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What books unrelated to TTRPGs are the most useful to you for TTRPGs?

TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
So, putting aside official RPG products, 3rd party products or anything directly related to TTRPGs; what are some books that you read in the past or still use as reference that had a positive impact on your TTRPGs experience? It can be fiction for inspiration, non-fiction books related to game design, game theory, history, psychology, etc. It can be for making characters, or roleplaying them or preparing a campaign or even designing content. Anything goes, the weirder the more interesting!

I'll list some of mine:

Architecture: Form, Space and Order - Francis D.K Ching
A classic architecture book. When I started in the video games industry I had to do some level design, which I had never put much time into. I figured architecture would be a good side-topic book to get help me. It's been one of my reference book both for level design in video games, building dungeons or environment in TTRPGs and anything related to space honestly.

A Distant Mirror - Barbara W. Tuchman
I unfortunately didn't get to finish it (about 75% in) but I look forward to starting it over. A very unique account of a character of the middle ages that lived through many of the different lives/events that you could in the middle ages. It's a refreshing read compared to most non-fiction. Very original structure for an history book.

Les Misérables dans l'Occident Médiéval - Jean-Louis Goglin
In french, my mother tongue. I have no idea if it's available in english. It's a marvelous little book that focuses on societal groups of the middle ages that lived on the fringes. The forgotten ones. Those affected by famines, epidemic, war, etc. It's been an interesting read and allowed me to bring new topics and concepts to my game which generally have a darker tone.

The Kalevala - Elias Lönnrot

Everyone knows mythology is perhaps the greatest source of inspiration. However, some mythologies have been done to death. The Kalevala is a Finnish epic and classic literature. I never read it from start to finish, but I've stolen so many ideas and names from this. And very few people recognize them, don't even need to reskin them!

English Frisian Topic Dictionary - Jessy Gonzales

Conlangs, naming languages and real languages are one of my most used tool when worldbuilding. It makes things feel real to me and the process of creating names makes me remember them. I use several tools for that, but topical dictionaries are some of the ones I use the most. I own several and this one is just one of my most recent purchases. Frisian is one of the languages that's closest to english, and yet it has something alien to it. It has given some nice flavor to my last worldbuilding project.

Primal Branding - Patrick Hanlon
A marketing book I purchased for work-related reasons last year. I haven't finished it, but everytime I finished a chapter it gave me ideas. It approaches marketing and marketing from a primal and sense of belonging aspect. It touches on psychology, us vs them and other stuff like that. I referenced it when creating factions, groups, cults, etc. Looking forward to reading the last third.

I have a ton more, but that's a good first selection.
 

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So, putting aside official RPG products, 3rd party products or anything directly related to TTRPGs; what are some books that you read in the past or still use as reference that had a positive impact on your TTRPGs experience? It can be fiction for inspiration, non-fiction books related to game design, game theory, history, psychology, etc. It can be for making characters, or roleplaying them or preparing a campaign or even designing content. Anything goes, the weirder the more interesting!
Perry's Chemical Engineer's Manual
AAA Road Atlas
AC Fox-Davies' The Art of Heraldry
TRS-80 Programmer's manual. (Taught me to code, which, when combined with a stats class, has been really useful)
 

sgtnasty

Explorer
Les Misérables dans l'Occident Médiéval - Jean-Louis Goglin
In french, my mother tongue. I have no idea if it's available in english. It's a marvelous little book that focuses on societal groups of the middle ages that lived on the fringes. The forgotten ones. Those affected by famines, epidemic, war, etc. It's been an interesting read and allowed me to bring new topics and concepts to my game which generally have a darker tone.
I can't find an English translation of this one, would really like to read it.
 

Nytmare

David Jose
The Hero's Journey by Joseph Campbell

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

Truth in Comedy by Charna Halpern, Del Close, and Kim Johnson

Start With Why by Simon Sinek

Hamlet's Hit Points by Robin Laws
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I'm kind of cheating here (well, there's not really a "kind of" about it), but the following are history primers that, while intended to serve as useful backdrops for role-playing games, don't actually present themselves as being campaign-focused in what they present. They work just as well as introductions to the times and places they cover:

Lisa J. Steele, Fief: A Look at Medieval Society from its Lower Rungs.

Lisa J. Steele, Town: A City-Dweller's Look at the 13th to 15th Century Europe.

Tadashi Ehara, Gamers Guide to Feudal Japan: Daimyo of 1867.

