Demo Games and demonstrations of RPGs

It’s no secret that I’ve been running a lot of demo (demonstration) games over the year.  Over at ORC Edinburgh we’re planning to try out a “Games Day” of demo games to allow those new to RPGs to have a shot at them.

So what makes for a good demo? I’ve written some basic stuff here on how to run a good demo game.

Pre-generated characters

Pretty much a given: you want your players to pick up the game quickly, but don’t need them to spend an age building their characters. Have 4-6 characters ready for demo game: they needn’t all be the same, but it should be a well-rounded group of PCs.

Business Cards

I always hand out a business card with my email and social media details to my players at the start of the demo. You may not need your address or mobile on it, but someone knowing your name is useful at least.

Be on time for your demo games

If you’re running in a pre-booked time slot, be there for the players when they arrive. There’s nothing worse than not having a GM turn up. Also, try to avoid over-running into someone else’s slot.

Accessible system

Try to keep the game mechanics as simple as possible – your players should be able to get a feel for the system, without being overwhelmed by rules or jargon.

Buckets of Dice

Make sure you’ve enough dice for the players – preferably several sets (especially if they are customised like FFG’s Age of Rebellion dice). Having just one set for both GMs and players is an utter pain, plus one player always bogarts them.

Paper and Pencils

Scrap paper and pencils is a must – doesn’t matter if they’re using it on a character sheet, mapping, or just doodling. Always required.

Plenty of action

There’s a good chance that your players don’t know each other, so dropping them straight into the action is a great way to get them to work together.


There’s a temptation for GMs to ignore quieter players. The GM needs to make sure everyone has their chance – not just the one player with the loudest voice.

Keep it short

Depending on the length of game slots available, assume a three-hour session is best. That should have enough time for a few encounters. It’s worth a practice run of the game with a regular group just in case.

Demo Games Rulebook

Have a physical copy of the book(s) available for players to look at and read – as GM,  don’t hang on to it all the time.

Know the system

There’s nothing worse than a GM who runs a demo game, but hasn’t learned the system. The idea of a demo game is to demonstrate how a system works.

Published by Bill Heron

Wannabe game designer and would-be author. I've been playing RPGs for over 25 years and have recently started creating my own RPG called Mandragora: Ashes of Freedom. I also run a number of RPGs: Cthulhutech, Call of Cthulhu, WFRP, and D&D. I'm active in the Edinburgh RPG community at and regularly play RPGs.