Bees. Bees have an interesting place in our world today. Not exactly domesticated, they are still an incredibly important resource for agriculture, pollinating billions of dollars of crops annually, and the source of an amazing food product. Let me tell you a story about one of my characters from years back. The character themselves was rather unremarkable. I don’t remember much about them, but one of our first adventures involved scouting out a system of natural rose quartz canyons. In one of them we discovered a nest of dire bees. We didn’t need to mess with them and they...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.
For starters, take these tips with a grain of salt. First, different approaches to productivity work for different people. Second, I have to be the world’s worst person at parking my butt and getting prep done. These are all things I have tried with varying degrees of success, but I am certainly not the world’s guru on getting things done (for that I would probably direct you to David Allen). For what they’re worth, here are a handful of tips for sitting down and starting prep. If you have experience with these and want to weigh in one way...Read More
One of my long RPG love affairs is the well. I don’t know what exactly sparked it—a video game, a novel, an RPG adventure—but wells fascinate me. No RPG village is complete without one and every one holds a secret (well, that would get old and boring after a time, so most hold only water and sadness, but some hold secrets). In fact, I once placed a ruined village JUST so the well could hold a nasty secret. Here is a small table of 40 interesting things to hide in your wells. I encourage additional entries in the comments...Read More
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
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
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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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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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Gnome Phil Vecchione's Dungeon World Hack About Water Rights
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