D&D as a maligned history. For a time, in the 80s and 90s there were accusations that the game would lead things like witchcraft, satanism, or even suicide, far worse than wasting an afternoon arguing about grapple rules, . It turns out, that all of the accusations were untrue, except that wasting an afternoon bit.
D&D is something I really enjoy, and especially since a new edition was released, I felt that it was time to show people who have never played what it is about. Two players in our current campaign hosted a craft and cosplay event at a local coffee house, and they agreed to let me have a booth where I could run small mini adventures and let people have a chance to experience D&D5e.
I made all of the character sheets before hand, sticking to the most basic rules, to keep play simple. I selected "The Keep on the Boarder Lands" with the "Caves of Chaos" as the primary adventuring ground. I swapped out the old monster stats, and used the monsters from the 5e DM Basic rules. I also printed off a blank map for the payers to use. As the day progressed, the Caves would be mapped out by the adventurers that survived.
I managed to have 3 sessions of play. Everyone who played had a really good time, and all the characters survived, although several were knocked unconscious and had to be dragged back to camp. NPCs would warn later adventurers not to go near the medical tents, where heroes from the first encounters were recuperating. After getting a handle on the basic rules, the players did a very good job of acting, asking questions, and, above all, having fun.
One side note: Several people people from my generation and older pointed out to me that they never got to play due to "concerns over the game".
What the players taught me
One of the players was really having difficulty with the grid. She had once played D&D before, and noted that the grid was "the old way of doing things". So we shifted to theater of the mind. As the grid disappeared, I could see the options and world almost open up. The ensuing combat with Kobolds was some of the best action I had narrated in a long time. The monsters felt more real, as opposed to static pieces on a chess board.
Best quote of the evening:
One mother who "never played D&D herself" basically forced her daughter to play. While playing, kobolds attacked the party and her daughter froze, unsure of what to do next. The mom politely suggested to her daughter "Dear, just throw a handaxe at the poor creature".
Best Role Player
One of the players, who had never played D&D before, selected the character with the "noble" background. She fell into the role immediately and insisted that the rest of the characters (including the DM and her good friend sitting across from her) referred to her as "my lord". She also attempted to persuade Orcs to leave their encampment through shear force of will even though she didn't speak orcish.