Frugal GM Review: GM Mastery Book Three
#1. If you give me something appropriate to review I'll do so
#2. I'll be honest in said review.
This last week I was offered something "cheap" to review. Now I completely get that "frugal" is synonymous with "cheap", but the primary definition of frugal is "sparing or economical with regard to money or food" and I'm in the economical camp when it comes to being a Frugal GM. I don't mind spending money on quality and I loathe free crap. Something cheap isn't necessarily bad and something expensive isn't necessarily good.
Please remember this, and my two rules, when offering things....
OK, now that is out of the way this week's Frugal GM Review is a "GM Mastery Book" from John Four over at Roleplaying Tips. He is trying to drive traffic to his website and build his email lists so he's giving this "Book Three" for the low, low price of your email.
Now I got this off of a Dropbox download link, but I did take and sign up again so I could make sure what I got was what you'd get. As is my usual course for a review I opened up the file, poked around a bit under the hood for an initial impression, and stashed it away to read (usually) a day later or so.
I have to admit my 1st impression of the GM Mastery book was somewhere between, "This is a hot mess" and "Do I have to read this?". Needless to say I wasn't impressed. The download is a whopping 8.29 MB in size and it isn't just a 141 page PDF as John Four told me it was (via email and on his website). No...this is six PDFs ranging in size from a measly 88 KB to a decent 5.56 MB. Three of the PDFs are tavern maps, with two of them being over-sized, one of the files is an over-sized cover and the last two....actually the 1st two in the zip file, are "the book". Chapters 1 and 2 are in one PDF and the third chapter, essentially the longest list you've ever seen, is in the other PDF. The largest file in this download is chapter 3.
For me the questions kicked in immediately. Why is this organized this way? Why does the cover list one author (John Four) and the title page list two? Do I really need to have the D&D 3rd Edition PHB? Wait a second....who the hell has the 3rd Edition anything? When was this thing put together? Why is there a 87 page list? Seriously...who makes an 87 page list?
After clicking through a lot of pages to see that this 87 page list contained 10,000 unique "Random Tavern/Inn Names" I skipped back to the 1st page of "charts and tables" in Chapter 3 and read the 1st entry. This list (?) was entitled "50 Example Themes and Hooks" and the 1st entry was:
"1. Tree House. The place is inside or on top of a large, ancient tree." Not bad....but wait, there's more! This entry has a second sentence: "Think Dragonlance or of various movies that have featured this theme."
Ugh......that felt like a sentence written just to fill space. I'm pretty sure he meant "Inn of the Last Home" in Solace, from the Dragonlance series. When pushing a list of "themes" telling the reader to (paraphrase) "think of themes" is pretty much missing the point.
After setting this download aside for a day and coming back to it I could go ahead and start reading the 1st two chapters. I was halfway through before the author actually describes the differences between a tavern, an inn, and a restaurant. The two short paragraphs regarding the "Origins, History, and Background" of these establishments is nearly at the end of the thing, on page 133. There is some good details and ideas in this "book", but you'll have to sift through a lot to get there. There are pages of content that could probably be summed up in a sentence or two.
With the reference to 3rd Edition D&D I'm pretty sure this download is quite old because the stuff I've seen from John more recently isn't so much like this. It's older content he is making free to help drive some traffic (like I mentioned earlier). There is some good stuff in here and he does have some great tips so you might get a lot more out of this download than I might have let on. I think with some layout changes and some heavy editing this could be re-released as a pretty decent sourcebook.