Category: GMing Advice


From the time I entered my first dungeon decades ago, material components were treated the same as encumbrance and weapon modifiers against armor class – we discarded them. For those of you who might be scratching your heads, I’m talking about spellcasting in Dungeons & Dragons (along with its many derivatives), in which magic-wielding characters usually need verbal, somatic, and/or material components to cast their spells. Like encumbrance and equipment lists, material components were viewed in my circles as tedious and we ignored them, which incidentally […]


Organization is one key trait for effective gamemastering. Every GM needs some kind of system to keep important information accessible during play. During session prep, a good format reminds us to vary our encounters. It may even help spark our creativity. In this article, we’ll look at the IARR method: INTRO, ACTION, ROLEPLAYING, and REWARDS. Each row of the chart contains information about a single, possible encounter within a planned adventure. THE DETAILS Take a notebook and divide the page into four columns as shown […]


On a recent episode of the Misdirected Mark podcast, Chris and I talked about why planning never really works in RPGs, and why mechanics to emulate planning fare better at the table. If you are interested in that discussion go and check out the show. Understanding that planning is never going to leave RPG’s, I want to take this article to talk about ways to make planning less painful. This article is aimed at the Players, so send this link out to them and hopefully […]


Finding inspiration each week for the games we put together for our players is part of the fun, but it can be a challenge on occasion. When the creative juices aren’t flowing, sometimes you have to dig into other areas of your life to find those nuggets of ideas that you can use to pull a game together. Two converging obsessions in my life bring this particular topic to the Stew. First, I brought the revised Monster of the Week book home from GenCon last […]


This past weekend was the first episode of the new series (or season, in the American vernacular) of Doctor Who. Doctor Who is a series that has reinvented itself numerous times, usually when the Doctor regenerates but sometimes even without a change in the lead actor, the series has tried to move in a different direction. Similarly, I recently read an article on Heroes that got me thinking about my own RPG campaigns. I’ve had a lot of campaigns over the years that, for whatever reason, either didn’t go […]


Recently, I was a guest at the Tacticon convention in Denver, Colorado. One of the things that the convention organizers stressed to me was to not only run some games, but to play in games that were being run. I enthusiastically followed their advice, and in any time slot where I was not running something or on a panel, I played many great games. As I was sitting on the other side of the screen, I realized that I could use my GM skills to […]


Word processing and web technology is great. It allows ANYONE to produce produce professional looking manuscripts and pages. However, they may not be the best tools for the early stages of session preparation. Sometimes all the bells and whistles, not to mention the potential distraction of the internet, can hinder the creative process. This article will be a love letter to the old school physical notebook, my preference for starting the planning process. I will look at the general advantages of a physical notebook (I […]