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Top 30 Game Mastering Articles




Top 30 Game Mastering Articles

Welcome to Gnome Stew! If you’re new here, this page will give you great introduction to what we’re all about: making your time as a GM easier and more fun.
With more than 600 articles in our archives, we thought we’d highlight the cream of the crop — the best game mastering advice, tips, ideas, tricks, and discussion on Gnome Stew, all in one spot.
If you like what you see here, we hope you’ll subscribe to receive our articles for free via RSS or email (more than 3,100 readers already do), join over 1,700 members and register for a free account, or build a creepy shrine to Gnome Stew in your basement just come back every day to read our articles.
I check Gnome Stew every day.” — Monte Cook
fantastic blog for game masters, dungeon masters, and rpg fans” — Wil Wheaton (read more testimonials)

GMing Tricks and Tips

Island Design Theory, by John Arcadian
Have you ever prepped a ton of adventure material only to have your players ignore all of it? This flexible approach to plotting prevents that problem — and your players will love it.
Restate the Obvious, by Kurt ‘Telas’ Schneider
What seems obvious to you, the GM, may not always be obvious to your players. This tip is incredibly simple, but has the power to completely change the course of your next session — try it and see.
Player Characters: Emerging Complexity is A-OK, by Martin Ralya
You don’t need to force 10-page PC backstories out of your players. Instead, let their characters evolve organically during play — it can be less work and more fun, and everyone wins.
I Love My Tiny Notebook, by Matthew J. Neagley
You carry a tiny notebook, right? If you don’t, you’re missing out on one of the most essential GMing tools ever created — yours for $0.99 at the office supply store.
D&D Burgoo (3.5): Don’tcha got a job, or something?, by Troy E. Taylor
For fantasy PCs, answering the question “What did you do before you started adventuring?” is one of the simplest tricks for building a compelling character backstory. Try it with your players.

Game Mastering Techniques

Introductory Games for New Roleplayers, by Scott Martin
When you GM a game for first-time roleplayers, there are some special considerations to take into account. It’s all laid out in this informative article, from simplified character sheets to scenario structure.
Lessons From the Long Campaign: Never Write the Ending, by DNAphil
If you’re running an extended campaign, leaving individual scenes open-ended will make for a richer, more player-driven experience. Campaign structure tips galore.
Preparing to Improvise, by Patrick Benson
The best improvisation happens when you’ve laid the foundation for successfully winging it in advance. Minimize your prep and maximize your fun at the gaming table with these techniques.
Short Sessions, by Walt Ciechanowski
There’s an art to running a fun short gaming session, and it’s not just about doing everything faster. From game system choice to goals and rules, here are lots of tips for doing it well.

Campaigns and Adventures

You Think You Know a Genre…, by Matthew J. Neagley
What happens when you cross the Smurfs with zombies? The true origins of the survival horror genre, and tips for running bizarre and memorable games.
Why You Can’t Always Go Home Again, by DNAphil
Returning to a much-loved gaming system from your past can be a bittersweet experience. Here are the hallmarks of a one-campaign RPG, and how to make the most of them.
From Con to Con: The Journey Ends, by Walt Ciechanowski
Planning on GMing an event at a gaming convention? These 13 tips from the trenches at GenCon will help you and your players have more fun with less stress.

The Craft and Art of Game Mastering

5 Mistakes of the New GM, by Patrick Benson
New to game mastering? You’re bound to make mistakes, just like all GMs. Here are five mistakes we all made when we started out — and how to avoid making them yourself.
First-Time GMing — Doing a Job You Don’t Know How to Do, by John Arcadian
GMing for the first time can be pretty intimidating: you feel like your entire group’s fun depends on your actions, and the pressure is on. Fortunately, we’re here to help.
Beware the Retcon, by Kurt ‘Telas’ Schneider
Two practical reasons why retconning — “rewinding” time in your game to fix a mistake — is always, always, always a bad idea. Yes, even just this one time.


Planning and Analysis Paralysis, by Scott Martin
Building on two examples from actual play, here are the factors that contribute to analysis paralysis — aka wasting game time by talking in circles — and advice for keeping it from happening in your group.
Player Narrative, by John Arcadian
Knowing how and when to share narrative control — which you’re already doing in every game you run, consciously or not — can get everyone at the table more involved in the game.
Troy’s Crock Pot: A Little Thing Called the TPK, by Troy E. Taylor
At some point in your GMing career, you’ll preside over a total party kill — a TPK. And despite surges and beefed-up hit points for lowbies, it can happen in D&D 4th Edition.

