Gnome Rodeos are the Stew’s periodic link roundups — articles packed with pointers to excellent GMing material we think you’ll enjoy.
We usually feature a few regulars plus our favorite discoveries from around the web, all with an eye to making your time behind the screen easier and more fun.
If you wrote or read something you’d like to see featured here, drop us a line. There’s some awesome stuff for GMs out there, and we love to share.
Roleplaying Tips: On-The-Fly GMing Tips is full of good suggestions, like having “adventure ingredients” on hand and giving the BBEG a plan. Also, advice on making equipment interesting through cultural markers and regional differences; I have a special place in my heart for this level of detail when it comes to gear. The previous issue offers up 9 Things Dragon Age Taught Me About Running a Better Game; if you like that, you might also enjoy my own 9 Lessons GMs Can Learn from World of Warcraft from a few years back.
Dungeon Mastering: Haunted House: 4 Tips To Terrify Your Players is quite good (especially this: take out the combat), and Learning from the DM to the Stars! — which is full of tips from Chris Perkins, D&D’s Story Manager — is fantastic.
Musings of the Chatty DM: Friday Chat: Zen and the Art of Dodging Dead Ends is fun: “When failure is not an option in a scene, don’t roll any dice” vs. “Failure should always be an option.” Also, in case you hadn’t heard, Chatty is considering a merger with Critical Hits, which sounds like an excellent idea.
Technically This Is Like Time Travel, Because I Sometimes Sit On Links for Awhile
The Why of Worldbuilding: Berin Kinsman (who launched Role Play Media Network last year) applies the “why technique” — keep asking “Why?” to force yourself to delve deeper into something — to worldbuilding. For example: “You meet in a tavern. Why? Why are these people in a tavern? Do they live nearby, and this is the local hangout? Is this where real adventurers hang out, and these wannabees are hoping to score some action? Why this tavern? Why not another one? Is this taven in a city, a village, a waypoint along a trade route?” It’s an excellent article.
Vignettes: A Role-Playing Tool: Lebkin’s take on using vignettes when designing adventures: “These small, relatively self-contained, set pieces. The idea is to create interest experiences that are not necessarily tied to a specific story progression. These are items floating within the balloon, ready to shape the path as needed.” Dovetails nicely with our own John Arcadian’s Island Design Theory.
Reverse geocache puzzle: Great concept and an excellent RPG idea: the mystery box only opens in a specific location. (Thanks, Kurt!)
Game Book Review: The Radical’s Handbook: If FFG’s new Dark Heresy RPG gives you a thundering boner, you’ll likely enjoy John W.S. Marvin’s take on the Radical’s Handbook.
Rewarding Roleplaying PDF: Available for free by signing up for Spes Magna’s mailing list, I’ve read this PDF and found it quite enjoyable. It reminds me of Burning Wheel’s Artha system, which is a very good thing. In a nutshell: RR creates a system-neutral mechanic whereby players set their own roleplaying goals, and are rewarded for meeting them during play.
Year of the Dungeon: This blog by the always-excellent Tony Dowler is simply the shit: tiny dungeons with clever, funny drawings, posted regularly for your enjoyment for the next several months (at least). Don’t miss Tony’s How to Host a Dungeon, either.
Making more dramatic scenes: This article recommends pretending you have a little GM inside your head asking you to describe what you’re doing while you play. Maybe don’t do this in public, but apart from that it’s a stellar idea; I personally am terrible at doing this kind of stuff as a player.
…and if you like bite-sized GMing tips and ideas, don’t miss Gnome Stew’s Twitter feed (@gnomestew).