The one thing that every game of Dungeons & Dragons needs is a Dungeon Master. The Dungeon Master’s Guide has been a great resource throughout every edition of D&D. But, like any skilled position, it’s always a good idea to seek out advice from the experts and a little extra training. Geek & Sundry is a good place to find advice and resources, of course, but good game master advice exists in many different forms.
Kobold Press, for example, puts out a series of books called the Kobold Guides. The publishing house is well-known for putting out excellent Pathfinder and 5th Edition settings and supplements. The Kobold Guides are collections of essays from industry pros with decades of experience. The guides cover everything from world building to game design. Their most recent release, the Kobold Guide to Gamemastering, focuses on advice for the brave souls sitting behind the screen. Twenty-one of tabletop’s best and brightest contributed essays to the book. The essays have been collected around four general topics, and each makes a breezy but informative read. The authors include such luminaries as Frank Mentzer, Shanna Germain, Keith Baker, Monica Valentinelli, Clinton J. Boomer and more.
The first segment of the book focuses on understanding players. Trouble often arises when the game master wants to run one type of game and the players expect a different type of game. These essays bridge that gap by showing how to talk about content before the game happens. Subjects include picturing running a game as a service job, creating an inclusive environment and some advice for running games for kids to encourage the next generation of gamers.
The second segment offers advice on how to plan the game. Good Game Masters have a plan going into a game but are also flexible enough to have open spaces to react to player actions. There are essays for new GMs as well as tips for experienced ones. Visualized planning, player investment and writing on the fly are all covered here. This section also covers one-shots as a way to test out new games, and the pros and cons of adding romance to game sessions.
The third segment discusses tips and tricks to use while the game takes place. Theatrical tips exist here alongside suggested improvisation ideas. One topic that is touched on by multiple essays here is whether or not phones or other internet capable devices should be allowed at the table. The pros and cons of several approaches are discussed, from a full phone ban to offering small game breaks for phone usage in the case of players that need to stay in touch with kids or other important connections.
The final section discusses two very different topics that impact outside the player’s control. Kevin Kulp’s essay talks about cutscenes and whether or not a game should let players watch events unfold outside of their character’s view. Zeb Cook’s essay discussed how to handle the natural disappointment that occurs when an encounter wipes the players off the map in a total party kill.
Kobold’s Guide to Game Mastering is an easy purchase for anyone looking to take the next step from playing to running a game. It’s also a great gift for game masters looking to freshen up their game. Everyone can use a bit of good advice and this book is full of great tips for anyone.
What is your bit of game master advice? Let us know in the comments.
Image Credits: Kobold Press
Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He writes about kaiju, Jedi, gangsters, elves, Vulcans and sometimes all of them at the same time. His blog is here, his Twitter is here and his meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.