I have been playing RPGs for a very long time, compared to many of my peers. It is likely, though I haven’t conducted a poll, that I have been gaming longer than many of my players have been alive (first person to call me Grandpa GM gets shanked). And while I do sometimes get to play RPGs, I am more often than not in the game master seat. As I write this, of the four campaigns with which I am currently involved I GM two of them. And 50% is pretty much the lowest that number has been in a while; it usually hovers around 75% and has hit 100% on occasion.
All of that is to say, I am a very busy game master. Whether it’s coming up with the next campaign plot, statting out an NPC or just creating interesting encounters, I rely a great deal on outside resources to help. It is much faster and easier for me to re-purpose an idea from another source than create something new from scratch for every session.
I have had a number of resources come and go over the years, but for this post I’m going to focus on my Big 5, my go-to resources for all my GM needs. None of these are system specific, and all of them offer resources that make my busy GMing life easier.
I’ve posted links to Role-playing Tips before, but it is definitely worth mentioning again. I have been receiving Johnn Four’s gaming e-newsletter for years, and I have archived them all. Every issues contains some idea I can use, some GM tip I can put to work for me. I cannot recommend subscribing to the newsletter enough, you won’t be sorry. As well, the site’s About page has several useful links and generators, useful for GMs of all games. And if you’ve ever had trouble filling some empty seats at your gaming table, why not pick up a copy of his book Filling the Empty Chair?
I found this gaming blog through the RPG Blog Alliance, and I’m really glad I did. It features some really good articles on gaming as well as game reviews. But as a busy GM, what makes me love this site if the copious free maps he posts. These are beautiful looking maps, presented with not writing on them at all. As a GM on the go, this makes them perfect for dropping into a campaign as a treasure map (just add directions), or for use as inspiration for my next campaign. And they are pretty enough to make excellent player handouts. So come to The Labyrinth for the maps, stay for the excellent gaming blog.
You have likely heard of Obsidian Portal, but if you are a busy GM you owe it to yourself to check it out. This is the perfect wiki site for GMs that want a fast, convenient way to disseminate game information to their players. But more than that, OP is a great group organizational tool, with messaging options, a group calendar and a widget that allows you to post character information on the group’s page. If you have ever tried to struggle through a session missing a player and his character sheet, this last feature in invaluable. And if you like Obsidian Portal, give their podcast a listen. Haste promises to update you on gaming news in less time than it takes you to set up for your game, and it is a fun, entertaining 15-20 minutes.
I don’t have as much time these days to sift through and keep abreast of the gaming books and supplements available out there. Game Geeks, hosted by Kurt Wiegel, has provided useful and informative reviews of gaming material for years. Each episode gives a great capsule review of a particular product or products, and because Kurt is a GM himself, he is able to offer a useful perspective on each book. He is not without bias (he has gaming systems he likes/dislikes) he is open about this bias, and it generally does not interfere with the balance of his reviews. If you want to know about a gaming supplement before you buy, check to see if the Game Geek has reviewed it first.
Another of my go-to sites for GM help, Gnome Stew provides a wide range of services and articles for GMs and players alike. You can find useful GM tools, reviews of RPGs and supplements, great articles for newbie GMs, and so much more. I have used the tools and articles on Gnome Stew more often than any other resource, and if I am looking for something specific I haven’t seen yet, I always start my search there. If you are a GM, busy or otherwise, I think you should dedicate some time to explore the site. You won’t be sorry.
So what are your go-to resources as a GM? Let us know in the Comments below!