Author: Don Mappin

About Don Mappin

For nearly 30 years RPGs have been a staple of Don’s life — so that means he’s pretty old. Author of a dozen RPG books, Don has worked with companies such as ICE, Last Unicorn Games, Decipher, and AEG. He now spends his time working in IT management, enjoying his family and two children, or gaming.

Scrivener logo

Here at the stew more than a few of us are fans of Scrivener, not just as a writing tool but also as a gaming prep tool. In particular, I’m a big fan of its innovative corkboard and ability to free form ideas–“Scrivenings”–into any order you’d like on the fly. The ability to customize the sections to hold custom information, such as character or location data, is also a big draw. As is normally the case this time of year, Literature & Latte are having a […]


Engaging all the senses is something easier said than done in the context of your typical gaming session. While we can plan specific NPC mannerisms, locales, or even subtle clues about the environment to make them even more engaging, on more than one occasion I’ve been a victim of being caught up in the moment and leaving those languishing on the adventure table, unused. Plus, as I recently wrote in depth in Engine Publishing’s newly announced book, Unframed, different people absorb information in different ways. […]

Power Cards

Many years ago my wife and I invested in a nondescript color inkjet printer, one that did border-less photos and had a good feature set. The thinking was to print out photos and do a bit of scrap-booking. Well, time and a shift to a digital lifestyle mostly killed that dream, however the printer still gets a fair amount of use as my role-playing prop-maker! The 4×6 photo size—and 5×7 to a lesser extent—is nearly the perfect size for handouts. It’s roughly the size of […]


Sometimes it’s a nice happenstance when several of the Gnome articles in a series match up and dovetail into one another easily. Both John and Phil have recently written about iterative steps in becoming better GMs and/or exercising best practices for continual service improvement. (As an ITIL follower myself, I heartily approve of the methodology!) My contribution is about that continual service improvement but doing so even when you’re not running a game; those downtimes that can last weeks, months, or even years between our […]


They are a necessary part of most games, and as GM’s something that we frequently have to deal with, either to address a shortcoming, plug a hole, or meet an unforeseen need. While a great many GMs are skilled behind the screen, that does not necessarily translate to their being adept at system modifications. So consider these guidelines when adopting your own house rules. The Fiddly Bits I’ve met GMs in my time who—like myself—love to understand and debate the interoperability of game mechanics; dive […]


Our group’s annual “pick the next game” exercise is in full swing. These tend to be a mixture of enjoyable, exhausting, and frustrating but, ultimately, lead to a good choice that satisfies everyone. It’s a process we’ve discussed at the Stew before and every group tends to have a variation that they favor. This time I took note that our decision-making process was driven primarily by two methodologies, each with their own pros and cons. System-Centric This one, admittedly, isn’t the one that I necessarily […]


Your supermarket may still make the option available but for a few years now that oft-repeated question has no longer been uttered at my local market. Instead, the prevalent decision was made for us in that, unless you specifically wanted paper, you’re getting plastic. Move on with the times! (Besides, you should be bringing your own reusable canvas bags, just sayin’…) In our RPGs there are a few anachronistic trappings that have been left back in the annals of time—although a few make their occasional […]