There’s a lot of mediocre Dungeon Master advice out there. Some of it is too vague (“Give the players the freedom to choose, but don’t give them too much freedom…”), some of it requires a lot more context to make sense (“Rulings, not Rules!”) and some of it is just plain bad (“Punish the characters for the bad behavior of the players…”)
Justin Alexander’s So You Want to Be a Game Master is the antidote for all that nonsense. With over 500 pages of practical, often step-by-step instructions on how to be a DM/GM/Referee, this is the book everyone embarking on their first adventure behind the DM’s screen needs at their side.
Justin Alexander has been a professional in the RPG hobby for many years now, and his curriculum vitae includes big-hitters like Atlas Games, Fantasy Flight, Modiphius, Goodman Games, Steven Jackson Games, Dream Pod 9, Game Trader Magazine, the Infinity RPG, and Magical Kitties Save the Day. The guy’s experience is broad.
Most importantly, Alexander is not just a writer and a designer, but also a player of these games, running them for his friends and as playtests and demos on many occasions. It’s that wealth of experience, not just tinkering with the nuts-and-bolts of mechanics, but also presenting the game to a group of players, that really shines through in this book.
The first chapter is, simply enough, Dungeons. It gives step-by-step procedures for running dungeons, designing dungeons, making on-the-spot rulings when clever players do something unexpected, prepping before the first and subsequent sessions, and making dungeons dynamic, reacting to what the players do. These are the core skills any Game Master needs, and the first chapter ably demonstrates how to acquire them and how to actually use them at the table, while the dice are rolling and everyone’s looking to you to keep the game moving and fun.
But that’s just the first chapter. There are chapters on running mysteries, heists, raids, adventures in cities, adventures in the wilderness, point-crawls, hex-crawls, and more. Alexander demonstrates how situations are superior to plots and how to avoid traps that will trip you up or box you in. And the book is not focused primarily on fantasy RPGs, but pretty much any RPG where a Game Master leads the game by running the world and all that happens around the other players’ characters, whether the game is heroic Space Opera or gritty Cyberpunk or playfully Ghibli-esque.
Anyone who has been curious about what it’s like to be a DM, or is thinking about taking on the mantle of Game Master as a New Year’s resolution, should absolutely check this book out. The practical, procedural, no-nonsense style will propel you over and around common pitfalls that plague many newbie Game Masters. Experienced Game Masters will enjoy the organization of the book and how it can be used as a resource for running games that are different from what your group might be used to, throwing them fun curveballs unlike anything they’ve seen before. The procedures are also great check-lists for making sure you have all your bases covered and that you’re not over-preparing or preparing the wrong things before your next session. Talk to the RPG experts at your local Dragon’s Lair Comics & Fantasy® today about getting So You Want to Be a Game Master by Justin Alexander in your hands. And we can’t wait to see the amazing worlds you’ll create.
All Dragon’s Lair Comics & Fantasy® locations are independently owned and operated by local folks. Not all stores will carry all games but will be willing to attempt to special order any that they do not carry. (And they’ll carry most.)