A Gamemaster's New Year's Resolutions


I am not among the world's more organized people. In fact, though I know only a small portion of the people in the world, I would bet money that I am among the least organized. I also have the memory retention of an autistic goldfish. This usually doesn't bother me, except when it comes to gaming, and more specifically, GMing. As such, I have compiled a list of resolutions, that I may improve my overall organization and memory and be a better GM. The fact that I have compiled a list of resolutions so far from the New Year should be further testament to my state of disorganization.

I am not among the world's more organized people. In fact, though I know only a small portion of the people in the world, I would bet money that I am among the least organized. I also have the memory retention of an autistic goldfish. This usually doesn't bother me, except when it comes to gaming, and more specifically, GMing. As such, I have compiled a list of resolutions, that I may improve my overall organization and memory and be a better GM. The fact that I have compiled a list of resolutions so far from the New Year should be further testament to my state of disorganization.

1. I shall assemble a binder, henceforth known as The Binder, in which I will centralize my information. I will not, under any circumstances, keep my game info spread across 12 folders in 3 backpacks, which rest in any of 4 different houses and dorm rooms.

2. I will keep in The Binder a copy of each player's character sheet. This will allow me fast access to such vital, obscure information as the character's names. No longer will I have to refer to the characters as "Mage Dude" or "You with the Sword". In addition, I can remember exactly what each character can and cannot do, to avoid blunders such as the carefully laid out and painstakingly detailed orc lair designed to stop the party armed with 10 Swords of Orc-Fragging, or the devious hidden camera security system that falls prey to a character I forgot had Invisibility.

3. The Binder will have a pocket, in which I will keep maps that I have made for my scenarios. Maps will be drawn on graph paper, not cocktail napkins. I will not trust my own memory to retain the entirety of the map.

4. I will keep a list of random names for NPCs, thus avoiding entire cities full of guys named John.

5. I shall start all of my games on time. I will tell my players an exact time, such as "6 o'clock", as opposed to "around 6ish", which apparently means "anytime between 7 and 9" in some language I'm not familiar with.

6. Even when the time cannot be nailed down exactly, I will at least endeavor to nail down a specific day.

7. In between sessions, I will review my notes, updating them with what happened in the last session, and refreshing my memory as to what is coming up. This will eliminate the party being contacted by someone they killed last week, which always forces me to cover up my blunder with a lame "well, he's undead now" excuse.

8. I will also read the various books describing potential enemies for my characters. That way, my innate lack of creative energy will not culminate in wave after wave of goblins, followed immediately by Vecna.

9. When players give me new characters that they'd like to play, I will give the sheet more than a cursory glance, taking notes in The Binder (which, coincidentally, will have a section for just such notes) about anything interesting. See Item #2 for more info.

10. I will always remember what edition of the game in question we are playing. I will not ask the Half-Orc Barbarian what his THAC0 is.

11. As a corollary to #8, I will in addition remember what game it is that we are playing. The vampire that lives in the ancient castle in Greyhawk is not a 6th-generation Nosferatu. Similarly, the 6th-generation Nosferatu in New York's sewers cannot cast Wish. Neither of these characters call for Sanity checks.

12. If using miniatures, I will try to find figures that bear at least a passing resemblance to the creature or person they are intended to represent. If all else fails, I will simply convince my players that everyone in my world, from the lowliest shopkeeper to the most ancient red dragon, looks exactly like an orc from Hero Quest.

13. I will not let my aforementioned creative use of miniatures lead my story astray. Trolls do not look like Snake-Eyes, nor do they carry semi-automatic weapons.

And rule number 14, which is arguably the most important of all:

14. I will never, ever lose The Binder.

Well, at least I hope not.

Can I add one for me. . . ?

15. I'll keep track of my damn dice. ("OK, not on the painting table, not on my nightstand, not in the utensil drawer, not in the front pocket of my backpack. . . ")

Hows about these:

1) I will not fall in love with my NPCs, and perservere to have them overshadow my players.

2) I will endevour not to stifle my player's creativity.

3) I will not cheat my players to make the game more "dramatic" in my eyes. If I think drama is needed I'll cheat the NPCs as they have no feelings.

