by Mike Shea on 3 January 2011
It's nice to hit the reset button on life every so often. A new year gives us this chance. We can start fresh, with new goals and new plans to get us where we want to go. This is no different in our chosen hobby of Dungeons and Dragons. Today we'll look at some potential gaming goals that will help all of us move forward to be the best dungeon masters we can.
Run 50 D&D games this year
The best way to get good at something is to do it. There's no other way to become a great dungeon master than to run games, lots of them. Fifty games in a year sounds like a whole lot. For some, it's an impossible goal. Keeping up a weekly game is very hard work. However, with local gaming groups, easy to play games like Gamma World, and the soon-to-be-released Virtual Tabletop, we have more options than ever before to run some games. Set up a routine, build a solid weekly gaming group, and start running some games.
This year, let your players develop their own quests
I believe it was gaming sage, Chris Sims who pointed out that the best quests are those developed by players rather than the DM. It's important for the DM to solidify quests but the core of those quests should be based on the actions and decisions of the players. Did the PCs have a particularly interesting and unplanned conversation with a local street urchin whose sister was taken in by a particularly nasty brothel? Turn that into a quest! Did the PCs uncover a rumor of an ancient shrine of Yuan-ti a few days journey away? Turn that into a quest as well. Rather than doing what we did last year, developing a hand-full of quests ahead of time, use the actions and interests of the players to develop their own tree of potential quests in 2011.
This year, run shorter mini-campaigns than a single huge one
We might have enjoyed running through fifty adventures last year following our epic story lines of love, betrayal, destruction, and rebirth, but maybe we should stick to something a little simpler this year. Instead of huge campaigns that usually just end in the middle anyway, why not focus our campaigns around simpler story lines like a single TV season instead of a huge multi-season epic. Run six nights of Gamma World followed by twelve nights of Dark Sun followed by ten nights of paragon-tier D&D Essentials. Give your players a chance to explore the breadth of 4th Edition campaign worlds.
Attend a gaming convention
We rarely feel more at home than with twenty to forty thousand of our brothers and sisters of nerd-dom. There's nothing quite like watching two hundred concurrent D&D games going on at the same time. If you've never been, there are many great opportunities throughout the year. Gencon, the grandfather of tabletop gaming conventions, is always a big hit. PAX and PAX-East are the newer gaming conventions but bring a great mix of electronic and tabletop gamers in the same place. D&D Experience is a bit more intimate with only a few hundred players, but it gives you a great chance to mingle with the designers and developers of D&D as well as game your ass off for three days. We might also look into local gamer conventions like my beloved SynDCon as well. Either way, we should make it a point to schedule in at least one gamer convention this year.
This year we'll steal more ideas from current console and PC games
Sure, there's a stigma against turning D&D into a video game but there's a lot of shared design between the two platforms that we might waste if we worry too much about it. Instead, this year we will embrace ideas wherever they might come from. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (Ass:Bro to you and I) has the potential to bring a lot of ideas to our table. The most recent World of Warcraft expansion, Catacalysm, has tons of interesting quest and encounter designs we might steal. A new Dragon Age and a new Mass Effect later this year might also help us stretch the bounds of our encounter designs. Want some bonus points, figure out how to build an Angry Birds encounter.
This year, give someone else a chance to DM
One of our prime duties as a dungeon master is to build more dungeon masters. We can't do this if we aren't willing to step back from the table once in a while and let someone else have a shot at it. This year, take that big step and give someone else a chance to run a game or two. You don't have to relinquish your screen forever but it might be nice to take a break and let someone else have a shot.
A year of potential
It's a great year to dig deep into D&D 4th edition. The game has matured well, giving us a far more balanced game than we had in the beginning. Material is nearly limitless in helping us build shared worlds for our players to explore. All the materials we need to play are affordable, easy to acquire, and usable. Let's begin the year right. Get out there and run some awesome games.