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GameMastery Guide – Review

January 9, 2012

The GameMastery Guide from Paizo is a surprisingly versatile book. At first, I had a bit of buyer’s remorse in that the massive Core Rulebook has a fairly extensive GM section in it. Not just the chapter labeled Gamemastering, but the subsequent chapters about environments, NPC creation, and some would argue magic items are mainly geared towards the GM. Those chapters alone would be about a 180 page book themselves. At first glance through the GM Guide, it looked like Paizo just expounded upon the chapters already in the Core Rules. So why create a separate book?

This book goes in-depth on all of the GM topics in the Core book, but it also has a lot of general RPG advice that could be applicable to pretty much any fantasy role-playing game. For GMs who love rolling percentile dice for random results, this book is perfect for you. For those GMs not looking for that degree of chance in their games, it provides a treasure trove of ideas and inspiration, as well as tips and advice to avoid common pitfalls and run a great game.

There is a surprising lack of Pathfinder-specific information in here. I would have thought Paizo would dedicate a few chapters to Golarion and the Pathfinder pantheon, but those topics are covered in other publications I have yet to pick up. This is somewhat of an advantage to this book in my opinion, as I run multiple systems, but can pour through the tables in here for inspiration for any of them. The chapters they could have dedicated to Golarion are instead about creating your own world, and building exciting encounters in locales as familiar as dungeons or taverns, and as far-reaching as the planes and space. The worksheets at the back are an excellent resource for campaign, setting, and NPC planning. Also included is a “Basic Rules Cheat Sheet” that is really valuable for new players. Frankly I’m a bit surprised it wasn’t included in the Beginner Box. These are available as a free download on the product page.

It has interesting appendices that expand on the classic AD&D appendix N, in that it provides suggested reading, but also suggested movies and music to get you in the gaming frame of mind. Also there is a page of “Words all GMs should know.”

Pros: Excellent resource for curing GM writer’s block, awesome table for random NPC, item, and setting generation, applicable to just about any fantasy RPG

Cons: Not a lot of system-specific details, price is a bit steep

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