Author: John Arcadian

About The Author

John Arcadian

John Arcadian is a freelance writer and art director, a website developer, a builder of sonic screwdrivers, and a purveyor of kilted mayhem. When he isn't out causing trouble in his kilt... Well, no, that is pretty much what he does when he isn't running RPGs or or trying to take over the world.


When Your Game Doesn’t Mean Anything

When I think back about the games that have been the least fun for me as a player, it’s always when there is no meaning to my actions – when it feels like I have no real effect on anything or when the story I’m engaging with has a pre-defined ending that I can’t affect. These sorts of games have often been railroad-y, but not always. Sometimes they are wide open sandbox games where the players can do anything, but it never seems like anything the players do affects the world or the story going on.  I’ve felt this way...

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Throw A Bounty Board At Your Players (Not Literally)

  Life happenings caused two of my players to miss a session. We moved on with the rest of the group, but the main plot mission had them interacting with a big player in the world and being teleported to another location far far away. We ran a small session with just the two players who were missing from the main game, and it went about as well as expected with only one religious cult springing up in the wake of their actions. The side game was fun, but I had a heck of a time getting the two...

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The New Gnome Stew Site

So, uh, hey, we’ve got a new site up. After the cowardly attack by Kobolds who hacked our site on the very first day of April this year (evidence archived here and the ensuing twitter war and retaliation hack here, here, and here), we went deep into figuring out how they hacked us and realized we’d completely broken the site while trying to fix it… Stupid kobold hacking and not at all a really fun april fools day joke and cover screen for redesigning the site… So we built a new site, with the very best bits and bobs...

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You Got Technology In My Fantasy Setting

Technology and fantasy settings don’t often mix well. The highest level of technology in most fantasy settings is highly uncommon and unstable gunpowder weapons. High tech in a fantasy world would cause some very distinct world changes. In some fantasy settings and sub-genres, like steampunk or sciency-fantasy, magic and magic-like technology often mix, or magic acts as technology. Introducing higher levels of technology into an actual fantasy world without changing the central concepts that mark fantasy worlds can lead to some interesting world settings and variations. (Tech in fantasy could lead to some bad places. I mean, can you...

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Welcome to Gnome Stew, the Gaming Blog, Part II

Hello, and welcome to Gnome Stew, part II. If you read Martin’s farewell and explanation article here, then you know what’s going on, but if you haven’t here’s the short version (short is all we’ve got around here, being Gnomes y’know) — After 8 years of manning the helm here at the stew, Martin decided to step down. When Martin asked the Gnomes whether to keep the stew going or archive it, I threw my red hat in the ring to keep the site around and growing. With close to 3,000 articles written by stew authors (including the archives...

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Stealing when you should have been buying…

  Recently, Lance, a friend of mine asked me a GMing advice question about something that came up in his Silvervine game. A high fantasy setting with lots of magic and tech, airships are a common way to travel in the world, but are very expensive to own. That meant his players wanted one, but it would be a while before their coffers were full. After an already hectic adventure running from the guards of a city-state in an action scene that would have done Tony Jaa proud, the players wanted to get an airship by stealing it.  While...

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Back To The Future For GM’s Day

Great Scott! It’s International GM’s Day again! To celebrate, Gnome Stew decided we’d steal a time machine or two — those doctors are fine, right? — and use them to go back in time and tell our past selves some good GMing advice we had yet to learn. So, with the usual level of professionalism and tact you’ve come to expect, the Gnomes of Gnome Stew  (as well as a few companions…) rev it up to 88 and go back in time to give ourselves some sage advice.     Angela Murray Hey, listen a sec, past me. I...

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A Teen Library Gaming Program In Action

A few months back I wrote a review of Dragons in the Stacks, a book by Steven Torres-Roman and Cason E. Snow about running teen gaming programs in libraries. I’ve long been a fan of libraries as spaces for the community, and having worked in libraries I set about searching for a teen gaming program at my local library or starting one. Unfortunately, there are restrictions on what kind of teen programs can run in the Columbus Metropolitan library district, and gaming doesn’t fit under their homework/school related/vocational policy. The story doesn’t end there, thankfully. Enter the Worthington libraries...

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RESISTOR – A Zine Full of Games

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 the hobby. There are many OSR zines that have been produced in the last...

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Johnny’s Five – New For The New Year

It’s a new year, 2016, and that means it’s a great time to dig in and find something new for your game. The end of the year – with holidays, travel, and multiple obligations – is often tumultuous for a social activity like gaming, but the new year is a time to refresh and rededicate to the hobby in a new way. In the new year, we should all look into new ways to add something unique to our gaming. Find New Sources Of Inspiration It’s easy to fall into old tropes and comfortable paths, so use the new...

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Johnny’s Five – Getting The Most Out Of Fear And Wonder

Many stories have elements that defy description, moments that push characters outside their boundaries and take them into a place of the unknown. What is it that makes ghost stories and mysteries truly scary and interesting? What makes an awe-inspiring moment in a story truly wondrous? Slasher flicks are all about the jump scare, but once the adrenaline wears off the fear, and all the interesting stuff – narratively, just goes away. Movies and stories where something from beyond occurs, or a being of incredible and unknowable power shows up, often fall flat because they rely on special effects...

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Stat Yourself As A Character To Combat Anxiety

I get anxiety – often. I usually do a pretty good job of pushing those anxious voices out of my head and moving on with life, but November is especially rough because it is the anniversary of family deaths and some other well-rooted pieces of my past that ramp my anxious voices up to 11. The first part of this November I spent more days than I would like sequestered away from the world and listening to my anxiety-driven voices. The problem with anxiety is that it makes you forget a lot of good things about yourself. Things that...

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A Structure For Convention Adventures

I was at Con On The Cob this weekend and I got the chance to play in a lot of adventures. I also got to hear friends tell stories, good and bad, about the games they played in. Those stories tended to focus on the extreme moments when they were good, and on how bad the entire game was when they were bad. One common thread I noticed about the bad games was that they weren’t structured to fit the convention format. In a home game, you can leave things hanging or stop at the good stopping point and...

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Mundane Magics

Ever since my long-ago teenage years, when I wasn’t allowed to play D&D – just look at the books, I’ve played a kind of mental game with the spell lists from the various editions of D&D – What spells would I want to be able to cast if I could do so in real life? As a mental exercise, it is a fun way to look at the fantastic and try to envision what the everyday lives of the characters we play would look like. Much like modern superhero movies envision more realistic implementations of superheroes and their powers,...

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Dragons In The Stacks

At Gencon 2015, a serendipitous meeting led me to spending some time talking to Steven Torres-Roman and talking about a book he worked on called Dragons in the Stacks – A teen Librarian’s Guide to Tabletop Role-playing. Steven gave me a copy to look over and I decided to review it for the Stew. Having spent time in my past working at public libraries, it was interesting to talk to Steven about the impact of tabletop role-playing games and their use in libraries. I’ve always been a fan of libraries and using them in my gaming life. Whether it...

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What’s Gnome Stew

Written by a team of veteran Gamers and Gamemasters, Gnome Stew is a widely read gaming blog with multiple awards and close to 3,000 articles. We're dedicated to helping gamers have more fun at the gaming table. Over 2 million visitors can't be wrong!

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