Before You Start That New Game! (A D20 Table)

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Len

Jul 30, 2021 4:54 am
I constantly get the urge to start a game even though I know I'm already at my comfortable commitment level. So, I decided to make a d20 table to help me keep me from redlining my activity. It's full of things to do instead of starting a new game. I think a lot of us have that problem, so I thought I'd share it. If you have that urge to start a new game but a little voice inside you is saying "I'm not sure I have enough time for this!" then roll a D20 and stave off the urge until the time is right!

DISCLAIMER: This table is meant to be a collection of things to "scratch the gaming itch" when I feel the urge to start a new game but don't have the time (basically always). This list is not meant to represent gaming expectations. Many wonderful games do not do many of these things and are terrific. There are as many GM styles as there are GMs, and some items here may not be compatible. Most importantly, there is zero judgement coming from me for people who start new games or don't do particular things on this list.

Also, like most GM-facing random tables, the roller should feel free to ignore their roll or not roll at all and use the table solely for inspiration.

20 Things To Do Instead of Starting a New Game
1. Review Your Players' Characters: Take a read through the character sheets of every character in every game you have. Refresh yourself on their abilities, backstories, and connections. Chances are you've forgotten something and a player would really love it if you shined a spotlight on that detail. Oh this character is fire resistant and you haven't sent any fire enemies at them ever? Oh this character has a long-lost sister and you just introduced a female villain? Oh that sword they picked up in chapter two with the falcon-head pommel was never identified? Having refreshed your knowledge of your characters' mechanics you'll be able to run a more efficient game, too.

2. Mine Your Game for New Ideas: Read back through old posts of your active games. What loose threads need tying up? What NPCs are out there that the characters haven't seen for awhile? What are interesting moments you can call back to?

3. Summarize the Story: Start documenting or add to your existing document of the story thus far. A regular recap helps you keep information straight, and you can publish it to help players remember important details. Play-by-post is hard on even the most dedicated players to recall all the details of a long-term game, so this can help them stay on top of things, easing one cause of friction in play-by-post games.

4. Create & Update the NPC List: A game with a lot of NPCs will benefit from a list of people who the players have bumped into over time. Creating or updating a simple list of names with one or two sentences to remind yourself and your players about these NPCs will be time well spent. Include their avatar image if you used one.

5. Create & Update a Setting Glossary: Many RPG settings have a rich vocabulary of places and terms that make them unique. Create a dictionary of these words. Having a quick reference guide to the nouns of your setting help the players immerse themselves and make it easy for them to craft posts grounded in the setting.

6. Consider Your Villains: Got some foes you're going to throw at the characters in the near or far future? Read up on their stats and familiarize yourself with their abilities. Dream up tactics that would be appropriate, and terrain features that could help showcase their awesomeness. Consider their larger plans and how the actions of the player characters will impact them. Dungeon World's concept of Fronts is very helpful here, for many game systems.

7. Mentor Somebody Else's Game: There are plenty of new GMs out there struggling to grok rules, understand how the forums work, and get the hang of PbP. Consider offering your services to shore up somebody else's game rather than starting your own. It probably takes a lot less of your time and maybe one day that GM will run a game for you.

8. Gather Visual Assets: Rather than start that new game, do a deep dive on pinterest, deviant art, art station, etc. for setting-appropriate images. Find battle maps that are appropriate for your setting / system from r/battlemaps or Dyson Logos. Find images for NPCs, environments, gear, and effects. When you go to run the game, you'll have a library of assets ready to go that will make running the game much more efficient. Bonus points if you have them stored in an online image repository like imgur.com so you can share them easily in-game.

9. Brush Up On Your Game Rules: Maybe you're a bit rusty on underwater combat, or how 9th level spells work, or the computer hacking subsystem of your game. Focus on brushing up on rules you think might come into play during the course of the game you're running. Take some notes so that you are ready to post when the time comes.

10. Explore the RPG Blogosphere / Vlogosphere: Study up by finding great RPG blogs, YouTube channels, and podcasts. There is so much content out there and you are bound to become a better GM by soaking up techniques and stories from actual plays, or absorbing the tips and suggestion of advice-oriented columns/shows.

11. Read an RPG Book: Do you have more RPG books than you have time to read? Here's an opportunity to close the gap! There is no shortage of great game design and brilliant storytelling in our hobby. You're bound to be inspired by the art, plots, characters, items, rules, and tables of every RPG book you flip through. It doesn't even have to be from the systems that you're currently running. Warning: this might tempt you to start a new game, so try to read with a focus on how supplementing your existing games.

12. Create a Footer for GM Posts: Create a GM footer in spoiler tags that you can copy and paste to the bottom of your GM posts. It acts as a quick reference for you and your players that is always within reach. Inside it, consider including links to pivotal story posts; current battle map and combat information; links to subforums for quick access to lists of NPCs, homebrew rules, setting info, etc.; current character statuses; and more!

13. Talk to Your Players: Get some feedback from your players about your current games. If you're not sure how to ask, try the following questions: "How would you rank this game out of 10? If you didn't give it a 10, what are some changes/additions that would get it closer to being a 10?"

14. Read Your Retired Games: We spend so much time crafting these amazing worlds, characters and stories. But once they're done, they just vanish forever. Go back and read some of your old games. Sometimes you'll feel like you were a better GM in games past, before life or bad habits got in the way - this will help you reset yourself. Sometimes you'll see how far you've come and nothing else fuels you you more for continued improvement.

