the weight of the rules for them: As far as the
rules of the game go, only tell them what they need to know
to play the game. If you like, you can also tell them things
that they specifically ask to know. Giving them the very
basics of the rules allows them to play the game and enjoy
it; giving them any extras that they ask for helps sate
their curiosity. Use simple character sheets (create your
own if you have to) that put all of their stats, skills,
and abilities in an easy-to-read format. Don't bog them
down with extra unnecessary rules. It's boring.
the players' choices when there seem to be too many:
Most new players, and especially younger players, can be
overwhelmed with all of the options available to them when
playing an adventure game. Sometimes it helps to narrow
their choices down to help them decide. You can even leave
it open-ended so that they still have an opportunity to
come up with something on their own. "Which do
you want Annelise to do - look in the closet, examine the
books on the shelves, search the desk for clues, or something
else?" Over time, you'll find that you will be
doing this less and less, as the players become better at
taking the initiative and making their own decisions.
jobs - but only if the players want them: "Hire"
a party journalist to write journal entries on the details
of the adventure, a party artist who draws pictures of the
people, places, and creatures that they encounter, a party
mapper who tracks their progress across the land, and so
on. Offer these jobs, but don't force them on anyone if
there are no takers, and give them the opportunity to change
their minds, if they want to.
the violence down: Let the monsters run away or
surrender sometimes, maybe even most of the time. Creatures
like goblins and kobolds are pretty cowardly, anyway, and
most of the rest would rather live to fight another day,
if the cause is not very urgent. If a monster is "killed,"
rather than describing a grisly demise, just say that it
has been knocked down and isn't moving. Discourage any sort
of action from a player that would be too violent.
mental - Use puzzles and other activities: Challenge
the minds of your players with mental activities in their
adventures. Design an adventure where the players must solve
a real puzzle, like a sliding picture puzzle, in order to
unlock a door or get past a Sphinx. Or make a jigsaw puzzle
out of a picture or map and hand pieces to the players when
they accomplish certain goals, then let them try to put
the pieces together in the proper order (you can make your
own, or purchase blank puzzles from art supply stores or
online at the Oriental
Trading Company). Have them play a game of checkers
with a hill giant, or chess with a dragon, or mancala with
an Amazon queen, with the fate of their quest lying in the
outcome of the game. You can find lots of ideas
for this by simply browsing around in a discount toy store.
visual - Use props and other visual aids: Print
out character pictures for players to color while they play.
(You can find tons of them for fantasy-styled RPGs on the
D&D website). Make simple props to use during the
game, like a torch made from a paper towel tube and some
crepe paper, or a toy or handmade sculpture to represent
a statue or idol. Plastic gemstones and pirate coins, available
at many gift or costume stores (or the OTC
again!), are a LOT of fun. Dollar stores and discount toy
stores can yield many props, and possibly even inexpensive
plastic miniatures to use (ninja, dinosaurs, knights, and
physical (but keep it safe and civil): When the
weather permits, consider hosting your adventure game in
the good old outdoors. If and when the players become restless
from sitting still for too long, allow them to replace die
rolls with feats of acrobatics. "Your rogue can
dodge the poison arrow trap if you can give me three cartwheels
without falling." Don't do this for combat, however,
unless you have plenty of foam swords and shields on hand
(but by that point, you're really playing a different game).
Most of all, always remember to keep it safe for everyone.
dramatic and literary: Use different voices for
all of your characters. Make dramatic gestures and sound
effects (or play them on your computer). Use vividly colorful
adverbs and adjectives. Practice your metaphors and similes.
Stock up on alliterations and onomatopoeias. (If you don't
remember what these things are, LOOK THEM UP!) If, on occasion,
your players ask you “What does THAT word mean?,”
then you can be certain that you’re doing it right.
in some help: Sometimes players just need a nudge
in the right direction. If your players often find themselves
stuck for hints on what to do next in their adventures,
consider creating a non-player character that helps them
out from time to time. It could be an animal that seems
to turn up whenever a clue is right under their noses, or
a bumbling companion who always seems to lean on the exact
wall sconce trigger that opens the door to the secret passage.
One word of warning: don't overuse this particular tool,
or your players will come to rely on it too much.
everyone some spotlight: Nothing is worse than
sitting around and watching everyone else have fun. (Well,
perhaps there are a FEW things that are worse, like having
to spend the night in a pup tent with a camel who is afraid
of the dark...) Make sure that all players get involved
in the action, and if anyone is left out for too long, draw
them into the story with a sudden plot twist. Maybe Jimmy's
character just happens to catch the satchel of rare gems
that the other adventures have been trying to wrest away
from a bandit, which suddenly makes him the center of everyone's
attention. You don't even have to be subtle about it - there's
no harm whatsoever in letting the players know that you're
doing what you can to get them all involved.