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Improv Toolkit

You are not as creative as you think you are, and less so when you are under pressure. Our brains are great at pattern matching, but not as great for storage. So the things we tend to remember are the things that get frequently used, while obscure concepts are forgotten. Show More Summary

Minor Characterization: It’s your birthday…

As a GM, you have a lot of characters with serious issues to explore–both yours and the players. Sometimes, though, it’s the small questions that reveal characterization–and reveal more about the world you’re building. One of the most common celebrations in our world is birthdays. Show More Summary

Building Dungeons with Pathological Monsters

You would have to ask an expert (which I am not) to get a better understanding, but to my knowledge there are two general classes of fractals.  The first (the type seen below) is a graph of a set of complex numbers. The most well known of these is the Mandelbrot set, whose mathematical equation is: zn+1 = zn2 + c where z is a complex number. Show More Summary

Hot Button – Run or Play?

The discussion on how much we GMs should play instead of run has been a bit of a hot topic here at Gnome Stew. John F. just did an article discussing the many good reasons for GMs to make sure to occasionally sit on the other side of...Show More Summary

Exiles of the Wicked Maze

Recently we published an article by John Fredricks about how, as a GM, you should play now and again. This article has more or less the same gist. John’s point was that playing under another GM would help you perfect your technique.Show More Summary

THE ONLINE TABLETOP: Using Traditional Maps

Online, virtual tabletops (VTT’s) now allow more people to game than ever before.  Regardless of geography, or work and family commitments, it’s possible for almost everyone to find a game that fits their needs.  This article is the first in a series examining different aspects of being an online GM. Show More Summary

Five Tips for Writing a Players’ Guide to Your Campaign World

Gnome Stew reader Max sent us this article request, and it piqued my interest (thanks, Max!): Hi there. I’ve been an avid Gnome Stew reader for some time now. You guys have a lot of excellent advice and suggestions that have been infinity useful in my gaming. Show More Summary

Troy’s Crock Pot: Where Everyone Knows Your Name

A tavern is more than a name or its bill of fare. It’s the folk inside. They’re the ones who belly up to the bar, order a round, risk all in a game of chance, grouse over a mug, join in a group song, do a little business, try to steal a kiss, concoct a scheme, agitate the rabble, debate politics, or seek refuge from the world’s troubles. Show More Summary

But We Don’t Want to Learn a New System!

With her year-long Pathfinder campaign finally wrapping, Gemma couldn’t wait to get started on her next campaign. “What an awesome finale!” she said excitedly. “Starting next week we’re starting a new campaign. I’ve decided to run Shadows...Show More Summary

Johnny’s Five – Five Things I Learned To Incorporate Into Games Because I Moved

As is often the case, inspiration for my articles comes from things that happen in real life. The latest event in my life was a cross country move from Oxford, Mississippi to Columbus, Ohio. It was stressful, compacted into a few days, and throughout the whole thing I kept imagining myself in different situations to keep up motivation. Show More Summary

The Other Side of the Screen: GM’s Should Play More

Many gamemasters run games for months or even years without ever sitting on the other side of the screen.  Often the reasons are logistical.  Players are happy as players and with the GM.  Players may also be too busy to GM.  Also, if you are trying to build a group with new players or using a new system, you may have to GM. Show More Summary

Success is Assumed

When you run an adventure, do you assume the PCs will succeed? All experience is anecdotal, but my experience is that this is a common — possibly approaching default, for some groups — mode of play. It’s certainly one I find myself employing often as a GM, and I’m not sure I’m happy with it. Show More Summary

Troy’s Crock Pot: ‘Ultimate’ NPC generator?

If there’s one design element that’s in my wheelhouse as a game master, it’s designing NPCs of varied backgrounds and motivations. Being an avid reader of fiction and understanding the genre of a particular game help in crafting characters that the players at the table find engaging and memorable. Show More Summary

Why Should I be Interested? Treat Your Game Like Selling A Product

Origins is coming up this week, and all of the gamers who will be there are going to be presented with a slew of new games to try and products to purchase. There are a ton of new things to try and be tempted by, but I always come back...Show More Summary

You Can’t Afford Samuel L. Jackson

They’re in it deep, way over their heads. Everything is falling apart around them and they need to figure out what to do to fix the problem and do it fast. Back at home base, though, there’s someone in charge that could totally save their bacon from the fire, so why not give the boss a call to come bail them out? Why? Because Samuel L. Show More Summary

Kingdom: The Stellar Eagle

Free RPG Day is coming up later this month (on June 21st), and we’re having a mini-con to coincide. In the past, I’ve gone light on running games to be available for emergencies, but the store is well staffed this year… and I’m eager to GM. Show More Summary

Endless Interestingness for Endless Inspiration

There is a class of creativity exercise called Random Stimulus. The basic gist of all of them is being presented with a new, random stimulus and then engaging in free association between the idea you are working on and this new stimulus. Show More Summary

Moderating Instant Advancement

Whether the campaign starts at a higher level than usual, a new player joins midway through a campaign, or a PC meets an unfortunate end and needs another to take her place, one issue all Game Masters eventually face is the introduction of “experienced” player characters. Show More Summary

Preorder Unframed: The Art of Improvisation for Game Masters Today!

Our latest system-neutral GMing book, Unframed: The Art of Improvisation for Game Masters, is now available for preorder in the Engine Publishing online store! When you preorder Unframed, you’ll immediately receive the digital edition, weeks before it’s available anywhere else. Show More Summary

Preorders for Unframed: The Art of Improvisation for Game Masters Open June 2 (and a final preview)

Preorders for the latest book from Engine Publishing and Gnome Stew, Unframed: The Art of Improvisation for Game Masters, will open on June 2! I’ve received the printer’s proof, which looks great (camera phone photo below), and our layout wizard, Darren Hardy, has wrapped up work on all the various digital versions. Show More Summary

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