System-Neutral GMing Advice

Winner of seven ENnie Awards from 2010-2015, Gnome Stew is dedicated to helping GMs and their players have more fun at the gaming table. Since 2008, we've published 2,841 articles packed with GMing tips and advice, had over 2,000,000 visitors, and written six books for GMs. Thank you for your support, and happy gaming!

"I check Gnome Stew every day." -- Monte Cook
"fantastic blog for game masters, dungeon masters, and rpg fans" -- Wil Wheaton
"If you aren’t reading Gnome Stew, you’re missing out." -- Wolfgang Baur


One of the brilliant things the D&D creative team did in Fourth Edition was wreck the city of Neverwinter and turn it into an adventurer’s playground. Yep, they hit Neverwinter with an eruption of Mount Hotenow, slammed it with quakes and ruined the heart of the merchant quarter with a raw, stinking chasm from which spewed all sorts of demonic, spell-plagued creatures. And after the immediate disaster, they populated the city with a despicable array of opportunists and evil factions, all fighting each other over what […]


Today’s guest article by Gnome Stew reader Craig Dedrick explores handling passing of secrets between players and the Game Master. It’s the most recent of  four he’s done for the Stew, with the others being Fear Itself, Freedom Through Restraint,  and What Makes a Good Monster? – John A. I don’t know about you, but the players in the games that I run like to have secrets. I first noticed this tendency when running Vampire: The Masquerade, which is understandable as that game is high on […]


Today’s guest article is by Ross Watson of Evil Beagle Games, and it talks about a Game Mastering technique used in their new kickstarter for Aaron Allston’s Strike Force which has writing from Steve Kenson, Sean Patrick Fannon, and Michael Surbrook in it. — John A. There’s a gamemastering technique, known as “Blue-booking,” that has enriched many of my long-term RPG campaigns over the years. I learned this technique from reading Aaron Allston’s milestone RPG supplement, Strike Force, back in the early 90’s. As described […]


Have you ever looked at the calendar and realized that you’re supposed to run a game in the near future and you just aren’t “feeling it?” Do you cancel the session or press on? I find this happening more and more as I get older and, conversely, I play less and less. Both are related phenomena; being a “mature gamer” with a family, work, and other activities filling my social schedule, not only do I have less time to set aside and game but I’m […]


The roots of tabletop gaming in the early 70s were closely intertwined with community and a do it yourself effort. The first pioneers of the gaming industry created their works with very few of the modern tools that make the job of game developers easier today. These works spread through gaming club newsletters and Zines that included game rules right inside the xeroxed and mimeographed pages. In fact, for the old school set, Zines are still a very popular way of spreading games and sharing […]


One of the problems in an exploration game is content. We’d all like to put together a campaign world with content jam packed into every nook and cranny, but there are some problems with that. First and foremost is our time constraints. Not only would it take forever to create so much content, but a lot of that effort would be wasted as entire swaths of our setting never got explored closely enough to dig out most of the material. Here is one potential solution […]


Over the years I’ve had the privledge of running sessions where most of the players were new to the hobby. In this column, we’ll take a look at some strategies for planning out that first session. The goal in planning such a session is to showcase some of the essential features of the system, while giving them a successful and enjoyable session. Much of these ideas are not original to me, but hopefully it will be helpful to have them here, all in one place. […]