4) I will try to have a sense of what my players like in a game, and if my game does not suit their needs, I will step aside for a while until a more amenable group comes my way. Death of the ego, man.

-Mark Temporis

I will cease from acting out vendettas on the players by sicing their characters. Even if said vendettas are completely justified, or date back to the Carter administration.

I will not say "Suddenly," unless I really mean it. I will always describe the room fully so that they know there's a rampaging wilderbeast or that said rope bridge is a perfect ambush spot.

I will spend as much time planning the adventure as I do running it. I will never start an adventure with an idea I had in the shower, without thinking over the idea when outside of the shower. I will take a shower no more than 48 hours before gaming.

I will never run a game from or in the shower, even if I have a stall that holds six comfortibly. I will never have sex with anyone in my gaming group. I will never have sex with my gaming group. I will not forgo gaming for sex, nor sex for gaming. The binder will keep my timesheet for both.

I will never pay for the pizza.

I will ask my players where they want the adventure to go. When I do so, I will feign interest for at least two minutes after they are done speaking. I will always have a spare player within sprinting distance, in case one gets fragged or has a heart attack or the like.

I will be prepared. I will train with Masters of the Art. I will make a pligrammage and walk three times around the House of Gygax so as to absolve my bad game calls.

I will learn other gaming systems, so as to better insult those who play them. I will never use a published adventure that a player may have read. If I discover one has, I will kill off his or her character instantly.

I will never use the first person pronoun. I will always refer to myself as "The Game Master." I will never roll the dice just to make players edgy. I will always roll to kill.

I will keep the binder's location known with a piece of chain suitble for holding down an elephant. I will not chain it to anything, but it will be made memorible if everyone asks "what's that binder with a piece of elephant chain attachted to it?"

I will not make faceless enemies. I will know the tribe of orcs that are attacking. I will know what collor of Gelatinous Cube the characters face. I will know the dragon's day job. I will know the Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order and Species of every monster.

I will have fun.

Here are a few I've been able to hold myself to:

1 – I will avoid DMing under the influence of any substance other than cafeine or sugar. So I avoïd forgetting to substract hit points from monsters and can remember what happened for the next game. For the same reasons, I will also try to sleep for at least four hours the night before the game.

2 – I will seriously discourage any player from playing a character of a different gender than his/her own, unless I am certain the player has enough skill to do so well.

3 – I will avoïd pity at all costs, especially for the half witted morrons who always put the party in trouble and manage to survive the fight they have caused, because of my leniency.

4 – I will only forgo rule #3 if I keep rolling numbers ten times higher than my players.

5 – I will try to give every player his/her moment, if not in every session, at least in every adventure.

6 – I will not spend more than 10 minutes at a time talking with any one player, so as to avoïd letting the others fall assleep.

7 – When I cannot abide by the 6th rule, I will tell the other players to take a break. Ex: "Look guys, the Ranger will be scouting for another 10 minutes, why don't you take a break while we do that?"

8 – I will never try to run a game set in a movie or a novel (ex Dragonlance) unless I make room for the players to completely change the outcome. The only exception will be when I use the Novel or Movie as a setting. Ex: The players are defending Gondor from the forces of Sauron, but will have nothing to do with the Fellowship of the Ring, or the main characters of the novel/movie.

9 - I will try to have fun as a game master while making every game session something enjoyable for the whole group of players.

Those are the rules I've been able to hold on to for some time now. Here is what I want to try this year:

1 – In D&D I will try to stop saying: "But it didn't work that way in the second edition".

2 – I will forbid any player having a character with a senseless name. ex: Bob the Dwarf, Jo the Samuraï or Bambie the Elf.

3 – If I find out one of my players knows the pregenerated adeventure I have purchased, I will intentionnally set traps where there are none, make some items cursed and reverse the alignments of some vilains and allies so as to f… with their mind. If time allows, I'll remake the maps and…
Oh hell, I'll just rewrite the whole damn thing crap.

4 – I will bitch slap any player who seriously refers to anything from the D&D movie as if it gave weight to any argument he/she might have.

5 – I will try to bring some healthy snacks to the games, my girlfriend made me promisse, sorry. Well at least she'll have to eat them with us : )

6 – There will be no artifact destroying quest for the next year, especially not a ring.

