5e Public Play: It’s all Adventurer’s League now A couple of weeks ago, Wizards of the Coast announced big changes to its organized play program. All of the adventures are now just Adventurer’s League; before, they’d been split between the new player geared Encounters and the continuing play Expeditions. The change was a lot deeper than the name–the whole focus of the program changed. The modules were originally limited to public play (mostly at stores and conventions), but the Dungeon Masters Guild announcement opened the modules up to purchase by any play group. The Dungeon Masters Guild Wizards partnered...Read More
Author: Scott Martin
About The Author
The third D&D encounter season features Out of the Abyss, the newest hardback adventure for D&D. The first three seasons of D&D Encounters took a published product–in this case Out of the Abyss–and separated the first few chapters to run as an introductory adventure. It turns out that this adventure breaks new GMs… largely because the beginning subverts so many D&D tropes. Fair warning: spoilers for the first session abound in this post. The Program D&D Encounters is set up as an always low level, easy to join and try out D&D game. In both 4th and 5th edition,...Read More
Thanksgiving is tomorrow in the US, a time of plentiful food and good cheer for many. Unfortunately, fevers have broken out among my relatives, so we’re staying apart for at least a few days in hopes that we can prevent spreading disease to each other. We’ll have a day of turkey, stuffing, green beans, cranberries, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and all the desserts a little later. Maybe Saturday will be our day of gluttony this year. A Day of Reflection, A Day away from Devices When we head down to visit family, it’s rare for us to take along...Read More
Hip Pocket Games aren’t a real classification or genre of RPG. Instead, hip pocket games are scenarios that you’re always ready to run. They’re there in your hip pocket, ready to whip out and play on minimal notice.
Sometimes, these games are full game systems, like A Penny for My Thoughts, which is a GMless game designed for a single evening’s play. Other times, they’re specific scenarios, like Secrets of Sokol Keep (a D&D 5e scenario), or Dark*Star, the Fate adventure (and setting).
Any game that you can run with minimal prep is a good hip pocket game for you. You’re basically taking something big and amorphous, like everything a D&D game can be, and mastering a specific version of it. When you meet someone new or attend a con, you can leap into play and always be ready to contribute. It’s much like having a board game in your backpack that you love and can teach effortlessly.Read More
One of the mechanics built into Primetime Adventures is called Screen Presence. It’s a mechanic that goes on everyone’s character sheet, but has to be coordinated by everyone before anyone can set it. Screen Presence is awesome in Primetime Adventures… and might amp up your current game too. What is Screen Presence? In Primetime Adventures, Screen Presence measures how central your character is to the episode and how much the episode revolves around your character’s issues. Screen presence also affects your character’s competence. When your character is screen presence 3, you draw three cards in every conflict and can...Read More
I love Fate Core, and I enjoy running it at cons. For a long time I spent my efforts making pregenerated characters (for example: Dash-Dot-Dot-Dash), but many players don’t deeply identify with pregens. I wanted a system that led to quick identification with characters, but also a system where character creation didn’t take too much time, since it needed to fit into a con slot. One solution that can develop characters quickly is right in the Fate Core rulebook: on the fly character generation. I’ve used it for some con games (like FAE Super Heroes, inspired by this gaming...Read More
I recently completed a pair of short series of Primetime Adventure games, whose beginnings were described in Pitching Primetime Adventures: Two Recent Series. A Brief Recap Primetime Adventures is an independent roleplaying game, first published back in 2004, which proved to be an instant hit in the indie-roleplaying scene. The game was recently republished in a brand new third edition by the original designer, Matt Wilson, and his company Dog Eared Designs. I was eager for the new edition; when I got the PDF, I was surprised at the extensive rewriting and editing. Minor issues that had tangled previous...Read More
Con season has begun; Walt’s already been to Origins, I enjoyed my first Kublacon over Memorial Day weekend, and the big summer shows, GenCon and DragonCon, are still to come. Summer can be a busy time for GMs, giving you even more sessions to prepare for than normal. (Hopefully, a con will offer you a chance to be a player, especially if you’re not getting to play regularly.) I got into Feng Shui at Kublacon, which I’ve long been interested in trying out. I had a great time; it does seem like a cool system. Running Gnome… er, Man...Read More
