A new year is upon us and that means it’s time to resolve! Resolutions are meant to be goals we set for our own improvement, and usually that means things like losing a few extra pounds or maybe getting out to the park for walks more often.
Of course, we’re in the business of tabletop role-playing games, so our resolution ideas pertain more to that side of things. Perhaps you’re a seasoned Game Master but would like to open your horizons to new ideas. Maybe you’re an intermediate GM but could brush up on your rules, races, classes and the like.
Or, like me, you’ve never chaired a game in your life and are being hounded by your friends and DND-playing loved ones on a weekly basis – “go on, run a game, you’ll love it!” – and are caving in to their pesterences!
So… how do we make ourselves a better GM?
Resolve to Read and Write
If you often find yourself lacking inspiration for a campaign setting, it’s best to hit the books. Re-read your core book or pick up the latest expansion. And, there are plenty of third-party sellers who make perfectly useful campaign settings that adapt for 5e or Pathfinder. We happen to have a couple for sale now, with another, Savage Dawn, a completely system-neutral adventure, coming soon.
As you read up on these settings, jot down notes. Even if you don’t use those ideas verbatim, they just might inspire you to devise something your party will find irresistible.
Keep a notepad handy – remember, anything you hear or witness in your daily life could be the basis for a new story!
Resolve to Use New Tools
Perhaps one of the reasons you haven’t GM’d is because you don’t like to write or keep notes. That’s totally understandable – we are in a digital world, after all.
There are several systems on the web like Roll20 and D&D Beyond that let you access some library materials for free (with deeper access at a cost). YouTube videos help you create NPCs and there’s a litany of apps to help you track rolls, create characters and more.
Here at LoreSmyth, we’re working on online generators that will give you random plot hooks and other materials to plug into your games. And there’s also our new Dungeon Discoveries decks that can create thousands of unique objects for your players to discover.
Resolve to Be More Visual
This is especially important if you’re going to run an online game. In real-life table settings, you can use minifigures and 3-D elements, mood lighting and more to visually captivate your party.
Online, however, these items may go by the wayside of a GM – that’s why it’s in your best interest to keep your players interested with visual enhancements. Maps are the easiest way to do this – Roll20 has many maps for purchase, and we have several map settings that can adapt to Roll20 or D&D Beyond.
Character tokens and drawings of NPCs or settings will also help immerse your players. Search Twitter and sites like DeviantArt for things that might strike your fancy. When you do, be sure to ask the artist for permission to use them (especially important if you plan to stream your game!) If you have the funds, commission artists for original work in advance.
Resolve to Communicate
Many GMs I’ve spoken to agree – lack of communication is the quickest way to kill a game. From a GM’s perspective this could mean anything from not being alerted to vacations or schedule conflicts. For players, this might mean concerns with story paths, character development, or more serious problems involving behavior of other players.
Set the tone for your players – have an ‘open door’ policy that promotes judgment-free feedback and communication. Player ideas could develop into an epic turn in your story and a memorable encounter for the party. Address behavioral issues frankly and matter-of-factly, and you’ll have the lasting respect of your group.
Resolve to Adapt and Improve
Practice may not always make ‘perfect’, especially in a game that is evolving and changing shape with each new book release. But practicing will ensure you’re always on a quest to make each new game that much better than the last. When changes to the core rulebook happen, you can adapt to them, or choose to stick to a previous release. When new tools come available, try them out. If things don’t work, change them. If they do, keep going!
What are your New Year gaming resolutions?