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.