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The Game Master: A Guide to the Art and Theory of Roleplaying Pay What You Want
Average Rating:4.2 / 5
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The Game Master: A Guide to the Art and Theory of Roleplaying
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The Game Master: A Guide to the Art and Theory of Roleplaying
Publisher: Tobiah Panshin
by Kyle W. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/29/2013 00:36:40
Tobiah Q. Panshin's The Game Master is an interesting book from front to back, one which is both wonderful and cringe-worthy at the same time. Of all things, perhaps its worst is its inconsistency; verging from academic-styled formal writing to wonderfully light informal prose, it does few things explicitly wrong but doesn't seem to know where it is. Nonetheless, it's something that I would recommend, with a caveat.

The Game Master, for instance, is aimed at novices, and while it's not terribly difficult to read and does a decent job at explaining its terminology (sometimes after using it nonchalantly), it has some things that are both not terribly applicable to a new player or GM, and can potentially cause more harm than good. While it's generally thoughtful, there are several instances of hyperbole (for instance, the statement that a freshly created vampire in Vampire: the Masquerade can shrug off machine gun fire) and it tends to do an odd mix of advanced theoretical work and some really weak practical examples.

Perhaps my favorite part of the whole book is its dissertations on narrative; while not a focus of the piece it has some things that would have helped many of the novice GM's I know incredibly. Is it the best source for this? I'm not entirely sure. The book does a good job of discussing the role of group narrative but often leaves bits and pieces that I'd like to see out, something that doesn't do too much harm to the general point of the book as an introduction to gaming but hinders it in its value. Still, the sections on narrative are well-made and I'd recommend them to anyone either as a refresher or an eye-opener. Unfortunately, some of the more game-related things do not fall into the category of being so wholly beneficial. While it's clear that Tobiah has a great understanding of roleplaying as a hobby and a great conceptualization of various games within the context of the whole canon of gaming, the writing within has the unfortunate effect of transferring very little of it to the reader. There are footnotes that are assertively unhelpful (one, for instance, points out the meaning of the term "min-max" the page after a prior footnote uses it), and a lot of blanket assessments that are just not accurate, though they may be true in a handful of cases. The actual game advice is much less helpful than the deconstruction of narrative forms that create a satisfying table experience. A lot of this may be my own personal opinion, of course, since as Panshin recognizes much of gaming revolves around having fun, and different people will have different definitions and sources of fun.

All-in-all, The Game Master is not a conclusive resource for advice on running a game, nor is it the first thing I'd hand a prospective player or game master and tell them to read through it and gain some sort of inviolate knowledge of gaming. Of course, such a thing will probably never be written-such is the nuanced nature of gaming. I'd place it in the mid-range; something for someone who's run a few games and formed their own opinions on how things work, or who already has a basic knowledge of how things work-it's a wonderful contribution to the theory of gaming and play but not necessarily a solution to the ills of a novice.

It's available on a pay-what-you-want basis, and despite my harsh criticisms and the general fluctuating quality, I'd give The Game Master a 4/5, and actually recommend that anyone reads it, at least a little, because there are valuable perspectives to be had here.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Game Master: A Guide to the Art and Theory of Roleplaying
Publisher: Tobiah Panshin
by Wade P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/01/2013 21:12:39
The Game Master is a book that gives a great understanding of the dynamics of gaming groups. In easy terms, Tobiah describes how to assemble a group of friends into a cohesive party and lead them, with a willing and helpful Game Master, consistently, into one enjoyable and successful role playing experience after another. His methods are usable across all genres of role playing, from Sci-fi to Steam Punk to Fantasy .

After a quick explanation and discussion of what a role playing game is, we are shown a breakdown of the component parts of the game.

Now it`s onto Assembling the Group, starting with The Group Contract. For character creation, it`s necessary to examine the goals for both the players and the GM. We`re told that for the players, it`s just to create a character with stats but for the GM, he must ensure that the character don`t feel thrown into the midst of a game. To achieve this end, Tobiah has come up with 4 excellent suggestions as follows
-The characters should fit the game.
-The characters should fit the setting.
-The characters should fit the campaign.
-The characters should fit the the group.

The discussion of character creation then moves onto the 4 Golden Rules which are so on point that I have printed them out and have posted them on the wall above me where my players can see them at all times during play sessions.
I am also considering using Tobiah's idea, which he calls "Funny Hat Gaming" in my own games. Funny Hat Gaming is a term that he uses to describe the way we, as participants, portray nonhuman races and he suggests that all player characters be human...leaving the elves, dwarves, and halflings to regain their other worldliness.

Tobiah puts down on paper something I have always striven to do for my characters and usually ask of my players...create useful backgrounds but he takes a new and innovative approach to this as well. He explains the purpose of the background and how it is really more for the GM than the player. He also gives us a looks at what a bad background would be.

Throughout his book, Tobiah uses examples from pop culture from over the last 40 years that most of us rpg geeks use regularly in our games and most of us probably regurgitate quotes from during every game session we play in. His references to his games make me think he was part of my gaming group over the last 33 years of my participation in role playing.

I have not finished reading Tobiah Panshin`s but I will and I`ve already recommended to over 10 people in my 2 gaming groups and at my local hobby store. I know if you are into Rpgìng you must get this book! Especially you GM`s!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Game Master: A Guide to the Art and Theory of Roleplaying
Publisher: Tobiah Panshin
by Tyler B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/26/2012 21:06:59
On the whole, this is a good book. It contains excellent advice on structuring the character creation process. Including putting requirements and limitations on the writing of character backgrounds. I have only one major point of contention, but it is such a big issue that its worth knocking off a star. The author claims that homebrewing settings is a waste of time when there are already so many published settings, and doesn't even consider homebrewing systems. I strongly disagree with this. Homebrewing can be a fun and superior alternative to spending money on setting books, and it avoids the potential problem of failing to live up to the encyclopedic standards of some setting fans.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Game Master: A Guide to the Art and Theory of Roleplaying
Publisher: Tobiah Panshin
by Eric M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/28/2012 07:53:43
There is a lot of good in this document, and I particularly applaud the succinct chapter XII (Too Long;Didn't Read) and recommend it to those who are starting out on the road to becoming a great GM. The preceding eleven chapters are also well-written, though experienced GMs (myself included) will undoubtedly find passages that they don't agree with. Even new GMs are probably passing fair players already and will take exception to certain parts or inferences. Good! One size does not fit all. But this volume would feel less preachy if there was a disclaimer of opinion in the author's notes or the opening chapter.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Game Master: A Guide to the Art and Theory of Roleplaying
Publisher: Tobiah Panshin
by Justin L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/02/2012 01:56:03
This book is good. Read it and prepare to have some knowledge dropped!

I've been more GM than player in my time, and I found some good insights and helpful tips in here. It's one I'll refer to many times. Next time I'm ramping up for a campaign, I'll definitely have this handy.

It is surprisingly easy to read, too! And the illustrations, while corny were for the most part entertaining and added quite a bit to my enjoyment of the book.

My only beef: the author comes down seriously hard on playing non-human characters. While I agree that they are often reduced to "funny-hats" I believe that a player (or GM!) who really wants to wrap his/her brain around a different alien race should give it a try. It can be a lot of fun!

Bonus points also go to this book for being very genre neutral. So much stuff is heavily weighted towards that one big ol' fantasy game, it was nice to see a "how-to" that was broadly applicable.

Well worth reading. Thanks!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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