Our annual Christmas break (12/24 to 1/3, back to normal posting on 1/4) is in full swing, so while we’re off shagging dwarves spending quality time with our favorite liquors families, we’re serving up the best of the nearly 300 articles we wrote in 2009.

Whether you’ve been reading the Stew since we launched in May 2008 or just discovered us yesterday, there is a LOT of GMing material here (I believe the correct term is “a metric shit-ton”). Eighteen months in, I’m still floored by how much the gang has written.

Like last year, we wanted to take the opportunity to shine a spotlight on some of our favorite articles — specifically, three from each gnome, for a total of 27. From today through the end of the year, you can look forward to five articles like this one, two articles from Patrick, and my usual State of the Stew summary.

Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, and a very happy New Year from us gnomes!

Scott Martin

1. Introductory Games for New Roleplayers: If you’re looking to try GMing for the first time, or if you’d like to encourage a friend, check this post out. While I have a bare bones checklist in the article, several great ideas were added in comments.

2. The Perfect GM?: Perfection’s hard to achieve, but if you break it into bite sized chunks, it’s amazing how close you can get. A great wander through solid articles — both by the gnomes and others.

3. Deep as a Puddle: Character Development with Tarot: This is the first specific technique of the Deep as a Puddle series. The article provides an easy way to develop NPCs (and PCs) a little more. I particularly liked the running example– the priest in the article changed my game, explaining why the interregnum had gone so poorly.

Troy Taylor

1. Oh darn! The NPC just rolled a 1: Do you fudge die rolls — even to the players’ benefit — for the sake of story? Do you have the entire campaign mapped out? All well and good. But maybe the best thing to do is let those dice rolls stand and go with the flow. There can be fun in failure too!

2. Transition sessions: Five tips for making the most of those gaming sessions that amount to mopping up missed rooms in the dungeon to wrapping up loose ends in the plot. And for the sake of argument, are these kind of tweener gaming get-togethers hard-wired into published adventures?

3. A Dragon on the Doorstep: Taking our cue from Steven Spielberg-styled horror, we take a look at why it’s scarier to let the PCs know up front what they’re facing. The shark in “Jaws” and the T-Rex in “Jurassic Park” are all the more horrific even though you know they’re coming. We take that lesson and apply it to rpgs.