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    Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game
    by Saif A. E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/20/2021 07:22:07

    This is wonderful. A bit expensive but totally worth it. 1000 NPCs ready to use, the structure is strictly defined, also allows the user to customize and chance bits and pieces of it on desire. With this amount on a single book, quick scrolling should give plenty of ideas. It is also separated by genre. There is artwork for the characters every about 3 to 5 characters, sometimes head only other times full body images in black and white, with drawing style that is probably from different artists.



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    Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game
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    Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters
    by Saif A. E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/20/2021 06:14:00

    Yes, yes, yes! It contains really 501 plots split by genre, with an amazing tag system that summarizes what the plot goes about, and an index that uses these tags in order for the reader to find plots that have a certain thing. They are all uniquely written and there is an amazing advice section that gives ideas on how to use them, combine them and customize them. Worth it every single penny. RPG System agnostic.



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    Focal Point: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Running Extraordinary Sessions
    by Saif A. E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/20/2021 06:10:44

    Awesome book with a terrible navigation format. I am not sure if I am the only one, but the analogy to Cinema Set Production is completely off to me. After reading it, 2 weeks after I wanted to come back to the book and look for that specific chapter where I read some amazing advice about the plot twist charting, and what do I find? "Keep Filming!" or "Safety on the Set" or "And... Action"... good luck figuring that out. The subtitles don't help either, with shooting stars like "Roll the Film!" or "Does the Script hold together?".

    Perhaps I am over emphatizing the negative... but guys... please keep it simple. Normal titles like "Preparing the table" or "Using charts to tell a good story" would be thousand times better. As it is now, there is a lot of hidden value in a huge blob of unindexed text (PS. There is an index at the end but it follows these cryptic title convention too)

    Yet I really liked the content, particularly the ones of preparing plot points and strong motivations for consistency. I would share where is that but... I think it is somewhere in the "It start's with a script..." :D

    I give 3 stars because of the weird formatting analogy and because of various blob of very generic advice that in practice don't really help much.



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    Focal Point: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Running Extraordinary Sessions
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    Odyssey: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Campaign Management
    by Saif A. E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/20/2021 05:57:09

    This is a good book for managing campaigns, organizing them and preparing them. Includes advice for handling people and different kind of players. Does NOT get into content creation at all (which it is what it says), although it touches briefly some topics on story structure and character arcs. I give it a 4 because sometimes it is way too generic, but otherwise can be very useful for specific pain points. The book organization and presentation is clear and with an index to the point, compared to other books from the authors where the index was a disaster, this one clearly says "People Management" or "First Session" and even includes a key index at the end.



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    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    Odyssey: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Campaign Management
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    Never Unprepared: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Session Prep
    by Saif A. E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/20/2021 05:47:09

    This is a gem. If you are looking for a way of giving the preparation process a more formal approach, to attend a certain level of quality and your own capabilities of self-criticism, this is a must. Beware, it is not a lightweight read to just move forward. But the organization of the book makes it easy to read concise points.



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    Odyssey: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Campaign Management
    by YANN E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/24/2020 14:53:00

    I bought Odyssey because a friend gave me a copy and I liked the whole PDF so I decided to buy the bundle including Focal Point and Never Unprepared.

    This one is about managing a campaigns: campaign concept, campaign framework, first session, story, people and character management, how to end a campaign etc.

    I think this is a good reading for any GM whatever their skill level.



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    The First Adventure - A Fiasco Playset to Teach Fantasy Gaming and Roleplaying to New Gamers
    by Jochen B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/20/2019 16:17:43

    It is a Fiasco Playset, so you should know what you are getting into. You need the Fiasco rules to play, obviously. You (the one introducing this to your fellow players) ideally should have played Fiasco multiple times to understand how the basic game was hacked to achieve its goal. And achieve its goal it does. I have used this twice to start new campaigns and they both went on to have the best group dynamics and cohesion I have experienced in a long time if not ever. And of course you need to hack this to fit your campaign: This playset is based on an urban magic-punkesque setting with a strong guild system much like Eberron, so if you play in a different setting some of the table entries will not make sense for you and you should adjust them to your setting. Can I recommend it? Hell yeah.



