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A DM's Reading List

by Mike on 25 January 2021

This article contains a reading list of some of my favorite books and articles DMs can use to better run D&D games. Obviously it would be crass of me to include my own book, Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master, so I omitted it from the list...

In a previous article I've talked about Paths of DM Expertise. A big part of getting better as a DM is digging into all of the knowledge other DMs and game creators can share with us. There's a lot of great material out there we can read, cull, and harvest to give us great ideas while running our games. This list represents some of this material.

The Core Books

Spend time reading and re-reading the core books. There's a lot of great stuff in them easily missed like monster environments in the Monster Manual and tons of stuff in the Dungeon Master's Guide easily forgotten. Review them all every few months to remind yourself what's in them.

Top Five

If I could only pick five books to help DMs get a better grip on D&D, these would be them.

RPG Design Books

These are a handful of books I found very useful. Many of these ended up in the bibilography of Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master as well. I'm particularly fond of the books capturing the ideas of many of the top RPG designers in the past few decades. Kobold Press's guides often include such essays. It's a rare thing to get into the minds of such titans in the industry.

Books on Writing

Stepping out to books on writing and creativity in general, here are three I've always enjoyed.

Articles

A full list of the best articles is impossible but here are a few articles I find myself returning to over and over again.

Other Game Systems

One of the best ways to improve as a dungeon master is to try out other systems. Here are some of my favorites. Even if you don't get a chance to run them, being able to read through them will give you lots of good ideas.

MT Black's Reading List

My friend MT Black, a prolific and popular DM Guild creator, wrote up an excellent list of books he recommended for adventure writers likely just as useful to dungeon masters. Here they are.

Adventure Models I Dig

When I think about the types of adventures I've enjoyed the most, they follow a common model I call the "yam-shaped design". These adventures have a narrow focus in the beginning, expand out into a sandbox adventure in the middle, and then focus back down again at the end. This makes adventures feel more like campaigns but still have a clear overall story thread.

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Check out Mike's books including Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master, the Lazy DM's Workbook, Fantastic Lairs, Fantastic Adventures, and Fantastic Adventures: Ruins of the Grendleroot.

Send feedback to mike@mikeshea.net.