Secret project review – Practical Guide to Being a Great GM

A few weeks ago I mentioned I was doing something hush hush. I can now reveal I was one of the readers going through a new book about GMing before it reached Kickstarter – which it now has.

So, here’s a sort of review of a project you haven’t seen yet, a bit of an idea of what you can expect from it without giving too much away.

The Practical Guide to Being a Great GM is brought to you by Guy Sclanders, the GM giving all the advice over at and the How to be a Great GM YouTube channel. I’ve linked to his channel over on my Appendix ï page; there’s some great advice on offer. This book distils a lot of that down into written form, so there will be some familiar concepts for everyone who has watched every video, but I think it offers a wealth of ideas even just with the examples given.

And there’s a lot of examples, and practical exercises called Encounters that are great as a form of mental practice without being used for an ongoing game. I’m not currently running anything, so I used the encounters pretty freely just to come up with wilder ideas. With Guy’s examples too, I could see how each exercise could be used to develop all kinds of ideas.

The main takeaway from the book is to identify and embrace the constraints to operate in as a GM, to be aware of them at all times and use them to move your work as the organiser of a game forwards. That’s not to say there isn’t advice for playing in the book, because the Gamemaster is just a role taken on by one player of the game, but there’s not much here for a player with no intention of taking that role themselves (unsurprisingly).

I found reading through that, even after more than twenty years in the GM seat, there were plenty of ideas for me to take forwards into my future games, especially the guided focus on constraints of the game, building adventure ideas, and very especially the NPC quick build matrix – and the references to UK television shows as well as the US ones helped sell it for me a bit too.
The one factor I might find fault with is that, whilst the book uses examples of both fantasy and sci-fi roleplaying, it leans much more heavily on the fantasy examples. Given the prevalence for the genre across roleplaying, I’m not surprised, but if you want all your examples to have spaceships and laser guns, I’m sorry to say you’re missing out for your hatred of dragons.

At the time of writing (about twenty-four hours before publication), the Kickstarter has racked up a total of £81,839, after a target of £10,000. The project was fully funded fifteen minutes after launching a few days ago, and now the stretch goals are dropping and looking very cool – a workbook for your answers to encounters, a GM screen (presumably covered in reminders for the campaign flavours and how to maintain them, player types and how to engage them, and the quick NPC Build and AI matrix), world event and NPC cards, and an audiobook version with Guy’s voice reading your through the book.

If you want to go and check it out, here’s the link again for the Kickstarter.

In the interests of explaining myself, I should note that as a pre-release reader, I’m getting a pdf copy of the final product for free, and I believe I also have an NPC to contribute for the NPC cards. I haven’t been approached to write this post at all, or to promote the Kickstarter in any way – I just think everyone should check it out.

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