[Game Mastering Secrets]

Gamemastering Secrets

The Gamemaster's Bookshelf

In assocaiation with Amazon.Com

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We've ordered books and CDs through Amazon.com ourselves, and have been pleased with Amazon.com's service. We wouldn't recommend them otherwise!

The following books are those which Grey Ghost Press and others have found to be excellent resources for gamemasters and other gamers. Many of them are permanent residents in Grey Ghost Press's reference library.

A Word from Amazon.com


Medieval Cities, by Howard Saalman (part of the Planning and Cities series from Columbia University)

Unfortunately, this book is listed as "out of print" and, unlike many other out-of-print books listed at Amazon.com, apparently not subject to their search through their network of used book dealers. If you can find this book, and you like historical maps and/or medieval cities, buy it! Or borrow it from a library!

The City in History: Its Origins, Its Tranformations, and Its Prospects, by Lewis Mumford

A bit of a dry read, perhaps, but absolutely packed with information. Originally published in 1961, this is the "classic" book on the origins of cities and the societal and environmental forces that shaped the development of cities from prehistoric times to the present.

Great Cities of the Ancient World: From Thebes to Constantinople With 150 Photographs, Drawings and Maps, by L. Sprague de Camp

(Out of Print, but possibly available through used bookstores. Amazon.com will do a search for you.)


Castles : Their Construction and History, by Sidney Toy

Lots of plans, architectural details, and historical notes.

Castles, An illustrated guide through 80 castles of England and Wales, by Charles William Chadwick, Sir Oman

Lots of photos, some drawings, some plans. The descriptions include information about the castles' histories, including historical people associated with them.

(Out of Print, but possibly available through used bookstores. Amazon.com will do a search for you.)

Castles and castle towns of Great Britain
, by David Mountfield

Lots of photos, plans, information on the towns around the castles as well as the castles themselves. Lovely book.

(Out of Print, but possibly available through used bookstores. Amazon.com will do a search for you.)

The Castle in Medieval England and Wales, by Colin Platt

Lots of photos, some plans.

(Out of Print, but possibly available through used bookstores. Amazon.com will do a search for you.)

Forts and Fortresses : From the Hillforts of Prehistory to Modern Times-The Definitive Visual Account of the Science Fortification, by Martin Brice

A history of fortifications, with lots of photos and some plans. The first half leads up to the Renaissance; the latter half covers the age of exploration, the industrial age, and modern fortifications.

(Out of Print, but possibly available through used bookstores. Amazon.com will do a search for you.)

Other Architecture

Monasteries of Western Europe: The Architecture of the Orders, by Wolfgang Braunfels

250 pages packed full of plans, photos, and histories of monastic architecture in Western Europe. There are 4 pages devoted to Mont St. Michel, a castle abbey perched atop a rocky island that was the setting for "Mayhem at Mont St. Michel," a Musketeers adventure we've run at several conventions. The book's a bit pricey, but well worth it if you're looking for a good source of inspiration for adventures involving religious orders in pseudo-medieval fantasy worlds.

The Landscape of Man: Shaping the Environment from Prehistory to the Present Day, by Geoffrey Jellicoe, Susan Jellicoe

This book presents the development of landscape architecture for three major civilization groups: Central (springing from Mesopotamia and including later Islamic influences), Eastern (India, China, Japan, and Pre-Columbian American), and Western (Egypt, Greece, and Rome, with Europe and Russia later). Whereas a lot of architectural plans involve just the buildings, the plans presented in this book show the landscape as well. And there are a lot of plans in this book. Now in its 3rd Edition (Grey Ghost has the second edition).

Unknown Catacomb: A Unique Discovery of Early Christian Art, by Antonio Ferrua

A beautiful book about the fourth century Via Latina catacomb beneath Rome. Most of the book focuses (in detail, with lots of photos) on the art decorating the "unknown catacomb," but there is a complete plan of the catacomb, with detailed descriptions of the galleries and chambers, in the first quarter of the book.

(Out of Print, but possibly available through used bookstores. Amazon.com will do a search for you.)


The History of Magic and the Occult, by Kurt Seligmann

A reprint edition of a 1948 book covering the history of magic. Chapter titles include Mesopotamia, Persia, The Hebrews, Egypt, Greece, Gnosticism, The Roman Empire, Alchemy, The Middle Ages, The Devil, Witchcraft, Diabolic Rites, Cabala, Magical Arts, Reformers, and the Eighteenth Century. With illustrations from original manuscripts.

