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Unframed: The Art of Improvisation for Game Masters
by Dorian Y. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/12/2015 10:08:55
When you pay $10 for a ebook in mobi format there is an expectation that it will work on Kindle. You do not expect Amazon to kick it back saying there are errors in the document. This is unacceptable.

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Unframed: The Art of Improvisation for Game Masters
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Publisher Reply:
I\'m sorry that youre having a technical issue. If you drop me a line (martin enginepublishing com) I\'d be happy to help you resolve it. We provide two ebook versions that should work on your Kindle, plain mobi and an Amazon-native format, and all formats are tested before the book goes on sale. Sometimes one Kindle-friendly version works better than the other on a particular device; if you haven\'t already, I recommend trying them both.
Odyssey: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Campaign Management
by Alessandro M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/10/2015 12:48:32
A good manual to improve your mastering skills. It give you some frameworks to organize your campaing and tips to avoid common mistakes.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Odyssey: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Campaign Management
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Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters
by Ranjith E. M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/01/2015 12:42:40
This review starts with the (this time very few) bad things then gets to the more positive things. Please keep that in mind.

First of all, having all those indexes is neat - except for the rather awkward fact that they are using page numbers instead of the plot numbers. Each plot is numbered in the book, with the number printed in big letters in the same line as the individual plot's title, really easy to see. Thus, I don't see a reason why the plot numbers are not used for indexing. Instead, we get page numbers in plain face and in bold, depending on whether one or two plots on that page fit the index criteria. Definitely not elegant, especially since the plot numbers would immediately identify the genre under which an item is initially presented (1-167 = Fantasy, 168 - 334 = SF, 335 - 501 = Horror)

Secondly, it is a bit disappointing that the individual plots are not clearly marked as being one or more sub genres as presented. Instead, you only know the main genre (fantasy, SF, horror) and to which sub genres it can be adapted easily. It would have been nice if next to the title of the plot, there was also in lighter colour the sub genre the author had in mind when writing the plot.

Third, on a personal note, I find the definition of anime actually used in tagging plots rather ideosyncratic. That is, I would have expected it to be strongly linked to emotions and emotional issues, but I have the impression that the easily adaptable to column more joins it with action stunts.

Fourth, it is noteworthy that there are no real repetitions, not even cross-genre. Each of the 501 plots is unique, maybe sometimes similar in the initial situation to an earlier plot, but in its meat a beast of its own.

Fifth, this is definitely noteworthy given just how much material is in there. Think about it, 501 plots, each of which is a small tale with one or more surprises or twists. There is a lot of inspiration to be found.

Sixth, combined, this also results in there being probably something for every taste, although I sometimes had the impression that certain genres and certain styles combined rather often (like a seemingly high adaptability of horror plots to action horror). If you are looking for inspiration, you are likely to find it. Especially if you consider the broader usage of the plots - many include ideosyncratic NPCs which you can add to your own campaigns adventures without necessarily adopting the entire plot. There is really a lot of material you can mine to support whatever you are up to.

