That’s awesome! O.k, let’s see if I can help you…
While it might seem like the players need to remember a lot of things to play Pathfinder, it’s not as bad as you might think at first glance. For starters, players only need to remember the rules for their personal class, not that of other players’. The Fighter doesn’t need to worry about how a Wizard prepares his spells. The Bard doesn’t have to know how a Cleric turns undead. So on.
It’s true that pretty much all versions of 3.5 come with countless classes, feat options and class variants. Don’t feel like you have to introduce them all to your players. In fact, I encourage you to stick to the main classes and their default versions when you start off. Unless a player’s character concept would really be better served with a variant you remember, or this feat you read the other day from a supplement. It’s important to give the players enough choices for them to pick the class they’ll really like, without giving them so many options that they’ll feel intimidated when starting out.
Also, you can tell the players it’s okay if they don’t remember all the rules right away, that you’ll guide them along. As the GM that’s your job after all. So it doesn’t really matter if at first they don’t know what to do to stabilize when their HP are under 0, or what they should add up for an attack. Simply look at their character sheet, explain to them what they need to add up and let them roll. As much as possible though, once you’ve explained it you should let them add up the roll themselves, or they’ll get used to you doing it for them entirely and then might not even try to learn. This happened to me at first. (More on that in a bit!)
Basically, reassure them that they only need to roleplay and that the rules will come with time. For their first level (or first two levels if you want to play it really safe), suggest actions for them when you see they’re a bit lost or are making poor choices. Tell them when they’ll cause an attack of opportunity, or when they might be better off using another type of attack, things like that. Tell them that if they’re not sure if they can do something or not, they can always ask. A player can decide to try and grapple someone without knowing the rules, and then all you have to do is tell them what the rules for grappling are when it does come up. One thing at a time.
In the end, it’s important that you help them along the learning curve and make them feel like it’s okay that they don’t know all the rules right off the bat. Just be careful not to take them by the hand too much, I made that mistake at first and ended up with players who still didn’t know how to do a skill check midway through their level two. At that point I had to switch to a slightly harsher mode of GMing and warned them that if this continued, we would take some time before starting the next game to go through the rules. That made them pay more attention from that point on and things have been running pretty smoothly since then.
Your job is to know what the modifiers are if it’s raining, if there’s fog, if there’s poor illumination, if they haven’t eaten in days, etc. And when you don’t know, you look it up in the book. Their job, in the end, is to know how to play their one single character. So there’s a lot less rules for players to worry about.
Or the short version: If your players want to try it, just go for it, I’m sure you’ll all have lots of fun!
I spent last Wednesday and Thursday with some friends, just having fun and playing RPGs!
I ran a short game using the Cinematic Unisystem from the ‘Angel Roleplaying Game’. The game wasn’t set in the Buffyverse, but it was a ‘monster hunting’ type of story similar to shows like Buffy, Angel, Supernatural and others along those lines. We had so much fun that I’ll do more ‘episodes’ for them. Now that I tried it, I LOVE the Cinematic Unisystem, it’s perfect to tell a story, the rules are simple and intuitive… I can see myself using it for completely different sorts of games as long as they’re cinematic in style.
After that, I ran them a short game of ‘Low Life: Rise of the Lowly’, a comedic setting for ‘Savage Worlds’. Let me tell you, we laughed and smiled so much that at the end our facial muscles were hurting from all the smiling. I’m not even exaggerating!
Finally, one of my friends ran us a ‘Call of Cthulhu’ scripted adventure from Chaosium. I made a criminal/treasure hunter and I’m glad to say he survived the first game session! Let’s see if he can manage more adventures without dying or going insane…