System-Neutral GMing Advice

Winner of six ENnie Awards (Gold for Best Blog, 2012-2014; Gold for Best Website, 2013; Silver for Best Blog 2010, 2011), Gnome Stew is dedicated to helping GMs and their players have more fun at the gaming table. Since 2008, we've published 2,713 articles packed with GMing tips and advice, had over 2,000,000 visitors, and written five books for GMs. Thank you for your support, and happy gaming!

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Last week, I nearly dropped my Night’s Black Agents campaign because of something shiny. It’s been years since I got caught by the “Oh, Shiny”, the lure of a new game, the rush of creativity about thinking up a new campaign world. In the past, I would have either asked my players to stop playing, or seeded them with ideas of a new game, in hopes they would tank the game for me. This time though, I managed to resist the urge and my group […]

Reclining Pan, Frncesco de Sangallo, c. 1535

In school, I opted for music and film appreciation, leaving my studies of art when the crayons got put away after the third grade. My loss, because art appreciation is a wonderful spur for the imagination. Still, it’s never too late to learn. During a recent visit to the St. Louis Art Museum, I met the following characters set in canvas and carved from stone. Any NPCs for a future game? You decide. Bakkhos, the satyr, king of the feast Most satyrs establish their domain […]

No, not that kind of Smart.

We GMs are a pretty intelligent lot. Anyone who can handle juggling the world building, the story prep, the mechanics, and all of the NPCs while keeping players coming regularly back for more is probably at least a semi-smart person. Thing is, gamers as a whole are generally pretty smart people so there are going to be times when you, the GM, are not the smartest person at the table. Last week I talked about some of the wheel spinning I’ve been doing about a potential […]


I recently had the opportunity to obtain a copy of the Ghostbusters II RPG, by West End Games. This game has been out of print for over 25 years (cough, cough), and I had not seen a copy of the game, nor run it, in the same amount of time. Being someone who does not run games a second time, and is of the “cult of the new”, I had reservations about bringing a classic like this to the table. I also had concerns about […]

I really do highly recommend it. It's high octane from start to finish.

On a whim, I went to see Mad Max: Fury Road this past weekend. I cannot adequately express my fan girl glee at this movie without descending into nonsense and Kermit flailing. OMG I LOVED IT SO MUCH! The cars, the costumes, the explosions, the CHASE. Oh what a day. What a lovely day! Besides reminding me of how much I loved the original movies, it also fiercely rekindled my desire to run a post-apocalyptic game. I’ve wanted to run a post-apocalyptic game almost since […]

Floating Rock

I was doing some prep recently (gasp no!) so I figured I’d share. Here is a base located on the ethereal plane for your high magic adventures. Reasonably close to the center of the bizarre geometry of the planes, the city of Media is a large trading center and rest stop for dimensional travelers of all sorts. 1. The Rock: A huge rock floating in the gray fog of the ethereal plane. It’s surface is rough and blasted and full of all sorts of pockmarks, caves […]


Players love to go off the map. That’s one thing that separates traditional roleplaying games from computer games, the ability to try anything. In a face to face setting, there are a number of ways to handle players going “off map.” You can quickly draw a map on a clean piece of paper, wipe off your battlemat and start fresh, or move some terrain pieces and an oatmeal box to represent the changing scene. It can be harder to do this when using a virtual […]