One of the ways to craft good dungeon description is describing to appeal to the senses. Mentioning the sights is common, but including smells, sounds, feels and tastes can greatly contribute to immersion. However, it can be difficult to remember to feature sensory input and to come up with good descriptions on the fly. To that end it can be useful to make a brief set of descriptions, one for each sense that represent common, or typical sensations in a particular themed area in your dungeon or other area. Most areas are more or less homogenous, so this doesn’t...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.
Recently I had the pleasure of corresponding with the customer service division of Chessex. Their representative, Dustin, had the fastest response time of any customer service team I’ve ever dealt with, taking only ten minutes to respond to my query and responding even more quickly after that. Here’s what Dustin had to say, and I admit it rather took the wind out of my sails: “Chessex was named such because the owner was an old Chess player. He was nationally ranked at one point. Thus Chess-ex or Chessex.” – Dustin, the blazingly fast Chessex rep. Why did this take...Read More
So, this is a completely horrible idea for several reasons, but it’s not without it’s own twisted charm: Why not as a group, decide that everyone should be able to cheat as much as they want, provided that they don’t get caught? Of course, the first question is: “Why in hell would you want to do this?” For the most part, we’ve all played with the guy who constantly cheats and no one ever likes it, so why would I suggest that everyone cheat? The thing is though, that Role Playing Games are based on the concept of the...Read More
Many campaigns feature a small fort outpost or resource gathering town surrounded by largely unexplored wilderness. These small home bases make sense. Few people are willing to relocate into an unknown and likely dangerous area for dubious profits. Only as these outposts prove their value will settlers migrate to them. However, these particular settlements have a wildcard that encourages their growth: player characters and other adventuring types. These wild cards work actively to make the settlements a safer place, and bring much desired sources of economic prosperity. These increases in security and prosperity have a direct effect in the...Read More
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,...Read More
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...Read More
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...Read More
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...Read More
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...Read More
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...Read More
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,...Read More
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...Read More
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...Read More
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...Read More
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...Read More
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!
"I check Gnome Stew every day."
— Monte Cook —
"fantastic blog for game masters, dungeon masters, and rpg fans"
— Wil Wheaton —
"If you aren’t reading Gnome Stew, you’re missing out."
— Wolfgang Baur —
These Might Be The Pages You Are Looking For
Keep The Stew Fires Going
Eat The Stew
Our Books For GMs
Our Books for GMs
We've published six system-neutral books for GMs, with over 28,000 copies sold. Available in print and PDF.
The Complete Game Masterâ€™s Guide to Running Extraordinary Sessions
Click To Find Out More Unframed
The Art of Improvisation for Game Masters
Click To Find Out More Odyssey
The Complete Game Masterâ€™s Guide to Campaign Management
Click To Find Out More Never Unprepared
The Complete Game Master's Guide to Session Prep
Click To Find Out More Masks
1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game
Click To Find Out More Eureka
501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters
Click To Find Out More