The Magic Arts in Celtic Britain, by Lewis Spence

A Dover Publication of the comprehensive study of the history of magic and the Occult in Celtic Britain. Loaded with inspirations for magic potions, spells, rituals, and enchantments. (Grey Ghost Press has the hardcover 1993 Barnes & Noble Books edition, but the paperback Dover publication is much less expensive.)

The 21 Lessons of Merlyn: A Study in Druid Magic and Lore, by Douglas Monroe

"The Complete Course in Authentic Celtic Druidism." Rather than a history or study of magic, this is a "how-to" book with a New Age feel to it. Great inspiration for a Celtic- or Arthurian-based magic system for your fantasy world, but don't expect unbiased scholarly information from it. Information is presented as "story-lessons" depicting the training and initiation of Arthur by Merlyn.

Llewellyn's Magical Almanacs

Although "full of fluff" (as some Amazon.com reviewers have pointed out), these annual publications are a great source of inspiration for magic systems, spells, rituals, and festivals. There are recipes, articles, calendars that include moon phases and festival days and more. Even the advertisements are interesting. Grey Ghost Press has the 1994 almanac, which is now out of print. Still in print:

Street Magic: An Illustrated History of Wandering Magicians and Their Conjuring Arts, by Edward. Claflin

Just what the title says. Good reference for building NPC (or PC) magic-users (and charlatans).

(Out of Print, but possibly available through used bookstores. Amazon.com will do a search for you.)

The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology, by Rossell Hope Robbins

A detailed examination of the history of the Occult.

(Out of Print, but possibly available through used bookstores. Amazon.com will do a search for you.)

Zolar's Encyclopedia of Ancient and Forbidden Knowledge, by Zolar

Zolar is "The Dean of American Astrology" and author of a lot of occult-related books. This one delves into "Ancient and Forbidden Knowledge" (the Kabbalah, mysteries of sex, mortality and immortality, mediumship, etc.) and "The Art of Prophecy" (astrology, numerology, the tarot, etc.). The book's full of language such as "It is known to many persons who are not Occult students that the Tarot is a method of divination by means of seventy-eight symbolical picture cards, to which great Antiquity and high importance are attributed by several expositors." It's an interesting read, and a great source of inspiration for "magical treatises" written by fantasy mages.

(Out of Print, but possibly available through used bookstores. Amazon.com will do a search for you.)


Writers Digest "Everyday Life" Series

Grey Ghost Press has the Byzantium and Middle Ages books from this series, but there are lots more. Here they are:

The Cultural Atlas of the World Series

From Facts on File. Chock full of maps, pictures, and interesting historical facts. Grey Ghost Press has the Stonehenge Press/Time Life Books edition, now out of print. This is a continuing series with Facts on File; not all of the below books are actually on Grey Ghost's shelves yet. A couple of the books are available directly from Facts on File, but are not listed with Amazon.com. These books are pricey, you may be better off cruising on-line auctions for a set....

The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events, by Bernard Grun, Daniel J. Boorstin

A great date/event resource. Now into the "New Third Revised Edition;" Grey Ghost has an older edition.

The Timetables of Science: A Chronology of the Most Important People and Events in the History of Science, by Alexander Hellemans, Brian Bunch, Bryan Bunch (Contributor)

Want to know what was invented or discovered or debunked when? Look here!

The People's Chronology, by James Trager

A timeline for all of history. A thick book which has a capsule summary of key events as well as scientific and sociological trends for years throughout history. An excellent resource for would-be time travel gamemasters.

(Out of print, but Amazon.com sometimes has used copies available.)

Science and SF

Aliens and Alien Societies (Science Fiction Writing Series), by Stanley Schmidt, Stan Schmidt, Ben Bova (Editor)

An excellent guide to designing aliens and alien societies. Writers Digest Books, of course.

How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy (Genre Writing Series), by Orson Scott Card

A good introduction to lots of aspects of worldbuilding and story creation for science fiction or fantasy campaigns. Also good tips on writing well if you're interested in fiction writing. Writers Digest Books, of course.

How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction, by J. N. Williamson (Editor)

Another Writer's Digest Book of use to campaign creators.

Time Travel (Science Fiction Writing Series), by Paul J. Nahin

Solid science gives you a theoretical basis for "real" time travel. Writers Digest Books, of course.

World-Building (Science Fiction Writing Series), by Stephen L. Gillett, Ben Bova (Editor)

Helps you create believable star systems and planets from the ground up.Writers Digest Books, of course.

The Writer's Guide to Creating a Science Fiction Universe, by George Ochoa, Jeff Osier, Jeffrey Osier

This book starts out with "The Basics" (characteristics of space) and launches into Spaceships and Space Stations; The Sun and the Planets; Starships; Around the Galaxy; Designing a Planet; A Case Study of a Lifebearing Planet; Aliens; Galactic Civilizations; Nanotechnology and Virtual Reality; Designing a Future; Intelligent Machines; Remodeling Humans; Future Shocks; and Alternate Universes. Writers Digest Books, of course.

