It's an innocent enough question: "Tell me, have you read Brian Jamieson's book, Gamemastering?"
Turns out that when Precinct Omega asked this question he was connecting me to the most useful book that I've ever come across on the topic of being a GM.
It's also a totally free eBook.
The most useful? Yes.
What's Jamieson's Angle?
In his Introduction, Jamieson writes:
In 2003 I again began wondering why there still was no comprehensive “how to” for Gamemasters. To date only a few books have attempted the task with varying degrees of success, and a growing number of Internet forums, blogs, and websites talk a lot about the subject. There is some excellent advice out there but unfortunately, a lot of what I’ve read seems, well, just wrong to me. Backwards. Completely contrary to my experience. So I wrote this book.
He's a 30-year+ veteran of gaming (like me) and yet he has wrestled with a goal that I could only dream of attaining. His book is a pretty good stab at being a complete Gamemastering toolkit.
Why read it?
This book is written for the noob but is useful to the veteran. Actually, for me, I tried at all time while reading to open my mind to being a noob again... which is nearly impossible.
I found myself hugely disagreeing with several of his assertions, especially on the topic of character creation. That aside, however, I have so far mined far more from the book than I have disregarded. Far, far more. And I have started to GM in his style just this last Friday.
Reasons to read it include:
- It appears to cover all the bases. It's complete, as far as I can tell.
- Help on setting up the game will save lots of time later on.
- Advice on character creation has immediately deepened the roleplaying in my own group (without anyone really noticing yet).
- His system for adventure writing is really effective at reducing prep time while increasing quality.
- The ideas on running the session are detailed and helpful.
Frankly, it's free. Why not read it? Come on, it's FREE!
Why have I adopted his approach?
This is more complex to answer and yet also simple.
I struggle as a GM. This guy is helpful.
In truth, this is the book that I needed when I was 11 years old and beginning play. Of course, back then, no one had been playing for 30 years because that was the early 80's and RPGs were relatively new. If you are a noob GM now then this is a go-to text.
Reasons I adopted his book:
- It's written in a step-by-step how-to style.
- It's actually largely convincing, judging as a long-time GM.
- It's intuitive.
- It's simple to apply.
- It's focused on role-playing over roll-playing.
Caveats I'd place, by way of warning:
- It's one person's view, despite his claims to have consulted others; thus it's culturally biased and focused on one style of play.
- He dislikes random things - like character generation or tables - and over-eggs this point.
- While he accommodates the "action-orientated" playing style, he is mostly an "acting camp" GM; he seems to dismiss "dungeon crawls" as a thing of the past without much consideration of the value of such games.
- He is focused on adult gaming - no, not as in Adult - by which I mean he shows little empathy with teenage- or children-friendly gaming.
- His writing style can come over as arrogant at times.
Overall, though, this book is a gem. It's a real find. Honestly.
Jamieson is writing for GMs and does not pull punches. He is very frank and bold in his assertions. It's worth rolling with those punches even if, like me, you sometimes disagree with him. The book should be read as a whole, not in parts.
Jamieson is not an active friend of the "gaming industry". He points out that it's actually easier to build a home-brew setting than to use a commercial one. He also mentions that he now uses his own home-brew rules. This would point towards an independent approach. To be honest... he has a point.
On the other hand, what Jamieson does point out is that the gaming industry can be mined for the bits we really need. One example is maps. Another is illustrations. He just recommends reusing old modules and books, finding free stuff online and trying to save your pocket. None of that will enamour him to the industry... especially when, although his book is a free ebook, he also publishes a paperback.
But then... I have ordered the paperback because I really intend to use it.
Labels: GMing, review