I am currently very tired so this probably might not even make sense in the morning but…
I’m imagining a D&D minigame (probably lasts 1-2 hours tops unless you’re having fun with it) meant to break the ice for new groups, in which the DM controls an adventuring party and the players control NPCs as they naturally pop up. Specifically, it could help new players get comfortable with roleplaying without the pressure of sticking to a character they just made. If you do this before the character creation stage, then even better because they may stumble into a character they like acting out.
Rules that I’m just rambling out please forgive me if they are nonsensical:
- It’s all improv. Don’t break a scene to look up game mechanics like prices, or which checks to make, or what would give advantage/disadvantage. This is about the acting so if it’ll throw off the groove, make it up on the spot. It’s all about quick thinking.
- No modifiers. You’re all making things up on the spot so if you have to roll something, don’t waste time justifying who would have what stats. You could even go without dice altogether. The d20 is just an optional element of chance here.
- Mandatory introductions. I don’t care how goofy it is. state your name, race, class/occupation, a random character trait, and how their day’s been going up until this point. As many as you can off the top of your head. Go nuts because things get silly before they get really creative, in my experience. Note: Character voices are encouraged. For funsies.
- Everyone participates in a scene. No pressure on how much they interact, but in each new setting, every player has to put one NPC in that tavern, shopping square, riot crowd, etc.
- Plot not needed. The adventuring party strategically wanders in a way that builds a town/city/etc as the players make it up. The DM isn’t in charge of telling a story here, just keeping the energy of the improv scene going. This includes-
- Leading Questions. This one’s the challenge for you, DM who likely already has a control complex and likes to plan out every detail of everything in their world because it gives them a sense of security. If anything, you are the one who most needs to be good at rolling with whatever your players hand you. For the sole purposes of making you uncomfortable, the newcomer adventuring party knows absolutely nothing about this town. Thankfully, the citizens know everything about it. Which is good because you need directions to find your way out of your rented hovel room let alone to the temple–oh that’s right. Who’s the patron there? You sure don’t know! Better ask someone! Get that DMs?? YOU KNOW NOTHING.
- Important: If the scene starts slowing down, it’s up to you to either encourage and interact with these townsfolk some more, or get moving somewhere else.
Example scene: order of NPC choice is determined by an initiative roll.
DM: “Alright, so four adventurers walk into the tavern you’re in–”
Player 1: “Oh! I call the bartender.”
Player 3: “Aw… I had a bit I was gonna do.”
Player 1: “Okay, okay fine, I’m the owner of the tavern, Marcus McMuffin the half orc–stop laughing–and uh… I have a tattoo of a dwarf lover that literally no one else knows about? And my day’s been…hm. It’s been awful because I got stood up for a meeting. DM, I basically live in here, so I’d know they’re new, right? I wanna know if these guys look like trouble makers.”
DM: “The Barbarian’s flexing at anyone who looks in his general direction but other than him fancying a typical bar brawl, they seem decent–if lost.”
Player 2: “I’m the elven bard in the corner and I start trying to seduce the Barbarian with my beautiful voice!!”
DM: “Listen… you can’t just use your character from the last game. Cherry the Elven Bard would’ve totally seduced the barbarian but who are you now?… Nah it’s fine, dude. Take your time. We’ll come back to you.”
Player 3: “I’m the crazy old village drunkard who’s a human named Steve–”
Player 1: “I thought you said you wanted the bartender!”
Player 3: “–Who samples a lot of the wares and is thus the village drunkard! I said I was doing a bit, jeez! DM, I start rambling loudly at the strangers about something that sounds like one of those super infuriating sidequests–you know the kind–where you have to go through a lot of bullshit busywork and the longest fetch quest of your life but there’s a promise of GREAT loot at the end so you consider it anyway. You know what I mean? What do I do for that, roll deception? Persuasion?”
DM: “Nope. No rolls. Personally, I am so on board with this but I need you to make this speech right here and I need you to sell it.”
Player 3: “Oh boy.”
If for some reason you want to try this please give me a rundown of how it went because I feel like it’s the perfect recipe for hilarious trainwrecks that come with all good icebreakers. (I feel like it’d be a fun drinking game somehow? But I don’t play enough to know how to work alcohol in in a reasonable manner. I’ll leave that one up to house rules.)
Taverns & Tanneries, never coming to a game store near you lmao
Edit: I just realized that when the group starts playing a real campaign, you can embarrass them by working their goofily-named NPCs in, keeping an entirely straight face while doing so. Watch as they squirm and laugh-cry over having to discuss the fate of the world with Marcus McMuf’an. If only they’d known.
If only they’d known what was to become of Marcus McMuffin.