Monday, February 8, 2010

Your Go-To Non-RPG Reference Book For DM's For Design/Inspiration/Reference?

What book or set of non-rpg books do you find you use between sessions for adventure or design ideas and reference for the next session more than any other?

Specifically, I mean book. As in "made of paper." Not looking for answers like Google or Wikipedia for purposes of this thread. Regardless of if you have it on a PC in pdf format, to list it here as a resource it must be in paper format, in your possession, not a rpg book, and reached for by you more often than any other book.

By set of books I don't mean Encyclopedia Britannica---a set of books to qualify for this would be one book/story broken up into several volumes. Like the Leiber Lankhmar series, or a 3 volume set of The Complete Works of Shakespeare for example.


  1. This weekend while playing WoD, a PC was offered wine. The character said he preferred a Shiraz. Another play got smart-allecky and said, "Yeah, but what year and vintage?"

    Quickly grabbing my new copy of Food and Wine, I responded, "2007 Wishing Tree from Western Australia. It's a light, fruity wine. Retails for $11."

    A good laugh was had. Next thing to do is to find a local wine dealer who carries a bottle so that I can present it as a gift the next time we meet.

  2. The closest thing to that would be:

    Dictionary of Word Origins: The Histories of More Than 8,000 English Language Words, by John Ayto, Arcade Publishing * New York, Little, Brown and Company (c) 1990.

    And that, not very often.
    --Sadly, I have become dependent upon the internet for ease of use and speed of reference.

  3. One of my friends gave me a copy of "Gary Gygax's Extraordinary Book of Names". I used to scratch my head for hours trying for the right name. It's always in my bag or beside my desk when I'm writing.

  4. I'll cheat a bit here... I ride the commuter train into Chicago on a pretty regular basis and many of the suburban stops will have books left out from the various "Friends of the Library". I ran a game recently that on the surface was all about Clark Ashton Smith... really it was much more about "Winesburg, Ohio" and the lurking dread of it.

    Latest acquisitions: a (psychotically) marked up and (schizophrenically) commented copy of an abridged "Iliad," "Economics in One Lesson," and "In Praise of the Stepmother." I tremble to think of the unholy brew that will wind up as.

    Okay, capsule form: random books from library give-aways and thrift stores.

  5. Can't say that I have inly one that I prefer as the matter of reference and inspiration shifts according to so many facets of interest and intent. If I had to pick, then it would be the OED.

  6. @Blair: An excellent work.
    --I'm still trying to track down Wiseman's Urban Survival book.

  7. It is hard to narrow down. Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend has been a common go-to

  8. I don't really have one. I tend to draw inspiration from a wide variety of sources -- literature, reference works, the Internet, videogames, film and television just to name a few.

    However, since you've laid out some exacting paramaters for this exercise, I will do my best to answer regardless. There are two key "references" I go back to time and again for inspiration: The Rivan Codex by David Eddings and The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones.

  9. Over the years, the three things I've probably reread the most and then somehow applied to gaming are the Fafhrd & Grey Mouser series, the Oxford History of Europe, and the Hellboy series of graphic novels.

    It's a tough question, though, since I wouldn't consider any of these as "go-to" tomes. I think most DMs mine a really broad range of sources, rather than repeatedly reference a few sources.

  10. I don't really have a lot of non-gaming reference. My primary references when plotting a game are my GURPS sourcebooks. Even if I'm not running GURPS, if there's a book that might just have something useful, I will turn to it.

  11. Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable has spawned a number of my games as it's an odd mix of history, myth and allegory from all over the world.

    I'm also a victim of Internet reference sites but things like Wikipedia and Bartleby are wonderful jump-off points.

  12. I have three that are reviewed quite a bit, almost on a fairly regular basis, and especially when I'm trying to get inpired to create something new... and one more which I'll include, cause it's fairly new, and chock full of awesome!

    J.R.R. Tolkien's Silmarillion. You can get a whole story arc out of one paragraph here. Forget the elves, forget the magic, there's drama and conflict aplenty to draw on.

    ImagineFX. This is actually a digital arts periodical. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, however with this, a picture can easily generate three of four memorable gaming sessions. Plus it's a monthly magazine...


    Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's White Company and Sir Nigel. Set in the 14th and 15th century, these historical fiction works by the master was heavily researched, providing an authentic feel for life in Medeival times, Set in England, France, and Spain.

    And finally, The Black Gate.
    A new anthology of cutting edge fantasy short stories published about twice a year. There are some really great ideas for campaigns and adventures with this.



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