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The Best of the Gnome Stew Archives, 2008: Part 4 of 5

Posted By Martin Ralya On January 1, 2009 @ 4:00 am In Gnome Gnews | 9 Comments

Before we went on our Christmas break (12/24 through 1/4, returning to normal posting 1/5), I asked all of the gnomes to choose their favorite three articles they’d written since our launch in May 2008. These guys have written a massive amount of GMing material — 260+ articles! — in the past seven months, and I thought this would be a good way to highlight some of the best articles you might never have seen.

From now through the end of our break, we’ll be running five posts like this one, each featuring two gnomes’ favorites.

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year from us gnomes!

Martin Ralya

1. A GM’s First Impressions of D&D 4e: Looks Like Fun: “This was the first review I’ve ever written that I actually had fun writing. I wasn’t worried about being objective, or obsessively covering every detail — other reviewers are much better at that. I focused on providing context for my opinion, and then just shared my thoughts on what turned out to be a really great RPG. The timing was also right for this review to hit Slashdot, and it helped put Gnome Stew on the map.”

2. Review: The Ultimate Dice Bag: “I know, I know: two out of three of my favorite articles I’ve written for this site are reviews. But I love this review — and, after months of weekly use, I still love the dice bag. I corresponded with the crafter who makes these bags, Marsbarn of Marsbarn Designs, before and after writing my review, and she’s a genuinely nice person — which really just sealed how much fun this review turned out to be.”

3. You Should Quit GMing, Right Now: “This was one of those curveball posts that popped into my head and landed on the site without much premeditation. I didn’t know how readers would take it, but I decided to not worry about it and just see what happened. It was well received, so clearly I should troll my own blog more often.”

Want to read all of Martin’s articles? Make with the clicky.

Adam Nave

(Adam retired from the Stew, so I picked three of his articles to highlight. -Martin)

1. 12 Ways to Use Google Apps at the Game Table: “Adam’s first article on the Stew remains my favorite — this was a killer launch piece, and applicable to tons of GMs. My group uses Google extensively for our games, as do many others. If you’ve never leveraged what the big G has to offer, check this one out.”

2. Spicing Up Combat: “Taking up Sektor’s idea in the Suggestion Pot, Adam took a freeform approach with this article. He provided several good ideas for changing your expectations — and your players’ expectations — about how a typical RPG combat should go. Good stuff.”

3. Alternate Settings for Feng Shui: “Feng Shui is an RPG I’ve always wanted to play, and apart from one partial session many years ago, it’s just never happened. I love the idea of playing a Feng Shui game set in the universe of the Chronicles of Riddick, or El Mariachi — just two of the suggestions Adam makes in this article.”

Want to read all of Adam’s articles? Make with the clicky.

About  Martin Ralya

A father, husband, writer, small-press publisher, former RPG industry freelancer, and lifelong geek, Martin has been gaming since 1987 and GMing since 1989. He lives in Utah with his amazing wife Alysia and their awesome daughter Lark in a house full of books and games.




9 Comments (Open | Close)

9 Comments To "The Best of the Gnome Stew Archives, 2008: Part 4 of 5"

#1 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On January 1, 2009 @ 6:06 pm

I always thought the discussion that followed Adam’s post on spicing up combat to be filled with some of the best suggestions on how GMs and players both share responsibility in making combat more than just I hit you and you hit back, but a story in itself.

#2 Comment By Rafe On January 1, 2009 @ 8:18 pm

I thought the “You should quit GM’ing” article is just ridiculous. (I hadn’t read it before now.) That it starts with an opinion masquerading as a “fact” kind of irks me.

Fact: I have never played a published adventure that I’ve enjoyed; homebrew worlds and GM-written campaigns and adventures have always been better. No offense to WotC people (or people who publish adventures) who may read this blog, but most published adventures are soulless, transparent excuses for hack-and-slash gaming or introduce so many random elements just to add some perceived cool factor that I just can’t suspend disbelief. I feel like my character, regardless of the effort put into it, becomes a two-dimensional cutout in a world that feels like a sloppy, cut-corners theatre backdrop.

Fact: Keep on the Shadowfell was such a piece of garbage that I almost gave up on 4e before it was even released. The only reason I found the fun in 4e was because the core books came out relatively soon after that intro module and we started our own campaign.

So I say screw polish. Give me a scrap-paper session and campaign with soul.

#3 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On January 1, 2009 @ 10:20 pm

@Rafe – Your “facts” look an awful lot like “opinions”… ;)

And I think Martin was trying to say that GMs should stop trying to make the perfect the enemy of the good. Instead, accept that your imperfect campaign/system is good enough, and stop tweaking it.

But that’s just my opinion. :)

#4 Comment By Martin Ralya On January 1, 2009 @ 10:29 pm

@Rafe – Yep, Telas has the right of it. There was no masquerading involved: That article was meant to be annoying, thought provoking, mildly offensive — and tongue-in-cheek. ;)

Also, I state all of my opinions as facts because I am, in fact, right 100% of the time. About everything. No, really. Everything.

#5 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On January 2, 2009 @ 6:59 am

I’m sure your wife is completely in agreement with that sentiment, right Martin?

#6 Comment By Martin Ralya On January 2, 2009 @ 7:26 am

“Yes.” ;)

#7 Comment By Rafe On January 2, 2009 @ 10:33 am

@ Telas: Actually, my facts were facts. lol I honestly and truly have never played a fun or enjoyable published adventure. Thus, it’s a fact that I haven’t. Maybe I’ve just not found the right ones. I will admit that the ones published in Dungeon magazine (or is it Dragon? I think it’s Dungeon) look decent.

@ Martin: I figured from the comments (which I read before coming here) that it may have been a ‘get thinking’ article. That said, it sure did rile me, which I suppose was also partially the point. Get mad and post! ;-) As for the ‘get thinking’ aspect, it certainly did that. I like the unspoken assumption which Telas highlighted; viz., “go for the good, not the perfect.”

As always, great articles! I’ve been going through almost all the ones that have been posted in the “Best of…” series of posts. Maybe it’s because I’ve only been reading for 3 or 4 months, but it seems I’ve missed all of those their first time around.

#8 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On January 2, 2009 @ 11:38 am

@RAFE
Go back and read everything from the beginning. Even give stuff that doesn’t seem useful to you at first glance a quick skim. There’s a lot of really good stuff here and the longer you wait to guzzle down every refreshingly gnomy drop of it, the more you’ll have to wiz afterwards.

That’s actually general advice for everyone who reads Gnomestew. There’s so much awesome stuff here I’m really glad to be a part of it.

#9 Comment By Martin Ralya On January 2, 2009 @ 2:06 pm

@Rafe – Hell, I haven’t had a chance to read everything the gnomes have written, and I run the joint! ;) I’m glad you’re enjoying the back issues, Rafe.


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