I’m trying something new. As a GM, I like it when players come up with small contributions to the game. Players like bennies. So I’ve designed and printed out a handful of 3×5 index cards that players can fill out to get bennies. Each one has a template for a new NPC, location, monster or mystery. When a player needs a benny or wants to stockpile one, they can grab a card and add a bit of content to the game that I can make use of immediately or later. When the cards that I put out at the...Read More
Author: Matthew J. Neagley
About The Author
First introduced to RPGs through the DnD Red Box Set in 1990, Matt fights an ongoing battle with GMing ADD, leaving his to-do list littered with the broken wrecks of half-formed campaigns, worlds, characters, settings, and home-brewed systems. Luckily, his wife is also a GM, providing him with time on both sides of the screen.
The genius loci is a concept most people are familiar with from fiction: a spirit or intelligence of an area. It can be seen in enchanted forests, in haunted houses, in the rogue smart building. Putting a genius loci in a location in your game can be an interesting element to play with. In some settings it’s even assumed that most locations have their own genius loci even though most of the time they aren’t heard from or interacted with. Adding a genius loci can be done for a host of reasons: Atmosphere: having a genius loci in a...Read More
In fantasy settings with sufficient magic, there is likely to be a low level spell to send a simple message from person to person. Consider that a permanent magic item with this power is essentially a one way cell phone. This is such an indispensable item that no one who could afford it would be without one. Most mid level adventurers, wealthy NPCs and government offices would all have one. The watch might have a handful so active patrols could requisition one to call in reports, update movement, and request backup. Merchant caravans are likely to do the same....Read More
Most fantasy RPGs have a type of fishfolk. Due to logistical concerns they don’t often see a lot of play time, so there are usually just a few varieties in any given system. While from a limited resources perspective, this is understandable, it does a great disservice to the diversity of marine life. Below are a handful of largely cosmetic variations for fishfolk to add a little flare to the limited screen time they get in your game*: Anglerfish: The only rule changes for anglerfishfolk is that they emit light from growths on their head, and their bite damage...Read More
I was recently kicking around a game set in a deep forest. While it didn’t pan out, I did manage to salvage a few set pieces that can be dropped into your game as landmarks or adventure sites. The Spire: A massive petrified tree standing over the rest of the treetops. Hollow on the inside, it has on occasion been a bandit fortress and a wizard’s tower. It would make an excellent druid’s keep, or lair for the monster of the week. The Runestones: A collection of overgrown boulders, rolled into a complex geometric pattern and carved with weathered...Read More
In math terms an extrema, the plural of extremum, are the high and low points (either locally or globally) of a function. This translates into maps as the high and low points of various features. Elevation is an obvious application, but they can also denote any number of other things. The procedure to make an Extrema drop map is simple: Pick a feature: elevation, water, vegetation, population, danger level, etc… Drop a bunch of d20s on a piece of paper Interpret results: One option: X lowest dice are minima, rest are maxima. This fixes the number of maxima and...Read More
Something that rarely comes up in fantasy games, though characters often travel through farming villages, is agriculture. Yes, sometimes there’s a fight in a field, or a possessed scarecrow, or orc raiders are burning the fields or slaughtering cattle, but medieval fantasy peasants grow the same crops that we do in the modern world. Which is odd when you think about it. Because yes, mad wizards are more likely to make owlbears and oubliettes* than magical corn, but farm boys become apprentices sometimes and then there are times that magic just happens: Stray magic warps things or a wish...Read More
Back in 2015, we teased a project we had been considering for quite some time, a foray into writing Gamer Romance novels that focused on Gnome Centric erotica. Too long had Vampire erotica and Elven erotica taken the mainstage, it was time for the mighty gnomes to get some sexy times! It took us a while to get into production, but we proudly present our very first gnomrotica gamer romance novel – Twenty Six Point Five Shades of Scarlet! Lovingly written by Gnomes Troy E. Taylor, Senda Linaugh, Matthew Neagley, and J.T. Evans, our nearly 50 pages of hot...Read More