7 – I will try to put a limit of one elven archer per group for the next year. Well maybe not.

Happy new year!

Bonne Année!

S Novim Goddom!

Feliz Navidad!

Enjoy your games.

Sam from Quebec

1. I will finish writing an adventure before running it for my party.

2. I will get back into the habit of taking notes during games so as to be aware of what the party is doing.

3. I will not design adventures with monsters that my party cannot fight.

4. I will try and stop pulling NPC names from obscure sci-fi and fantasy novels that have only been read by myself and four other people in the world.

5. As a collary to #4 I will also not base any adventure plots on these novels. There is a reason only 5 of us have read a given novel, and that reason is very likely not because it was too difficult for the average reader to fathom.

6. I will beat down any players that see fit to memorize the rules.

7. I will not permit the game to be run on nights that other people might date on.

8. I will not leave my dice out where small children can get them and hide them on me.

9. I will not continue basing puzzles in my adventures on dead languages or serial killers.

10. I promise to read at least 10 non-serial killer related books for each one that is serial killer related.

11. I will no longer point out when people start fitting the profile of a serial killer.

12. I will remember to bring the binder with all of the characters to every game.

and finally:

13. I will sell off my comic books and all of those games I no longer play. This is not a bad thing. It will make room for new games.

For help with NPC names (if you have a Palm or some other handheld device), try this: I keep a memo there with NPC names, both male and female lists. When a name is needed, I flip it open and pull one forth. And I write down cool names when I see them/think of them.

Love the resolutions -- though some of my *best* ideas come in the shower.

A few of my own (I say 'em every year):

>I will always roll some dice and look concerned, even when I
know there isn't a snowball's chance in Gehenna that
the players will find anything in the room/pit/container/cavern.

>I will sometimes roll the dice just before a player does something
relatively innocent and/or passive--just to mess with their head.

>I will not impart curses on characters of players that seem to be
naturally cursed (with their rolls, life, etc).

>I will continue to incorporate nifty props I find, create, and purchase at
flea markets, the forest, and in obscure shops. Handing a real "mystery ring"
(or scroll, dagger, or other item) over to a player allows them to act out the
process of inspection and experimentation in real time. (And from then on, if
the player wears the ring, then the character is also wearing it, etc.)

>I will provide and promote drinking fresh, filtered ice cold water
to all players. I will recommend communal bathroom trips. During their
breaks, I can focus on what needs to happen next.

>My villians will be ruthless, heartless bastards without remorse...
But they will also have a history explaining this personality.

>When players enter a strange new town, nothing will be taken for
granted. Sometimes currency, trade goods, horse populations, racial makeup,
and government are different/undergoing change.

>Make at least one dry town that has no bar to speak of, and all liquors
are taboo. When the players ask a local for the nearest bar/tavern, they
will be treated like assclowns, henceforth.

>Yaun-ti do not randomly occur in a Boreal forest without a good reason. If
players cannot figure out my convoluted plot idea, I vow to not dumb it down
until they do. Eventually they will figure it out (Must give players a chance).

>When the players are camping without appropriate shelter (tents, etc), do not
let them get away with clear skies and warm nights. It is not eternally summer

>Do not ramble about a particular fungus variety, flora, or fauna..unless a player has knowledge of such things..or they ask a sage specialist for the information. (Inside joke)

>Most importantly:
Remember to use silence effectively, and do not blurt out something, when it could be more dramatically delivered with proper vocal cadence.

How about players' resolutions?

You know these unruly, undisciplined bastards whose minds a game master so loves to screw with : )

Being a player as well as a game master, here are a few of my player resolutions:

1 - I'll stop criticising other people's tactical decision. Or at least I'll wait until the combat as ended so my character can go: "What in orcus' name was that stupid thing you did with the fireball?"

2 – I will not take a character that will automatically be in conflict with the other pc's (ex: a paladin in a group of rogues, thugs and necromancers or vice-versa).

3 – I will stop bitching about the fact that I roll less on a D20 than most people do on a D12. (at least I roll decent HP's)

4 – I will not eat spicy food less than 36 hours before a game. Unless I know we are going to fight troglodites and Otyughs in a sewer and I feel the game should be in odourama.