Touchy Subjects

The Concept of a Star Wars RPG Should Die In a Fire, by Matthew J. Neagley
Why is it that the people least suitable to run Star Wars games are often the ones you find behind the GM’s screen? A painful truism that ignited one hell of a comment thread.
You Should Quit GMing Right Now, by Martin Ralya
The title says it all: You really should, in fact, just quit GMing right now. Ixnay on the amegay asteringmay. Cold turkey. Kaput. Done. Seriously — what are you still doing here?
Hot Button: Whose Character Is It Anyway?, by Walt Ciechanowski
Who has creative control over the player characters’ backstories? Can you, the GM, add elements to them — or are they sacrosanct? Welcome to the world of hot button articles, and the discussions they spark.

Running the Game

Sometimes to Run a Fun Game You Need to Ignore the Game, by Patrick Benson
It might sound zen, but it’s also quite practical: At the end of the day, we run games so we can have fun with our friends — and if that means ignoring the rules to do what’s best for the group, do it and don’t look back.
Troy’s Crock Pot: Oh Darn! The NPC just rolled a 1, by Troy E. Taylor
The funny thing about dice is that they sometimes do exactly what you don’t expect. If an NPC fails a major roll, don’t automatically fudge it — instead, see where that opportunity takes you.
Compensating for Failure, by Scott Martin
In-game failures can be planned for, mitigated with improvisation, and, on occasion, a whole lot of fun. Thinking about the meta aspects of failure can improve your game.
Spicing Up Combat, by Adam Nave
By considering focal points — the most interesting aspects of a battle — and focusing on vivid descriptions, your combats will go from humdrum to fantastic. Simple techniques, solid results.

Social Issues

Don’t Fall For These RPG Arguments, by DNAphil
If you’ve GMed more than once or twice, you’ve heard these arguments. They derail games and reduce GMs to quivering blobs of jelly — but you can head them off at the pass.
Laying the Ground Rules, by Kurt ‘Telas’ Schneider
The foundation of a good social contract for gaming groups is built on establishing the basics and avoiding problems down the road — this article will show you how to do both.

Game Mastering Tools

12 Ways to Use Google Apps at the Game Table, by Adam Nave
Google’s free applications are a great way to organize, manage, and stay on top of your campaign — especially when you use several of them for the same game.
Gnomenclature: A Diminutive RPG Glossary
That title is a lie: There’s nothing diminutive about this glossary — it’s one of the largest on the web. If a gaming term is used by more than a handful of people, it’s probably here.
Review: The Ultimate Dice Bag, by Martin Ralya
The search for the best dice bag ever made is over. No, really — this bag is gorgeous, well-made, durable, and packed with features (and the right price, too). It earns the label “ultimate.”

Where To Next?

If you made it all the way down here, chances are you’ll enjoy reading our other articles, too. Why not subscribe via RSS or email or sign up for an account?
You can also dive into the archives or browse your favorite author’s articles using the drop-down menus up top, or search for articles on a specific topic — there’s a lot here to explore.
And if you have an idea for an article on a topic we’ve never covered, we’d love to hear about it in the Suggestion Pot.

Let's Play: The Temple of Elemental Evil

Aquí está la Lista de Reproducción cuyos vídeos iré publicando en el blog. ¡A disfrutar!


¿Qué es "The Temple Of Elemental Evil"? (From Wikipedia)

The Temple of Elemental Evil is a 2003 role-playing video game by now-defunct Troika Games. It is a re-creation of the classic Dungeons & Dragons adventure of the same name using the 3.5 edition rules. This is the only video game to take place in the Greyhawk campaign setting and the first video game to implement the 3.5 edition rule set.[3] The game was published by Atari, who then held the interactive rights of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise.[4] The Temple of Elemental Evil was released in autumn of 2003.
The release was criticized for stability issues and other bugs.[5] The turn-based tactical combat, however, was generally thought to be implemented well, and is arguably the most faithful representation of the then-current tabletop role-playing game ("3.5e") rules in a video game. This game still has a very active fanbase, with many improvements and bugfixes added.[6]