Tadashi Ehara, Gamers Guide to Feudal Japan: Samurai & Daimyo.

Plus, some actual history books:

Jonathan Moore, Hung, Drawn, and Quartered: the story of execution through the ages.

Hunt Janin, Medieval Justice: Cases and Laws in France, England and Germany, 500-1500.

Paul B. Newman, Growing Up in the Middle Ages.

Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs & Steel.

Please note my use of affiliate links in this post.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Various books about weather (real-life interest translated to the game)

Various fantasy novels (duh!) :)

Basic primer books on real-world historical cultures e.g. Roman, Greek, Norse, etc.

And though not exactly books: marine charts can be very useful as instant maps; just tell people to ignore all the names of things.
 

Various books about weather (real-life interest translated to the game)
One thing that always perplexed me was how rainfall is measured. I remember reading the FR boxed set the Lands of Intrigue and IDR whether it was the Amn or Tethyr book but they said country "X" receives "Y" inches of rainfall a year. How exactly is that measured? Put a graduated cylinder during any given rainfall and its likely to fill up. I've looked it up and still don't get it. Can you explain it?
 

Nytmare

David Jose
One thing that always perplexed me was how rainfall is measured. I remember reading the FR boxed set the Lands of Intrigue and IDR whether it was the Amn or Tethyr book but they said country "X" receives "Y" inches of rainfall a year. How exactly is that measured? Put a graduated cylinder during any given rainfall and its likely to fill up. I've looked it up and still don't get it. Can you explain it?
Rainfall is exactly that. Put out something that collects water and see how many inches of water you end up with. There are some minor complications due to airflow, environment, and level, but that's what it's measuring.

It's not going to give you a super accurate measurement, but if you imagine an empty birdbath in a rainstorm, the amount of water that's in it when the rain stops is how much rain you've gotten.
 

One thing that always perplexed me was how rainfall is measured. I remember reading the FR boxed set the Lands of Intrigue and IDR whether it was the Amn or Tethyr book but they said country "X" receives "Y" inches of rainfall a year. How exactly is that measured? Put a graduated cylinder during any given rainfall and its likely to fill up. I've looked it up and still don't get it. Can you explain it?
The graduated cylinder is how you measure it.
A typical light rain shower is under 0.1" (2.5mm) per hour, usually for under 30 min. A typical heavy torrential rainfall is 0.3" (7.5mm) per hour.

Note that, for example, Corvallis, Oregon, gets 51" of rain per year. It gets 159 days of sun, so that's 206 days without sun, and about 1/3 of those are actually rainy... so about 70 days per year of rain.. which means a typical rain day is .7" (~18mm) over the day. Typical rainy days aren't solid rain, but about 4-12 hours of rain as the front passes. .7" in 4 hours is going to drench you, and that's dumping 3.3 gallons per sq. yard (~15 l/m²)...

1" of water is 4.7 gal/yd²; 1cm of water is 10,000 cm³ per m², or 10 l/m².

So if the rainfall is under 12" per year, the land is very likely to be dry - grassland, scrub or desert.
If the rainfall is over 24" per year, it's likely to be forested or grasslands, based upon other factors. At 50" per year, flooding, usually annual, is to be expected; flooding is often minor, as well.

The peak is 11.871m/year... 466"/year... more than 1" per day... and is dense jungle. Note, however, that most places have sunlight at least 1/5 of the time. Average overland is 28" per year.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
One thing that always perplexed me was how rainfall is measured. I remember reading the FR boxed set the Lands of Intrigue and IDR whether it was the Amn or Tethyr book but they said country "X" receives "Y" inches of rainfall a year. How exactly is that measured? Put a graduated cylinder during any given rainfall and its likely to fill up. I've looked it up and still don't get it. Can you explain it?
If you put out a simple gradated cylinder during a rainfall and it fills up, you've just received one hell of a lot of rain!

There's two ways of doing it. One is to simply have a marked transparent cylinder - which has to be kept perfectly vertical - and see how much water it collects; emptying it out after each measurement (more precision can be gained by having a bigger opening and then funnel the water it catches into a gradated cylinder, with the gradations adjusted to allow for the bigger catchment area). Another, much fancier, way of doing it is to have a container of any shape but whose "catchment area" (the size of the opening at the top) is known to the tiniest measure, carefully weighing what the container gathers, and then mathematically converting that weight of water into inches of rainfall.

