Starting a New Game with New Players

I added something new to the Bucket List. Check it out. It is going to be rad...

Recently a few friends of mine have all been talking about starting their own games, with either new or experienced players, new or experienced GMs, or some permutation of the two. Essentially, somewhere, someone is doing something new.

So, I thought I'd jot down some advice I've picked up from various sources and that I've learned myself to help this process along, for as you all should know I love it when new people join our hobby.

Starting a New Game with New Players

Starting a new game is always scary, but if it is scarier than it is exciting, you should definitely try to change that! As a new GM or Player, you should be at ease with your role if you want to have a good time and if you want everyone else to have a good time with you. As such, I've broken this up into five areas: things a GM should do for their players and themselves, and things a player should do for their GM, their fellows, and themselves.
This is what GMing is like. Exactly like this.
Always remember that a roleplaying game is a COLLABORATIVE game. If at any point you're not having fun, there is a problem, and if at any point another player isn't having fun because of you there is a problem. This problem may not be your fault, but it never hurts to help try and fix it.

So lets jump in!

Things a GM Should Do for Themselves

First of all, every GM should get a firm grasp on the rules and setting they are planning on playing in. For a first time GM, this should be an established setting and rules system. You may want to jump in and make your own, but this is suicide so early on.
Hell, even Gary Gygax was a long time wargamer before inventing DnD.
Secondly, you're going to want to prep out your first session really easily. Write down a few things - who is the bad guy, why are they bad, and what are they doing at the beginning of the session. Grab some stats together for the guy, and you should have the basic bare bones for the game.

Next think up where he is doing this bad thing and why the players should care. Usually the players will handle this one for you, but it is a good idea to think it through for yourself. If at any point in time you wouldn't care, then how can you expect your players to?

Lastly, grab a map to represent the area. There are hundreds of thousands online, just a Google search away. If, however, you can't find anything good, drop me a line and I'll email you a bunch.

Also, remember to take it easy. GMing is supposed to be fun (in my opinion, the funniest part of roleplaying), so stay cool and just go with it. If you stop having fun, so will everyone else.

Things a GM Should Do for Their Players

Next you're going to want to jot down a few things for your players. They will have a lot of questions and make it well known that you will answer anything they ask. But try and answer it in the barest way possible that still leaves questions dangling. They will become intrigued enough by what you say to ask more questions and so on. You don't want them becoming bored at any time during this early stage.

Make sure you have some notes detailing the basic concepts in the game. If you're running Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, make sure to mention that whilst magic exists, it is dangerous, rare, and mistrusted by nearly everyone. Mention that Elves and Orks and Dwarves exist, but your average Human wouldn't interact with them on a day to day basis - if (hopefully in the case of Orks) ever.
Friendly Orks. They come around to your house and eat all your legs!
Then set aside an entire session just for Character Generation. This is going to take a loooong time and you need to be ready for it. Don't just expect to be able to breeze through it in an hour.

Also, remember the rule of "Yes"! Saying "Yes" is infinitely better than saying "No". Unless there is a damn good reason why something the players' suggets wouldn't work, just let it. Trust me, it will be way more fun for you anyway.

Things a Player Should Do for Themselves

As a player, you're going to want to try and grab a hold of as much of the setting as you reasonably can. If they exist, pick up a novel based in the setting and give it a read - even the blurb will do. If it is a good book, it should tell you enough for you to get a quick grasp of the setting. Is it fantasy? Is it sci-fi?

The first page of all Black Library books is great for this.
Literally everything you need to know.
This will also give you an idea of the sorts of characters you could play. For your first character, don't be afraid to base them heavily off your favourite book, TV or film character. Even experienced players and GMs do this, as it is a ready made outlook you can adopt. Later on as you get used to the concept of roleplaying, you can tweak it, and make it your own, but copying at this stage is fine. Just keep your GM in the loop.

Looking up some pictures doesn't hurt, either!

Also, give yourself a break. Roleplaying is fun. Make sure you remember the playing part of roleplaying and you should be fine.

Things a Player Should Do for Their GM

Next, you're going to want to ask your GM a lot of questions. A lot. Like... Seriously... Heaps. If your GM is a good GM, they will be excited about the campaign enough to answer your questions (perhaps even answer them too much). If they don't want to answer any questions, then that should be an indicator that perhaps you shouldn't be playing under this person...

You should also endeavour to help your GM build the world - suggest things you want to do, or parts of your back story. Work with your fellow players to tie your story in with their's. Trust me, your GM will love you for this, as this is the hardest part of their job.
Be this guy. This guy is keen.
Finally, MAKE SURE YOU MAKE AN ADVENTURER. So many players go into games with a good heart but then dodge the conflict saying "It's just what my character would do".

That is boring and pointless. You're playing a game of heroes, so make a hero and don't be too cautious with them. Some of the best playing experiences come from character deaths; don't be silly, but don't be so careful that you don't do anything... You may as well not play if that's your plan.

Things a Player Should Do for Their Fellow Players

One of the greatest things all new players - actually all players - need to remember is that everyone is there to have fun as a group. Share with everyone, and everyone will share with you. Don't play an island. Islands are dicks.
See, what a dick. Oh, excuse me, just belongs to a dick...
Be courteous, be polite and be interested in other people's characters. The best part of playing is inter-party communication and activity. This can only happen when you talk to the other players. Seriously.

It is best to prepare an opening scene or dialogue for your character - a sentence or two of what they're doing when the other characters first meet them. Even if your characters know each other in their back story, the first time your character comes "on screen" should be memorable, and it will stick in the minds of everyone at the table.

Also, a name card never hurts!

Hopefully this advice has been helpful, and will lead to smoother first games for all!

Here is another great article on a similar subject, and I encourage everyone to read it!