5 – I will limit myself to 10 stupid puns per game session and never during a dramatic moment. Yeah like that's gonna happen.

6 – I will stop distracting the players who have a hard time following the storyline. This way diminishing the amount of head aches I give the GM :)

7 – I will try to stop laughing when people come up with weird names for their PC's... maybe not :)

8 – I will bitch slap anyone who uses anything from the D&D movie as if it gave any weight to what he/she is saying. :- ( :-(

9 – I will make it my personnal goal to make the game as enjoyable for EVERY ONE at the gaming table.

10 – I will shut my clap when the most shy players are speaking so their ideas (which are as good as mine) can be heard.

11 – I will not have more than 2 hirelings/ henchmen/ followers/ mercenaries /thralls /ghoules or what not (familiars and animal companions included) on wich I spend more than 15 minutes per game so as not to take up everybody's time.

12 – I will always show my character's background to the GM before the campaign starts and never try to impose a story/campaign/chronicle arc to the GM and the group by putting in something like… "I'm the king's illegitimate son" unless the GM agrees or sugests it.

13 – I will not have more than 2 slices of Pizza per complete periods of 4 hours of gaming. Yes honey, I will also try to bring healthy snacks to the game.

14 – Speaking of food. In no way will I use the argument "Hey I'm roleplaying my character" to justify the fact that I eat, drink and belch like a pig. (Actually I never have, but I've seen it done so many times by morons that I thought I'd send the message).

15 – I will bitch slap anyone who uses anything from the D&D movie as if it gave any weight to what he/she is saying. I know I'm repeating myself but I really mean it


Chulhu Matata

:) all pretty funny....
Website was sent to me by a friend in D&D group, so I feel obliged to add my own small list.

1.) No more canned foods at the gaming table for David.

2.) Less putting up with bad attittudes because of bad roles...get over it.

3.) Less talking about things such as whose fault it is we are all dead....again....stupid mystran....

4.) Tempus is not the only god out there....maybe I'll play a cleric some day who ISNT a cleric of Tempus......well, probably not.

5.) Always remember my own unlucky dice so I dont have to use someone elses unlucky dice

6.) And call the people who cheat on it everytime instead of just asking the Gm to do something about it.......Sorry, but the punishments always seem WAY too mild.

7.) To argue more about tactics...not less....when I dont add anything to it when something seems like a bad idea......I feel stupid for not saying so when we all end up dead......again

8.) To get over the spiked armor obsession.....

9.) And last but not least......to sell some of my painted minis....im getting too good at that to just keep giving them away.

"If you took all the pages out of the books on the average gamers shelf and laid them end to end.....he would probably kill you."-Sam

On side note about cheaters, Maleus Samele, I have a nice little ancedote for you. Imagine if you will, a classic set up for a rousing game of D&D. Soda, chips, a nice burned CD of inspired fantasy music. Dice on the table, everyone sitting down for another good game. As the four players playing 4 fighter brothers were sitting down at their seats, the GM smiles at the head of the table and prepares to begin the session with an opening speech, given by a prominent NPC...right at the moment where all the players had decided to stop the previous weekend.

**just a note to you, at the same time as the last game was finishing up...The GM (me) accidentally overheard a rather horrible conversation about how the players were fudging rolls and conspiring together during the game for beneficial outcomes. The GM up to this point had always taken the players on their word and didn't bother to observe the exact number on every die rolled.**

The NPC was a poor noble, made poor by the deception and swindling of his four greedy sons. He was pleading to the courts to spare his house and the land it rested upon from the lawfully operating tax collectors. This speech was truly a literary gem, written by a truly inspired GM in a moment of clarity.

The poor noble spoke to a court of judges (and a gallery audience where the PCs where sitting) of fairness in life, and honor, and how each of his bastard sons was given a chance to do good and noble deeds by the father--but they chose to remain greedy and selfish. They all cheated their gracious and giving father (among others), taking advantage of his kindness until he had next to nothing...Just his land and the house on it. As the GM told the story, at the precise intensity and gut-wrenching anguish of the old noble, the players shifted nervously in their seats.

The old noble paused after explaining that he was willing to give his house and land to the town to cover his debts. He said with a forlorn sigh, that he would move on--alone until his dying day. Just as a PC was about to speak, the GM cut him off with one final addition to the speech.

