Author: Patrick Benson

About The Author

Patrick was born in 1975, and is more or less your typical American male for someone of his age. Except he is a tabletop RPG gamer and a damn fine game master! What else matters?


My Final Five #5: There Are No Endings

This is my fifth article in my final five series. That means that it is also my last article for Gnome Stews. I have chosen this comment by reader Janus as the inspiration for my final article: Goodbyes are always sad, but i think everyone wishes you well for the future. (me too!) Also you may find a spark to ignite a flame for something new.  Since the topic is right, what about a article about endings? Ending a campaign, adventure or the parting of a character. (maybe player too?) How to make it memorably for everyone involved and to...

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My Final Five #4: How RPGs Influence My Life

This is the fourth article in my final five series for Gnome Stews, and I have chosen this comment by reader jpmg90 as the inspiration for today’s article: I think that an article about how rpg’s have impacted your life would be good as well. In my short 22 years, it basically determined my living and financial situation in college as well as my current friends and my gaming group. Many things in my life would have been different without Tabletop RPGs and just thinking about that puts a smile on my face I agree that RPGs have had an...

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My Final Five: #3 Skill Domains & Boundaries

This is the third article in my final five series for Gnome Stews, and I have chosen this comment from reader LordTentacle as the inspiration for today’s article: “Skill expansion” — when players’ lack certain skills, I tend to let them use skills in a generalist way. “Sure, you can roll survival to track.” When there are specialists, I like to let them do it. “Sure, ranger, you can roll tracking.” It helps everyone have the spotlight. But, the characters that played in the group before the ranger joined want to roll survival. And I said no. Needless to...

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My Final Five #2: On the Fly Plots for Narrators!

This is the second article in my final five series for Gnome Stews, and I have chosen this comment from reader Iomythica as the inspiration for today’s article: Sorry to see you go Patrick. You will be missed. I always found your methods of GMing interesting, and particularly well suited to narrative heavy games. I would like to see an article on “the top five things that make a great narrative style GM”. I would also love to see a final article on improvisational plotting. I know improv is one of those oft feared things by many GMs (myself...

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My Final Five: #1 Keep ‘Em On Schedule

For the first of my final five articles, I decided to go with the very first comment which is from reader Leon Morrison: How about an article with tips on making what I call “busy worlds”? Meaning bringing your weird fantasy land to life by giving its denizens something to do rather than just hang about? Kind of like the world of Spirited Away vs. the emptiness of Asgard in Thor (the movie). I ran a game once where the PCs went to the fae realm and they basically went from the “forest with weird plants and animals” to...

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My Final Five: What Articles Should I Write?

I have decided to stop writing for Gnome Stews, and this time the decision is permanent. This time though I want to end things differently, by asking for your input as to what my final articles should be. Why Stop Writing for the Site? I set some goals for myself in regards to my contributions to Gnome Stews, and I have managed to accomplish them all. Combine these personal goals with the amazing accomplishments of the Gnome Stews team and I am very proud of the results. But now I no longer have the same amount of passion for...

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Deities: Unapproachable or Not?

Many fantasy games include pantheons of deities. Gods of mythical origins and ultimate power. These entities can shape worlds and sculpt reality to their very whims. I have friends who treat the deities in their games as infallible beings. What a deity wants or desires cannot be questioned or challenged, and the mere mortal PCs must comply with a deity’s desires. The only way to avoid destruction for disobeying a deity’s wishes is to gain the favor of another deity to protect the PCs. In other words, the PC can oppose the will of an evil deity if the...

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PC Gear–Destroyed or Damaged?

Imagine that you are playing King Arthur as a PC in an RPG. You wield the mighty Excalibur – not just a sword but a defining part of the legend surrounding your character! While wielding the blade that identifies your PC as the one true king you are struck by a powerful spell. “Roll a saving throw for your items” says the GM. You roll for your crown. It is safe! You roll for your coconut shells carried to the British Isles by a pair of European swallows (you have to know these things when you are king). They...

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Using Disinformation for Plot Development

Disinformation is a fancy term for lying via a network for the purpose of achieving some form of gain. Need an example? Just look to the recent U.S. election campaigns and you will be sure to find plenty of them. In the real world disinformation sucks, but in the gameworld it is merely an annoyance. Just follow this simple formula to introduce disinformation to the PCs in your game, and to have it develop from there into a nice plot point. First Step: Disinform the PCs. The general details will be up to you and should be influenced by...

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Hacking Dread–Fixing What Is Not Broken

Every year my local game shop hosts a Halloween party. Part of the tradition of costumes, good food, and gaming is that I run a game of Dread for whoever wishes to play. Each year this game of Dread has a full table, and it always turns into a sort of spectator sport for non-players who follow the story as it unfolds. There has just been one significant problem with this game of Dread: Character creation takes too long for people to focus on while in the middle of a party. Dread requires that each player complete a questionnaire...

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Want to Become a Better Gamemaster? Become a Toastmaster!

As a GM you present, entertain, and lead others. Your role includes management of data and people as you track stats and determine who has the spotlight next. You describe various scenes in order to promote interest and inspire others to take action. These are the skills that if you practice them regularly will take your games from average to amazing. What if you could have access to an organization that teaches these very same skills and lets you practice them on a regular basis? Great News! You Already Do! This organization is called Toastmasters International and it was founded...

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The Orbital Path Method of Plot Design

Plots for RPGs are tricky beasts to deal with. Too strict and the game is nothing more than a GM’s railroad. Too loose and there is no cohesion to the story for it to feel like it matters. The ideal plot has structure, but unlike the plot of a novel a game’s plot also adapts to the player’s choices. At the same time these plots need to accommodate the GM’s desire to share his or her game world with the players. Lately I have been trying to address all of these points by using what I call the “Orbital...

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Sometimes the Well Runs Dry…

Recently I had a game to prep for and I was mentally bankrupt. I had no good ideas whatsoever. Every concept that I came up with seemed tired and mediocre. Nothing clicked for me. I thought about just foregoing my prep work and improvising the entire session, but I am making a serious effort to no longer rely on improvising as a GM. If a game goes over the edge and I have to rely on an improvised plot or encounter that is fine. I just do not want to show up with an empty notebook for my games...

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Forget the Game

I struggle with today. I am sure that I am not the only person who does so. I cannot bring myself to offer any GMing advice to you today. It just seems so trivial to me in comparison to what today means to me. My apologies in advance if you are disappointed by today’s article because of this. Instead please allow me to be so bold as to share some advice for your life in general today: If you and your friends are getting upset with each other over some aspect of the game, well then just forget the...

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Use the PCs’ Actions to Tell a Great Story

I am back from another great Gen Con, and I wanted to share with everyone one of the highlights for me this year. No, I am not going to talk about the ENnies (although that was super cool). I was in Sean Patrick Fannon’s “Savage Saturday Night” game again this year. I very much enjoy his Shaintar setting for Savage Worlds, he enjoys my ridiculous characters, and it has become a bit of tradition now that if he is running a Shaintar game that I show up and play in it. I am not the only gnome who has...

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