Recently, our tabletop gaming group stared up two new roleplaying game campaigns. I’m running Pathfinder Society and another member is running a Dungeons & Dragons game. As it happens, the ways our intro sessions ran seemed to be at opposite ends of the spectrum of ways introductions can be run. The D&D group began with a ‘theory only’ session, in which they talked through how the game works and how to make character to play in the game. I handed out pregenerated characters and with the least babble I could manage, sent the party of adventurers on their first mission. We had frequent pauses to explain how to do what needed to be done in the game system, but by the end of the evening, the players had succeeded at their mission. (If you’re thinking that D&D and Pathfinder must have very complicated rules, you’re not wrong. The learning curve has a substantial payoff, though.)
This got me thinking about my general approach to introducing people to a new topic: I like to jump right in. It’s not that I don’t see value in giving context and explaining a system from the outside. If I’m honest, part of why I prefer the other approach is that I’m just not very good at that sort of thing. (Or more positively, I am good at explaining as I go along; take your pick.) Jumping right in comes with its own advantages too: it gives a feel for what the subject’s really about much sooner, as long as it isn’t too confusing, for one. I think it also has the potential to be a bigger motivator to actually learn the nitty gritty of what makes something tick.
In my Pathfinder games, I tend to refer people to the Core Rulebook of the online reference document to figure out that nitty gritty. In Mechatropolis the links to Wikipedia are intended to do a similar job. I think the access to a more detailed explanation elsewhere is what makes a ‘jump in and see how it goes’ approach viable. The thought of combining both elements — jumping in and examining the detail — in a single resource has a definite appeal, but it seems like it could be an enormous project. It might not even be possible to pull off both together; I struggle to think of examples that do it. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting idea to kick around and maybe one day I’ll figure out how to make it work.