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Stepping Up as a Gamemaster: Kobold Guide to Gamemastering

When I picked up the mantle of Game Master last winter, it was supposed to be a quick few weeks and our regular GM would return. Since then, I have moved on from that game, recruited a weekly table myself, and I am preparing to GM some sessions at some local conventions soon. The bug has bitten me badly.

And while I think I am a decent GM, I am always looking to get better. And while there are some great resources from major publishers about their games, I am finding some of the best and most thought provoking resources are coming from other places. And one great resource that was published this year is the Kobold Guide to Gamemastering, published by Kobold Press.

Stepping Up as a Gamemaster: Kobold Guide to Gamemastering

Here are a few reasons that you should pick up this book:

It spans a wide variety of topics. As I have looked at and viewed a ton of different books on being a game master, most tend to fall into the formulaic approach: here is how to run a game or being a game master. And while there is some value in taking that approach, and I have learned a ton from it, at a certain point, you need less mechanics and more inspiration.

This book is broken down into 4 main sections:

  1. Understanding Players,
  2. Planning the Game,
  3. The Game in Play, and
  4. In-Between Sessions.  

In each of those areas, they have different people write and contribute essays that deal with specific topics.

It has a wide variety of voices. Variety is the spice of life they say and this work affirms that. With a wide range of contributors offering their different ideas on specific topics, this book has definitely given me things to think on, from how I prepare to other larger issues and topics in the gaming world. That approach makes this book an easy one to have around and pick up and put down as needed.

I found myself really moved by Amanda Hamon Kunz’s essay “Let’s Play: Creating a Fun and Inclusive Game for All”; it motivated me to think through to make sure that I am doing everything I can consciously to have a great gaming experience for everyone and be willing to deal with adjust to some unconscious things that I may be doing as well, as they are pointed out to me.

(Amanda was a stellar guest on episode 5 of The Drift podcast and we talked about her essay towards the end of that episode.)

There were things I disagreed with. I like being challenged. There were essays where I found myself giving the author some side eye, as I am not sure that I agreed with what the writer was saying. But that disagreement made me think more clearly about who I am as a GM and how I run the game with and for my players. And to me, that is always a good thing.

There were things that inspired me. For instance, as a gamemaster, I know I want to work on my improv skills and making NPCs more theatric. So some practical advice in a couple of the essays encouraged me and made me be willing to be brave and try new things at the game table. Some worked and some didn’t but that stretch was appreciated by my players.


Kobold Guide to Gamemastering is definitely worth picking up if you are leading a game and it would be a great gift to your gamemaster if you are a players.

This work is the first I have experienced from them and I am diving deep into their back catalog that has a variety of works that are highly regarded; the next one for me is going to be their Guide to Plots and Campaigns, as that is one of the areas that I want to expand and get better at.

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