A couple of years ago, Wizards of the Coast re-released The Beginner Box, otherwise known as The Red Box, otherwise known as The Starter Set.
Probably some time around the middle of April this year, my curiosity regarding tabletop gaming -- specifically pen and paper RPG's -- peaked at critical mass.
I asked wife if she'd be interested in a little 'role-play' and, along with gratuitous nudging, winking and constant 'knowwhatImean's', she said she'd been interested for some time (phwoaar).
After a not-insignificant google-searchathon, it became apparent that the thing all the cool kids were doing these days was Pathfinder. Pathfinder is apparently a D&D-esque gaming system made by disavowed Wizards of the Coast employees, designed from the ground-up to be a more interesting version of Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 and, consecutively, enticing many of the previously-loyal D&D gamers along with it.
Pathfinder had a Beginners Box, designed for the newcomer like me, and it indeed looked to have plenty of stuff inside the box, along with a little adventure for noobs to cut their teeth on.
This was all fine until the rubber hit the road, at which point I reached an impass. Absolutely nowhere in the instructions did it explain how one actually took their 'turn' during combat. Of course now I know that an initiative roll marks the beginning of combat gameplay and each player use 3 different types of action once until their next turn, but at the time explaining this seemingly simple mechanic was beyond the abilities of the beginner's guide.
Immediately after this failure-to-start I figured I'd get the cheaper Dungeons and Dragons Red Box, just to see what Wizards' response to Pathfinder's Beginner Box would be.
As it turns out, the Red Box is a slightly lesser package, both in content and quality. However, I found the Red Box to be significantly simpler to comprehend, and the wife and I were up and running creating our characters in-campaign within the hour.
I'm not going to list off all the stuff you'll find in both sets, just suffice to say Pathfinder beginner Box has the better quality bits and bobs and simply boasts more stuff in the box (the character sheets are extremely well put together). The Red Box on the other hand is what the true newcomer needs - it's a baby-step guide into the world of adventure gaming and roleplay, and a very gradual incline into the weird rulesets and characteristics of the game that is D&D / Pathfinder / any D20 system.
It took us 3 sessions (with me doing double duty as DM and PC) in total to complete all the campaign content in the Red Box, by which point I had succesfully roleplayed a White Dragon and a Mage, efficiently fudged dice rolls when necessary, did some convenient hand-waving, and learned the art of painting the world for my audience. My wife in turn learned how to roleplay effectively, gaining information and thinking on her feet as opposed to simply having a back and forth conversation with no goals or purpose. We both discovered the secret sauce that makes tabletop gaming more appealing than video games or board games -- you can do anything you want at any time. The DM is the game engine, basically evaluating the circumstances and deciding upon the outcomes.
By the time we we closed the lid on the Red Box we were ready to step out into a wider realm as level 3 characters.
I've been crafting a campaign over the last 3 months that I'm quite excited about.... the first session was great, and I realized I'm a twisted fuck of a DM, who apparently creates nothing but Quantum Leap episodes for campaigns.