Best way to learn a new game?
I don’t know if it’s the best way, but it works for me. After I’ve skimmed the rule book to get an idea of the mechanics and setting feel, I roll up a character. I don’t worry about min-maxing or making the “best” character for the game. Instead, I focus on making the character I want and I see how much the system “fights” me. If I’m getting a lot of push-back from the game, I look at why. Is the game not what I thought it was? Am I missing some aspect of the system? Is it just a clunky system? If I’m not getting any push-back, I also look at why, because maybe I’m still not getting some aspect of the game.
I’ll make a few characters of different types, just to get a feel for the different aspects of the game’s mechanics and setting. Taking D&D 5e as an example, I rolled up one character for every class and tried to keep an even spread of the races throughout. Each class’s abilities make you focus on different aspects of the rules, and gives a good basic grounding in the game.
There are also two benefits to this from a game master perspective. One, I can see what each class is going to be focused on in-game, what that class will want from the world around them at least in general terms. That can help me figure out what will entice/repulse my players, since they picked that class for a reason. Two, I now have the bones of an NPC of each class, ready to be fleshed out and dropped into my game. Why yes, that stone did ricochet off that bird and hit another bird. Fancy that.
Plus, I really enjoy making characters. I remember sitting in my room when I first got a hold of the Star Trek RPG from Fasa, making character after character. I filled a binder with my starship crews, all ready to explore new worlds. When it came time to run the game, I amazed my players by having this fully realized crew for their ship.
What do you do to learn a new game? Drop it in the comments below.