I looked up at our little counter this morning and saw that as of February 9th, Gnome Stew had published 599 articles.

We’re all eyeballs-deep in our secret project right now, and I think I’ve cracked the whip over my fellow gnomes’ backs enough over the last few months, so I thought I’d give them a break and make #600 a short article asking a simple, reflective question:

What has changed in your gaming life since Gnome Stew’s very first article, which went up on May 12, 2008?

I’ll start.

Uno: My group lost a player due to a move, but after a few months he moved back. He owns all the D&D miniatures, so I made a healthy investment in rebuilding our stockpile like the day before he announced his return. Bastard. (I kid — he’s a great friend, and it’s fantastic to have him back.)

We did player interviews while he was gone, and this time around they didn’t work out. Even so, I stand behind the interview method I’ve used for years, and the best tool in any player-hunter’s arsenal: NearbyGamers.

Dos: I also ran the most successful game in my 20+ years as a GM, inspired in large part by what I’ve learned from writing articles on Treasure Tables and the Stew, and reading and learning from our readers.

If you’re curious how this game went down, you can read about it in three loosely connected articles here: So You Want to GM a Roleplaying-Intensive Game, Part 1, Ending a Campaign: Taking My Own Advice, and With a Bang: Ending a Campaign on Purpose (for the first time in 20 years).

Trois: Somehow, organically (though again the Stew played a role), I’ve learned a lot more about my gaming tastes in general. I wish I could pin this down and share a few links in the process, but it’s a fuzzy target.

All I know is that a combination of writing about gaming, doing plenty of it on both sides of the screen, having a baby (which focuses your attention on the most important things you can do in your dramatically reduced free time!), and possibly some kind of adult-like growth, I relax and have more fun playing games — or writhe in agony when I play something that I now see clearly a festering pile of shit (hello, GenCon 2009!).

Fore!: Because I’m a ginormous cocktease, I’ll throw in a fourth item for good measure: Working on Gnome Stew’s secret project — which is now nearing completion — has been an amazing experience for me as a gamer. It’s a lot like when I got my first freelance job back in 2004: it’s changed my relationship with gaming. We can’t wait to share this one with you!

Those are my big four. How about you?