In the comment section of my last article, reader Roxysteve commented about the random terrain generation of Source Of The Nile, one of the games on my “Great games of yesteryear” wish list. I have never read Source Of The Nile, and am only vaguely familiar with it (players compete for gold and glory by outfitting expeditions to the heart of unexplored Africa and discovering the randomly generated wonders therein) but his comment made me think about doing something similar for myself. What I came up with is a system that randomly generates terrain based on the hexes about...Read More
As I may have mentioned in the past, I am always toying with the idea of finally putting together the megadungeon promised by Dungeons and Dragons in my youth. Recently, I found this amazing series of articles on the topic and while my goals are slightly different than those of the author, I felt like I was finally prepared to actually put pencil to paper and start working on my megadungeon project. But, reading another set of articles, a few stray comments caught my eye. The first mentioned that megadungeons don’t have to actually be dungeons, and I started...Read More
As George R. R. Martin is fond of saying: “winter is coming” and with it, a host of massive annoyances fun winter activities! Winter can also bring new and interesting challenges to your game. Here’s a selection of fun winter challenges and features to drop into your next session: Ice wizards: Many games have lots of spells that can be ice themed or re-skinned to ice themes. These spells often include a variety of direct damage, control, and zone placement making Ice wizards fun to confront. Ice wizards are also excellent keepers of wintry lore so they can be...Read More
It’s time for me to amble into my garage and offer up a handful of the cursed, dusty, and cursed dusty items that I find there. It’s a bit of a post-Christmas tradition here at the stew. I have to make room for all the coal Santa keeps bringing me for some reason… As is tradition, I’m offering up more than one version of each of these items: a mundane one, and additional details of a more fantastic nature—suitable for use in your supernatural horror, fantasy, or sci-fi campaigns. Vintage gaming set: A wooden box with several sets of...Read More
A few years back, we ran an article about evil Santas. Aside from landing all of us on the perpetual naughty list, it went over fairly well, so this year we’re happy to present a list of three of Santa’s dastardly elves. Enjoy your holiday but hope you don’t get a visit from one or more of these villains. Slapwhistle the baker: This corpulent elf has doughy features and a perpetual sunburn from the blazing heat of his oven. He wears a great stained apron of heavy white leather. Slapwhistle cooks treats for the naughty children of the world...Read More
Back when it was active, I was alerted to J. M. Ward’s Kickstarter for Dice Coins. They looked cool, but what piqued my interest was that on the site I saw them mentioned, their statistical fairness was being questioned, and Ward had essentially hand waved it away. In his defense, their fairness makes sense as long as the arc for each number is evenly spaced. I asked for a set of review prototypes to do an analysis, but none were available so I used some of my Patreon loot and backed it. Very quickly after the Kickstarter closed, product...Read More
I was recently tossing out notes for a game and I wrote the following: NPCs – get a list o’ NPC traits- NPCs should be larger than life, quirky, flawed Ex: the mage’s guild is just one guy in a town this size. It’s a mid-sized town but he considers it a hellish backwater. He has the finest silks and delicacies shipped in from the big city and is decadent and opulent to the core. Ex: the prince who runs the place is haughty and arrogant and expects everyone to suck up to him constantly. He’s not opposed to...Read More
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Our Books for GMs
Through our partner Engine Publishing, we've published six system-neutral books for GMs, with over 28,000 copies sold. Available in print and PDF.
The Complete Game Master's Guide to Running Extraordinary Sessions
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The Art of Improvisation for Game Masters
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The Complete Game Master's Guide to Campaign Management
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The Complete Game Master's Guide to Session Prep
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1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game
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501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters
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Through Encoded Designs
Through our partnership in the G.E.M. collective, many of the Gnomes are affiliated with creating products through Encoded Designs. Available in print and PDF.
Gnomes on Podcasts, even a Gnome Only Podcast!
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Do you have what it takes to save Neon City in this 80s, neon, cyberpunk game?
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Art by Matt Morrow, Characters By Encoded Gnomes
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Gnome Phil Vecchione's Dungeon World Hack About Water Rights
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