We’re on our annual Christmas break (12/27-12/31, returning 1/3/11), a week of non-stop drinking and putting our stock of powdered-dwarf-penis aphrodisiacs to good use family time and anime hairdressing holiday merriment, but we never like to let the stew stop bubbling entirely.

As in past years, we’ll be featuring six articles from the 2010 archives every day this week, with each gnome picking three favorites that they wrote. If you’re new to the Stew, or if you don’t pop in every day, this is a great way to catch up on the past year’s highlights.

Merry Christmas and happy Kick a Kobold in the Junk Day New Year from all of us at Gnome Stew!

John Arcadian

1. Challenge =/= Fun: One of my favorite articles to write was about an adventure that I had nothing to do with. Listening to my friends talk about the adventure they totally decimated with ease really enforced my belief that what is happening in the players’ minds and in the “game” is more important than what is happening in the mechanical game. Plus, I totally want to spread the word hovervan into the roleplaying vernacular as a term for surpassing challenges with ease.

2. Players build their characters’ classes, skills, and special powers based on what they want to do in the game: Sometimes, when I write and article I feel like I’m rehashing things every Game Master already knows. But sometimes we need to refresh ourselves on the very basics to reinforce our fundamental understanding of the games we play and the stories we interactively tell.

3. “10 Good Hits” An Alternate Hit Point System to Control Combat Pacing And Drama: I’m a fan of tweaking games. I enjoy taking the way we do things in a given game and modifying them just enough that they fit my group’s mentality better. This is one of those systems that I am really proud of. It’s not that unique, but it modifies some combats to make it fit a story purpose and control the pacing.

Martin Ralya

1. Use PC Backgrounds as a Roadmap for Campaign Design: This concept, which was first used by the Stew’s own Don Mappin and which has now become one of my all-time favorite campaign tools, rocks on toast. It works, it’s fun as a GM, and it’s fun as a player. Try it!

2. Going Digital: Using Obsidian Portal to Prep for, Run, and Document a Campaign: I’ve changed my approach to GMing more in 2010 than in any other year I can remember, and on top of using PC backgrounds as a roadmap, going digital has been one of the biggest shifts. Five sessions into my Star Trek campaign, I love it even more than when I first started out — it’s a huge paradigm shift for me, and it makes GMing mesh better with my hectic life.

3. The Benefits of Episodic Gameplay: The third big change for me this year has been running an episodic, as opposed to serial, game for the first time. It’s been a blast, and there are a ton of advantages to this approach that really pay off during prep and at the gaming table.