Ahhh, the Noob. We’ve all been there, floundering around while trying to pick spells, figure out damage, or look up that seemingly elusive rule in the PHB. There’s no gettting around it either. Like many things in life, you can read, study and memorize the rules but when you go live and start playing, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and forget everything you’ve learned. What happens next depends largely on the rest of the people sitting around the table (and how the noob responds to them).
D&D, at its core, is a simple game but can be quite complex for the new person. The game has evolved from a simple hack and slash game to a detailed set of rules, where you can do any number of things each turn. No longer is it movement and attack. Now you have movement, action, bonus attack, reaction, and sometimes even roleplaying each turn. It can be quite daunting, especially when you’re also having to make saving throws, keep track of your spells/spell slots, and listen to the other party members as you try to put a plan together.
It’s important to remember that EVERYONE starts off as a beginner. No one came into this world knowing the rules of D&D. It is up to us, the rest of the people around the table, to make sure that the beginner has a good time and comes back to play again. The pressure should not be on the beginner to remember everything about the game in those first few sessions. As long as they are doing their best, using the PHB, and taking notes, there isn’t much more we, as fellow players, can ask for. I argue that the pressure is on everyone else at the table to make sure that the new player does the best he or she can, and wants to come back to play again.
You want them to be successful, enjoy the game, and spread the love for D&D to the next person? Teach them.
It’s a simple concept.
Do - Provide them with guidance. Supply them with books and dice if they need them. Be nice.
Don’t - Roll your eyes when they make a mistake. Be condescending whenever they ask a question. Act like a complete asshole.
It’s not hard. All the things listed above apply for everything in life, not just D&D. But we forget that sometimes because it’s the game we love. We want to have fun and think the noob is taking that fun away from us. But don’t let that anger drive the new person away. Spread your love of the game to the next person. Invite them into the community. Make them a part of it. Everyone has to start somewhere.
Will the beginner make mistakes throughout the learning process? Of course they will. Hell, I still make mistakes every session. It’s part of life and the game. Take the time to give suggestions of what they could have done instead and why. Work with them, just as other people have worked with you in the past. We all make each other better players. If you are so selfish that you think a new player at the table is going to ruin your fun, then you need a take a hard look at yourself as a person, not just as a D&D player. You are doing the community as a whole a disservice. Help make the beginner a better player by taking the time to teach them. In the end, everyone wins.