GM Gems – A review

25 09 2009

I like Goodman Games.  As a GM, they invariably provide a quality product.  So when I heard about GM Gems, I downloaded it without thinking twice about it.

And it was £10 ($16) well spent.  As I say, I bought the PDF – but I immediately printed it off.  It runs at 66 pages (although some of these are a cover, back cover etc. and is described as, “System-neutral tools for every Game Master.”  And, in my opinion, it lives up to its billing.

The book is divided into three sections:

  1. The Urban Experience
  2. Getting There is Half the Fun
  3. The Dungeon

I would suggest this book covers two basic needs.  The first is to help a GM in preparing an adventure.  When inspiration flags, it can be an excellent source of ideas.  The second use is to be used on the fly when players want to do something you hadn’t planned for.

One thing it has lots of is random event/outcome generators.  The first one presented is an ‘Alchemical Mishap’ table.  So the next time your PC gets a potion wrong, you can come up with a better explanation than just, ‘nothing happens.’  If I roll a ’33’ it tells me the, “character’s skin thickens abnormally.  (Temporarily gain a +2 natural armor bonus, but a -1 to Dexterity).

There are also random event generators and these are split by the chapter titles.  So, within urban there is, for example, a random dockside event generator.  A ’33’ again says, “a mirror-plated warship blockades the port, halting all trade and blinding anyone who looks at it for too long.’

As well as tables, the book is full of hooks.  It provides lists with a plot hook for each.  These include local superstitions, rites of passage, specialist shops, peculiar taverns and even unusual holidays.

For mundane things, there are random name generators for inns and a random quirk generator for NPCs.

The second chapter focuses more on travelling.  So it covers things like caravans, camp-sites, ruins and weather.  Again, every entry is either a random generator or a list with a description and a possible plot hook.  Again, if I pick an example, there is a weather event called Rose rain.  Local lore has it that every few years in late spring, the rain comes down a pinkish colour.  The plot hook is that the colour comes from tiny fey in the rain – and the potential plot hooks include:  the fey cause mischief; there is a fey banquet in their honour; the fey attract all manner of other beasts.

Next we have the ubiquitous dungeon section.  A humorous one is a random generator for describing empty rooms.  My favourite is, “the acrid stink of this room makes its temporary purpose all too obvious.  It is a makeshift urinal.”

There is a section on how to take a familiar monster but change its appearance to make it a fresh encounter e.g. a Huesha instead of a Harpy.  You are given subtle but distinct modifiers to make this work.  There is also shake’n’bake feature to further modify a creature with a random die roll to affect their physical appearance or some stat.

There is a section for familiars you may come across (and a plot hook), alternative light sources, smells and noxious substances.   There is also a random generator for short encounters and unique treasures.

Some sourcebooks have plenty of fluff and not so much crunch.  This book is all crunch. 

You’ll like it if:

  • You want to spice up a pre-generated campaign
  • Your players always do the unexpected
  • You can’t always think on your feet

You’ll like it less if:

  • You have unlimited imagination
  • You like to GM on the fly
  • You don’t like being told what to do by a random generator

I’d recommend every GM to pick up a copy.  There will be enough ideas and inspiration in it to justify the cover price.  Even if you don’t use it week in and week out, it will be a useful resource when you do need inspiration.




2 responses

25 09 2009
Lou Agresta

Awesome! Glad you liked it. We tried to do the same thing for players with PC Pearls, also from Goodman. Thanks for the review.

25 09 2009

Oddly enough, I plan to review PC Pearls sometime next week. I love PCs with in-depth backgrounds – and I bought PC Pearls for that very reason.

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