The end of my last L5R session focused heavily on the newest player in our group and a plotline she was involved in. The event itself went well, but it also pointed out some things. Some of these things I already talked about on Monday with "Socializing a New Player" but I wanted to speak more directly about new players and big moments today.
Remember: It's About Them
This is important for both you as the GM and the player to know. The event is about them, and as such they are the ones who get to make the decision. While not true for all new players, in my game as the player became nervous they started to look for help. This is a good thing. However, the help they were looking for was "what should I do?"
In response, I - with the backing of my players - explained to the player that it was her plot and so she should do whatever she felt her character would do in that situation. We gave advice on possible approaches, sure, but we made sure she knew the decision was hers.
Some Time To Think
Deer in the Headlights syndrome is pretty common at the gaming table. Experienced players don't get it as much because, over time, they develop the experience to deal with being put on the spot (that is why they are called experienced players. ;) ) However, for a new player this is likely their first rodeo, and almost certainly one of their first rodeos with you as the GM. This can make the big moment all the more stifling. This person, who is just getting into the hobby, suddenly finds all eyes on them at a moment of high tension in the game. It can be staggering. The correct response? Give them time. Leave them at the decision point, cut to someone else in the game, and let them think about what they want to do.
The time away from the spotlight can clear up the mind for them. Let them ask questions if they need to. Have someone who can talk to them about it and see what they're thinking. It's ok if the payoff for this moment isn't as epic as it could be, provided the player has fun and gets an experience to learn from. No one hits it out of the park at their very first at bat, so let them have the practice swings and time to learn the form they need.
Keep it Simple, Stupid
This is just great design philosopy in general. The simpler your plots, the more easily understood they are. Even better, your players will frequently out think themselves looking for twists that aren't there. Now, as the GM your job is to raise the bar for your players but when it comes to new players and big moments simplicity can be key. Remember, they're already reeling from having all the attention on them during a time of high tension, the last thing they need is a 16x16x16 rubix cube of convolution to solve at the same time.
Give them a simple, but high tension, moment to work with and you'll get the best rewards. This is true even without the new player (simply understood stakes and challenges make for great tension. Leave the convolution for the story bits that lead to and away from this moment.)
Finally, when all is said and done - however it plays out - reward the Player. If they succeeded, give them something shiny in game to represent the occasion and remind them of this big moment in their game and with their character. If they fail, give them something else as a consolation and that cements that there aren't right or wrong choices, just different consequences that come after. If they died...well, consider the karma rule so they can get back into the action without being as set behind as they otherwise would have been. They died in a big moment in the game, and that should have weight as well.
Most of all, have fun. Fun is contagious. When the GM is having a blast running the session the players can tell. Conversely, when the GM is being humdrum about it, you can feel the lack of energy. Have fun with the game, have fun with the moment. Only good things can come out of something that everyone has fun doing...at least, in this instance.
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