Vanir’s New Year’s Gaming Resolutions (2012 Edition)

It’s that special time of year again. You know, the one where you run out of times of the year. This year was a significant improvement for me in a lot of ways. I got laid off from a horrible job, and almost immediately got a really good job. I got a gaming group together. I’ve had a lot of new, awesome experiences this year, and my gaming life is much improved. That being said, here’s what I plan to do this year.

Playing With My Boy!!!!!

My son is old enough to play board games now, and many of his Christmas presents this year are ones his parents get to play with him. I couldn’t be happier. I’m going to enjoy this for as many years as I can, this one included. With any luck, I won’t ever have to stop!!!!

It also doesn’t hurt that this is going to get my wife playing some games too. I’m certainly not going to pass that up. I always loved playing board games as a family when I was a kid. I suspect I will like it now also.

More Small Systems

Phil and Dave have been encouraging me to try out some non-D&D RPG systems for some time now, and this fall I got to do just that at DC Gameday. I tried out Microscope, Fiasco, and a couple variants on the Cortex+ system. 4e and I have had some issues for a while, so it was pretty reinvigorating to see some other approaches to both roleplay and combat.

This year, I have a hitlist of games to try, in no particular order:

  • Lady Blackbird
  • Pathfinder (I just wanna see if it really does feel like 3.75, because I loved 3.5 so)
  • Leverage
  • Dresden Files RPG
  • Don’t Rest Your Head
  • LOTS OF OTHERS
I realize I got a small sampler of some really good stuff this year, and maybe I’ll encounter something wretched that will make me quit gaming and literacy forever if I search long enough — but it’s a wonderful feeling not to be locked in to a game system you’re not enjoying. I’ll definitely be broadening my system-horizons more this year, and I very much appreciate having a gaming group that is open to doing that with me.

Prep Prep Preppity Prep Prep

I had more than a couple days this year where I asked the group if board games would be OK instead of D&D. Sometimes it was just that I was fried and didn’t feel like anybody was going to have a good time if I ran the game, but there was a lot of procrastination in the guise of “writer’s block” that found me the morning of game night (game morning?) without the vaguest idea of what to run the party through.

I realize it’s probably not a good idea to plan the story out too far in advance (as the players frequently have other ideas), but having some combat encounters prepared might not hurt. Having NPC’s with basic talking points, motivations, and other important info written down for when one of my players manages to catch me off guard is another place I intend to do some work. I’ve also seen some excellent suggestions from our readers on coming up with a battle plan for monsters so as to make better use of their powers, which will hopefully ease my “the players kill everything I throw at them with ease” problem.

Get More Experience Behind The DM Screen

I’ve had the good fortune to run a fairly regular game every other week for almost a year now, but I still frequently feel like a complete novice. Admittedly, I have a group packed to the brim with wildly creative players with an uncanny knack for finding something that causes me to rethink everything on the fly. I love playing with them this much, but I do occasionally feel like I’m DMing in 10x gravity. We’ve all been together long enough that they know how I run the game, and I am starting to get a sense for what form the Destructor will take (even if I can’t stop it). My players endured a lot of my strange experiments and indulgences over the past year. This year, I want to take these experiences and start making adventures that are fun for them to play and fun for me to run.

I’d also like to try my hand at running some convention games this year. I’ve been in karate since I was a teenager, and in my mind this feels like a tournament: nothing shows you where you need work the most like putting yourself in a situation where you need to use your skills against complete strangers. Hopefully, this time, failure doesn’t equal a boot to the head. There’s also that bit where I get to meet and have fun with new people and support the conventions I love to attend each year. Admittedly, I am pretty nervous about running con games. However, I think back to some of the really terrible ones I’ve had over the years, and I’m pretty sure I can’t possibly be that bad. I hope.

Surround Myself With Inspiration

One of the worst feelings as a blogger or a DM is to scan your internal database for ideas and find none. Usually all it takes is just to see a cool idea I can build upon or to talk to someone and I can go from there, but getting that initial spark going is painful sometimes.

Simply put, I’m going to read a ton of books. I’m going to catch up on all the movies and TV shows that I’ve been “meaning to get to”. I’m going to try to get more involved in the RPG bloggers’ community, and throw my hand into creating and building cool things. If it’s anything like writing, there’s a great deal of inertia involved. I’d like to move forward, and always have some ideas in the chamber.

Confidence!

Ultimately, I do have an ulterior motive behind wanting to do most of the above — I want to be able to relax and have fun behind the screen. I want to be able to sell my NPCs and hook my players into my story. I want to run combat and not worry about if I’m screwing something up. I want everybody at the table, including me, to be excited about what’s going on.

I’ve noticed it’s hard to do any of these things when you’re self-conscious about everything you’re doing.I want to settle into this role so this sort of thing can live in the back of my mind instead of the front.

Remember The Point

It is awful easy to get embroiled in trying new games and organizing things and learning other things, completely forgetting why you do any of this. I want, this year, to remember why I play with others — I want to spend time with them. I want to bond with them and share awesome experiences with them. I want to have fun with them. This goes for my son, my wife, my gaming group, my Internets friends from the Bloggerlands — everyone.

This realization was one of the best parts of this year for me.

Hope everybody has a safe and happy new year, and I’ll see you all when the calendar looks different.

