Mar 30

Reading Around: 10 Influential SF books


TalesOfAGM CrossThe site io9 has returned to the topic of SF books with an article titled ’10 Science Fiction Books that Changed the Course of History”. I have previously used io9 as a source of images, but today I want to consider their reading recommendations.


Art from io9 in GM on Pinterest.


The ten SF books chosen by io9 were an interesting range of titles:


  1. The Tom Swift Series, Victor Appleton
  2. Neuromancer, William Gibson
  3. Gladiator, Philip Wylie
  4. The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells
  5. The World Set Free, H.G. Wells
  6. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
  7. Shockwave Rider, John Brunner
  8. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
  9. 1984, George Orwell
  10. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley


Read the full descriptions at


Any such list is always highly subjective, and likely to trigger numerous claims of great books omitted. Firstly, it must be noted that the list is focused on books with an ongoing influence on modern society. This caveat goes a long way towards justifying the presence of Frankenstein.


On a personal level, I am very pleased to see the inclusion of 1984 and Neuromancer on the list, as these are two of my favourite books.


However, I struggle with labelling 1984 as SF. The book is a political satire about an alternate 1948. Yes, it is set in the future, and there is a strong alternate-history setting. I have no issue with SF as a label, yet the categorization feels wrong to me.


Perhaps some writers are simply hard to label. Animal Farm is clearly not a children’s book, although it uses many of the tropes of that genre. Labelling 1984 as SF serves to obscure the political message. As modern governments push society ever closer to the totalitarian horror of 1984, the message is even more relevant today.


Little bit of politics.


The second thing which leaps out at me from the list is how much of it is unknown to me. I have read five of the books, which is not a bad percentage. I am familiar with War of the Worlds, but I simply had not heard of any of the other four titles. This feels like a terrible failing on my part. I can accept not having read all of the list, but to be a SF fan and simply not have heard of four of the titles is a poor showing.


Clearly I need to read a lot more.


So, which books would you add to the list? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Happy Reading


The previous Reading Around text was A Midsummer Night’s Game: Shakespearean Faeries in RPGs.


Mar 29

The Warlock’s Journal is Coming


Storm&Shield LogoThe roving Warlock’s Journal is returning to Tales of a GM for April.


In the previous round of the Storm & Shield contest, Tessa Starwind was voted leader of the Inner Council.


For the fourth contest we turn our attention to Hanna Crip, arch-nemesis to Storm & Shield. What dastardly plot is Hanna planning? What crisis faces the newly-appointed Tessa Starwind?


Sponsored by Ennead Games, the contest Storm & Shield: Cosmic Crisis launches at Tales of a GM on 1st April. Along with full entry details, there will be a complete rundown of the generous prizes on offer. Ennead Games have even provided a prize for every entry.


Ennead Games


Come back to Tales of a GM in early April for all the terms and conditions to the Storm & Shield: Cosmic Crisis contest.


Happy Gaming


Mar 27

March Blog Carnival: Best GM Ever


RPGBlogCarnivalLogoSmallTime marches, and the season turns. The new month brings a new host to the RPG Blog Alliance Carnival.


Last month the host was V at the Leicester’s Ramble blog, and I wrote about how I write.


The new host is Mark, at Creative Mountain Games. The theme for this month is the Best GM Ever. Mark describes the theme at his blog as follows:


This month on the RPG Blog Carnival, there will be a lot of discussion about the “Best GM Ever.” Some folks will contend it is one particular person they met, either recently or back in their distant memory, who ran a game so enthralling the players speak of it every chance they get.

However, other folks will post that it is someone else, someone who has a particular set of skills, skills that they have seen in part here and there spread out among many GMs.


Always the GM

My gaming experiences over the last few years have centred on being the GM, which makes this article something of a challenge. Many of our sessions involve lots of Player collaboration, and I have participated in some of our interludes as a Player, but this is not the same as being a dedicated Player.


After such a long stint of being the GM, I really should find a way to play in some games. I am sure even a one-shot would be both fun and informative. However, the opportunity is not presenting itself, and I enjoy running HeroQuest so much I am in no hurry to pass the reins of GM-ing to anyone else.


Which brings me back to the problems of writing about the Best GM, when I have little recent experience of being a Player. Therefore, I shall turn to a pair of GMs I have known from my gaming history.


First GM

As with girlfriends, we always remember our first GM.


I cannot exactly recall how we began playing Basic D&D. This was shortly before the release of the classic Red Box, and the exact sequence of events is lost in the mists of time. My first character was an Elf, which was a class all to itself in Basic, and mine was a terribly derivative character.


However, this article is focused on my splintered memories of Gavin, my first GM. Sadly, I cannot recall too much about it. We played for at least several months, and explored assorted dungeons, in the style of D&D in the early ’80s.


Here I am, still in the hobby over 30 years later, which proves the experience was great. We had loads of fun, in that early rush of manic enthusiasm for an exciting world freshly discovered.


With all respect for Gavin, the chances are he was not a perfect GM. We were all learning in those days, and I am sure I made plenty of errors when I began. However, whatever Gavin may have lacked in experience, he made up for in enthusiasm. He set me on the path of a life-long hobby, and I shall be forever grateful to him.



Longest Campaign

The second GM who stands out for me is Lyndon, who I met when I joined an RPG club after I moved to a new town. Lyndon was running the epic Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay  campaign The Enemy Within.


As a Player, this amazing tale is easily the longest campaign I have ever played. Lyndon ran a grim and gritty game, truly in the style of Warhammer. I think my character, another elf, was the longest surviving character, which said a lot about the reckless choices of the other Players, and the sheer lethality of the system.


The campaign was full of character, and Lyndon took great pains to keep the large group of Players engaged and on-track with the sprawling plot. His hard work and dedication provided us with an epic campaign.



Having been the GM for our group for at least two years, I can appreciate the effort Lyndon put in, and the infectious enthusiasm of Gavin. I am reminded again how I need to play a lot more games, but my schedule does not give me the time. However, I am grateful for the gaming pleasure Gavin and Lyndon gave me.


Read all the current entries to the March Carnival at Creative Mountain Games.


Which GMs have influenced you? Whose game do you remember with fond memories? Share your thoughts with your fellow GMs in the comments below.


Happy Playing


Follow this link to learn more about the RPG Blog Alliance.


Something for the Weekend next week: Trollbabe and Relationships in RPGs


Mar 26

Sigil PD: Chapter 13, Part 2

Character (4) head


Name lists, character generation & learning new rules


Despite the change in schedule, I was productive with my game prep. I now have a list of suitable character names and location names for the new setting. I doubt we shall need them all, but it pays to be prepared. These location lists are very good for ensuring a consistent tone for a culture.


I also prepared some sheets for the brainstorming part of the next session. These will be printed tomorrow night, when I also hope to work a little more on My Life with Master. The character sheet at the back of the rules has a lot of game information included on it, but I still need to revisit the character generation rules, and the mechanics. While we are not going to be using these rules during our interlude game, the Players will better understand the character generation process if I can explain the basics of the rules to them.


My favourite method for learning the rules of a new game is to create summary sheets. The creation of these summaries requires me to think about the mechanics, and how to describe them in brief notes. By processing the information in this way, I find I learn the rules.


How do you learn a new set of rules?


Happy Gaming



The Prep in Progress series are short summaries of my prep for my ongoing campaign The Tales of the Hero Wars


Mar 25

Tales of the Dice 10: Retching


10 Retching


After the break previously, it is rewarding to be back posting the comic regularly. There are many facets to living with cats, not all of them pleasant.


Issue 9, Quoting, can be found here.


Happy Gaming



Click on the picture for a larger version.

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