When I visited my local library and asked about the meeting rooms that could be used for group meetings I knew I wanted to run a Dungeons and Dragons game, but I had no idea that I’d end up running a game for teenagers. The teen specialist happened to be there, and she informed me that if I was willing to do so I could use one of the rooms for free when doing so. My first gaming group happened to have two teens in it, and I didn’t see any reason not to give it a try. I cannot stress enough how helpful Gigi the teen specialist has been in establishing this program. She makes sure that we always have one of the better rooms and that other events don’t conflict with ours.
Now this is something you may not be aware of, but your library may require that you undergo a background check in order to be allowed to run one of these programs. Unless a member of the library staff is going to sit in on all of your games. There is a fee for processing the paperwork and I think that cost might put some people off, luckily the library where I run games actually paid the fee for me because they really wanted me to run games there.
I chose to use Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition for a couple of reasons. At that time it was the edition I had the most experience with, and it was the most current edition so players could get their hands on their own copies of playing materials if they were interested in doing so. I also like that 4th edition tends to make it easier for players to survive, and I didn’t want any of my new players to get discouraged because their first character died immediately. Since then I’ve run other one-shot campaigns using different systems there and they’ve all been pretty popular. For example I also ran a Mutants and Masterminds 3rd Edition game set in the DC universe that went extremely well. I was really surprised because I made a ton of DC superheroes for it and we ended up with some interesting choices in that game. We ended up with a Justice League consisting of Superman, Wonder Woman (who was played with a Russian accent), Batman, Green Arrow, and Plastic Man. The players had a blast figuring how to bust up an auction hosted by the Calculator who’d created a computer program he claimed could deduce the secret identity of any superhero. Nearly all of the big DC villains had turned up to try and buy the information, leading to a huge pitched battle in the warehouse where the auction had been taking place. I’ve also run a Gamma World game, and a Star Wars Saga Edition game which were both well received by the teens. I advise choosing a system that you’re familiar with, and that you feel comfortable teaching others to play.
Since this was a public game, and I wanted to be respectful of people’s backgrounds and faiths, I decided to removed devas and tieflings. I think those are easily the most controversial races, and I would advise setting them aside to spare yourself some trouble.
I ran two one hour play sessions with huge groups just to test the waters and see if there was enough interest to maintain a regular program. I think we had something like twenty teens turn up to play that day, so we got them all signed up and started monthly meetings. Our games run for two hours and we have seven players. I think seven is a good number of players, it is a big group but I’ve learned to manage it and as a bonus it has vastly improved my ability as a GM to manage table talk and run the group. If that’s something your struggle with in your own games this is a great way to get some practice with it.
At first I toyed with the idea of walking the teens through the character creation process, we even had a character creation session. In the end I just explained what all of the options for classes and races were, and then I asked them what they wanted their characters to be good at. Then I used that information to create character sheets for them and I’ve never had any reason to regret doing it that way. Keep in mind explaining character creation to up to seven teens who’ve never seen a D20 before can take a while, and I wanted to ensure that they weren’t getting bored by spending hours building their characters, which isn’t something all adult players enjoy doing. I also made them custom power cards, and cheat sheets with information about their races and classes.
I’ve included copies of the files for the power cards and the fact sheets that I use in my game, I think that they work pretty well and help the players.
To get started I would suggest reaching out to your local library and just ask if they currently have anyone running RPGs for them, or ask if they have a teen specialist that you can talk to. Libraries are usually on the lookout for programs and in my experience most of them will be more than willing to hear you out.