7 Books for Dungeon Masters and Players
Readings that Will Level Up Your Gaming Experience
It’s quite obvious to me that RPG players are definitely attracted to the series “Stranger Things”. From the first scene where they sat together, completely immersed in the game, it gave me chills to remember myself doing exactly the same thing with my best friends at that time. There is something magical about finding people who are interested in diving into a brand imaginary world from books and ready to save you and laugh with you about all the absurdities that will happen!
Role-playing games (RPGs) have been popular for decades, allowing players to immerse themselves in a fictional world and take on the role of a character within that world. For that to happen, one of the players is actually the Game Master (GM), who creates the world, the story and puzzles to be solved by the team. It seems easy, but to the surprise of the newbies, it’s not exactly that way.
Finding a group and a master to play used to be a hard task. RPGs were very popular through some periods of time. Then they declined a lot, just to come back a few years ago. Now, with zoom calls and DMs ready to invoke the players to a new adventure from anywhere in the world, things got way much easier. But if you’ve never played before, or want to step up your game, I have a few books to help.
Even if you play RPG online (which you can read more about on this post about the evolution of RPG), this list will certainly serve its purpose.
#1. The Game Master’s Book of Traps, Puzzles and Dungeons
If you think your last adventures were a little bit repetitive, this one’s for you. As the title says, it is specifically for GMs. It contains a good variety of puzzles, riddles, dungeon maps and solutions to spice your adventure up! The main author and editor is Jeff Ashworth, who worked for Disney, Hasbro and Nickelodeon. The other contributors involved in the production are mapmakers artists, RPG podcast creators and internet influencers, making the adventures even greater. You’ll have 50 modular chambers that can be reused and mixed with just a few rolls of dice. Also, you can adapt any adventure you’re already involved in. This book is part of a series, so feel free to check the others if you enjoyed this one.
#2. Blades in the Dark
Imagine an industrial city where criminals have to face lots of betrayals, rival gangs, haunted streets and perpetual darkness. Now stop it and buy the book before imagining more. This one is a success between the ones who played with it! The fun in here is to play a really dark reality where trust is never exactly a good option. The system is explained in detail, but offers insights for you to expand the possibilities in the world given, like series, books or movies where you can go for inspiration. It’s basically divided into free play, main quest and then “downtime”, where the GM checks if the actions of the quest will have consequences to the next adventure. The author, John Harper, is an indie RPG designer. He is also known for the “Lady Blackbird” series and is the writer and designer of “Agon”.
Fans of mythology, assemble! This one is beautifully crafted with an art that is valuable by itself. It takes you to a horror and gothic world where Nordic folklore and old myths of Scandinavia are all true, but only the ones with “The Sight” are able to see. The mechanic is adapted from “Year Zero Engine” and it surprises a lot due to the amount of mysteries that you need to solve, not necessarily with combat. It’s inspired by the homonymous book from Johan Egerkrans.
#4. Tales from the Loop
As the previous suggestion, this one is also inspired by the really easy to play “Year Zero Engine”. It creates an 80’s atmosphere full of dangerous robots and secret mysteries. The series now has lots of extra adventures, and each one gives you more possibilities of reating and playing in this universe. You could even adapt the technology to your home town and giving ideias on how to continue creating other adventures. It’s basically stranger things meets sci-fi. The adventures are all inspired by the books from Simon Stalenhag and the art is just to die for! If you want more about the author, you can check the series made about the book.
#5. Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons
Finally some D&D stuff! The updates to the 5th edition can be really overwhelming, I know. But the purpose is exactly that. Giving you lots of different options and world-building tools so you don’t have to create them all by yourself. This expansion focuses on – guess what – dragons! You can have diversity of characters inspired by them. A bestiary full of different monsters and rules and systems to make any dragon fan giggle. The more details in the system, the more involved you and your friends will be in this brand new world.
#6. Lasers and Feelings
This for sure is the title that usually gets more attention. And that’s actually awesome, because it’s made for new players. Creating your character is basically answering different questions. Also, the rules are very simple. So simple that all you need is a one page pdf that you can find online for free. You are part of a spaceship crew destined to discover mysteries through outer space and deal with your captain, who was possessed by an entity called Something Else. Depending on the number you choose, you’ll be better at fighting (lasers) than reacting to different situations (emotions) or vice versa. I can guarantee you’ll laugh hard every single time! It’s a really fast and easy way to present the world of RPG to your friends and – maybe – nurture some interest in more complex worlds. And come on, it’s free!
#7. Vampire – The Masquerade
Now this is a classic! Already on its fifth edition, this is a sexy, well planned story where different clans have different powers, disadvantages and behaviors. The more systems you’ll play, the better you’ll get, independent of being a player or a master. The world of the game is well developed and got better through the new editions. Playing with different clans can create some amazing insights. Besides there are lots of expansions if the fang ones are your thing. And don’t talk to me if you’re not a Tremere or a Hecata.
The possibilities are endless into RPG games. Beyond that, it is also good to remember that these rules are mandatory to the game flow. If you ever tried to create a whole universe from your head, you know that things can get very boring very fast. To solve that, you can check out some storytelling tips for your game here.
The limitations, disadvantages and clan fights are actually to create possibilities where you have to think seriously about your next moves. Should you risk your only last health potion with this dragon or run away? Is it really a good idea to talk with that character after you got a vision that she is an assassin? Can you trust your visions? You can even try something new in one-shot adventures, before making a huge mistake in a campaign that is lasting for months.
I really hope you have enjoyed some of the suggestions given here, and let us know if you try any of them in the future. Is there any other book you would add here? I wish you happy games and may all the odds be in your favor!
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