Jan 4, 2018

2018 Plans for Improvement

I find people often discuss campaigns they want to run, or games they want to play when they talk about their gaming plans for an upcoming year, so I thought I'd take a bit of a different tack. This is because in 2018 I want to be a player in more games, and run fewer - hopefully just one one-shot this summer, and one campaign sometime later this year, both using Mythras, a system I know well.

I think it's useful to take stock of one's skill at adventure games every so often. I'm a strong and adaptable player who is in high demand for games both online and off, but I've identified a few areas for improvement in my skills as a referee, and I wanted to take a year or so to focus on improving them. As part of that, I'm reducing my anticipated commitments as a referee, sticking to settings and systems I know well, reading about how to do what I want to do better, and thinking through how and what to improve.

Some areas of improvement I've noticed:

1) I'm bad at maps (specifically, indoor maps of things like dungeons and small-scale maps like battlemats - I'm actually quite decent at overland maps). I need to think through my production process for them, develop expertise in the tools I use to produce them, clarify my presentation and deployment of them in play, and determine what I'm hoping to do by using them. I got a drawing tablet for Christmas that I think will help, and I'm going to practice my whiteboard mapping on grids, as specific activities. I specifically need to improve my ability to do so using electronic tools, since much of my existing skill is using offline tools.

2) I have an easier time describing very weird things than I do mundane things, especially a bunch of mundane things in sequence. This is true even when the mundane things are important and interesting (e.g. the mechanism of a trap, the layout of a room, or what a sword looks like). I need to reinscribe a lot of vocabulary I haven't used in a while into my working memory, and I need to figure out how to take better notes that aren't overwhelming or disorganised that allow me to reference them fluidly and quickly. I need to construct busier, more sensuous scenes for players to engage with and practice structuring the flow of information to them about these scenes.

3) I need to work on developing more compelling NPCs with longer arcs. Some of the people I plan to play with in the upcoming year enjoy strongly narrative games, something I haven't run in a few years, and I need to make sure my skills here haven't become rusty. This is particularly true of twists, surprises, and other unexpected developments, which I need to practice. I'm often able to cover for this via good world-building and interesting character quirks, but I've been moving in an anti-dramatic direction for some time, and I'd like to have the flexibility to shift between the two modes rather than getting locked into only one style.

4) My campaign management skills are OK, but could be better. I have a tendency to prep a lot at the start of a campaign and then fail to keep up, using improvisation to cover the holes. This is partly because a lot of the things I've run in the past five years have been "filler" campaigns for other people taking breaks from their own campaigns that tend to be extended unexpectedly. I've picked up some books on campaign management that I hope will help, and need to commit myself to using the planning tools that I know work for me but that I often slack on actually executing.

I do think overall that I'm a fairly solid referee who runs games that the players enjoy thoroughly, but I think resting on my laurels or becoming self-satisfied is liable to lead to decline rather than improvement. Despite my preference for being a player, I would rather be an excellent referee than merely a solid one.

Beyond improving my skills as a referee, I'd like to make progress on the following projects:

1) I've submitted a draft article to Courtney for his Megadungeon zine, and have a solid idea for at least one more article on a related topic that I'd like to publish this year in an upcoming issue.
2) I'd like to revise Into the Depths based on my experience playtesting it over the course of this past year, including providing more guidance around magic, refining the experience system, incorporating the gear listings, and possibly creating a small monster listing for it. Once that's done, I'd like to upload it to Drivethrurpg and make it available to a wider audience.
3) I'd like to finish my revision of the Openquest SRD, including completing the basic redesign required to run a science fiction game using it and write-up a campaign setting to go with that.
4) I'd like to make substantive progress on finishing the Dawnlands campaign setting for Mythras.

So those are my plans for 2018. I'll check back in at the end of the year to see how they've gone.