When a gaming group gets a new player you have a few challenges to confront: do you just throw them in the deep end and bring them into the play in media res? Do you can an ongoing adventure to start a new one with the person involved? Do you craft an entirely new game, perhaps, to introduce them to the group, then bring them in on other ongoing campaigns?

We had a new player join us for out Battlestar Galactica game — the game they were most interested in playing — so I decided to go with a combination of the first two choices: There was already an ongoing adventure, but we were a a spot where I could do a “teaser” just for that character, to introduce the player to the world and the character to the other players. There’s a lot going on in the game, as anyone who has read the after-action reports can see. The character was brought in as a Colonial Fleet SID (sort of their NCIS) investigator that is aiding in the hunt for Cylon infiltration, but also to keep an eye on the commander (a player character) as the admiralty is suspicious of the constant coincidental links between him and the Cylons.

It was a pretty clean intro, but sometimes you just aren’t quite set up for an intro like that. Say you are in the standard dungeon crawl — how did the character get to be there? Did you “promote” an NPC (give the player an existing NPC?) Or are they mysteriously in the depths of a dungeon without having encountered all the monsters, etc. your party did? If so, how did they get there? IF they are traveling to a location, it’s a bit easier. There’s the traditional tavern meet and greet, but I prefer some kind of short side adventure — the players encounter some kind of evil or shenanigans the new player is involved with. They get convinced to go on this side mission with the new character. Easy peasy.

If you are very near the end of an ongoing mission — say right at the denouement — you could always shelve that last play session for a week or so, play something different to get the players comfortable with each other (I did this with the BSG adventure, as we were to the final fight in a Marvel mission), then come back to it if the new player is absent or there is another play time available without them. Another way to handle it to jump the characters to just after their last mission and assume success or failure. “Whew — that was a tough fight, but we slew the dragon and got the treasure…” or “I was sure we had that bootlegging gangster dead to rights, but somehow he got away…fortunately, we’ll get a lead through [new character]…”

When we’ve had a large number of players change hands I find I favor the create a new campaign strategy.

What’s your strategy for handling new folks?