Author: Tracy Barnett

About The Author

Tracy Barnett

Tracy was introduced to Basic D&D back in 1988, but didn’t really play and RPGs until D&D 3rd Edition came out. Since then, he’s ventured far and wide across different types of game. He loves indie games and how they empower players, and will always have a soft spot for D&D. In addition to blogging here, Tracy co-owns Exploding Rogue Studios and has published three of his own games in addition to some freelance credits. If you dig his work, you can support his Patreon at:


The Listen Back

Sound and Fury Have you ever listened to how you run games? … That small pause was for all of the “oh gods, I hate the sound of my own voice” reactions that no doubt rippled through the Gnome Stew readership. The basic makeup of how we hear what we say in our own heads means that we sound different on recordings than we expect. It can be hard. I’ll tell you this, though: nothing has improved my GMing skills more than recording the audio of my sessions and listening back to it. Enter TheOtherCast Back in September, when...

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Yesterday, Exploding Rogue Studios released DEAD SCARE, a 1950s, feminist, zed-killing, fascist-punching tabletop RPG by Elsa S. Henry. If you weren’t familiar, I co-own Exploding Rogue with Brian Patterson. We’re absolutely thrilled to have been able to help Elsa bring this game to the public, especially now. So, let’s talk about representation in games. Lots and Lots of White Dudes In case you haven’t noticed, there are a bunch of white dudes in gaming. Doesn’t matter what kinds of games you’re talking, either. Tabletop? Yup. Video? Double-yup. So when Elsa approached me about DEAD SCARE and pitched it as a...

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Star Wars: How the Galaxy Moves

A Long Time Ago… We all know how Star Wars starts, and that opening sentence firmly situates us in the setting. It’s not our time and it’s not our world. In fact, this has already happened. That phrase acts like an Aspect in that you can call on it and refer to it when you need a bit of story. It’s a bit meta, but it’s a nice jumping-off point for this topic. You’ve got to have a way for things to happen in your game. Sure, you can ask what an NPC would do in a given situation...

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Star Wars: How NPCs Move

I’ve been using the Principles, Agenda, and Moves I’ve talked about in my other posts for my Star Wars game. Now it’s time to take things to another level. We’ve been keeping things pretty basic (both in the posts and in my sessions). Now it’s time to complicate things. The Moves Beneath the Moves The whole point of using this approach to planning and running games is to let player motivation drive the game. We’ve been doing that for about five sessions, now. The players are pushing things forward, and they’re personally interested in the story. This is when...

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Star Wars EoE: Moves Are At The Heart

Last post I wrote had me talking about the Agenda and Principles I’d adapted from Apocalypse World to use in my Star Wars: EoE game. I’d left that post off by saying that Moves are really where it’s at. This is the Moves post. Moves Like Jabba In Apocalypse World, if you do something that includes picking up the dice and rolling, it’s called a Move. (FYI, that’s the last time I’m gonna capitalize that word, as it’ll get excessive if I keep it up). That’s the most straightforward definition to start with. From that perspective, moves can be pretty...

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To Be a Better GM, Characters Come First

In my previous posts, I’d been exploring the Agenda and Principles for Apocalypse World. This was partially because I think they’re really sweet, and partially because I was running a campaign of the game. Sadly, that game seems to be done, as we had two key players move out of state. In the meantime, with another group, I’ve started a Star Wars: Edge of the Empire game set in the Force Awakens-era Star Wars universe. The idea of Agenda, Principles, and Moves won’t leave me alone, though. I find them to be hugely useful, to the point that I’m...

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Apocalypse World: Party at Warehouse 141

We got the chance to play our second session of Apocalypse World a couple of weeks ago. It was our first “real” session, as I prepped some Fronts and used things that had happened in the first “day in the life” session. It was an amazing session, and without further ado, we’re gonna dive right in to the recap. Primed to Blow The first session left off with Jeanette, the 2nd in command of Warehouse 141, strapped to the driver’s seat of a heavily armored bus, rigged to blow with explosives. The group wasted no time working to free...

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Welcome to Warehouse 141

In my last post, I went through the GM/MC’s Principles and the characters that my players made for our Apocalypse World game. Today’s post is all about the first session, a Day in the Life with those players, plus one. An Addition the Party Between sessions, we gained another player, so we kicked things off with his choosing of a playbook. We also re-did all of the Hx for the characters. That was for a couple of reasons, the foremost being that we did Hx as we wrapped up the previous session and most everyone didn’t remember the details. The...

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The GM’s Principles, and the First Session

In my last post I went through an introduction to Apocalypse World. I’d been running Deadlands Reloaded for my group, including one session of a Fate conversion of the setting. However, I’d realized that I’m not comfortable being responsible for that much setting information. I like the organic nature of how the setting is built in Apocalypse World. Yesterday, I had a chance to do character creation with my group in preparation for our first session. And I’ve not forgotten how I left off my last post. I got some good comments about the Agenda and Principles in Apocalypse...

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The GM’s Agenda and Principles

I’m in a position I’m sure anyone who has run a game has been in before: my group is probably going to move on from the Deadlands Fate game that I’ve been working on. And honestly? I’m fine with that. Since I started that Deadlands game, I’ve found that I have a strong preference for games that intrinsically support player agency in the world and setting building. It’s not that you can’t have that kind of setup with Deadlands, but I didn’t approach it that way. So what’s next? Well, if you know anything about games that are Powered...

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Deadlands to Fate – The Thrill of Skills

The first test of my conversion of Deadlands Reloaded to the Fate rules set went really well, better than I expected. I had hoped that the rules changes would be able to keep the feel of Deadlands while giving my group a set of mechanics that we were more comfortable with. If you want a quick overview of my initial goals, you’ll find my first post here. This post is going to mainly focus on the Skills, with a few words about Powers, Edges, and Hindrances. Skills, or, How to Do What You Do The first thing I wanted...

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Mod It, Change It, Twist, Adapt It

This is the start of a series of posts about hacking game systems and adapting one system to fit the setting of another. There’s some lead-up to the meat in this one, so I hope you’ll bear with me. Think about your favorite setting. Think about what you love about it, what makes it special, what makes you want to go back session after session. Now think about your favorite game system. Think about how the mechanics work, how it engages your gamer brain, what makes you go back to it session after session. Are the two linked? If...

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