Thirteen years before the start of the game, Hommlet was a peaceful town. Due to low taxes and safe roads, the area became prosperous, and the village flourished. This prosperity drew the attention of evil forces, who began slowly trickling into the area. It is not known where these forces came from, but the Dyvers of Nyr Dyv and the inhabitants of the forestlands of the Wild Coast were the chief suspects. As the presence of bandits, kobolds, and goblins increased, a local militia led by Waldgraf of Ostverk was raised to defend Hommlet. This only served to check the evil forces, however.
Six miles from Hommlet, a group of hovels formed a center for the evil activity. The locals ignored this threat since it was in the marshes, and Nulb began growing. A small chapel built to an evil god grew into a stone structure as the evil forces pillaged and robbed the lands around Hommlet. For three years the Temple of Elemental Evil served as a center for the swarms of vile creatures who plagued Hommlet. As the evil grew in power, the land around the Temple suffered from pestilence, famine, and a lack of commerce.
The leaders of the Temple grew too power-hungry, and they were defeated in open combat after challenging the kingdoms of the north. The evil forces were slaughtered, and their mighty Temple was destroyed and sealed with magic and blessings. In the years that followed, Hommlet became a destination for adventurers, who brought wealth to the city and returned the area to its peaceful origins. Eventually, adventurers stopped coming, and the village went back to life as usual. A year before the start of the game, however, bandits once again began trickling into the region, and the villagers appealed to the Lord the Viscount of Verbobonc for aid. He responded by providing funds for Burne and Rufus, two well-known adventurers from the area, to build a keep just outside of Hommlet.[7]


The game begins with an opening vignette that is determined by the alignment of the party. All of these require the player to start in the town of Hommlet. After arriving in town and completing minor quests for the townsfolk, the player is directed to the moathouse, a small, fortified outpost to the east. The moathouse is home to bandits, and the player is asked to clear them out. However, in the dungeons of the moathouse, the player encounters a large force of bugbears led by an ogre named Lubash and a priest of the Temple of Elemental Evil, Lareth the Beautiful.
After defeating Lareth, the player can then go to either the Temple itself, or to Nulb, a town in the swamplands nearby. If the player goes to Nulb, many of the citizens will talk of the Temple. Spies for the Temple are living in the town, and the player can gain passage into the heart of the Temple by pretending to be interested in joining.
The Temple is divided into four factions: Earth, Air, Water, and Fire Temples. Each Temple is at war with the other three in a perpetual struggle for supremacy. The player is asked by all four to provide assistance, and can gain access to Hedrak, the leader of the Temple of Elemental Evil, by performing quests for the sub-Temples. Most of the sub-Temples require the player to kill a leader of an opposing Temple to gain access to Hedrak.
Upon meeting Hedrak, the player has two options: kill him, or accept his quest. If the player accepts the quest, which is to kill Scoorp the Hill giant, Hedrak will make the player a part of the Temple of Elemental Evil, thus ending the game. If the player kills Hedrak, the way to four nodes of elemental power will be available. Inside each of these nodes is a gem. These gems can be inserted into the Orb of Golden Death, which is hidden inside the Temple, to form a powerful artifact.
Deep inside the Temple, the player must then deal with Zuggtmoy, the Demoness Lady of fungi. The player can, based on choices made, fight Zuggtmoy, fight a weaker version of Zuggtmoy, or avoid a fight altogether. This can lead to one of three endings if the player succeeds: Zuggtmoy is banished for 66 years, Zuggtmoy is destroyed permanently, or Zuggtmoy lives on, but the player is well rewarded.


A radial menu is used for choosing a character's actions.
The game focuses on a party of up to five player-controlled characters. These characters can be created by the player or can be one of the pre-made characters that come with the game. All, however, must be within one step of a party alignment. Any player-made characters are created in a 13-step process; there is, however, an option to let the game deal with most aspects of character creation for the player.[8] At any time, the party can have up to three NPC followers, and all player characters can have a familiar and/or animal companion as allowed by class.
All characters have a screen that shows information pertaining to them. Five tabs—inventory, skills, feats, spells, and abilities—allow the player to manage equipment, change spell configurations, and compare character attributes. This screen also appears when the party is bartering with an NPC or looting a body, but clicking out of the inventory tab will eject the player from the interaction. Additionally, small portraits of the characters appear on the bottom of the screen, along with a small red bar showing remaining health and icons depicting any status conditions, such as level drain, blessings, or paralysis.
The characters are controlled via radial menus. After selecting a character, the player right clicks to open a circular menu. From there, hovering over wedges brings out more options, such as specific spells, actions, or inventory items. The main radial menu, which encircles a picture of the character selected, has up to six sections, the number being based on class abilities. Specific actions are color-coded based on the type of action they are.
Targeting a spell that has a circular area of effect.
Characters can use their skills throughout the game by selecting them on the radial menu. If a player wanted to pick another character's pocket, he or she would select a character with the Sleight of Hand skill, left-click on the skill from the radial menu, and left click on the victim. Dialog skills, such as Intimidate and Gather Information, appear as options in dialog with an icon denoting the skill being used. Skills are increased every level at a rate derived from the character's class and Intelligence.
The yellow circle indicates the reach of the demon's attacks.
Combat is turn-based, with characters going individually based on their initiative. Each character can make five types of actions: free, no, full-round, move, and standard. Characters can take a move action and a standard action each turn. Full-round actions count as a use of both actions. Free actions take a negligible amount of time to perform, so they count as neither actions. No actions also count for neither actions, but they require special circumstances in order to be performed. Characters can choose special attacks to perform or spells to cast, and they can also choose to attack or cast in specific ways. Defensive casting and fighting, dealing non-lethal damage, tripping an opponent, and coup de graces are examples of particular actions in combat. Characters have a set yet semi-random number of hit points based on their level, class, and Constitution score. Upon being reduced to zero hit points, a character is staggered, and a full round action will cost him or her one hit point. A creature with hit points between -1 and -9 is unconscious, and loses one hit point a round. The character has a 10% chance of stabilizing, which will stop the loss of hit points but will keep the character unconscious. Other characters can stop this loss of life through a successful heal check. If a character or creature reaches -10 hit points, it dies.

