Book Hoard

Here’s what my Gamemaster bookshelf looks like, sorted by beginning, intermediate, and advanced advice. Each has a snippet to give you a sense of what the book is about, as well as links to purchase in digital or hard copy. Follow the link for the Full Review for an in-depth look at the contents, and usefulness, of the book.

Gamemastery 101: What You Need to Know

So you want to run a game for your players, but you’ve never been on that side of the screen before. These titles are great for the beginner, giving prospective GM’s an overview of all the various parts of a session, and should be staples in your library.

Get This:

Dungeon Master's Kit Dungeon Master’s Kit by James Wyatt & Richard Baker
New since ’10 is the Essentials line, which returns to D&D’s old-school roots. The book has been reorganized and updated with errata, and aimed squarely at a less-experienced audience. What I like about it? I get two adventures, two double-sided maps, player and monster tokens, and a glossy DM screen (NOTE: it’s flimsier than the one sold separately), for just $4 more than the original. $27 Box Kit from

And This:

Gamemastering Gamemastering by Brian Jamison
By far the best advice I’ve seen put together in one volume for newbie GM’s. He takes you step-by-step though character creation, world building, and even running your session, with a humble, straightforward approach. And you can’t beat the price. Free PDF from, $30 Paperback from

Gamemastery 201: Building Your Toolkit

You have a few sessions under your belt, but you want to go beyond 1st level, beyond the “Save the Town, Kill the Kobolds” type of adventures, where character backgrounds really do matter and collectively you bring a story into being. You want to know what Makes a Story. Or maybe you want to spice up your sessions with Real Magic Tricks and Fire! Or you’re ready to start fucking with your characters’ emotions big-time.

Dungeon Master's Guide 2 Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 by Mike Mearls, Greg Gorden, Robin D. Laws
Better advice for storytelling and development including branching, structure, making encounters count and utilizing character backgrounds, with some D&D specific tips for skill challenges (my favorite) and higher-level campaigns. $23 Hardcover from
Hamlet's Hit Points Hamlet’s Hit Points by Robin D. Laws
“To Be or Not To Be? Roll 1d6: 1-3 To Be, 4-6 Not To Be” is written in my good friend’s signed copy. This book breaks down the story beats we take for granted and show you how you can make them work for your game, using examples from Hamlet, Dr. No, and Casablanca. $8 PDF from DriveThruRPG, $20 Paperback from
Play Dirty Play Dirty by John Wick
In a word, anything John Wick touches is gold for those of us Actor and Storyteller-types. Here he gives the advice that earned him a nasty reputation on the web. Yes, parts might seem brutal, yet, why do his players keep coming back for more? That’s the Secret… $5 PDF and $15 Paperback from John Wick Presents
Play Dirty 2: Even Dirtier by John Wick
The long-awaited sequel to his infamous book on gamemaster advice. I’ll almost definitely be getting this as soon as it’s out. No word yet on a tentative release date, but you can read teasers on his blog.
Play Unsafe Play Unsafe by Graham Walmsley
There’s really not enough advice in the book to justify the $10 asking price for PDF. Sure enough, there are a few gems in its pages, but I’ve spoiled by the wealth of advice offered for free online. Then again, if you consider yourself a Newbie or haven’t been exposed to the RPG Blogosphere, you could learn a lot. (Full Review) $10 PDF and $20 Paperback from
Robin's Laws Robin’s Laws of Good Gamemastering by Robin D. Laws
I haven’t picked this one up yet, but it’s on my Wishlist for sure, given his other credits in the DMG2 and Hamlet’s Hit Points and how often other blogs quote this one. If nothing else, it ought to temper the Dirty GM in me. $8 PDF from e23
XDM XDM: X-treme Dungeon Mastery by Tracy & Curtis Hickman
Reads more like a Munchkin game than a DMG, but if you can get past this then there’s a lot of great story structure advice to behold–they even include how-to’s for incorporating puzzles, riddles, Magic Tricks, and real live Fire! into your games. The second half is their own d20 system, but the first half is well worth it to any GM. $30 Hardcover from Schlock Mercenary

Gamemastery 301: Advanced Topics

Here’s where we get into the stuff not every GM needs to know. Where you begin to hedge into the territory of academics and revolutionaries. This is for the hardcore GM’s who want to plumb the depths of narrative theory, paradigm shifts, the philosophy of games and the sociology behind them. And for those who have the cash to blow.

Houses of the Blooded Houses of the Blooded by John Wick
What would happen if you took the power out of the GM’s hand? What if it was the players who decided the clues, the characters, the world? Known as the “anti-D&D,” HotB represents a paradigmatic shift in power that is likely to continue to trend in the coming years. $5 PDF and $45 Paperback from John Wick Presents
Lifelike Lifelike edited by Jesper Donnis, Line Thorup, Morten Gade
Excellent anthology on LARP theory with a bit of an academic feel, discussing the philosophy and art of the medium. Character, the game itself, scenes, the social aspect, and the future of LARPs comprise the five chapters with multiple essays apiece. Free PDF and $47-ish (250 DKK) Hardcover from Knudepunkt
The Pendulum Method by A. P. Klosky
I’m actually hope to be working with Andy on this one, which he plans to sell on Lulu and/or DriveThruRPG. Deets can be found on his blog. I don’t want to give too much away, but suffice it to say that it challenges the conventions of dramatic structure, at least within a tabletop context. Hopefully it’ll be out within the year.
Second Person Second Person edited by Pat Harrigan & Noah Wardrip-Fruin
Another anthology, this one included in the Bibliography for Hamlet’s Hit Points. Lately I’ve been interested in constructing narratives and the “science” of stories, and this is a book that applies those literary concepts to online, tabletop, and live-action role-playing games. $17 Paperback and $35 Hardcover from
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