New Year, New Game is Gnome Stew's annual challenge to tabletop RPG game masters everywhere: Run a new game this year.

And the winners of the 2012 NYNG challenge are…

Here’s one way that you can tell that our first annual New Year, New Game challenge had some excellent entries: After the first round of secret ballot voting by the judges, there was a three-way tie. We broke that tie with a runoff vote between those three entries.

Because we received over 50 entries in the contest — the threshold for awarding a second prize — we’ll be giving away two awesome prize packages courtesy of our sponsors: DriveThruRPG, Engine Publishing, Obsidian Portal, and Tabletop Adventures. Here they are!

Our two winners both rocked the house with inspiring, entertaining game ideas that made us want to play these games (and of course they followed the contest rules, too).

Second Prize Winner

I’m please to announce that the winner of our second prize goes to Gnome Stew reader BrownBeard, who will be receiving a $30 DriveThruRPG gift certificate, PDF copies of Gnome Stew’s two GMing books, a 6-month Ascendant membership to Obsidian Portal, and two Tabletop Adventures PDFs of their choice. Congratulations!

Here’s BrownBeard’s awesome NYNG entry:

I’m calling my new campaign “Explorers of the Python River Basin.” It already has a fledgeling wiki on Obsidian Portal. The campaign is basically a jungle-crawling Indy-Jones take on Ben Robbins’ seminal West Marches campaign: the players take the roles of your usual D&D fantasy adventurers exploring a ridiculously dangerous tropical rainforest for fortune and glory. They can look forward to fighting all manner of beasts and giant vermin, making first contact with reclusive tribes of goblins and lizardfolk, seeking out the fabled court of the Gorilla King, spelunking vast cavern systems and abandoned mines, and raiding the ruins of a fallen lizardfolk empire.

I want to run this game primarily at my local hobby store’s weekly board game night for a flexible roster of players: whoever shows up that night gets to send their character out with that week’s expedition. Obviously this sort of sandbox campaign, characterized by convention-style pickup groups, is going to stretch my improvisational talents to their limits – it’s difficult to do all but the most general prep when you have no idea who’s going to show up or where they’ll want to go. But I think Kirin Robinson’s Old School Hack game system is up to the challenge. By all accounts it postively thrives on spur-of-the-moment shenanigans. And practically everything that new players will need to learn, rules-wise, is contained on their character sheets and a few other printable visual aids.

The biggest challenge will be recruiting a large enough player pool so that I can count on having a party of at least 2 or 3 PCs for each session. Since the hobby store’s weekly game night only lasts a few hours, I’ll also have to streamline the pacing as much as possible if I want to get the party out into the bush and back to their home base again so I can start a fresh expedition the following week.

Why am I so stoked for this? Ye gods man, it’s freaking Indiana Jones with dwarves and wizards – dungeon fantasy meets pulp archaeology. What more do you want? If this game doesn’t turn into the most hilarious and breathtaking high-octane hurricane of pulp blockbuster tropes seen this side of Exalted, then I’ll eat my GM screen.

Grand Prize Winner

With further ado, the grand prize winner of NYNG 2012 is Razjah! Congratulations on your winning entry! Razjah will be receiving a $60 DriveThruRPG gift certificate, print and PDF copies of Gnome Stew’s two GMing books, a 1-year Ascendant membership to Obsidian Portal, and three Tabletop Adventures PDFs of their choice.

Here’s Razjah’s grand-prize-winning NYNG entry:

My upcoming campaign for the spring semester is a fantasy noir campaign styled game using Burning Wheel. This game takes place in a grim, dark city where crime rules, even the best citizens are only out for themselves, and everyone has a past. Picture a fantasy Sin City; you need to take big risks for trivial rewards, crime is nearly in the open, and you can’t turn to the corrupt officials or city watch. The city will be similar to Venice with as many liberties as I need to take. It is a sprawling city with traders, craftsmen, nobility, crime, and vice.

Some major players operate here. The noblesse de ancienne or the royal family, the three noblesse d’epee or duke families, the nine noblesse de chancellerie or the count families, and the twenty seven noblesse de letters or the baron families. Crossing even the weakest noble family is dangerous. Other famed groups are crime related, the five families and fifteen street gangs. While magic is feared and dangerous it is suspected that these groups employ them secretly.

I’m excited to be running this because I am finally getting a group of players who enjoy role playing their characters and a system that encourages it. Burning Wheel is about testing characters. Testing them and watching them grow and evolve through the campaign. Most other systems I have used have the characters level in all abilities, regardless of use. Burning Wheel has much more organic advancement.

The biggest challenge is going to be keeping the role play intensity high. Hopefully the group will help fuel each other and the system will support this. I am going to be making sure that I follow a new year’s resolution to eat before the game, and not junk “gamer food”, to keep my energy up and to help me stay focused on bringing the world to life. The only other major challenge I see before character creation is keeping the genre strong. In other games I have run in a non-traditional fantasy setting the players slowly drifted back to their comfort zones and dragged the campaign with it.

Thank you to everyone who entered our NYNG contest, blogged about NYNG and new games as part of our first-ever blog carnival, spread the word about the NYNG movement, and otherwise helped to make the first annual NYNG challenge such a rousing success!

If you’re in need of inspiration, check out the 57 game ideas (for 39 different RPGs!) that are now posted on the NYNG website, as well as the 15 blog posts about running new games that were written for our blog carnival.