Simple: play it. Better: Run it.

Managing a game will require you to engage with the rules at a deeper level than the players — for the most part. There are games like Fate and some of the indie stuff that try to spread the storytelling and rules management across the entire group, and there are people that love that, and in those rules sets, playing is probably just as good.

When learning a new game, keep the adventure short and to the point. Make sure the events play to the strengths of the setting or rules. If you’re in a game where court intrigue is the point (say, Blue Rose) you focus on a few scenes involving court intrigue. If you’re learning the latest edition of Dungeons & Dragons, you need fights that involve magic, swordplay, and monsters.

A normal adventure, for me, plays to several points in the rules: have a social scene that involves the characters talking their way through a problem, have an action sequence that plays to the strength of the game — guns, fists, swords…what’s the schtick? — and have some kind of investigation scene to figure out a problem or mystery, and an athletics-based scene. If you were doing a Chthulu-type game, there should be something that tests the wits and courage of the characters; if you’re playing fighter pilots in a space opera game — have a vehicle combat scene…or save that for the next session.

Like a new car, use only the features you need to get from the car lot to your home: the steering wheel, the pedals, and gears. Leave figuring out Bluetooth and the overly complex entertainment system fro when you can’t accidentally mow down pedestrians.

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