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    Love & Justice
    by Ryan B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/12/2019 12:12:10

    Do you love the Magical Girls genre? Do you love simple games you can start playing and finish in a couple hours, including character creation? Do you love Lasers and Feelings and thought "This needs more anime and magical girls tropes"? Do you love free things? Well, look no further than this amazing game! It's got all of that, and more, all in a compact 3 page document!

    But wait, there's more! Not only do you get the easy to play magical girl goodness that is this game, you also get to create some truly wonderful magical girl scenarios by playing around with the randomly generated scenarios that the GM is able to use before the session! There are so many wonderful combinations for both characters and stories that you'll be able to have endless fun with this game alone. Also, developer Senda Linaugh is an amazing person and most likely a magical girl in real life, so you know it comes from a good source!

    So, don't delay and check this wonderful game out right now, and soon you'll be fighting for both Love AND Justice!



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    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Love & Justice
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    Never Unprepared: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Session Prep
    by Jordan R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/31/2019 23:00:20

    [Originally published in 2012. For some reason, DTRPG changes the date when you edit, bumping it back to the top. Sorry for that : I simply divided the paragraphs properly.]

    I'll say it right off the bat : "Never Unprepared" is not the book you are looking for if you want to actually get better at preparing your games. Even if there are some useful things buried in it, it's mostly hollow talk and useless advice. This comes as a big (and bad) surprise to me : Eureka and Masks are both very good products that you should buy, Gnome Stew is a very interesting blog that you should read, and posts from NU author Phil Vecchione about prep are really a must. Here is my more detailed review.

    The book is 131 pages long, with a very complete index and a table of content, so you get about 120 pages of material. It is divided in 14 chapters, one of them being the conclusion and another one listing references and inspiration, plus a foreword, an introduction and a "how to use this book" passage. Quibble here : introduction and conclusion should be treated the same, so both a chapter or none, while references and inspiration should not be a chapter. The main 12 chapters are divided in three sections, and I'll treat each of them separately here.

    The first section, "Understanding Prep", contains seven chapters and fills about half of the page count. Another quibble : the first two chapters feel like an introduction, and maybe should have been lumped together into one. In chapter 1 (Prep is Not a Four-letter Word), the author explains why he believes prep has a bad reputation, and why it should not be this way. In chapter 2 (The Phases of Prep), he gives an overview of the five phases of prep that will each get its own chapter : brainstorming (sparking ideas, chap. 3), selection (choosing some ideas, chap. 4), conceptualization (expanding and fleshing out ideas, chap. 5), documentation (making actual notes, chap. 6) and review (making sure you did not make any mistakes, chap 7).

    I could go into details of each of those chapters, but it would be repetitive. They all takes a lot of time explaining what is the phase, why it is important, what problems could happen if you do too much or not enough of it, but does not give much actual advice to accomplish it successfully. There is a "Techniques for Improvement" subsection in each of them, but they're all useless. For example, the three given in the Documentation chapter are really nothing more than "think before you write", "don't write things you don't need" and "make sure you are comfortable with your pen or computer software".

    I also have issues with the division of phases itself. It does not strike me as the best one to help people understand and get better at prep. The author insists a lot about the fact that conceptualization and documentation are really distinct phases (the first being the thinking, the second the note-taking), but it strikes me as mostly a matter of semantics. I mean, yes, you can distinguish the act of thinking from the act of writing things down, but in the spirit of getting better at prep, a much more productive distinction, in my opinion, would have been to talk about first preparing the general outline of a session/story arc/campaign, then preparing individual scenes in more details. Reading the book, I am under the impression that the author actually sometimes confuses his own phases with these.

    The second section, "Prep Toolbox", contains two chapters : chapter 8 (Tools for Prep) and 9 (Mastering Your Creative Cycle). I thought the section would provide tools to prep my sessions, like templates, plot flowcharts and whatnot to use and hack to fit my needs, and boy, was I wrong. Instead of that, the "tools" of chapter 8 are all about the things you use to prep, like notebooks, computer and pens. I kid you not, there is a table listing pros and cons of pen and paper vs computer, stuff like "paper tools don't require power" but "can't capture audio and video". If the chapter was talking about how to get most of different online tools (here are some great generators, here is how to use Obsidian Portal, etc.) or how to prepare material for your games (draw some battle mats, write conditions on index cards, etc.), that could have been acceptable. But no, there is not a single word on that. What you get instead is stuff like "If you use a notebook, you shouldn’t have to worry about the pages falling out" (p. 68).

