New Year’s Day is a time of renewal. The festive season is over; decorations are being taken down, trees hauled to the curbs, the last candles burned out. The ball has dropped; an old year gives way to the new. Those of us that went to New Year’s Eve parties probably heard one question more than once: what’s your New Year’s Resolution?

For us gamers, New Year’s Day is also a time of renewal. Our regular gaming schedules were probably interrupted, if not postponed altogether, during the festive season (having Christmas and New Year’s Day both fall on Sundays certainly didn’t help my weekend gaming schedule) as we accommodated out-of-town guests, family homecomings, parties, and holiday shopping. For college gamers, December graduates and spring class schedules may mean campaign shake-ups.

I often find myself evaluating my current campaigns and GMing style while my gaming is on holiday hiatus. This year, I decided to make a New Year’s Resolution related to GMing and share it with you, our readers. I also invited the other Gnomies to join me and was amazed by the goals that they set for themselves.

Since most New Year’s Resolutions tend to fall by the wayside, coupled with the fact that I’m a gamer, I came up with a mechanic to keep the resolution alive throughout 2012. I decided that this would be the first of five quarterly articles to track the progress of our resolutions. This first article lays out our rather ambitious resolutions.

Our Resolutions

John: Resolutions should be to work on problem areas, and problem areas can sometimes be your areas of expertise. I’m good at improvising during the game. I’ve run so many games with so little prep, that it just feels like the right way to do it. That doesn’t always fit the situation though and sometimes it feels half assed, even if the game is still fun. My resolution is to run games that require more prep and to actually do that prep instead of relying on improvising the scenarios at the table. I’ll not turn my back on improvising (it’s a necessary GMing skill), but I’ll concentrate on plotting out more details before getting to the table. It will improve a weak area of mine.

Kurt: I resolve to finish my game prep before the last minute. Over the last few years, I have increasingly been relying on last minute pressure to drive my prep (and my writing, and so many other aspects of life). I’ve discovered that it’s better to let an idea mature before committing to it in a game, which requires staying ahead of the deadline. (For instance, I was one of the last Gnomes to get this resolution in…)

I also resolve to finally learn to use a single space after a period. (This may be the easier resolution).

Patrick: This year my GM’s resolution is to run a game designed for an irregular cast of PCs. Each session will be a complete episode whether it gets as far as I had intended it to or not. The next session will not require the same PCs or players to be present. The game will also be held in public at the local game shop with an open seat policy that as long as there is an unoccupied chair any player who is interested will be given a chance to play. I want to be free of the usual restraints that come with requiring a regular gaming group, and I have never tried running a game like this by design before.

Phil: My New Year’s Resolution is to be more lively at the table.I have over the years gotten too comfortable sitting at the end of the table and speaking in mostly calm tones, with a restrained mannerism. I want to breathe some life into the performance part of my GMing and become more animated and exciting at the table. My inspiration come from two of my fellow Gnomes: John Arcadian and Patrick Benson, who are both wonderfully engaging GM.  They rarely sit, and always have a voice, mannerism, or prop to help enhance the NPC’s they portray and the scenes they are describing. My first plan is to re-arrange my gaming table so that I will have some space to get up from my chair and to move around. That is happening before New Years. Then I am going to include some items in my session notes to remind me to act out certain NPC’s or scenes. I will likely collect a few props to help get into the mindset. The final part is just to not care what I may look like up there, and just get into it.

Troy: My games generally incorporate a lot of tabletop game aides — minis, tiles, cards and terrain –  maximizing the use of the movement and feat rules that the various versions of Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder utilizes. I prefer this style because it empowers the players at the table to learn and make use of those rules. Of course, this is very prep-heavy enterprise. I should probably resolve to experiment more often with a narrative style, forgoing the aids. This approach would expand my ability to construct a “theater of the mind.” I just want to be sure to do so in a way that it doesn’t limit player participation, to make sure my narration incorporates the many different ways PCs can be use in different encounters.

Walt: My New Year’s Resolution is to play more often. Outside of Gen Con I haven’t played in an RPG for several years. This is largely by choice more than opportunity. I love being a Game Master and, as an RPG industry writer, running games provides me with crucial playtesting sessions. Still, I sometimes forget what it’s like to be on the other side of the screen. I do enjoy playing games when I get the chance, so I’m going to try and offer my chair on occasion to play in a few games.

Where we go from here

The next three articles will track our progress throughout the year, culminating in a final year-end article where we see where we stand and, possibly, make new resolutions for 2013.

Now here’s the really fun part – you can play, too! If you want to be a part of this year’s Gnew Year Resolutions, simply make your GMing resolution in the comments below and update us on your progress as we go along. We’d love to read the goals you’ve set for yourselves and see if we can all improve our GMing experiences throughout the year!

Happy 2012, everybody!