Personally, I think this is a very good product, which is why I gave it the top rating despite the minor negative points I mentioned above. If you want some inspiration or just a nice read of various plots, I heartily recommend this book.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters
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Never Unprepared: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Session Prep
by Sébastien T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/20/2015 12:28:09
This book is pure gold. As the author states quite a few times - most people "do their thing" mostly on intuition. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it's so terrible it actually multiplies your work load.
I like the fact the author takes a step back and doesn't enforce his views and solutions onto the reader but offers self-evalutation, while often stating the obvious and offering a possible way of solving different problems
This book aims for no specific system, as that's something the reader must figure out for him self, however the pointers and hints dropped all along the book should facilitate this task greatly.
All in all, if you struggle as GM or don't feel like everything is going as well as it should, this book is for you.
Even GMs who have been running games for quite a few years might learn something new as this book demands to evalute one-self.
If you feel like you could improve don't look any further. You have arrived at your destination.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Never Unprepared: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Session Prep
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Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game
by BENJAMIN C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/14/2015 21:29:22
With less than 10 sessions under my GM belt, characterization has been something of a challenge/hassle for me. One would think with all the reading/gaming I've done over the years I would have this stuff down pat, but that hasn't been my experience. This book offers 1,000 breaths of fresh creative air so I can make meaningful characters that stick with the players. I'd love my players to remember my characters the same way we remember the people of the Simpsons.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game
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Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters
by BENJAMIN C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/14/2015 21:20:21
Wow! Being a very busy person all-around (wife & 3 kids, demanding job, Church responsibilities, obligatory gaming, etc), this saves me a lot of time as a GM. And I, like many, even though pretty well-read & well-gamed, I still seem to gravitate to the same sorts of plots. Bad Guy Takes the McGuffin, PCs Need to Get it Back; NPC Dead, PCs Need to Find the Killer; and all of that gets old for both me the the players. This offers me 501 fresh breaths of creative air and I couldn't be more happy with the purchase.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters
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Never Unprepared: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Session Prep
by Scott R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/13/2015 12:17:24
I have been Gming games for decades and teach project management. It would seem I have little to learn from a short book on GM prep by a project management perspective. I was happily surprised. The book was inspirational -- particularly the system for session documentation. The book is professional organized making it an easy read and a satisfying buy.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Never Unprepared: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Session Prep
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Unframed: The Art of Improvisation for Game Masters
by David B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/13/2015 12:11:12
Very readable, essily digestable, good selection of contributors, and useful hints, tips, tools, and strategies towards more flexible, improvises style games. Also arguments as to why you might want to take this approach.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Unframed: The Art of Improvisation for Game Masters
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Unframed: The Art of Improvisation for Game Masters
by Joel W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/03/2014 15:43:35
Great articles that really got me thinking, from the greatest minds in tabletop RPG.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Unframed: The Art of Improvisation for Game Masters
by Ranjith E. M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/07/2014 11:13:00
Please note that this review is sorted from bad to good, with a problematic caveat at the end, though.

The biggest problem I see in the document is the repetition, though. I got the distinct impression that about half the essays suggest using a seemingly standard approach from improvised acting (as in theatre acting). Sure, each contributor takes a slightly different approach to it, and some are easier to understand than others, thus making the variants interesting, but in the end, it is basically the same advice clothed in slightly different apparel.

If you take this into account, the 105 pages of text become maybe some 50 to 60 pages of effective text. Still quite nice, but it may appear a bit pricey.

In addition, each individual essay is rather short. At times, you get the feeling you would want to read a bit more on the suggested approach or get more details. Mind you, the essays get the message across, but I personally would have liked to have some of them longer (maybe double their current size).

There is indeed some very solid advice there and a few approaches (despite the repetition) to try out for GMs. As such, I think the book can deliver for GMs who want to switch from rail-roaded role-playing to more improvised approaches or those who feel overwhelmed by the surprises that come up during play. While there are essays dealing with the planning of the session, the majority focuses on actually handling the situation (and even those dealing with the planning turn towards the actual play, of course).

As a bonus, the essays in this text are all really well-written and an entertaining read. Anecdotes and examples are often amusing and drive the points described home.

I also want to mention that I didn't notice any typos or grammar mistakes (save maybe a single time where an unmodified "weird" is seemingly used as a comparative, albeit that may very well be a deliberate decision of the author rather than a mistake). While this may seem a minor point, I personally find it rather distracting if an item is full of typos or mistakes (like using "dice" for the singular of our favorite randomizer!). I really want to send some praise to the authors and the proof readers and everyone else who helped keep the quality that high. It is really appreciated.


Now, for the special caveat, I need to point out and explain an easily over-looked aspect. Besides your standard, multiplayer RPGs, there are also solo or solitaire RPGs, probably the most successful engine being Mythic's Game Master Emulator. Those RPGs allow gamers to enjoy RPGs all by themselves without the need for other players. This becomes possible, at least with Mythic's engine, by keeping the answers of the GM Emulator very vague and requiring the player to interpret the controlled randomly generated and abstract results. As a consequence, solitaire RPGs played using this or a similar engine is highly improvised gaming where the player is partly GM (providing details) but mainly player. Therefore, a game about improvisation for GMs sounds like a good tool for anyone wishing to play solitaire RPGs. Unfortunately, only very few of the essays center on the GM by themselves. Instead, improvisation is mostly defined by a style of interaction between GM and players. Therefore, while there is some good advice even for solitaire gamers, it is rather little, so I am not sure whether it is worth it for exclusively solitaire players.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Never Unprepared: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Session Prep
by Guntis V. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/10/2014 15:22:29
So many good - and true - praises! Really, this book turns the GM's prep work almost into exact science. It really puts things in a good perspective! The author even analyzes possible 'short-of-time' scenarios and suggests how to cope with them. Love it!