    Chapter 9 comes down to "make a schedule and plan some time for prep", and seriously blow this thing out of proportion by advising to also plan how your creative energy cycle on a hour-by-hour basis using a 0-to-3 scale (with a color-coded table and graph).

    I could not believe I was reading those two chapters in a book devoted to prep, especially since the author repeats many times in other chapters that feeling comfortable using your notebook or software or whatever is important. Think of it this way : of all the things that could have been done in a section titled "Prep Toolbox", NU chooses to elaborate on things third-graders are told on their first day of class. Seriously, this section is so ridiculously inane it's almost insulting.

    The last section, "Evolving your style", contains three chapters : chapter 10 (Your Personal Prep Templates), 11 (The Prep-lite Approach), and 12 (Prep in the Real World). Even if it is far from perfect, this is the most useful section.

    Chapter 10 opens with this line : "Up to now I’ve avoided talking about what actually goes into your session notes" (p. 86). That hints at how useful the first 9 chapters were. This one gives you some actual usable advice about how you should organize your notes to make them more effective and useful, things like a list of "a list of common GMing weaknesses and some ways to compensate for them" (p. 90). Even if the ratio of good stuff/useless stuff is better here, there is still a lot of filler, like the first 4 pages of the chapter that are repeating things you read before, the "Paper vs Digitial" subsection (that again?) and unfortunately the whole "Template Maintenance" subsection, supposed to give you tips on improving your templates, that just gives you hollow tips of the "if it is too long, make it shorter" kind. It's the best chapter of the book, but I would give it a 3 out of 5 note at best.

    Chapter 11 gives you some advice to actually reduce the prep you do, like ways to simplify the stats of your NPCs or to make maps way faster. Even if the presentation is incomplete, they are interesting and useful ideas that you can actually use to prep faster (still, like in the previous chapter, they are swimming in filler). You should know that the author already wrote a series of posts about it on Gnome Stew. The good stuff in this chapter is pretty much directly lifted from it, and there is actually more in the blog posts than in the chapter. NU actually tells you that if you want more details (about all these things that could actually improve you prep), you should go read them.

    Chapter 12 gives advices on how to deal with problems that are all variation on either "I need to prep something really fast" or "I want to remove something from my scenario". The way to handle them comes down to "cut down on some phases of prep" and "go back to some phase of prep". There is also the "I was planning to prep my game Thursday, but some other thing came up" problem that meets the "plan some other time to prep" solution. It's a useless chapter.

    In my opinion, all the problems of the book comes down to the fact that there is a lot of space dedicated either to explaining and analyzing (and repeating) stuff that really does not need much of it, or to deliver advice that are self-evident and begs the question. For example, the whole chapter 4 is basically only advising you to know your players, your game, your campaign and yourself as a GM. Unless things like "some players love a long dungeon crawl while others want to play out trade negotiations" and "having space aliens invade your Dragonlance® campaign in flying saucers is likely to cause a disruption at your table" are eye-openers to you, the elaboration of those four elements is pointless. To help you with those tasks, there is nothing aside providing really general questions that you probably already ask yourself ("what are your favorite parts of a session?") or don't even bother to because they'll come naturally to your mind when needed ("does your game feature a social combat system?").

    Among all that, you will find some good things in the book, but they often feel very incomplete. The reason is that the good stuff is usually only there to illustrate some truism like "your notes should be well-organized" instead of being presented and detailed as a tool in itself. Here is an example taken from the Brainstorming chapter : "What kind of session do I want to have? (As in a chase, a rolling fight, a heist, etc.)" (p. 22). Someone in desperate need of ideas gets a lot more help from reading "a chase, a rolling fight, a heist" (and would get even more if he could read all these words folded in this "etc.") than from being told to ask himself the suggested question. Some chapters are less bad than others, but this is characteristic of NU as a whole, and it's very irritating.

