be disappointed and that will be your last Deadlands game.

Go rules light.  Even in a crunchy system like Rogue Trader go with the rule of cool.  They aren’t going to remember to add every little bonus so don’t worry about it.  Or you could make little cheat sheets for them to glance at.  Anything that doesn’t bog down the action.  You want to keep it quick and fun and engaging.