Designer’s Thoughts: How to Gamemaster

I’ve spent decades debating the pros and cons of Appendix N. If you somehow don’t know, that’s the recommended reading list in the 1st edition Dungeon Masters Guide for Dungeons & Dragons. I was one of those people that tracked down and read every novel and short story on the list. Some of them became favorites, and I openly stole plotlines, characters, and monsters from them. Others left me wondering what they had to do with D&D. There was no explanation with Appendix N, no “I lifted the paladin from here” or “clerics can do this because of that story”. It was just a list of titles and authors without context.

The debate continues to rage, from what I can see. What else should have been on the list at the time? What would a modern list look like? Who should be stricken from the list because the author was a creep or the book is just cringe by contemporary standards?

Do you know what people aren’t still talking about decades later? The great advice the 1e DMG gave on how to prep a game. The suggestions for dealing with different types of players. Things like how to pace a scene or correct a mistake when you’ve misread the rules. Do you know what no one talks about those things? Because they aren’t in there.

Designer’s Thoughts: How to Gamemaster

I learned how to gamemaster through trial and error. Along the way, I read a lot of articles in gaming magazines and swapped tips with other players. Some tips came from places unrelated to gaming, like business management, behavioral psychology, and performance coaching. There are people that don’t like that because games are fun and those topics aren’t. I don’t care where a good idea started, as long as it’s useful. That’s why I boiled it all down into a book specifically for tabletop roleplaying, so you don’t have to wade through all of that other stuff to get to the bits that might apply.

It was important to me to make something universal. There are gamemaster manuals out there that are pretty good in some respects, but they apply to a specific system or setting. How to Gamemaster is system-neutral because the underlying ideas apply to all games. You can use it with D&D, or with that small indie game you love, or for the homebrew system you’ve been tinkering with. I created it not just for new gamemasters, but for veterans that are always looking for new tips and tricks. At the end of the day, I wanted something that I could refer back to myself, as a refresher before I start a new campaign or put together a new group.

As with all titles getting the Director’s Cut treatment, it has been filled revised, re-edited, and re-formatted. If you’re already purchased the current edition, the digital files will be updated at DriveThruRPG so you can download them for free. If you haven’t bought this title yet, the price will go up when the new edition is released, so you save if you buy the current edition and wait for the free upgrade on Thursday.

I hope you’re doing well today.

Berin Kinsman, Lightspress Media