D&D 5E Please suggest me some books about DM advices

Alby87

Adventurer
Hi all!

First of all, notice that this thread is crossposted from reddit. I had one nice response about the Alexandrian blog.

Recentely I had an letdown experience DMing that would have been avoidable if I was a more experienced DM. Nothing serious, but started in me a tought. Till now, I've runned low level adventures, and now my PCs starts having pretty good levels (one campaign 8, other one 10), meaning good spells and good magical items. The good advice of "always keeping under your eyes the PC character sheets" was stated once in the Lazy DM book, and I just forgotten it. I had to learn by experience. Then I considered: the DMG is a good book to design stories and worlds (more or less), and some good additional rules to run the game. But it is not a good book about "designing the game" (yes, there some, but they are not that much complete).

I'm a fan of Lazy DMs series by Mike Shea, they really help you designing the story less as a predetermined "novel" format (like DMG) and a more iterative way using players agency. And pretty useful tables too. Loving the Monsters Knows series too.

But still, no high level running advice. I don't know if I can explain what I'm looking for. It is something I can put togheter my D&D books that helps someone developing DM skills (togheter with experience, of course) good for all the 20 levels of the game.

Thank you for your replies :)
 

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Ondath

Hero
Seconding Guy's book! He seems like swell fellow and I really enjoy his Youtube channel.

A less likeable fellow who still gives excellent advice is The Angry GM. His whole "writing like a pretentious a!@#*?$ who still uses grawlix like a PG comic" gets tiring incredibly quickly, and his blog has dropped in quality as he pivoted away from his strong suit of giving intuitive advice and tried to make robust systems (which he struggles with). His general attitude and some of his expressed political views also give me pause in supporting him. That said, his book Game Angry: How to RPG the Angry Way is genuinely filled with good advice, and the follow-up adventure book Fall of Silverpine Watch has an excellent layout and offers a really good tutorial module for teaching new players how to play and teaching new GMs how to GM.

Sly Flourish's book The Lazy DM also has some useful advice, though I don't like the particular "by-the-seat-of-your-pants" style GMing that he proposes. I believe there were several follow up books, so if his style meshes with yours, you can check those out as well. I noticed you already mention The Lazy DM only after posting this! Oh well...

Other than that, I'd suggest not looking specifically for GM advice books, but simply exploring more game systems to expand your horizons. While different systems might not give advice specific for running D&D, learning a new system and checking out the GMing advice they give is fairly useful. It's like becoming fluent in another language: It expands your linguistic horizons so you can do more in your mother tongue as well.

Specifically, here's the systems I'd suggest you check out:
  • If you'd like to see more simulationist suggestions on how to DM, read D&D 3.5's Dungeon Master's Guide. It contains subsystems and suggestions on making a living, breathing campaign world that follows the game's own rules (which don't entirely correspond to 5E, granted), and 5E's DMG is incredibly shallow compared to what 3.5 offers.
  • If you want to discover more old-school play of simulating the world or making dungeon delving a logistics challenge, check out the Old School Renaissance (OSR) subculture. There are dozens and dozens of retroclones of older D&D editions that have a completely different philosophy than modern D&D, and even if it's not your cup of tea, understanding where some rules come from can help you better use them in your modern games. Some games to look out for are Old School Essentials, Worlds Without Number (it has excellent GMing tools!) and Electric Bastionland (the way this game conceptualises map design is nothing short of game changing!). I'd also strongly suggest reading Matthew J. Finch's A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming, which is like a 13-page manifesto that summarises the core tenets of the OSR gaming style.
  • I never grasped it myself, but a lot of people say Dungeon World really helped improve the way they DM. It's a narrativist game (so the rules are less concerned about simulating the world and more about distributing power between the GM and the players to help them create interesting stories in the moment), so it's different from D&D's usual style. That said, its GM advice on Fronts (basically abstract ways of imagining the forces opposing the PCs) as well as Moves (specific tools the GM can use to advance the story) can be quite useful. I haven't grokked its rule system yet so I can't say I'm a big fan of it, but it's definitely worth checking out. Also one disclaimer: one of the co-creators of the game (Adam Koebel) has been pretty much exiled from the gaming community for some unacceptable behaviour, but the other creator seems like a good dude.
 



Atomoctba

Adventurer
Seconding Guy's book! He seems like swell fellow and I really enjoy his Youtube channel.

A less likeable fellow who still gives excellent advice is The Angry GM. His whole "writing like a pretentious a!@#*?$ who still uses grawlix like a PG comic" gets tiring incredibly quickly, and his blog has dropped in quality as he pivoted away from his strong suit of giving intuitive advice and tried to make robust systems (which he struggles with). His general attitude and some of his expressed political views also give me pause in supporting him. That said, his book Game Angry: How to RPG the Angry Way is genuinely filled with good advice, and the follow-up adventure book Fall of Silverpine Watch has an excellent layout and offers a really good tutorial module for teaching new players how to play and teaching new GMs how to GM.
Seconded the Angry GM. In his site (https://theangrygm.com, who would guess?), just this year, he started a whole new series to advice you how to be a better GM.

I do not agree with everything he writes, but even in the points I disagree, he gives me some stuff to ponder, analyze, and understand why I do not agree. The reasoning helps me to refine my GM capabilities to the direction I want.
 

Longspeak

Adventurer
Several come to mind. First, I will second Robin's Laws of Good Gamemastering. I learned a lot about story, and beats, and flow.

Next, the folk at Engine Publishing have made several of my favorite resources. They have a couple of books that are just useful resources, but several great books on running a game, a session, or even a campaign. Never Unprepared and Unframed are both great for both prepping a session and running unprepared (or handling those little curveballs players everywhere like to throw. And Focal Point and Odyssey give good advice in running sessions, and campaigns respectively.
 




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