15. Experiment with New Tools: There are a lot of new tools for PbP gaming these days. Battle map management tools like otfbm.io and Owlbear Rodeo, AI art tools like Art Breeder for making unique scenes and faces, software like Notion.so or OneNote for cataloguing and organizing game prep, and apps like worldographer or Dungeondraft for making maps. Within GP itself, Adam and Keleth have tirelessly added a bunch of great new features - have you tried them out yet? Regardless, find something that might solve a problem you're having and experiment with it!

16. Consume Media: Instead of creating a new game, go read a book. Or a graphic novel, or binge a show, or play a video game. While you are doing so, record some ideas that come to you for new characters, set-piece encounters, plots, and locations that you can steal for your games. Keep your well of inspiration constantly refilled so that it doesn't go unexpectedly dry.

17. Share Your Knowledge: Write a post in the GP forums about your experiences running games, or post some interesting questions about the art of game mastering. Who knows it might even turn into a YouTube series like Qralloq's Gamers exPlane!

18. Set Up a New Game Forum: Rather than start recruiting people, scratch that itch to run a new game by just setting up the game forum. Write up your introductory scene; create subforums for setting info, homebrew rules, and other details you want front and center; write up the safety rules for your game; and monkey around with forum permissions in the ACP. This is all time consuming stuff that will make your game much easier to run once you decide you've got enough bandwidth to do so, and you can do this without the pressure of players waiting for the game to get started.

19. Craft That Recruitment Post: Write up your recruitment post - but don't post it yet! Just start thinking about how you might advertise this game and have your recruitment post ready to go for when you know you have enough time to run this great new game. Sometimes thinking about the recruitment post helps you to hone your concept

20. Natural twenty? Okay, go ahead and start that game! Enjoy!
Jul 30, 2021 10:32 am
Cheers!

Rolls

Roll - (1d20)

(3) = 3

Jul 30, 2021 1:23 pm
You might have just saved many players from themselves. Great idea!
Jul 30, 2021 1:25 pm
I was going to do a tutorial video on creating a game. Let's see if Len will allow me to do that.

Hisses through teeth. Not in the cards this week.

Rolls

No Whammies - (1d20)

(2) = 2

KCC

Jul 30, 2021 1:57 pm
OOC:
Rolling!

Rolls

1d20

(15) = 15

Jul 30, 2021 3:01 pm
I'm not rolling right now because I already have a backlogged to-do list of some of the items that you mentioned above. Just posting to say that this is great! I love it!
Jul 30, 2021 4:24 pm
Super helpful and fun list, lenpelletier. Thanks! I've got about a half-dozen game ideas brewing at any given time, and I already do a lot of these things to "prepare" for running them. Good to see it codified and to see additional ideas, as well.
Jul 31, 2021 10:06 am
It's Saturday.

"Share Your Knowledge"? Okay. That'll take five minutes. What do I do with the rest of my day?

Narrator: It did not take five minutes.
Last edited July 31, 2021 3:20 pm

Rolls

Roll - (1d20)

(17) = 17

Jul 31, 2021 12:03 pm
OOC:
rolls
HA! there's no nine, I can do whatever I want :)
Last edited July 31, 2021 12:05 pm

Rolls

Table - (1d20)

(9) = 9

Table Again - (1d20)

(12) = 12

Jul 31, 2021 5:18 pm
9 is the loophole that allows you to actually start up a game!

Len

Jul 31, 2021 5:54 pm
KoldikSteelskin says:
HA! there's no nine, I can do whatever I want :)
Oops! Fixed!
bowlofspinach says:
9 is the loophole that allows you to actually start up a game!
Nat 20 was the loophole I intended.

Len

Jul 31, 2021 6:05 pm
Glad to hear people are enjoying the list!

I'm going to add this disclaimer: "This table is meant to be a collection of things to "scratch the gaming itch" when I feel the urge to start a new game but don't have the time (basically always). This list is not meant to represent gaming expectations. Many wonderful games do not do many of these things and are terrific. There are as many GM styles as there are GMs, and some items here may not be compatible. Most importantly, there is zero judgement coming from me for people who start new games or don't do particular things on this list.

Also, like most GM-facing random tables, the roller should feel free to ignore their roll or not roll at all and use the table solely for inspiration."
Jul 31, 2021 8:45 pm
Hmm, This list seems to imply that you have already stated at least one game
Jul 31, 2021 11:04 pm
crazybirdman says:
Hmm, This list seems to imply that you have already stated at least one game
Perhaps someone should write a "before you sign up for another game" thread.
Aug 1, 2021 12:10 am
Haha, yeah. I'm thinking of starting a game, but haven't done one yet. So some of these dont apply. You could aways just augment some of the items here with a subchoice for non DMs. Like 1b review and update you characters backstory.
Aug 1, 2021 1:57 am
crazybirdman says:
Haha, yeah. I'm thinking of starting a game, but haven't done one yet. So some of these dont apply. You could aways just augment some of the items here with a subchoice for non DMs. Like 1b review and update you characters backstory.
Your characters can always be made deeper. You can further develop their personality, figure out what their feats are, quirks in the way they act or speak, decide more intricacies of their past. This will all help you roleplay a more interesting character.
Aug 1, 2021 2:19 am
Idiot me. Read the whole post, totally missed the bit about rolling.

Rolls

What to do instead of... - (1d20)

(17) = 17

Aug 1, 2021 2:19 am
Oh heavens above no...

Rolls

What to do instead of... but something better than #17... - (1d20)

(4) = 4

Aug 1, 2021 8:25 am
Sunday

Rolls

I submit to the d20 - (1d20)

(3) = 3

Aug 2, 2021 1:41 pm
This week.

Rolls

Roll - (1d20)

(5) = 5

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