I submitted something to a game jam for the first time this week: Advanced Let’s Play Pretend 2nd Edition, for OnRamp Jam by Paul Beakley of The Indie Game Reading Club. The purpose of the jam was to provide a small game—no more than two sides of a page in length—that experienced GMs could use to introduce first-time players to RPGs. (Paul has some fascinating takeaways already.) It was a fun challenge, and, as is my way, I made it harder on myself, giving my submission an absurdly long name and insisting upon fitting the entire text on one side of a business card.
There are some cool submissions for that jam that I’ll definitely point to later when somebody asks for one-shot recommendations for newbies. Michael Dunn-O’Connor’s Pinch, for instance, neatly challenges my preconceptions of what an RPG is or should be. (And it looks like it’d be fun to play!) Introduce folks to RPGs with that, and you’re building a hobbyist community with broader horizons and fewer preconceived notions of what “counts.”
My game is not that kind of game, though. I conceived of ALPP2e (oh jeez that’s a lot of initials) more like a demo for the entirety of this hobby, in a format I might actually use myself. I wanted something I could pull out at a moment’s notice if someone ever asked me to explain this RPG thing while we were waiting for a bus, or a movie to start. It puts a lot of pressure on the GM to improvise, which makes it really only suitable for GMs who are already comfortable doing that. I really wanted to emphasize what I think is most important about this hobby, though: not the mastery complex rules, or acquiring published adventures, or doing lengthy prep (all of which I’ve heard are turn-offs for would-be newcomers and players who are skittish about GMing), but interacting with people and imagining interesting things together. It is important to me that people’s first impression of what we do explicitly alludes to safety tools, not that it include grappling rules.
Also, I don’t assume I’ll have dice with me at a bus stop, so I stole the dueling rules from The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen (also known as rock-paper-scissors).
If I find the time (or stumble into another jam like this one), I may try to put together the other two submissions I had in mind for this jam.
One submission was to be a trifold pamphlet, So You Want to Play a Roleplaying Game, that explicitly adapts a general scenario to a few common genres, which is exactly how I have introduced new players in the past. (I adapt “Tower of the Serpents” from Fate Worlds Volume 1: Worlds on Fire for a one-shot.) If I had space, I also wanted to include a little FAQ section that would showcase just how diverse RPGs can be. (E.g., “Q: Can I play more than one character? A: Not in this game, but there are RPGs where you can!”)
The other submission I had in mind was an introduction for people who are vaguely interested in “D&D,” but not actually interested in playing brand-name Dungeons & Dragons®. On one side of the sheet, you have the rules in brief (probably cribbed from Index Card RPG, The Black Hack, or Mazes), four times. On the other side of the sheet, you have four simplified character sheets, probably for fighter, thief, mage, and cleric. Fold it into quarters, tear along the creases, and away you go.
For now, though, I still have more OnRamp Jam games to dig into. I’m really enjoying seeing how people would bring friends into RPGs; each submission is like a love note to the hobby, crafted with the hope of showing others what we love about it so much.