Long Live the Dungeon
Dungeons aren’t the problem. The rules are.
A typical D&D dungeon is a hell of a thing to try to make sense of as you’re learning the rules or playing an RPG for the first time, especially fitting in some idea of character along with kicking down the door. The big issue here is that your character sheet is full of all these things you can do, but no idea of what those things mean, or how to use them. It says on your sheet you have +5 to Athletics, when do you get to roll that? I said I’m running, should I roll it now?
That kind of mechanical distance has far more to do with making a new player feel comfortable. The basic concept of trying to make it through a dangerous area to get to something important isn’t much of a stretch for anyone. The new Red Box does a lot to help new players, and does a pretty good job of it, by putting the concept first and the rules second.
The basic idea, to reach out to new players by finding out what they like, is a great one. If they’re not into action films or fantasy, maybe go with something about best friends and their petty hatreds, or Coen-brothers style fiascoes.
The advice about restricting options, in particular, goes against what makes RPGs awesome. Don’t try to make things simpler, give them something to care about and then fill them in on the rules as they go. If a new player has something their character cares about, something to advocate for, the rest of the game can all fall into place. They’ll want to do things, and once a player wants to take action the rules can come up as needed.
I played Dungeon World, back when it was Apocalypse D&D, with someone who had never played D&D before (she had played many other RPGs). Since the rules didn’t cover much beyond dungeons at that point, we were running the Purple Wurm Graveyard, about as traditional dungeon as you’ll get. Since the rules come right out and tell you what’s important, what you can do, when you’ll have to roll and when you won’t, she took to it pretty quick, and had a great time.
So no, the dungeon isn’t the problem. The rules are.