Differences with 3.5

Although most of the main rules from 3.5 edition of Dungeons and Dragons are implemented, there are several exceptions. Some of them, such as applying a bonus to AC from the Dodge feat, are simplified to streamline play. Others, such as not letting prone characters attack, are implemented to reduce the amount of required animations. The structure of the engine is also utilized, allowing encumbered characters to move at 3/4 their maximum rate, even if the resulting speed is not a whole number. Certain abilities, including Barbarian Rage, are modified to better flow with the game. A hybridization of some rules also occurred; the spell Doom is modified to reflect the first printing of the Player's Handbook, and weapon sizes are a blend of 3 and 3.5 editions.[9] The game also has two difficulty levels, Normal and Ironman, with the latter intended to more closely mimic the paper-and-pencil game.[10]


The Temple of Elemental Evil was intended as re-creation of the classic Dungeons & Dragons adventure of the same name. Publisher was Atari, who then held the interactive rights of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise.[4] The developer was Troika Games who should develop the game in two years, but effectively Troika finished the game after twenty month work.[11] The development started on February 1, 2002 with a development team of 14 people. The game was first announced on January 9, 2003 under the title Greyhawk: The Temple of Elemental Evil.[12] Originally designed with the Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 edition rule set in mind, this was changed in-development to the 3.5 edition rule set. For the required adaptions Atari gave Troika additional two month development time until August 1, but completion was delayed until August 30.[13] The game went gold on September 4, 2003, 19 days before it was originally intended to be shipped.[14]
As the release version of the game had many bugs,[5] Troika released successively three patches which addressed some of the problems. After the closure of the developer and the end of the official support the game community took up the patching efforts with community-made patches.[6]
The game was re-released by the digital distributor gog.com on October 13, 2010.[15]


[hide]The Temple of Elemental Evil
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 71%[16]
Metacritic 71/100[5]
Review scores
Publication Score
GameSpot 7.9/10[3]
IGN 7.5/10[17]
PC Gamer US 79%[18]
The Temple of Elemental Evil was mostly well received by critics. PC Gamer gave the game a 79%, saying "Greyhawk is a game by D&D fans and for D&D fans, and it provides all RPG fans with the opportunity to experience one of the genre’s classic adventures."[18] GameSpot echoed those sentiments; it gave the game a 7.9 out of 10, calling the game "one of the most authentic PC Dungeons & Dragons experiences of the past few years."[3] A Gamespy reviewer gave the game four out of five stars, but he made note of a lack of multiplayer options.[1] IGN gave it a 7.5, saying "ToEE isn't perfect, but it's certainly not a stinker."[17] GameZone gave an 8.4 out of 10, saying it "is a game that those who are serious about D&D-based RPGs should have in their library."[19] John Breeden II of the Washington Post complimented the game's graphics, particularly the animated scenery, and also said that "[m]onsters appear suitably gruesome".[8]
According to GameSpy, "players who persevered were rewarded with an ultimately fun and satisfying experience -- just not the mind-blowing one they had hoped for".[20]