The Starflight Handbook: A Pioneer's Guide to Interstellar Travel, by Eugene F. Mallove, Gregory L. Matloff (Contributor)

A guide to scientifically feasible propulsion systems for interstellar travel; suspended animation; interstellar communication; and more.

The Extraterrestrial Encyclopedia; Our Search for Life in Outer Space, by Joseph A. Angelo

An encyclopedia covering real-world space exploration. A Facts on File publication.


Armed and Dangerous : A Writer's Guide to Weapons (Howdunit Series), by Michael Newton

Mostly firearms, but useful nonetheless. Writers Digest Books, of course.

Cause of Death : A Writer's Guide to Death, Murder and Forensic Medicine (Howdunit Series), by Keith D. Wilson

A good resource for modern-day mystery or espionage campaigns. Writers Digest Books, of course.

Scene of the Crime : A Writer's Guide to Crime-Scene Investigations (Howdunit Series), by Anne Wingate

Another good resource for modern-day mystery or espionage campaigns. Writers Digest Books, of course.

Deadly Doses : A Writer's Guide to Poisons (Howdunit Series), by Serita Deborah Stevens, Anne Klarner

Everything you ever wanted to know about poisons. Writers Digest Books, of course.

Gaia Atlas of Planet Management

An atlas of the Earth with ecological information, including population growth and density, habitat destruction, and more. A must-read for any concerned inhabitant of this planet, plus useful for GMs creating believable worlds and ecologies in their campaigns.


Although the following books were written for fiction authors, the advice in them is easily applicable to RPG character creation, world design, and adventure design.

Plot (The Elements of Fiction Writing Series), by Ansen Dibell

An inspiration for adventure design. Writers Digest Books, of course.

20 Master Plots (And How to Build Them), by Ronald B. Tobias

More inspiration for adventure design. Writers Digest Books, of course.

The Writer's Digest Character Naming Sourcebook, by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Hal Blythe, Charlie Sweet

A step above the standard "Name Your Baby" book, the Character Naming Sourcebook splits names out by origin (your usual Anglo-Saxon, French, German, Italian, etc., but extended to many more heritages; plus "Arthurian Legend Names"). There's even a bit of information about surnames in each section, although not enough to really be helpful in populating a richly designed campaign setting. For surnames, the local telephone book is probably still your best bet. Writers Digest Books, of course.

The Fiction Writer's Silent Partner, by Martin Roth

"Thousands of ideas, facts, possibilities and 'what ifs' on topics ranging from characters to vivid and unusual locales that will help you generate solid fiction ideas and develop your imagination." (The blurb on the cover says it all.)

(Out of Print, but possibly available through used bookstores. Amazon.com will do a search for you.)

Creating Characters: How to Build Story People, by Dwight V. Swain

A book about creating characters for stories- how to describe them, how to motivate them, and more. It is designed for writers, but some gamers have found the book useful for creating both NPCs and PCs.

The Publishing Business

The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing: Everything you need to know to write, publish, promote and sell your own book, by Tom Ross, Marilyn J. Ross (Contributor)

What it says. Good introduction to the process of book publishing.

The Complete Guide to Eco-Friendly Design, by Poppy Evans

An examination of the ecological harm publishing can do -- and ways to reduce and eliminate waste and polution in the publishing process.

Looking Good in Print, Fourth Edition, by Roger C. Parker (Editor), Patrick Berry

An excellent introduction to good layout and page design. Includes a section on print advertising. Grey Ghost has an older edition.

Advertising from the Desktop: The Desktop Publisher's Guide to Designing Ads That Work, by Elaine Floyd, Lee Wilson

A useful source of advice and inspiration for designing ads.

Kirsch's Handbook of Publishing Law: For Authors, Publishers, Editors and Agents, by Jonathan Kirsch

A must-have for any publisher.

The Writer's Legal Companion: The Complete Handbook for the Working Writer, by Brad Bunnin, Peter Beren

Covering contracts, copyrights, and more.

The Desktop Publisher's Legal Handbook, by Daniel Sitarz

Out of print, but worth tracking down. Covers copyrights, privacy, publishing rights, taxation, legal forms, and more.

And now, a word from Amazon.com:

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Amazon.com associates list selected books in an editorial context that helps you choose the right books. We encourage you to visit Grey Ghost Games often to see what new books they've selected for you.

Thank you for shopping with an Amazon.com associate.


Jeff Bezos

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Last modified: 2002-September-17
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