I am guessing that most of you are like me and are voracious readers. I am always reading some book, and most often I have second one I am reading casually on the side. There is nothing that gives me more anxiety than when I get to the end of a book, and don’t know what I am going to read next. My favorite type of reading material is RPG books with Sci-Fi a close runner up.
I love reading RPG books for al sorts of games, including games that I am not currently running. While I love a good story, stories are passive, making me a passenger as the author guides me through his plot. When I read a game book, be it rules, setting, adventure, etc, it engages my imagination and often gives me ideas that I can use for the game that I am currently running.
I try to read a number of different types of games across different systems and settings. I like classic games like D&D, clan books from White Wolf, and Indie games like Dogs In The Vineyard. I found that there are a number of benefits for reading other game books, some of which are:
Themes, Plots, and Tropes
This is the low-hanging fruit of what you will pick up from reading other games. As I said with regard to feeding your Creativity , reading different material allows you to collect ideas to fuel your own creative ideas. The setting of a given book does not matter, once you understand the plot, you can transplant it to another setting, with a little work.
When I am looking for plots, I find that game supplements make the the best sources. RPG supplements are often full of backgrounds, location descriptions, and hooks. One of my favorites in this category is Monte Cook’s Ptolus. The book tome is full of so many great ideas and plots that you can just open the book to a random page and find something you can use.
Nearly every rulebook has a Game Master section with information that the designer shares on GMing that game. The GM advice varies in different games, but they often give an insight into how the designer sees the Game Master’s role as well as tips on session prep, plotting, encounter design, etc. It can be hit or miss, depending on the game. Also, it is fun to read the GM sections from various books over the years, and see how the role of the GM has changed.
Some of my favorite books for this would be the D&D 3.5 Dungeons Master’s Guide II with some of the best advice from Robin Laws; Vampire: The Masquerade, with great advice on setting, mood, and plot; and the Amber:Diceless RPG with its advice on how to run a game without dice.
One of my favorite things about reading different RPGs is experiencing different types of mechanics. The inner math geek in me loves to see how a game designer models different actions in the game system. When I see a good mechanic, I want to transplant it to the game I am playing.
One word of caution, pulling mechanics from one game to another can be a dangerous thing, so use your best judgment. Often I don’t lift the exact mechanics from a game, but rather try to capture the essence of what the mechanic represents.
My favorite types of games for this are often the Indie games. While I do not run many Indie games, I can attribute several aspects of my personal GMing style to the influence of reading a number of Indie games. I have used Burning Wheel’s “Let It Ride” mechanic, and Dogs In The Vineyard’s, “Say Yes or Roll” in every game that I have played since I read them.
My Reading List
I have a stack of game books on my shelf that I am waiting to read. My short list includes:
- The Mountain Witch 
- A re-read of Burning Wheel  along with The Blossoms Are Falling
- The Price of Freedom 
- Necessary Evil  (Savage World Setting)
So with some time with the up coming holiday, consider an RPG book for some light reading.
What about you? Do you read RPGs for recreation? What books have been your favorites? What books are on your reading list?