The entire court was silent all the NPCs, and even the PCs. Everyone was silent for the final words:

*almost whispered* "My sons are in this very court, sitting before you and I. My sons have cheated others. They have lied...to see fit that their lives were successful and filled with luck. *louder* There will always be greed, and cheating. *louder still* There will always be people that give to those that would take without respect! *loudest* My sons sit before me! Yet they are too greedy and selfish to even admit it! I gave them everything and they still wanted more. *softly but stern* If not in this world, then perhaps in another...they will learn from their misdeeds..."

This moving speech about what befell the noble's sons (the curse of greed) which was conveyed by the GM with sadness, pity, and 100% true emotion--this speech struck quite a chord in the players that night. After a few moments into the speech, they did not see a GM reading from a piece of paper, they saw a poor old nobleman, giving himself to his sons, regardless of the fact that they were stealing from him and cheating him out of his possessions.

Then, the GM got up, gathered his books and dice together, and put them in a backpack, and left the house (got in his car and drove away) in which the game was played in...Leaving a small paper note:

See ya next week, guys.
Maybe in this new life you'll
be more honest with dice rolls!

I've done way too much GMing and not enough PCing. Here's my list of additions to the GM's rulebox.

* I will not let the players use my favorite dice. You know, the cool ones that only roll well when it's dramatic. I will keep my favorite dice out of my pants. At the very least, I will keep them out of my friend's pants. Don't ask.

*I will promote dramatic effects. I will not promote overdone affects. The storm dragons will be flying in storms. Not every elf girl will be in leather. If the mermaid is naked, I will not describe her measurements.

*I will never let the players know the 4-month side-plot the finally finished was less planned than today's dinner: a pizza with something-or-other on it.

*The evil dragons WILL talk before killing the players. The good dragons will threaten the players and treat them like tresspassing ants in their domain.

*I will not tell my attractive girlfriend ALL the things I have planned for the players in the game I run that she's not in. I will only let her know particularly amusing things which will not ruin the game if they slip out. Dear, I know you're reading this. It's not a free excuse to tell them.

*I will not talk to myself for longer than 4 minutes. Stupid NPC-NPC conversations. Grr.

*I will not allow something new into my game because it is 'neat' or 'cool'. I will only allow new things that wil be interesting and add to the game.

*I will only contradict myself for plot reasons, or with apologies to the players.

*I will save my maps and adventure ideas for the world, and not throw them away.

*I will not burst into riotous laughter when one party of adventurers searches a dungeon thouroughly that was already cleared out 5 years earlier gametime by another party.

*After getting woken up, it is time for me to end game. I am not a 'Trooper'. I am a weak, frail, fragile human being with utter control over the lives of my PCs.

*I will not laugh maliciously.


I will:

-always ensure that every plot point in the story has some way in which the players can find out about it.

- keep my plots complex enough that they are interesting, but simple enough that the players always have an idea of what to do next.

- always establish the normal, familiar, and pleasant, to lend impact to the extraordinary, strange, and horrible.

- have my bad guys taunt the good guys in the final combat

- roll my combats on the table, for everyone to see.

- draw my maps on 1 inch graph paper purchased from a business supply store, drawn with marker before the game begins.

- make a website for my campaign, tracking experience and player maps copied from the adventure.

- recap each game on email, including events and experience rewards.

- not play with anyone who views gaming activity as “art” or who is too personally invested in a single character or their own experience, rather than in the whole group experience of playing.

- not allow 2nd or 1st edition books at the table. They may not be used as a reference.

- not allow specific character supplements to be used. 1 set of rules for all. No special priveleges for those who buy more books.

- plan breaks and stick to them.

If players are cowardly, and do not seize very obvious opportunities for adventure, I will not force them to go. If there are no players, the game is over, and we can watch TV.

If arguments about how to play the game become personal or irresolvable, I will leave the group altogether, regardless if I am of the majority opinion. All it takes is one person to ruin the game. Either everyone in the group agrees on how to play, or there is no game. I will recognize the signs and problem players early on and pay attention to them. If my overall experience in the game is one of frustration rather than joy, it is time to go.