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.

7

Try one of THESE Settings:

Here are links to four rather odd maps: DanMeth’s Fantasy World Map XKCD’s Online Communities map 1 XKCD’s Online Communities map 2 ENWorld’s Interactive RPG Map All of those maps are a little silly, but fun.  What I propose is that for a campaign, you use those maps. Of course, you can’t exactly send your PCs to Farmville (unless you’re playing in cyberspace I suppose) so instead, loosely interpret the theme, feel or content of the area in question, and convert it into your game. Here are some examples: Running a horror game set in the Fantasy World map,...

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11

My Love/Hate relationship with Homebrews

I once watched a documentary on the early days of video games, and the particular part that has stuck with me was two brothers who started their own company right out of high school selling their games on floppies in plastic baggies through mail order fliers. They said (to my recollection): “We slept in shifts. I’d sleep while he programmed and when I woke up, we’d switch places. It was always a treat waking up and discovering what he had done, what new features he had added and how he had made them work.” While the video game industry...

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8

More uses for the d10million

A while ago, I introduce the d10million, which is just a daily pill box full of d10s: This is fantastic for rolling multiple d10s simultaneously or for when you need a really big number, but by switching things up, you can do other things with your box o’dice. Ton O’Mooks: If you have a battle set up with a bunch of mooks, filling your dice box with the required dice to roll multiple attacks simultaneously can speed things up a lot.  Even if they have different initiative, you can roll them all at once and read them off as...

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8

Encounters with Poissons and Exponentials

The other day, Martin posed a question to me. To paraphrase: “How do I set up a die roll to determine how many encounters I have per day and when those encounters occur?” After some discussion, I suggested the below system, which is based on the Exponential distribution. Since we’ve gotten requests for info on this distribution before and the result turned out pretty neat, I wanted to share. The exponential distribution isn’t a concept that exists in a vacuum. Instead it’s a function of the Poisson distribution, which is itself a function of the Binomial distribution, which is...

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9

Finding Probabilities of Odd Die Combos

Outside of the comment stream, I had a surprising amount of people tell me they found my Overland Encounter Article useful (Three: which is three higher than usual). Universally however, the part of it they mentioned was the final paragraph and illustration: A brief note on die choice: With a single die, all outcomes are equally likely. The more dice you use, the greater central tendency of your roll, and the rarer the high and low values. Using dice of unequal size on the same roll will create a small “plateau” of probabilities in the center. It’s in no...

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13

The Nine Forms of the Five Room Dungeon

The Five Room Dungeon has been around almost as long as RPGs themselves, and has been enjoying a surge of popularity in the past few years as a quick and easy way to build a dungeon crawl.  Interestingly enough, it turns out there are only 9 base designs for the five room dungeon. With so few, it’s very easy to simply grab one of the nine, populate it and run a crawl, but it’s also easy to run the same basic layout multiple times until one of your players says: “Wait a minute! Isn’t this the exact same dungeon...

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13

Is Your Lucky Die Fair?

Martin’s recent article on inking his new GameScience dice naturally led to a spirited discussion about GameScience’s claims that their dice are the best dice available in terms of randomness, which quite naturally leads one to ask: “Is my favorite die fair? How can I tell?” One possibility is to perform a chi*-square goodness of fit test. This doesn’t include any difficult math, though it can be tedious without a spreadsheet program. The purpose of a goodness of fit test (often called simply a chi-square test, though this is a misnomer since there are many forms of chi-square tests,...

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16

Just how competent are your players?

Like Most GMs, you probably find your self wondering from time to time just how competent your players are. Are they the well oiled, expertly min-maxed team they claim to be, or are they a bunch of bumbling monkeys? Luckily there’s a simple mathematically accurate method to test their claims based on simple linear algebra: Start with your dungeon map. Here’s a sample randomly generated dungeon from Donjon RPG tools: Once you have your map you’ll have to decide where the entrance is, which room is the goal room, and then mark up each room on the map with...

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12

Organize Your Ideas with an Idea Board

As a GM, you’ll often have extra ideas that you have no current use for or ideas for some future game. Stealing an idea  from writers, you can write a few sentences about each one (so that you don’t end up stumbling across a note like “junkyard angel and transceiver of the gods” and wonder what the hell you were thinking) on a post-it note and stick the notes on an idea board.  If you like, you can certainly color code them, putting all characters on pink post-its and all locations on blue, or maybe sci-fi on yellow and...

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5

Approaching the Megadungeon

The megadungeon is a historical and exciting campaign model with a simple appeal that’s a convenient platform for pickup games, but building one can be an intimidating challenge. There are probably as many approaches to building the megadungeon as there are approaches to the megadungeon proper. Here is one such approach. Step 1: Start with the “Swiss Cheese Assumption” This assumes that the ground is full of natural caves, passages, burrows, etc… You don’t need this assumption to hold for your entire campaign world, it can be localized due to geologic (think lava tubes or limestone erosion),  ecological (think...

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15

In Rebuttal of the Level-Tiered Starting Area

Most RPG settings feature the same level-tiered setup. The PC’s home base is surrounded by an area populated by first level monsters, while the next concentric area is populated by second level monsters and so on.  It’s usually a bit more complex than that, but that’s the basic model. Problem is, the basic model, and any models flowing from it are bullshit. Of course, it’s always done that way for playability, not realism, but there’s no need for it to be that way.  A more “realistic” model is a reverse level-tiered system, which is not only not a lot...

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6

Your Dungeon’s Bromance with Graffiti

Think back to the scenery from the last public restroom you frequented.  Chances are you were treated to a visual smorgasbord of human expression. In that 15 minutes or so, you were probably exposed to more poetry, art, comedy gold and political satire than you were for the rest of the week (if you’re a social recluse like me anyway). People graffiti whenever they have sufficient motivation and feel the chance of being punished is slim (or the reward is worth it).  Thus, in the dungeon environment, the average adventurer would likely scrawl to his heart’s content whenever he...

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Quick and Dirty Overland Encounter List Template

If you’re like me you’ve found yourself thinking the following: “I need to make an encounter table for this area. It’s a swamp, so I’ll just go though all my monster books and make a list of all the monsters that can live in swamps…” and then three pages of paper and way too much time later you succumb to information overload, shelf it and go do something else. A simple template can help reduce option paralysis and provides structure for an encounter list. Guidelines can also ensure enough diversity without over-planning too many encounters. Characteristics: It’s easiest to...

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GMing Concept Garage Sale, 2012

It’s that time of the year again, where as a belated holiday gift, I hand out my accumulated B-string campaign ideas from the previous year. Lucky you!  The real gift however, is the ideas in the comments section from readers. These are not only great campaign ideas, but they can be dropped into an ongoing game as a new location hook. And if you’re on the lookout for a new campaign idea, maybe for New Year New Game? don’t forget that we have 3 years worth of previous articles. Play Within a Play: Based on a joke character I...

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1KBWC World Gen Example

Back when I wrote about using 100 Blank White Cards as  tool for world creation, Martin asked for an example. Since Martin is the boss here at the stew, that means you get a follow-up article.  With 30 of our previously created cards, and another 30 blanks, my wife and I set out to create a setting for a fantasy game. With our first two cards, we were off to a good start.  The island on the back of a whale is a unique, fun location card. It implies a greater area of an ocean or sea, and it’s...

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