Active from 2005 to 2007 and dedicated entirely to system-neutral GMing advice, Treasure Tables was one of the earliest RPG blogs. It was also the precursor to Gnome Stew, so we decided the best way to keep all of its content -- over 750 articles and more than 7,500 comments -- accessible to as many GMs as possible was to move it here, which we did in 2012. Comments are turned off, just they as were when Treasure Tables closed in 2007. The GMing material and discussion archived below was originally featured on Enjoy! --Martin Ralya

The holiday season is rolling around, and it’s time to start thinking about shopping for gamers in general — and GMs in particular.

Whether you’re looking for something nifty to buy your GM, or need suggestions for family members who don’t really “get” roleplaying (and don’t know what to buy for you), the 2005 edition of the Treasure Tables Gifts for GMs is full of ideas!

A lot of the items in this gift guide have been mentioned here on TT in the past few months, both in posts and in comments, and it seemed like a neat idea to collect the best of them here.


These books are all geared towards helping you become a better GM, with tips and tricks on a wide variety of topics — from reducing your prep time to building memorable campaigns.

Advanced Gamemaster’s Guide
Gamemastering Secrets Second Edition
GM Mastery
Robin’s Laws of Good Game Mastering

There’s also one more title which, while not a book about GMing, is nonetheless very useful for GMs. I reviewed it in a post here on TT, Robert’s Rules of GMing:

Robert’s Rules Of Writing: 101 Unconventional Lessons Every Writer Needs to Know

Dice Bags

I’ve had a wide range of dice bags over the years — some held up well, some died pretty quickly. My bag from this company is hands-down the best I’ve ever had, the only downside being their glacial shipping time (4-6 weeks).

The Gamer’s Bag – Custom dice bags

GM Screens

Not everyone digs GM screens — but some GMs love them, myself included. I’ve included three different 4-panel screens here, all of which I can recommend based on my experience with them.

• Deluxe Eberron Dungeon Master’s Screen
• d20 Modern Game Master Screen
• Forgotten Realms DM’s Screen


There are lots of options for battle maps, and I’ve tried most of them at one time or another: wet-erase vinyl mats, big sheets of graph paper, etc. I stopped looking for a mapping solution when I bought a set of these — they’re the Cadillac of RPG mapping solutions.

Tact-Tiles – Modular, dry-erase map tiles

You might also enjoy these nifty area effect templates, although they’re a bit pricey:

Steel Sqwire – Wire area effect templates


In my interview with Robin Laws, Robin shared this nifty tip for GMs:

Story-oriented GMs can derive a ton of good tips about narrative construction from well-done DVD commentary tracks, particularly those from directors, writers and (especially) editors.

Here are the ones he recommended:

Dark Blue
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – Director/screenwriter commentaries
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – Director/screenwriter commentaries
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – Director/screenwriter commentaries
Pirates of the Caribbean – Writer commentary


I mentioned a host of good gaming soundtrack options in Music for Your Game — here are my favorites.

Batman Begins
Dungeons & Dragons – Official Roleplaying Soundtrack
Gladiator: Music from the Motion Picture
The Rock: Original Motion Picture Score

If you’re into the D&D setting Eberron, there’s also an excellent gaming soundtrack in Sharn: City of Towers.


A wide range of games come up in the comments here on TT, and I’d like to highlight some of the ones you probably won’t find in your local gaming store. The common theme is that playing these games might teach you some surprising things about GMing, which makes them ideal for the Gifts for GMs guide.

Burning Wheel
Dogs in the Vineyard
Primetime Adventures

Burning Wheel was also discussed in some detail in my interview with Luke Crane (who created the game).


We sell three different T-shirt designs through the Treasure Tables store (along with other nifty items). Here are three of our most popular options:

Rat Bastard GM

If you buy more than $50 worth of items, put in the code “Holiday 50″ (without the “s) at checkout and you’ll get $7.50 off. If you’re shopping for the whole family and spend over $100, use the code “Holiday 100″ and get $20 off your purchase.

I’m also a big fan of some of the shirts at ThinkGeek, especially these three:

I roll twenties
Rogues do it from behind

Reader Suggestions

Got an idea for the guide? Post it in the comments, and if it fits the theme — Gifts for GMs — I’ll include it here!

Steven Jarvis recommends the DMG II, which has some good info for GMs in general, not just folks who run D&D. I own this one, and I can second that recommendation.

Dungeon Master’s Guide II

Jeff Dougan recommends the Angel core book for its tips on using story arcs and running games with a more TV-like feel.

Angel RPG

That’s it for this year’s Gifts for GMs guide — I hope you found some good ideas for your holiday shopping!

This post was inspired by the much more extensive 2005 RPG holiday Gift Guide put out by RPG Blog. There are tons of great ideas there, as well.

What do you think of the TT Gifts for GMs guide? Is it too long? Too short? Did I skip an obvious category of interest to GMs?

About  Martin Ralya (TT)

"Martin Ralya (TT)" is two people: Martin Ralya, the administrator of and a contributor to Gnome Stew, and a time traveler from the years 2005-2007, when he published the Treasure Tables GMing blog (TT). Treasure Tables got started in the early days of RPG blogging, and when Martin burned out trying to run it solo he shut it down, recruited a team of authors, and started Gnome Stew in its place. We moved all TT posts and comments to Gnome Stew in 2012.


6 Responses to Gifts for GMs, 2005 Edition

  1. Under books, I would add Dungeon Master’s Guide II to the list. Even though it’s aimed at D&D, it has a good amount of generic GMing advice, too. The first chapter is more or less Robin’s Laws of Good Game Mastering (well, the gamer types section, anyway). Laws was one of the authors of the DMGII, also.

  2. Good suggestion, Steven — I’ll edit it into the list.

    Interestingly, I’ll be adding a section for movies after Robin’s interview is posted on Monday. He’s got a very neat suggestion for GMs, which I don’t want to spoil in advance. 😉

  3. Add also the Angel RPG Corebook, for some excellent advice on structuring a non-epic game. (Epic games meaning things like d20 tends to run.) In particular, I like their analogy of Series, Season, Episodes for handling moderate-term arcs over a longer game.

  4. I’ve never read the Angel core book, but it sounds like an interesting suggestion.

    I’ve made a “Reader Suggestions” section at the end, for these two recommendations as well as any others that crop up. :)

  5. Rephrase my suggestion, somewhat: Angel is not necessarily lower-powered than a d20 game. However, where the stereotypical D&D game is thought of as running for years, with no deliberate structure to arcs of story, Angel front-loads some of the series design with story arc structure, including making sure that all the characters are considered, if not used, during the actual execution of an episode.

    As for the power levels: fundamentally, Buffy was a super-hero show, with lots of shades of grey. Angel was somewhat darker yet, but is still a super-hero show, with the requisite power levels that accompany it.

  6. Jeff: Gotcha. I’ll reword it based on story-arc structure.

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