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Comments

  1. “I had more than a couple days this year where I asked the group if board games would be OK instead of D&D. Sometimes it was just that I was fried and didn’t feel like anybody was going to have a good time if I ran the game, but there was a lot of procrastination in the guise of “writer’s block” that found me the morning of game night (game morning?) without the vaguest idea of what to run the party through.
    I realize it’s probably not a good idea to plan the story out too far in advance (as the players frequently have other ideas), but having some combat encounters prepared might not hurt. Having NPC’s with basic talking points, motivations, and other important info written down for when one of my players manages to catch me off guard is another place I intend to do some work. I’ve also seen some excellent suggestions from our readers on coming up with a battle plan for monsters so as to make better use of their powers, which will hopefully ease my “the players kill everything I throw at them with ease” problem”

    I always have trouble relating to these kinds of comments. Can’t you run a published adventure & just give it a quick read-through? I know most WoTC ones suck, but you can just take a Dungeon Delve of roughly your party’s level and run that, either as-is or tweaking as desired. Takes 20 minutes at most to read it and maybe get the right minis together.

    And that’s if you are coming from a completely cold start. Surely your PCs are normally either in the middle of an adventure, or they have their own plans, things they want to do? Either way, you should then have a good idea what you need to prep. And it shouldn’t take long – for home use one sheet of paper with a rough dungeon map & some notes on monsters/traps/treasure on the same page can give several sessions’ gaming. NPCs can be one-line notes at most, you don’t need to pre-script their dialogue like a computer AI!

  2. Personally I prefer to roleplay to any other type of game type. Also on your new game systems, I was on 4e from the get go. I held off for two years because I thought Pathfinder was not much of an improvement over 3.5. I was wrong. Within the last six months after playing in a Pathfinder campaign I almost have all the books. If you are fusturated with 4e go to Pathfinder you will be happy you did. As for Dresden Files, great system. I have ran a game in it and my players were put off by the world creation process at first but they really are getting into the game now. Plus when your group accidently releases a dozen Black Court Vampires on to New Orleans it is always fun to see the expression on the player’s faces.

    Lastly on hitting writers blog. You could use the one sheet adventures from pinnacle games. And convert stats over to whatever system.

  3. I have an aside comment, or maybe call it a question. It’s not an edition war question. Simply: Given that I like 4e having the numbers right there for me, for every character *and* for every monster, if I tried Pathfinder as it exists right now, don’t I have to go back to flipping rulebooks for spells and spell-like abilities? Don’t I have to remember what all the feats do?

    I guess I am memorization- and math-lazy. Speaking only as DM, I hated the prep work I had to do for 3.5. I didn’t hate the whole darn thing, and I didn’t walk away from it screaming and shaking my fist. I walked away because having any online tools and numbers at my fingertips made my (selfish) life easier to prep and continue DMing.

    I agree with S’mon, in this respect. I can always, always prep something enjoyable with 4e now, with minimal prep, and I can reflavor on the fly, so it takes minutes to DM improv something for my folks to play, and maybe because I’ve DMed for almost 35 years, a few Dungeon Tiles, a few minis, and a few pages of green-bar monster stats… I’m ready for a whole night of good tabletop!

    If anything, my (4e) resolutions would include:
    - Saying “Yes” even more. For example, allowing a Skill Check, albeit a harder DC, as a minor action, instead of a Standard.
    - Controlling table chatter and just nudging the game forward, like a 30-second choice or Use At Will rule.
    - Pay even more attention to my players, their play style/wants, and insert more personalized tidbits, plot twists, and NPCs which connect to them.
    - Allow as much cinematic creative stuff as I can squeeze out of the players. End a few combats on “Bloodied Enemies” and hand-wave/roleplay the resolution.
    - Stop arguing with power gamers and rules lawyers. Sometimes even give in completely, and remember that I control the fun, the world, the dice (invisible) behind the screen, so as to exert a subtle, quiet control. :)

    I agree with Ashimar that roleplay is my preferred “drug of choice”. I run about 1 session every 8 weeks of my weekly 4e FRealms game which is all pure RP. Seriously, these are remarkable sessions with maybe a dice roll here and there for a skill, or a power used within a storytelling framework without rolling and target numbers and damage. I’m going to try for less combat-grind encounters, more short flavorful encounters, and slicing a chunk of that all-RP session into each and every week, although my guys are wonderful and grow as I encourage more and more RP throughout the history of the campaign(s).

    I’d like to play Earthdawn, Shadowrun, something Super Hero, and maybe some WoD again, but heck, life doesn’t seem to have enough time in it for all that, these days. I stepped back from this season of Encounters, to focus more on my home rotating-DMs shared-world Dark Sun game on Thursdays, and FR on Saturdays.

    Maybe my last resolution is, to remember the folks I game with are friends, and the time spent with friends is THE important thing, whether we chat about the new season of Game of Thrones, the blood flying in Spartacus, who did what in Skyrim, or whatever… :) The people around the table, more important that what’s played out on the table.

  4. Greek George:
    “I agree with S’mon, in this respect. I can always, always prep something enjoyable with 4e now, with minimal prep, and I can reflavor on the fly, so it takes minutes to DM improv something for my folks to play, and maybe because I’ve DMed for almost 35 years, a few Dungeon Tiles, a few minis, and a few pages of green-bar monster stats… I’m ready for a whole night of good tabletop!”

    I do think 4e is very easy to prep for, if you know what the players will be doing. There is a bit of a problem in its lack of at-table content generation rules like monster encounter tables and treasure tables, which would allow for zero-prep play.