I'm not a very experienced GM (just a dozen sessions), and this book showed me many things puzzling me before.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Never Unprepared: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Session Prep
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Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game
by David R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/19/2014 10:33:51
I found some samples of Eureka and Masks on Engine's website and was very impressed with the information, samples, and ideas provided, so I decided to buy the full ebook for both.

This book is very well written and provides lots of easily NPCs with great physical descriptions, backgrounds, motivations and some sample storylines to go with them that work with any system.

I've already used a couple of the NPCs with little or no adjustment and the players in my game absolutely loved the detail and interaction these new NPCs provided.

I also love the name generator banner that is on each page. By flipping to any page and picking a first name from one page and a last name from the other, you can come up with 100s of new character names. It would be nice to have an index of first/last names in a table or something that would allow for quicker lookup or even a roll chart.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game
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Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters
by David R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/19/2014 10:28:48
I found some samples of Eureka and Masks on Engine's website and was very impressed with the information, samples, and ideas provided, so I decided to buy the full ebook for both.

This book is very well written and provides lots of easily expandable/tweakable plots that work with any system.

I've already used a couple of the plot ideas in my game night and even with only a couple days prep time, the players the original storylines and twists that they dealt with.

I'm looking forward to delving deeper and finding more that I can use to add to my game.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters
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Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters
by Brian F. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/04/2014 16:07:50
Have you ever found a sandwich that’s so big, juicy, messy, and full of sandwichy goodness that you can’t figure out where to start eating it? That’s kind of what happened when I grabbed a copy of Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots To Inspire Game Masters by the authors of GnomeStew.com. This book should be like crack to not only roleplayers in general and gamemasters (GMs) in specific, but should also provide infinite ideas for novelists and short story writers seeking inspiration for their own works.

For those of you who aren’t gamers or roleplayers, there’s a huge and growing population of people who play tabletop roleplaying games (RPGs) who also write articles throughout the blogosphere. Gnome Stew (GnomeStew.com) is one of the more focused, schizophrenic (i.e. multiple-writer), and excellent gaming resources on the web today. I typically peruse the Gnome Stew RSS feed at least once a week to get an idea for what’s going on in gaming and stealget ideas for my own gaming blog (the Moebius Adventures blog).

The amazing folks at Gnome Stew evidently had their “eureka” moment in June 2009 and it took twelve months from that point to create this huge storehouse of ideas and inspiration for the community. As Martin Ralya, the owner of Gnome Stew, points out in his introduction – “To call Eureka a labor of love would be an understatement.” And the love shows.

Before launching into the plot descriptions themselves, the authors chose to provide a chapter about how to use the book. That takes up less than 20 pages of the 300+ the book fills. But without that information, it would be much more difficult to hunt for ideas on a particular topic. They have provided four different ways to find the perfect plot – by theme, primary genre, sub-genres, and tags.

The themes they use are the 36 Dramatic Situations written by Georges Polti in 1917. The book poses that there are only 36 basic plots used in all the dramatic works ever created or that ever will be created. It’s quite an idea and it’s still in use today by drama students, authors, playwrights, and many more. You can read the book in the public domain here. In terms of RPG plots, this helps by boiling down the initial idea succinctly and then building on it in the text of the plot description.

Genres are broken into four general categories. In this case, a genre is just a set of criteria for a setting that also lends itself to describing the overall tone or assumptions for stories fitting those criteria. In this case, they use three main categories – Fantasy, Sci-fi, and Horror – and add a catch-all “Other” category for any plots that don’t fit in the first three.

And when you get to tags, that’s where the real fun comes in. It’s obvious the editors and authors thought long and hard about how to make this book useful for readers. Like genres, tags in this case are just additional descriptive words to categorize a particular plot. These tags describe things like the type of Challenge involved in the plot, what Creatures and Enemies will be encountered, what kinds of Non-player Characters (NPCs) and Relationships are central to the plot, the Play Style, and the Setting. Beyond that, there’s also a broader “Features” general category for elements that don’t fit anywhere else.

Each of these descriptive methods is used to create a detailed index (four indexes are included – by theme, primary genre, sub-genres, and tag) so that you can simply peruse any of the indices for a particular idea or term. That certainly helps when you’re faced with the sheer volume of work presented in this book. Your other approach is simply to start at the beginning and read until inspiration strikes or you find what you are looking for. My problem with that is that I have hardly dented the Fantasy plots, which come first, so who knows if I’ll ever make it all the way to the Horror section!

There’s no way to do justice to the myriad plots described in the book, so I’ll just talk about one to provide an example of what you can look forward to.

