How do I make players more comfortable in an unusual historical setting?

I run a lot of games/write systems set in specific historical/cultural contexts, because I like rpgs as a way to explore them and think they provide a great sense of place. However, I tend not to choose more well-known settings, like WWII Europe or Victorian England, because they’ve already been so thoroughly explored that they lose some of the uniqueness factor I’m interested in.

So far the people I’ve played/playtested them with have been enthusiastic about the ideas, but the games tend to start slow as they are hesitant to be creative because they don’t want to ‘be wrong’ about how things would work in that time and place. However, I’m not so much set on perfectly replicating, say, 19th century Hong Kong in a given game as I am interested in seeing the game evolve from an off-beat starting point.

Do people think the best solution to this is to separate the actual history from the game history (i.e. emphasize that this is an alternate universe and they can feel free to depart as much as they want to from the historical details) or to provide a lot of background information to ground them as much as possible in the time period so that they’re more comfortable there?

How to make a guest feel comfortable and welcome in a session?

I am currently DMing for a group of 5 players. A friend of some of the players is very interested in learning about the game.

I have decided to let her play an NPC in one of the upcoming sessions, to gain more insight into this game.

This NPC is already fleshed out and will be an integral part of the story, when she shows up. Therefore I am not able to completely adapt this NPC to the guests wishes.

I have so far tried to describe as much as possible of the NPC, it’s place in the world, family, motivation etc. to the guest. Also some key behaviours, that are relevant to the gameplay. I.e. how she needs to react, what she needs to tell the PCs when asked for it.

Nevertheless, our guest is still rather nervous about the upcoming session. As we probably all were in our first sessions. I am trying to encourage and support her as much as possible, and I am sure she will do fine.

Nevertheless, I am still wondering if there are specific things I could do to help her in this role and to make her experience great?

I know this situation is very similar to having a new player join a group. And I have read many discussions/answers regarding this situation. But this situation is slightly different since she was not able to choose her own character, but has to act out my pre-written NPC. She will be more limited, than if she could just do her own character.

Is there any known limit for how many dice RPG players are comfortable adding up?

After reading a few RPG systems that use successes and others that use dice whose shown number are totalled, I came to the conclusion that personally I prefer adding up a maximum of 3–4 numbers and don’t like having to add up more than that — while with counting successes I had no such preference on a limit.

Now what I’m wondering is, if there are any known studies from the gaming industry (or if there is any known census there) that shows a practical limit at which the average player says “ok that is too many dice to add up” and thus loses interest?

(To clarify, adding up 3d6 in this context means adding up the face values to get somewhere between 3–18 as a sum.)

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