I hadn't thought about starting out using bitcoind without using bitcoin first. I guess for now, this thread serves as the tutorial.
The focus for bitcoind so far has been more on backend support for websites. There's demand for things that would be nice for adminning headless generators like listgenerated. For the moment, you can grep the debug.log file for "generated" and "hashmeter" for some feedback. Generated blocks take about 24 hours before they're credited to your balance.