Anyone that I work with, knows that I’m a geek. Working in IT, it isn’t too uncommon. So when a friend at work came to me and mentioned that she was interested in Dungeons & Dragons after hearing me detailing the latest adventures of my party, I had a sudden thought; “This person’s judgement of D&D rested almost entirely upon my shoulders.” This was a scary thought and it brought with it an enormous amount of pressure. I hadn’t felt a stress like that over this game since I almost TPK’d my party in the first session.
What I noticed while getting ready for this session was that while there was an abundance of resources for how to DM for new players, I couldn’t find anything specifically for how to introduce a new player into a campaign that is already ongoing. Luckily, we were able to have a good session and to make a long story short, my friend is now the fifth member of the party as a Tiefling Warlock. As much as I’d like to take the credit here, I owe a lot to my players as I definitely made some mistakes in this process. I decided to use my experiences and mistakes to try to help future DMs with the same issues.
Immerse The Player In Your World During Character Creations
Character creation is always tough. This is even more true for a first time player who has no idea about the world you’ve created. Take the time before their first session to help them create a character and introduce them to your world. Go over the Big Bads and the general plot as they players know it so far. Include some interesting facts about major cities or certain races that will help them decide what they would like their part to be. Don’t be afraid to give them a little bit of new knowledge on the current plot that they can reveal to the party if they so choose. This is a great way to give them a sense of usefulness right from the beginning.
Know Your Party
This goes two ways. You need to make sure the new player won’t clash with your current players. This is typically pretty straight forward as you can tell if someone would not work well with your other friends. Where this gets tricky is know your characters. How would the party react to the new player’s character when they met? Maybe the Rogue doesn’t like the idea of sharing treasure with another person but the Cleric fully believes in “The More the Merrier.” What are your current party’s strengths and weaknesses? Maybe your party desperately needs a healer. In which case, help your new player create a class that will really meld well with the current composition. Really think about these reactions as you work through building the encounter where your new player and the party will meet and it will make the next step all the easier.
Plan Plan Plan
I can’t stress this enough. I realize this is the typical mantra of any DM but in this case, it is extremely important to plan out everything that you can about the first encounter between your party and the new character. This is where I went wrong in my campaign. My friend created a Tiefling Warlock with a criminal background and I figured the rest wrote itself. I decided she would be a prisoner on a cart being taken to Waterdeep to face trial. The cart was traveling as a part of a caravan that the characters were tasked with infiltrating. I didn’t realize how my players would take this.
Give Them A Boost
Playing a level one character in a group of level tens is never going to be a fun time. Not only will everything that the party fights be drastically too strong for your new player, but they will get discouraged as they are unable to contribute to the party’s success or failure. I create a new character at one level below the current lowest level character in the party. This helps alleviate the above problem without alienating the current party who have worked for every experience point since the beginning. Think about giving the character an interesting item that they may have looted on past adventure. There’s no reason that they have to start with the standard starting gear. My friend actually had to start with no equipment or money because she was incarcerated. What’s important here is to not make the new player feel like a burden on the rest of the party because either they are under powered or under equipped.
Help Your New Player Feel Epic
By the time a new player joins your group, there is a good chance that the existing party is already capable of some amazing feats and has quite a few stories to tell. For a new player who knows nothing about the game, fighting some Kobolds after hearing a story about the time the Barbarian ripped a dragon’s head off by hand can seem small. Give them a chance to prove their worth early in the session. Create an encounter that will showcase their strengths so they can really feel like they are a useful part of the team. Something I did not foresee in my game, was the fact that at no point did any of our adventurers think to arm their new found prisoner friend. She didn’t let that stop her as she rolled a Natural 20 on her Eldritch Blast and disintegrated a Goblin as he tried to slay the Gnome. She went a step further deciding she would punch the last standing Goblin. Upon rolling another Natural 20, she invoked the wrath of Asmodeus and punched right through the goblin’s head, pulling out brain as she removed her hand. It was brutal to say the least but the party instantly had a story that involved our new Tiefling friend.
These tips may not be a definitive list of instructions for bringing a new player into your game but I hope that they will help you if the need arises. I feel responsible for all of my players’ fun and I believe most Dungeon Masters feel the same. Overall, just remember to make it as fun as possible for everyone involved and you will do well. As an update, we have now played two weeks with our newest member and she is loving every minute. Go forth and create this experience for someone new as well, and the feeling you get as they say, “When are we playing next!?” will be more than worth it.