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about taking the first step to becoming a GM. It can be nerve wracking to cross the screen and run a game for the first time. Our organized play society, though, needs more GMs. I fear that if we ask our existing GMs to provide all the games that players want, they’ll burn out and leave those GMs who remain stretched even thinner. A few GMs volunteered to run from the very first day they joined our organized play program, but nature wasn’t providing enough enthusiastic GMs. So we decided to...Read More
It can be difficult to switch over, to cross the table and GM for the first time. Long ago, I wrote Introductory Games for New Roleplayers for a young GM and a table of all new players. This time we’re looking at a different situation—training new GMs who may be nervous about running for tables of experienced players and strangers. Instead of apprenticing to a GM and getting a peek behind the curtain between sessions, a group of experienced GMs are going to hold a GMing seminar. It’s not just a collection of tricks and tips for experienced GMs,...Read More
A good smack in the nose can teach a valuable lesson, but sometimes the lesson fades. Last weekend, I got another smack on the nose. I let time management get away from me. The result was an unproductively long session, even though there were good elements. Even as a player, I’ve been a part of lengthy planning leading to slow sessions. Back in 2008, I wrote about Planning and Analysis Paralysis in a pair of games. I am an active planner, much to the frustration of bored fellow players–that’s probably part of why I don’t catch it when my...Read More
I’m currently the producer for a pair of Primetime Adventures shows. Each show has completed its pilot; now we’re on to the first season. To get there, though, requires very different preparation from my usual. Setting Scenes in Primetime Adventures While GM prep is required in Primetime Adventures, the producer isn’t in charge of the same elements as a traditional game’s GM. The producer sets the episode’s scenes in response to requests by players. To request a scene, the player specifies the characters involved, whether the scene is focused on character development or plot advancement, and the location. With...Read More
I recently received the new version of Primetime Adventures after backing its kickstarter. It’s an excellent game, with a great deal of useful, clarifying text in the new edition. I’ve played it (and written about it) before, but the new third edition does a good job of adjusting the emphasis to clarify some previously confusing elements. A few weeks ago, I excitedly wrote about Primetime Adventures on my local indie-roleplaying group and got a lot of enthusiastic interest. In fact, the interest proved great enough that I wound up splitting the group and committing to produce two new shows....Read More
I recently completed a few months of public play that went far better than I’d imagined. On Wednesdays last fall, we played D&D Encounters. At my table, I had a drop-in-group of 4 or 5 pretty consistent players, with several more who showed up for a session or two. They completed the Encounters storyline in early December, then travel and holidays reared their head–along with confusion as to what we’d tackle next. When we broke, the GMs were divided on the next step since we had run through the storyline. Each GM had players that congealed into a core...Read More
First, a bit of sad news. A great tool for visiting lots of RPG blogs has announced that the RPG Blog Alliance network is ending at the end of April. The RPGBA homepage is a great place to discover new blogs. If you’re looking to add more roleplaying blogs to your RSS feed, swing by while the great content is still easily available. If you’ve ever wondered what happens to game worlds (particularly D&D derived worlds) when you apply real world economic theories, you’ll love Emily Dresner’s column (newly relocating to Critical Hits) called Dungeonomics! It’s a fascinating source...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 —
Patronize Gnome Stew!
Gnome Stew do awesome things for everyone!
These Might Be The Pages You Are Looking For
Keep The Stew Fires Going
Eat The Stew
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
Click To Find Out More Unframed
The Art of Improvisation for Game Masters
Click To Find Out More Odyssey
The Complete Game Master'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
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!
Click To Find Out More Rockerboys and Vending Machines
Do you have what it takes to save Neon City in this 80s, neon, cyberpunk game?
Click To Find Out More Character Cache
Art by Matt Morrow, Characters By Encoded Gnomes
Click To Find Out More Hydro Hacker Operatives
Gnome Phil Vecchione's Dungeon World Hack About Water Rights
Click To Find Out More