Day 19 - Best way to learn a new game?
Interesting question, and for me this is a no-brainer.
That said, this question can be taken from the point of view of a GameMaster and that of a player. The best way to learn a new rpg for a GameMaster is to go through the game rules, not trying to learn them so much as trying to absorb the important points. Following this, create a character or three for the game, and then go through some of the basics of the game mechanics to get a feel for them. Then do some combat among these characters, and see how it works. As well as what works for you, and what doesn't work. Another option here is to play the game with someone who is familiar with the system, and that will give you a better idea of what to look for when you attempt to GM the game in question.
From the point of view of a player, it's different. The best way to learn a new rpg is to *play* the game in question. Reading the rulebook is fine and dandy (though you may spoil the game for yourself with some of the setting details), but while you can understand all the theory and mechanics of the game from reading them, they don't come to life and make sense until you play the game. In this case, it helps if the GM running the game is familiar with the game (see the section above), but it sometimes happens that everyone is a newbie to the game system.
As a general rule, when introducing a new rpg to a group, I tend to approach things by not really sitting down and explaining the rules, other than the very basic mechanics. I give the players an overview of the game itself (possibly including some of the dynamics if they're relevant), answer any questions they may have about the game or the basic mechanics and then get on with it. The players will either have characters they've created (as part of a campaign), ones that I've created for the game in question (usually for a convention or demo game), and I'll a bit of hand-holding as necessary. And then we get into playing the game.
When it comes right down to it, experience has taught me that the best way to learn to play a new game is to actually play it. While it helps to read the rules, there are oft times details and intricacies that you just don’t get until you sit down and play. The trick when introducing a new game and system to players, regardless of whether they're newbies or not (but especially if they are), is to be patient, don't overwhelm them with game terms and stuff, and help them along. The love that the GM has for a system often goes a long way to getting players into and involved with the game, and this is something that should never be forgotten.
So, interesting question, but while a no-brainer for me, one that required a bit of a longer answer than I expected. :)