Not Again, Ten Non-RPG Books for the GM

I made the first list over 10 years ago. A lot of books have come out since then. Here’s the previous lists.

Sixth (the Finnish edition)

One thing I have to keep in mind is that I do have to check these lists so that I don’t repeat myself accidentally… Turned out: not really a problem. There’s just so many interesting new books all the time that if I remember, I could easily do another one of these in the near future.

In no particular order.

1. Ian Mortimer – The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England

There’s a series of these books by the same author for various times in the British history, but this is the only one I’ve read.

The idea is simple: the book explains the time period as if you were experiencing it. This isn’t always the neatest way of doing things, but there definitely is a viewpoint here, which focuses on things most books can’t.

2. Ian Mortimer – Medieval Horizons

Same author as the previous one, but very different point of view. Medieval times are often dismissed as just that time between Romans and the New Age that the world had to endure, but that is not very accurate. This book tries to bring a new perspective on this. This isn’t exactly novel in itself, as there has been a shift in attitudes for a while now, but this is the first book I’ve encountered on the subject, which collects a multitude of topics inside the same covers.

3. Nick Riggle – On Being Awesome

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this book on this book at some point, but checking these lists, it wasn’t on one of them, so, I’ll add it here.

The thing is, it’s not a very good book. The message is good and it has good ideas, but there’s enough ideas for a nice little article, not an actual book. It just feels forced in places. That being said, this is a very different book from the rest as it is about attitudes, so it’s not strictly a fact-based book. However, it is probably the book that is most easily applied to any game of any of these books. The big message is about being “game” to different kinds of ideas, which is something many roleplayers like to believe of themselves, but having played with a lot of them, not that many actually are.

4. Helen Amy – Everyday Life in Victorian London (partial credit to Henry Mayhew – London Labour and the London Poor)

Partial credit to Mayhew, because the first book borrows and directly quotes a lot from Mayhew’s book. In many ways it’s just reedited version of it with comments. It does make the whole thing more approachable, as the Victorian era English is not necessarily the easiest to read for the modern reader.

The book covers many topics, like how the street children survived and how the schooling system (or lack thereof) worked. Direct quotes from Mayhew are helpful here.

5. Karen Lindsey – Divorced Beheaded Survived

This is the history of Henry VIII’s marriages from the point of view of the wives. In itself it’s an interesting feminist take on the topic (which the subtitle is not afraid to point out), but from an RPG point of view, it is an interesting take on courtly life and the complicated politics behind these marriages. I’ve talked about this previously, specifically about Anne of Cleves.

6. Milo Rossi – Encyclopedia of the Weird and Wonderful

This is a quite light read. Milo Rossi is a YouTuber in his daily life. He is an archaeologist who debunks various archaeological conspiracy theorists and other misinformation. This is just basically a collection of various interesting tidbits he has come across in his work. Many of these things are very usable in any historical campaign.

7. Patrick Radden Keefe – Rogues

This is a collection of bad people from history. The name implies certain amount of fun, but most of the twelve people profiled here are kind of horrific. Still, usable information when building interesting characters for RPG purposes. And it is still a very good book.

8. Peter Englund – Poltava

I was certain I had mentioned this book at some point during this series, but apparently not.

It’s about a battle that ended the Great State era of Sweden (and if you check the map from the period, Poltava is not exactly close to Sweden), but the interesting part for our purposes is the depictions of military life in the early 18th century.

9. Tom Holland – Persian Fire

Obviously not that Tom Holland.

There was a time when about 40% of all the people in the world may have lived in Persia (we don’t really know for sure). So, the way Western history kind of dismisses Persia (which kind of still exists in the form of Iran) as something less important than Rome, for example, is a kind of erasure of the importance of certain cultures.

Anyhow, this book tries to bring light to the Persians and their importance. However, the period covered here is Persia’s conflict with Athens and Sparta, which kind of defeats the earlier point…

10. Chris Gosden – The History of Magic

The book starts with trying to explain what magic is and is not. It just goes off the rails very early here. I follow some YouTubers who also talk about magic and they also have this problem of not being able to define what they talk about very well, as they try to put this in such terms that would pass as believeble in the modern society, while still catering to their own audience of believers.

Still, the topic is interesting. The problem is that it tries to cover too much, but it is a primer for the topic. It starts from over 40000 years ago and ends with modern day magic, so you’ll have something for any setting that tries to feel more realistic.

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