Happy 2018! Hopefully this year is a little better than last year and at the moment it is full of possibility… Full disclosure, I’m writing this in 2017 so I’m a little nervous that something is going to happen between now and then but in the mean time I’m focusing on ways that we can all improve our gaming experience in the new year.
Run A New Game
Get out of your rut a bit! You might love D&D 5e or Chronicles of Darkness but trying a new game will make you appreciate your regular game more and you might even find a new game to engross yourself in! Investing in a new game can be intimidating but I suggest trying PDFs first (such as through DriveThruRPG) to cut down on costs. You can also read reviews ahead of time to see if a game is something you’d be interested in, including the reviews I’ve written here.
This is an especially good resolution if you’ve never been the Gamemaster of a game before. What’s stopping you? Try something new and have fun! A lot of people treat running a game like a job interview or something, but you’re there with friends and you just want to all have a good time. If you like, plan your first GMing experience for New GM Month and find safety in numbers!
Play A New Game
This is the flipside of the last resolution in a number of ways. Playing a game you’ve been wanting to try can be even easier than GMing a new game since you can join up with a group through your Friendly Local Gaming Store or even online forums like Myth-Weavers.
It’s also important to get out from behind the screen if you’re the perennial GM for your gaming group. Give yourself a chance to be a character again, to see the world from the ground up and not know the secrets behind the plot. This can improve your GMing by reminding you what the other side of the table sees and it can remind you why you got into this game in the first place and help you write better stories.
If you’ve never created your own material for a game, give it a shot! Start small with a class ability, spell, or race and see how it plays at the table. If you (or your GM) want to start with something small, make the PC with the new mechanic a temporary addition to the story and see if anything breaks with your new creation. If it does, you can just say that character dies or heads off into the sunset or whatever.
If your the GM, you can instead treat this as “let your players create more.” I wrote an article recently about sharing the responsibility of deepening your gaming world and you can make this a goal in the new year. Let go of the reins a little bit and see what happens. If you hate it (and I don’t think you will) you can always just stop doing this but you likely will find that collaboration cuts down on your work and draws your players in.
Read A Campaign Setting
I don’t mean “flip through” a setting or “read the back cover.” Sit down with a game setting and read it cover to cover, or at least the parts about the in-game societies and characters. You can do this with a setting that you already like, something that I didn’t do for a long time when I got less time for gaming generally. I entered my first few games of Eberron and Eclipse Phase having only skimmed the setting chapters but when I went back and read them like a travel book I felt flooded with plot hooks and inspired to make my plots more compelling and fun.
Better yet, read through a new setting. You might already know the Forgotten Realms but if you read through Ravenloft or Planescape you will find settings that are completely different. Maybe you’d like to play in them too or maybe you’ll steal parts from these new settings for your Sword Coast adventures. Either way, I’m sure you’ll find some interesting stuff in there.
Read An Advice Blog
This blog has a lot for GMs and players but it’s not often an advice blog. My posts that contain Advice for GMs have lots to pull from but check out a blog like Sly Flourish for some gold-plated advice. Mike Shea has some great and very specific advice that he lays out in a clear way, telling you why you should consider something and then how to make it happen. The Kind DM and Renegade Octopus are also awesome sites with lot of speculation and public musing to help with your creation resolution at the same time. Those sites is mostly geared towards GMs but Gnome Stew has a lot more from the player’s perspective and Up to 4 Players has some advice for both sides of the screen (and a cool webcomic to boot).
Listen or Watch Someone Else’s Game
Watching what someone else does (if they’re good) can help you identify new ways to grow in your own game. If you don’t usually get into podcasts, you can still try out a one- to two-episode recorded game on Role Playing Public Radio or One Shot. You can also try something a little different with the actors on the Film Reroll who play through classic movies; this is a great podcast for those interested in improv role models, both as GMs and as players.
For games that are a little longer you should check out Campaign, Dice, Camera, Action! (video), or the Numenera and Star Wars games on Fandible. There are other amazing storytellers out there too including Acquisitions Incorporated and the (sadly) ended Critical Role that may work for you but these are harder to see what the participants are doing. It can actually be pretty intimidating to have your goal be playing NPCs like Matt Mercer or bringing miniatures sets like Chris Perkins so keep your resolutions in manageable steps.