We’ve enjoyed using our Gnome Stew Facebook group to share our upcoming article topics, but we know the majority of our readers don’t use FB — so we figured we’d try the same thing right here, too.

I polled the gnomes and asked everyone to write a quick blurb about what they’re slaving away at behind the scenes. (We write to avoid winding up in the stew pot, so naturally everyone was quick to oblige…)

Here’s what’s coming up on the Stew:

Johnny’s Five – Five Ways to Make Use Of A Hibachi Table to Game (John Arcadian)
Due to the economic downturn, a lot of restaurants around me have gone out of business. Checking around we found that a local hibachi restaurant went out of business and were selling off things. My group and I started talking about how awesome it would be to have a big horseshoe table like that for gaming. We called the restaurant and picked one up for 50 dollars, and converted the top into a great gridded battlemap. Here’s a picture of the table in action.

D&D Burgoo (4.0): All of our midden heaps are missing (Troy Taylor)
After seven seasons of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” the most burning question of hard-core fandom was this: Where were the bathrooms on the USS Enterprise? Never saw them. Has this little problem been eliminated in the far future? Better yet, Fourth Edition seems to have disposed of it too. The delve encounter format doesn’t seem to accommodate any commodes. I guess magic flushed it all away. My only question is this: It is an at-will, daily or encounter power that makes all the poo go poof?

Engineering a World (Scott Martin)
While many game worlds have rules for chopping through objects, how much do you have to chop out before a roof beam fails? Will it slowly sag, or break explosively? Read on for a quick look at simple engineering formulas to add verisimilitude to your world. (See the appendix for estimated design values of fantasy and sci-fi materials.)

Education and Gaming: Teaching My Three Year Old To GM (Patrick Benson)
My son may only be three years old, but I already have him running simple games behind the GM’s screen. My wife objected to the idea because my son cannot read yet, but I told her “Honey, Harvard only accepts first place and daddy won’t accept second.” Daily six hour sessions and 3 months later, my son is beginning to show real promise as a GM, and so can your child if you follow this simple routine. (Photos of my son GMing can be found here.)

Why D&D 4e is just like OD&D (DNAphil)
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Thanks to the recent discovery of a draft of an unpublished OD&D supplement, it has been found that D&D 4e is far more like OD&D than not. Grognards rejoice, as I show you, through this lost supplement, how OD&D created the dragonborn, power cards, and skill challenges. So, put away your Moldvay edition of D&D and buy some 4e core books, because the New School is the Old School.

The Return of Gleemax (Kurt “Telas” Schneider)
You may remember Gleemax as the thankfully short-lived attempt at a “gamer social networking site.” You might even remember that it ugly, useless, annoying, frustrating, and poorly designed. But you probably don’t know that WotC has completely retooled the site. I got a preview, including three screenshots, and let me tell you this: it still ain’t pretty.

The Importance Of Strictly Following The Rules As Laid Out In The Book (John Arcadian)
Some games are made to work only within the context of the rules. When the improv and mod-minded GM is faced with this kind of situation, it changes the very dynamic of the game. Sometimes, you just have to go with what the book says.

Hot Button: Date Night or Game Night? (Walt Ciechanowski)
Yes, Virginia, some of us gamers actually do have social lives beyond gathering in our parents’ basement for some dice-rolling fun. Those of us with significant others, especially when our SO is a non-gamer, have to wrestle with the question of what to do when our SO wants to go out on (gasp!) game night! Do we fall for the obvious ploy of our needy SOs wanting us to prove that they mean more to us than our favorite hobby, or do we stick to our guns and continue to do what we truly enjoy? While one might expect that a good SO would understand our need for game night, this question pops up amongst gamers with SOs more often than you’d expect…

D&D 4th Edition: Most Roleplaying-Intensive System Ever? (Martin Ralya)
4e gets slammed for not facilitating roleplaying through its mechanics, but those criticisms are actually way off base. From simple ways to turn the skill system into a Burning Wheel-style engine for social conflicts to using alignment as the driver for multi-page PC backstories, I’ll lay out all the elements of 4e that make it the go-to choice for intense roleplaying sessions.

Gnomebody knows you better… (Scott Martin)
Bring your love of karaoke to the game table, with these great tips for enhancing roleplay with singing. All of the techniques benefit bards, but check out these six feats that allow anyone at the table to sing their way to a critical hit!

Johhny’s Five – Five Things Family Guy Can Teach You About Gaming (John Arcadian)
Over the last few weeks, I discovered Hulu, and through it caught up on a lot of Family Guy. Here are some key moments from the show that can illuminate some concepts of gaming. A lot of these are pulled from the Star Trek reunion episode — I’m looking at you, Hwil Hweaton.

How to use your game to steal your players’ girlfriends (Matthew Neagley)
I think it’s safe to say we’ve all been in this situation: your player has a smoking hot new girlfriend (cough cough cute goth chick cough cough) and has finally invited her to game with the group. This collection of tips will have her dumping that loser and hooking up with you in three sessions or less, guaranteed!

