What, Another Ten Non-RPG Books for the GM?

The previous articles:


1. Robert Humble (editor) – Naval Warfare

For some reason, I can’t find the authors from within the book, as Humble is listed only as the editor. Anyhow, it begins with Phoenicians and moves all the way up to the Falkland War. Most of the book is centered around various battles and various commanders, many of whom you’ve probably heard of and others who are probably obscure enough for only experts in the field to know. Of course, the book covers all the most important maritime nations throughout history (such as Venice, the Dutch, the English).

2. Will Fowler, Anthony North, Charles Stronge & Patrick Sweeney – The Complete World Encyclopedia of Guns

It’s the history of firearms. Not much more to this than that. It starts with the invention of gunpowder and introduces firearms with over a thousand photographs with explanations on how the various innovations came about. Parts of the book feel almost like a brochure for guns from around the world, but I guess it’s fine for the purpose I’m suggesting. And various other uses if you have the right fetish.

3. Ben Roos – Swords: An Artist’s Devotion

Wild Bill Hickok and many other famous gunslingers of the Old West used to dress very well. They were celebrities and, while their style might seem comical to us, they wanted to look the part. While this book isn’t about that, it is for that character who wants to look the part in your campaign. It’s not very informative. There’s some explanations, but mostly it’s just illustrations of various swords (and sometimes other weaponry) just for the aesthetics, even if they are grouped by theme. So, when you want to bring character to a character’s weapon, here’s some inspiration for you. It has wonderful details about weird customs regarding weapons, but also about how the manufacturing techniques would show on the weapon itself.

Swords often weren’t practical. They were more of a status symbol, but since they are probably the most common kind of weapon in fantasy RPGs, this is the kind of thing that can easily bring depth to a world. There is also a certain amount grotesque in making the thing you are going to kill people with very pretty, but that’s the way it goes.

4. Jan Bondeson – Strange Victoriana

Weird stories from the era, but from a very specific source: Illustrated Police News. While one might think that the scope might be limited here, there’s actually all kinds of things that get reported to the police and ended up in this magazine. There’s a section called “Medical Freaks”, as well as “Ghosts”, “Dogs”, which have been separated for some reason from “Animals”. It’s just full of all sorts of things you can bring color to your campaigns with.

5. Jan Bondeson – Rivals of the Ripper

Same author as the previous one. As the name implies, this is all about other mysteries from around the time of Jack the Ripper, who just never received the same kind of infamy for whatever reason. Each case receives a lot of attention and goes into enough detail to make a good basis for mysteries for procedural games.

6. Michelle Morgan – Victorian Scandals

Even more Victoriana. I guess I just find the era fascinating. The full title on the front page is “The Battered Body Beneath the Flagstones & Other Victorian Scandals”. There are a lot of gruesome stories, but it has a different focus. As this is about scandals, there’s a lot of stories regarding the celebrities of the time. This is a sense a combination of the two previous books in it’s utility. It can be used as way to bring life to the world through news stories, but it can also be a source cases for procedural scenarios.

7. Geoffrey Wavro (chief consultant) – Historical Atlas

It’s plenty of maps from various areas and points in history and explanations on how we (or they) got there. Mostly it’s just various nations, but that’s not all. It also has maps regarding the spread of Christianity and how there are many times more Irish around the world than in Ireland itself. It could just be a great place to start if you want to have a campaign somewhere around the world you don’t often see campaigns in.

8- Edward Brooke-Hitching – Golden Atlas

The Atlas in this case is a collection of maps from various explorers throughout the ages. It’s mostly about the narratives of how these journeys came about. Why did these people go where they did and what did they believe they would find or achieve. It has a lot of historical maps, which are always of interest to me and could be used as inspiration for fantasy maps, except that for some reason fantasy maps seem to be a lot more accurate then they should be.

9. Ben McIntyre – The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War

As the title implies, it claims to be the most important espionage operation of the Cold War, but of course the whole world of espionage is so secretive by nature, so it’s hard to know and if we knew, it would be hard to tell. It’s about a KGB agent, who has also been working for the west as a double agent. A lot of information on tradecraft here, which is always usable to GMs. I’m not going to spoil the book otherwise, as there is a thriller here even though it’s about real events.

10. Peter Ashley – London Peculiars

Some time ago I ended up in a discussion about how hard it is to actually make a city a “living, breathing” place as suggested in Blades in the Dark. My thinking is that it’s not that hard. Just use what you know about cities. If you are not confident with that, use a book like this. It has plenty of photographs of various, often lesser known, places in London. You can use those as inspiration. Of course the book has basic places you’ll find in any fantasy city, like pubs, but cities have so many other places you can find. Your players might never need a printer or someone who produces paperbags, but their existence gives character to the city.

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