Every game master is constantly on the look out for ideas that they can grab and stick into their games. Here are some resources I like and recommend.
Fantasy and Science Fiction:
A brief list of some of my favorite contemporary writers who have been active in contemporary speculative fiction.
Joe Abercrombie – gritty, non-heroic fantasy, lots of ugly battles, torture, sex, horrible rulers and good people trying to make sense of their lives in the context of those situations. One of the things I like about these is that you could read any of the stand alone books or the short story collection and enjoy the stories. They are better, in my opinion, if you start with The Blade Itself and work your way through them in the order presented below.
The First Law Series: The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged, Last Argument of Kings
Stand alone books set in the same world as First Law: Best Served Cold, The Heroes, Red Country
Short Story Collection: Sharp Ends
Age of Madness Series: A Little Hatred, The Trouble With Peace. The Wisdom of Crowds
Glenn Cook- A pioneer in the darker side of fantasy. Many morally ambiguous protagonists in his writing. If there is such a thing as “military fantasy” in the same way there is “military sci-fi” he’s one it’s foremost practitioners.
Black Company Series- Definitely recommended – some of the later books get weird but still worth checking out
The Dread Empire Series: These really need to be read in the order they were published. You will be completely lost otherwise. There are some interesting gamable ideas here. I like these books but not as strong as the Black Company books.
Roger Zelazny- One of the greats. Multiple time Nebula, Hugo and Balrog awards winner. His marvelous Chronicles of Amber was adapted to the seminal game Amber Diceless Role-Playing by Eric Wujcik. Lord of Light is one of my favorites. He was also a writer in the Wild Cards shared super hero universe edited by George Martin. His numerous short stories are great reads as well.
Comics and Graphic Novels:
I hadn’t bought a comic book in years. Probably more than a decade. This delightful book came up in my social media feed one day and I had to check it out. Beautifully brutal art combined with a dark and deadly story.
The initial story arc tells the tale of six convicts who are let loose to thwart a wizard that’s using magic to divine the war plans of their captor. The deal is simple; kill the wizard and survive and you go free. Magic takes more than it gives and in many cases, it takes everything. There are lots of colorful and morally grey characters who have to do terrible things in order to do the right thing. Well worth checking out.
The incredible combination of beauty, horror and a well crafted story in Monstress is delightful. Every panel is gorgeous and the story is a page turner. I’m always conflicted whether to linger over the art or turn the page to find out what happens next.
The aesthetic is fantasy+cyberpunk+cosmic horror. The main character Maika Halfwolf is trying to find out who she is, what she is and what her mother was after. Almost everyone wants something from her and she is defiantly seeking her own goals and interests, even to the detriment of her friends. Her literal internal demon urges her on. It both helps her and hinders her in fascinating and terrible ways.
This one had me hooked in the first two pages. Owen the barbarian, a classic murder hobo character if there ever was one, is cursed to do good. Graphic violence and dark humor abound.
On the Home page there are blogs that I follow and recommend. Here are some specific posts that I think are worth reading.
Gabor Lux on the Beyond Formalhaut blog has an excellent post that I agree with whole heartedly about Old School RPG’s.
To me, this is one of THE BEST collections of essays about how to be a good game master. I use many of the techniques in these posts and highly recommend that you spend some time checking them out.
How To Get Started Playing Old School D&D For Free from the Dungeons and Possoms Blog is a great resource for anyone who would like to try out old school D&D but isn’t sure where to begin. It has links to all the most popular rule sets that clone the original, basic and advanced versions. There are links to a variety of blog posts, free adventures and campaign settings to help you get started.
Why OD&D? part 1 from Sham’s Grog and Blog. This is a great post that resonates with me strongly. To me the great power of D&D is found in its most concentrated form in the original version of the game. That power is encapsulated in the question, “What do you do?” From there you have the option to do almost anything.
Principia Apocrypha written by Ben Milton and Steve Lumpkin edited/assembled by David Perry at the Lithyscraphe blog. This is a collection of thoughts about what makes up old school games and play. It borrows concepts and ideas that have been thrown back and forth between blogs, message boards, and the old G+ circles. I particularly like the statement, “Your table is yours.” The document is available as a PDF in different formats for viewing on different devices or for booklet printing.