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.


Exiles of the Wicked Maze

Recently we published an article by John Fredricks about how, as a GM, you should play now and again. This article has more or less the same gist. John’s point was that playing under another GM would help you perfect your technique. My point is that playing is fun, but that you don’t always have another GM to play under nor do you always have the time or occasion for a full formal 6 people around a table game. Recently I purchased a copy of Exiles of the Wicked Maze by Fishwife Games. It promised to be a solo...

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Endless Interestingness for Endless Inspiration

There is a class of creativity exercise called Random Stimulus. The basic gist of all of them is being presented with a new, random stimulus and then engaging in free association between the idea you are working on and this new stimulus. This takes a bit of practice, but it can be used to find new ideas or to enhance ideas already in use. A great source of random image stimulus is Marc Barcinsky and Adrien JeanJean’s Endless Interestingness. This web page is an endless field of thumbnails of pictures from Flickr.You can move your mouse close to the...

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Keeping Interest During a Busy Spell

Lately I’ve been a little busy at work. You see, I don’t have full time employment. Instead I work a handful of part time jobs. A few weeks ago one of my coworkers had an emergency and I had to pick up as much extra work to cover their shifts as possible. I managed to cut back at a few other jobs and add hours where they were needed, but my schedule was very tight. Then a coworker at another job moved on to a better opportunity, leaving me to teach 5 classes. (To be fair it’s 5 sections...

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Hold the Sugar: Attitude in your MLP game

It’s pretty obvious that the My Little Pony game is the the setting of the future, but for gamers weaned on hack and slash and brutal rules debates, stomaching the saccharine sweetness of the MLP philosophy of friendship and tolerance and happiness can be like swallowing a horse pill. For those of us with a little more starch in our shorts than the average Brony, I present the solution in a conveniently familiar package: Edition wars! Deep down, every Brony has a favorite Generation. It’s not generally kosher to say so but it’s true. For most modern fans it’s...

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Shared Experiences Across Groups

I was reading some old posts on Apathy Games the other day and I stumbled on Why We Need to Pay for More Adventures, written by Tyson Hayes. It’s an old article but it’s a good one. In this gem, Mr. Hayes laments that RPGs lack the shared experience across groups found in video games. Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait… I get it, and I’m wistful for the “good old days” too. I’m too young to ever have enjoyed The Temple of Elemental Evil, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, or Tomb or Horrors, though I have run The Keep on the Borderlands (TPK, first room with the zombies). On the other hand, I’ve had the occasional conversation with a random stranger about various video games and I tear up just a little bit whenever I listen to The Lament of Captain Placeholder. But maybe it’s just Cranius. ALL his stuff gives me the chills. On the other hand, I also understand the motivation to make your own adventures. You get a unique gaming experience that has been tailored specifically to your group and it’s free! Well, it’s mostly free. I suspect that most gamers are like me insofar as the older we get and the more responsibilities we have, the higher the dollar to hour ratio becomes. Maybe for some of us it’s time to re-evaluate a...

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Things… That a GM Should Own

The Game of Things (Full disclosure, I was given a comp copy for the purpose of review) is intended to be a party game for four or more players and, in my experience, it fits that bill perfectly. I play-tested my copy at a get together with three generations of my family and we had a blast! The basic concept is that one player draws a card in the theme of “Things that …” and reads it aloud. All the players write down such a thing anonymously and then players take turns guessing who wrote what. There is some...

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Quick and Dirty NPC Organization Template

NPC organizations are a must have for many campaigns, and even when nonessential they add to a game in many ways. They create a pool of quick allies, enemies, or support. They come with all kinds of plot hooks. They’re fertile ground for flavor. The reasons to add a few to your game are endless. But it’s also easy to accidentally bog yourself down with unnecessary work and to waste time with too much detail that will never see play. Thus, like my other Quick and Dirty templates, the following NPC organization template is designed to get the essential...

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The Two Page Prep System

If you’ve ever obsessively stalked me, you may have noticed an interesting pattern. Here at my bio, it states: “Matt fights on 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.” And every year, I post a “garage sale” article of the campaigns that I thought up but never actually used for one reason or another. And of course if you just browse my general article list you’ll notice two overarching themes: Articles about making yourself a bunch of unnecessary work and articles about streamlining...

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GMing Concept Garage Sale, 2014

Every year I write this article giving away some of my unused campaign ideas and every year it gets a little harder to write. Turns out I may not actually have the volume of ideas I once thought I did. I may have just had a massive backlog. Or maybe I’m just slowing down in my old age. Who knows? Still, as it ties in nicely with the various “fresh start” initiatives like our own New Game Day, I’ll keep pretending that someone out there actually wants my discarded campaign “gems”. Though they may be less gems, more coprolites....

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Creating a Campaign Setting in 6 Easy Steps

One of the more common “mistakes” of even veteran GMs is made not only before the game begins, but early on in the planning. This “mistake” is the massive investiture of time, creativity and energy into campaign design. While every game needs a solid foundation, detailing continents – even entire worlds that will never see use – is a waste of time, as is stating out every member of the thieves guild, detailing massive pantheons, writing national histories and creating genealogical surveys of kings. Yet we’ve all done this at least once and some of us continue to do...

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Mind Mapping Game Prep

Mind Mapping is an information organizing technique, also called web mapping, concept mapping, spider mapping, or spray mapping. It involves building a fairly free-form web of related concepts with pathways between them. Useful for almost any aspects of GMing, it can be applied to brainstorming ideas, planning campaigns, settings, adventures, characters, locations, and pretty much anything else. The execution is simple. Write down the big idea in the center of a blank sheet of paper, then write down a smaller related idea nearby and draw a line between the two. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Outside the big idea will be...

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Converting scale: Megadungeon to Hex Map

There are plenty of articles here, there, and everywhere on the care and feeding of a megadungeon. However, for those of you who would like something new, I propose the following: convert your megadungeon to a hex map! Why? Because Hex maps have an entirely NEW set of articles here, there, and everywhere on their care and feeding, so converting from one to the other puts you in a new mindset on running them and gives you a whole new set of tools to do so! Like usual with my articles, I’d like to start this one off with...

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Realism? Who needs it? You do!

Ross Isaacs from SoulJAR Games and I recently had a yelling match over the meme pictured on the left, which I am given to believe originally came from Drinking Quest. By yelling match, I really mean civil discussion, but those aren’t nearly as exciting. While I’m revealing my blatant falsehoods, I might as well admit to one more. That article title is misleading too. You see, I don’t believe in realism in RPGs. I’m pretty sure that no one believes in realism in RPGs. Yes, I know that there are games from a hoary, ill considered era of RPGs...

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How much space do those goblins need?

So one of the perennial questions that plagues my campaign planning is as follows: “How much space does a tribe of goblins need to be self sufficient? Can I place them in this forest and that’s good enough? Is there also room for these gnolls?” Now yes, as GM I can do whatever I like, and NO no player has EVER called me on having unrealistic population densities. This is more of a personal guideline thing: knowing what’s realistic or historical helps me make decisions. So, I recently sat down and did some research. Here’s what I came up...

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Analysis of DeSmet’s Dice Measurement Data Set

Almost every gamer has seen Lou Zocchi’s classic pitch for GameScience dice, and if you haven’t yet and have the 20 minutes, click that link. It’s worth a watch. About 4 minutes into the first video, Zocchi references his picture of stacked dice, seen to the right. This picture has long been the major piece of proof that GameScience fans point to as proof of the superiority of their favorite dice. We can date that picture between 1981 and 1991 because the far left stack of dice comes from the Red Box DnD Basic set, only two editions of...

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