Upon its release, The Temple of Elemental Evil created a small stir due to the availability of the option for a male character to enter a same-sex marriage. In the town of Nulb, a pirate named Bertram begins flirting with male characters in the party and offers a lifetime of love and happiness in exchange for his freedom.[21] This relationship was noted as another example of video games "pushing the boundaries" by Guardian Unlimited.[22] Game developers and publishers generally did not object to the inclusion of a homosexual story option.[22] Criticism of the relationship came primarily from gamers who felt that gay characters should not be included in video games.[21] Industry observer Matthew D. Barton commented on the irony of so-called "geeky gamers", subject to stereotyping themselves, stereotyping gays in their opposition.[21] Producer Tom Decker defended the move, saying in an interview with RPG Vault:
I particularly felt strongly that since we had several heterosexual marriages available in Hommlet, we should include at least one homosexual encounter in the game and not to make it a stereotyped, over the top situation, but on par with the other relationships available in the game.[23]
Bertram was named #6 on GayGamer.net's Top 20 Gayest Video Game Characters.[24] Bertram was not to be the only possible gay marriage in the game; another was planned in a brothel that was later removed from the game.[23]


  1. Madigan, Jamie. "Greyhawk Adventures: The Temple of Elemental Evil". Gamespy. Retrieved 2007-02-19.
  2. "ATARI INTRODUCES 'GREYHAWK: THE TEMPLE OF ELEMENTAL EVIL'". Atari. 2003-01-08. Retrieved 2007-04-04. "`Greyhawk: The Temple of Elemental Evil' will return players to D&D's roots with the genre-defining adventure that started it all while taking full advantage of the popular 3rd Edition rule set, party-based adventuring and tactical turn-based combat."
  3. Kasavin, Greg. "The Temple of Elemental Evil". Gamespot. Retrieved 2007-02-19.
  4. "Hasbro Reacquires Digital Gaming Rights From Infogrames For $65 Million Infogrames Granted Licenses To 10 Hasbro Franchises". Infogrames And Hasbro Announcement. Atari. 2005-06-09. Retrieved 2006-09-26.
  5. "Temple of Elemental Evil: A Classic Greyhawk Adventure, The". Metacritic. Retrieved 2007-07-11.
  6. Rose, Alan (2006-10-06). "D&D fans fix Temple of Elemental Evil". Joystiq. Retrieved 2012-12-04. "A group of dedicated Dungeons & Dragons role-playing fans have managed to accomplish something Atari and Troika failed to do three years ago -- fix most of the bugs in The Temple of Elemental Evil."
  7. Gygax, Gary; Mentzer, Frank (1987). The Temple of Elemental Evil. Lake Geneva: TSR, Inc. ISBN 0-88038-018-7.
  8. Breeden, John II (October 26, 2003). "Reviews: The Temple of Elemental Evil: A Classic Greyhawk Adventure". Washington Post.  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  9. Temple of Elemental Evil manual. 2003.
  10. Shaw, Ryan (January 1, 2004). "The Temple of Elemental Evil". PCWorld (Australia). Retrieved September 6, 2012. – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  11. "Temple Of Elemental Evil - Developer Interview". Worthplaying. 2003-09-04. Retrieved 2012-11-28.
  12. Calvert, Justin (2003-01-09). "Greyhawk: The Temple of Elemental Evil announced". GameSpot. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2012-11-28.
  13. Decker, Thomas R. (2003-11-25). "The Temple of Elemental Evil Wrap Report". IGN. News Corp. Retrieved 2012-11-26.
  14. Adams, David (2003-09-04). "Temple of Elemental Evil is Gold". IGN. Retrieved 2007-07-25.
  15. Temple of Elemental Evil storms GoG on RPGamer.com (October 14, 2010)
  16. "The Temple of Elemental Evil". GameRankings. Retrieved 16 December 2013.
  17. Blevins, Tal (2003-09-22). "Dungeons & Dragons: The Temple of Elemental Evil -- A Classic Greyhawk Adventure Review". IGN. Retrieved 2007-02-19.
  18. Desslock. "Greyhawk: The Temple of Elemental Evil". PC Gamer. Archived from the original on October 18, 2006. Retrieved 2007-02-19.
  19. Lafferty, Michael (2003-09-16). "The Temple of Elemental Evil Review - PC". GameZone. Retrieved 2007-02-19.
  20. Rausch, Allen (2004-08-19). "A History of D&D Video Games - Part V". GameSpy. Retrieved November 17, 2012.
  21. Matthew D. Barton. "Gay Characters in Videogames". Armchair Arcade. Retrieved 2007-02-14.
  22. Krotoski, Aleks (2005-01-19). "Homosexuality and Gaming" (Blog post). Gamesblog. Guardian Unlimited. Retrieved 2007-02-14.
  23. "The Temple of Elemental Evil Wrap Report" (Interview). RPG Vault. 2003-11-25. p. 4. Retrieved 2007-02-14.
  24. "Top 20 Gayest Video Game Characters". GayGamer.net. Retrieved 2007-02-14.

External links