“Vengeance Taken for Kindred upon Kindred” has a long title, but immediately I knew it was describing what I call the “Hatfields vs. the McCoys” problem. It’s a family feud at its heart. And in the fantasy version described in Eureka, it’s a tribe of orcs that’s split down the middle after a chieftan dies and his twin sons want to take the tribe in different directions. Stuck in the middle is a local town. With a war coming between these two factions, the player characters (PCs) must figure out how to save the town.

The plot goes on to describe the problems at hand, including the fact that they can’t face down all the orcs by themselves and what happens when the town mayor tries to make a pact with one camp for protection from the other… There’s just enough information to provide a framework for an enterprising GM to roll an adventure around it.

And at the end of the plot description, there’s a section describing what other genres it can easily be adapted to, including Action Horror, Cyberpunk, Grim and Gritty Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic, Sci-fi, Traditional Fantasy, and Western. The section also describes all the various tags associated with the plot idea – alliance, deadline, innocent, isolated area, mass combat, sandbox, tactical planning, and villain.

As a GM, I think I could take this idea and spin it at least three ways right off the bat, which is awesome. It’s this kind of inspiration with crunchy details that really sets my brain on fire.

So if you’re a GM, a player, a writer of any sort, or just like noodling about story ideas, Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots To Inspire Game Masters by the authors of GnomeStew.com should provide you literally hours and hours of gaming fun. One review I saw mentioned that with 501 plots at your disposal, that’s more than a year’s worth of adventuring time for even the most aggressive gaming group!

(This review first appeared here: http://blogcritics.org/rpg-book-review-eureka-501-adventure/-
)

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Odyssey: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Campaign Management
by Nearly e. D. P. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/26/2013 13:45:23
After spotting that Odyssey: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Campaign Management had been released for pre-order, I decided now was a good time to have a nosy through this book, and see everything that I do wrong when managing my campaigns.

I won't lie, my initial thoughts of this book forced me to have flashbacks of management lectures at university. Well, at least the ones I remember considering I slept through most of them. I was worried this was going to be a dry tome that would not educate me because obviously I knew EVERYTHING about being a GM. Most GMs have a flavour and style of GMing, and the idea of reading a book to improve on that seems like an alien concept. We all learned through the hundreds of failed campaigns we tried to run, the dozens that fell at the first hurdle, and then finally reaching the few that are still talked about as the "Best campaign EVER!". Then there are the GMs who prefer to improvise a lot more than spend hours pouring over his notes and preparing for sessions.

Allow me to dismiss all of these fears and questions. This book isn't boring or dry, but lays out the facts that everybody has to usually learn the hard way. There are plenty of stories and examples for each stage, that helps break up the information dump that comes from such a book. The writing styles are clean and easy to read, without huge piles of abbreviations or in-jokes, which means even the newest of aspiring GMs can dig into this book and understand what it is trying to tell you.

The information in the book may feel like "well, isn't this obvious?" if you have been GMing for a while, but there certainly are plenty of light bulb moments where I have gone "Why did I not think of that?!". The book is also clear about what it is, and what it is not. This book is about the bigger picture than just session by session preparation. It is about getting that initial campaign off the ground, and how to absolutely nail the first session to keep your players coming back for more. I can see a more experienced GM might view this more as a reference material rather than a hefty document (although there is less than 200 pages of actual information) as there is an absolutely superb index. This sort of book needs an excellent index to allow those who just want to find the advice they want without pouring through all the sections. The book is also bookmarked and hyperlinked throughout to help you find what you are looking for easily.

There are three main sections of the book. There is a bit of a blurb at the beginning from each of the writers, as well as their thoughts on why managing a campaign is kinda a big deal. After that we move onto starting a campaign, managing the campaign, and finally ending a campaign. In each of these sections is step-by-step advice on how they think each section could be managed, and what the best case scenario is and the worst case scenario is for the outcome of each section. This is combined with stories from the author's past describing similar issues they discuss in the sections.

I have only had the chance to read through this book once, but already I feel like I have picked up some valuable information for when I run my next game. Some GMs might find the approach a bit formal but it is correct that sometimes, especially when emotions can be on the line, that is the best way to treat this. I am also thrilled to see the book emphasise that GMs need to be enjoying the game as well, not just the players. After all, everybody is meant to be having fun!

I would heartily recommend grabbing yourself a copy of this book and gets a full thumbs up from me. The advice available is useful and well thought out, and will improve your GM skills.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Odyssey: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Campaign Management
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