In either case the measurement needs to be taken soon after the rain stops, before evaporation sets in.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The graduated cylinder is how you measure it.
A typical light rain shower is under 0.1" (2.5mm) per hour, usually for under 30 min. A typical heavy torrential rainfall is 0.3" (7.5mm) per hour.

Note that, for example, Corvallis, Oregon, gets 51" of rain per year. It gets 159 days of sun, so that's 206 days without sun, and about 1/3 of those are actually rainy... so about 70 days per year of rain.. which means a typical rain day is .7" (~18mm) over the day. Typical rainy days aren't solid rain, but about 4-12 hours of rain as the front passes. .7" in 4 hours is going to drench you, and that's dumping 3.3 gallons per sq. yard (~15 l/m²)...
To be pedantic, unless Corvallis is incredibly cloudy that 159 days of sun occurs across more than 159 days; it's not that each individual day is entirely sunny or entirely cloudy. :)
So if the rainfall is under 12" per year, the land is very likely to be dry - grassland, scrub or desert.
To expand a bit here: the climatological cutoff for "desert" is anything less than 10" per year (might have been tweaked slightly for metric but close enough); and the range for "semi-arid" is between 10" and 20" per year. Most grassland is semi-arid.

That said, some desert and-or semi-arid areas can get their entire annual rainfall in just one or two events.
If the rainfall is over 24" per year, it's likely to be forested or grasslands, based upon other factors. At 50" per year, flooding, usually annual, is to be expected; flooding is often minor, as well.
For world-building purposes, it's also worth noting there can be quite significant variants in annual precip even within just a few miles. For example in Victoria BC, where I live, there's a weather station downtown and another at the airport some 20 miles north; and the airport station gets about 1/3 more per year than downtown (used to be about 25" vs about 34" back when I paid attention) due to downtown being closer to the rain shadow generated by the Olympic mountains. There's a couple of places on the Washington side, about 20 miles south of downtown Vic. and deeper in that rain shadow, where the annual precip is well under 20".
 

To expand a bit here: the climatological cutoff for "desert" is anything less than 10" per year (might have been tweaked slightly for metric but close enough); and the range for "semi-arid" is between 10" and 20" per year. Most grassland is semi-arid.

That said, some desert and-or semi-arid areas can get their entire annual rainfall in just one or two events.
When I took Env. Geo, it was 12", not 10". Fairbanks, Alaska runs 10.8" per annum... but is largely wetlands. How? Why? It's the bottom of a drainage bowl, and where most of the evaporation happens... for a more than 100-mile across bowl. Almost all the snowmelt flows through Fairbanks and Nenana.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I'll note that anyone looking for some tables on weather should check out the materials from Campion & Clitherow, particularly The Almanac of Fantasy Weather Volume One: Swords & Sorcery and Volume Two: Europe. These massive books (over 1,100 pages!) give eight years' worth of weather for ten different climates, each.

If those are too much, they have several shorter weather supplements with a tighter focus, those being Seven Years of Fantasy Weather Volume 1: Medieval England, Volume 2: The Iceland of the Sagas, and Volume 3: Indea.

And yes, these include overviews of the average level of rainfall! ;)

Please note my use of affiliate links in this post.
 


Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
I read a lot of WW2 historic books, and whenever an interesting raid or battle or plan or whatever comes up I almost always use that as a basis for an RPG story.

As an example, the Japanese holed up in the bunkers on Iwo Jima sparked a Cthulhu one-off that was about what those desperate soldiers would do to not starve when deals with deep ones were an option to keep them alive.
 

Ulfgeir

Adventurer
Well for me, it would be my shelf with books of Art/Architecture/Fashion through the ages, as well as my shelf with various books about weapons/martial arts/mediaeval swordfighting (yes, I have a few manuals on it)...

I also have lots of books of history and various mythologies.

Of course a lot of these books are on my to-read list. but they do make good reference-books,
 

Not a "book" per say, but I've found comics to be an amazing source of inspiration. The trick is to use the concept, without the specifics, to keep players from figuring it out. I ran the Knightfall story arc without anyone figuring it out until the very end, and everyone loved it.

Not a book but I use Wikipedia and the internet for reference all the time when writing adventures. I don't need (nor want to read an entire book) for one specific piece of real world information I can translate to my fantasy game.
I used to look up various information scattered across dozens of books for IRL information to use. Wikipedia has made all of that obsolete, becoming the "go to" for details I need. Sometimes it gives a lot of surprises (for example, the military pick is just the opposite side of a war hammer).
 

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