    You'll also find some usable but really bad advice. The worst offender is probably on page 44, where it discusses the eternal "A problem has an infinite number of solutions, but your players will only ever pick one" issue. NU's answer? "It’s better to expend energy on the most likely solution, plus perhaps the two next most likely contingencies if you have time." It's like saying that if you prep well (and more than you'll use), you will never be surprised by what players will throw at you. Of course, that is very false. It could be argued that preparing for those situations is exactly what prep is all about, and NU does not even seem to acknowledge that they happen.

    Bottom line is that any book that wants to be "The Complete Game Master's Guide to Session Prep" is going to face the problem that not everyone has the same issues with his prep and does not want to achieve the same things with his game. A good one would feel like a knowledgeable worker walking you down the aisles of a big tool store, telling you how to use each of them so you can make an informed decision about which ones you'll bring back home. "Never Unprepared" feels much more like this knowledgeable worker sits in your living room, telling you that you should really go to that tool store and choose stuff you will need, weighting the pros and cons of using a handbasket or a cart to shop and, sometimes, letting you catch a glimpse of some shiny things that he brought from his own toolbox.



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    Never Unprepared: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Session Prep
    by Justin B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/10/2019 14:47:22

    A great read that dives into the rare touched subject of how and what to prep and time management. System agonist and can be applied to others things beyond DND as well.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Never Unprepared: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Session Prep
    by Edward C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/21/2019 22:02:30

    The product has been edited after the fact to replace content, namely the Sean Patrick Fannon foreward. I have no side in the Fannon affair, and do not even own a Shaintar book, but am extremely uncomfortable with the precedent of removing content from a published piece on the grounds of the author's behavior.



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    Never Unprepared: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Session Prep
    by Mike C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/11/2018 17:48:10

    There is some sound advice in here but it's diluted with filler material and what-works-for-you and generalities to the point that I felt it wasn't of value. It's a shame because I'm sure the author knows A LOT MORE than me about being a GM and preparing for sessions. I'd love to learn from him.

    For example: There's a whole section on pens and paper vs. electronics but not a mention of any online tools like Obsidian or even Google Docs. Dropbox gets a passing mention but there are paragraphs about pens and pencils.

    Selecting your tools has questions like: Are your tools reliable and available when you need them? Do the devices you use have long-lasting batteries? Do your tools work well in those locations?

    Some of the best advice is to build templates and put fields on the templates for the things you are weak at, so you're reminded to do them. (Do you forget weather in your scenes? Add a weather field. Forget signature combat moves or tactics for your NPCs? Add a field.) It's good advice. I feel like I read 130 pages for that, and didn't get to see any true sample templates.

    This book needed an editor. A ruthless, heartless editor.

    There's a really long review here by Jordan R. and he's word-for-word correct.



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    [2 of 5 Stars!]
    Love & Justice
    by larry h. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/20/2018 19:44:19

    This game is a hack of Lasers and Feelings and it's simple design and character creation were easy to follow and full of inspiring tips. Was able to play a game of this at Origins Game Fair with one of the creators, Senda, and it was a blast! With a passing knowledge of anime tropes you can easily and quickly get a group of friends into the action using this game. Characters are encouraged to help each other and throw in useful flashbacks to invoke friendship dice to help with important tasks. Game includes scenario generator to get your group into a troublesome framework quickly. D6's required for the game, a couple handfuls will do.



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    Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters
    by Kyle M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/07/2018 18:41:07

    I raid this regularly for ideas to use during game prep. The PDF could be linked and indexed a little better, but the content is fantastic. Just spending an evening reading it will give you more to work with than you could feasibly use in years of gaming. You will definitely find a plot - really, many plots - that work for you and your group, no matter your playstyle or preferred game.



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    Twenty Six Point Five Shades of Scarlet
    by Bryan H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/24/2018 09:20:34

    So a series of short fictions that basically no one should read, I printed these out and told my players that they're actual stories being printed in the world. That context change made it perfect for my game but honestly, I think they got a kick out of how trashy it all was. I highly recommend anyone who has the time read them. At least, just read the warnings.



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