How To Get Product Placement Into Your Personal Games (John Arcadian)
No, this isn’t about getting WotC to sponsor your game, but that can happen. It’s about making shopkeepers and manufacturing seem real and viable in your games. Easy to do in modern settings (when everyone’s favorite gun is a sthrol plas gun), but harder to do in fantasy settings.

Using a PBEM game to convert angsty teen wiccans to Christianity (Matthew Neagley)
Who’s to say which religion is right? You are. You’re the GM after all, you’re right about everything! This article is Chick Tract approved to save the souls of any whiney emo you feel like harassing. (And yes, this will be a Hot Button article.)

GMing While Driving: How To Keep It Legal (Patrick Benson)
We have all been there. You are driving your group to a gaming convention several hours away and they want you to GM at the same time. At first you might be tempted to say “No, that would be dangerous.” but not so fast! By forgoing your GM’s screen (a big no-no when behind the wheel) and by using the digital tuner on you radio instead of dice (you will need to use AM stations) you can GM safely from the driver’s seat and still make great time!

Liberal application of the nerfbat — It works for WoW, why not your game? (Matthew Neagley)
Your players’ characters are way too powerful. This article details 32 simple ways to take away all their hard-earned competence and show them who’s running this game. Remember, NO ONE is more powerful than the GM.

BJs for XP: The Best Way to Level Up — One Gamer’s Story (Martin Ralya)
I get email from Gnome Stew readers from time to time, and I nearly dismissed this one as spam. But I decided to email this reader back, and I’m glad I did — in 20 years of GMing, I’ve never heard a story like this. Here’s a highlight: “This was an old-school campaign, so the modules were deadly — save-or-die, all that stuff. Every time I needed an edge, I’d arrive a few minutes early and suck the GM off.”

What your randomizer says about you (Scott Martin)
Many people think they roll a d20 because that’s what the rules call for, but their choice of die says a lot about their personality. Read this guide for the secret correspondences between die size, color, and personality. Special bonus: Non-dice randomizers. Find out what it means when you use a roulette wheel, beads, playing cards, or a tarot deck.

Gaming Gets You Laid (Kurt “Telas” Schneider)
The latest research from the Kinsey Institute indicated that sex and gaming share much more than the terms “role-play” and “fantasy.” Not only does it turn out that gamers make much better lovers than the general population (a fact that we always suspected), but most gamers are only missing this simple pick-up technique (for either gender) to never have to spend another night alone.

Tell the story you want (Scott Martin)
This article has six simple tricks that will have the players thinking they are making meaningful decisions. Using traditional story telling forms, you can ensure players experience the adventure the way you imagined it. Cuts down prep time dramatically — and it allows you to pre-script NPC speeches in advance.

Troy’s Crock Pot: Give yer players a jolt (Troy Taylor)
You may be surprised to know how many common household items conduct electricity. Don’t be afraid to put that knowledge to good use. Next time it appears your players are distracted by their cell-phones, PDAs, Magic cards or the plain ol’ TV, put the nearest electrical socket into play and get your players’ attention with about 125 volts of electricity. Beats brewing up a fresh pot of coffee every time.

14 Reasons Why I’m a Better GM Than You’ll Ever Be (Martin Ralya)
It’s not that I’ve never run a bad game — I have, but it was 20 years ago when I first started out. Since then, I’ve only met one or two GMs who are better than me. I waffled about writing this article — I don’t like to brag — but then realized that I wasn’t bragging, I was just sharing what I’ve learned in the hopes that it would help you be a better GM. And at the end of the day, that’s what the Stew is all about.

Troy’s Crock Pot: Bring Gen Con back to your players (Troy Taylor)
Gen Con — an event that like no other brings together so many unwashed gamers and smashes them together into that petri dish that is the Indiana Convention Center. What comes of this percolator of germicidal madness? The Crud. So don’t hesitate to share the best door-prize of the convention with your players. Schedule a game immediately after returning from Indianapolis and play in a broom closet and be sure to cough and sneeze all over your friends. That way they can experience convention through you.

Your character’s kink (Scott Martin)
Player characters don’t fit in in the village — they wander outside the bounds of society. If you character doesn’t share traditional life, why should they have traditional sex? A look into the exciting roleplaying opportunity of character fetishes, bestiality, necrophilia, and genital mutations and mutilations.

Troy’s Crock Pot: Expand the horizons of problem players (Troy Taylor)
The GM’s job is to help problem players shed bad habits and embrace roleplaying in the same cooperative spirit as the others at the table. Sometimes a change of scenery is required to make that point crystal clear. I suggest sending your problem player on a LARP encounter to a busy city intersection and see if the pieces fall into place.

Gamers vs. Stoners (Kurt “Telas” Schneider)
Recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the landmark survey “A Study of the Relative Underachievement Quotients of Chronic Marijuana Users vs. Role Playing Gamers” is of tremendous interest to us all (some of us for more than one reason). The research did reinforce a few stereotypes, but also came to some surprising conclusions. I’ll tackle the stereotypes and the methodology in a future article.

So how about it — was this a useful feature? Should we do previews like this regularly (every month or so, maybe)?