Since my first EZG Essentials-post received a lot of positive feedback, here is the second part! Last time I discussed all the pdfs I consider ABSOLUTELY required for all players, i.e. the pdfs that every player at my table NEEDS to have read in order to draw maximum enjoyment from my sessions. This time, I’ll take a look at the non-optional additional material that any DM (and most players!) should read.
First, allow me a short tangent: Know how everyone’s all gushy about Mythic Adventures? Yeah, I like the book. But last year offered another Paizo hardcover I consider infinitely more useful – Ultimate Campaign. I’m honestly a bit surprised no 3pp tried to expand downtime rules and that support in general for the book has been tentative… Then again, it’s not relatively easily crafted Crunch, not more feats, archetypes etc., so that becomes a bit more understandable. Where I’m trying to get with this book – get it. Seriously. Even if your not kingdom building. My Andoran PC just this week managed to get mute mason to create an underground safe haven to help fugitives and hide them. This book did a lot to get my players invested and involved even more, and, while not perfect, I believe it does an excellent job at enhancing campaigns.
All right, so here we go!
Companions of the Firmament by Geek Industrial Complex
Why it’s essential: I know, one product-company? Don’t get fooled. This hardcover is one of the best books currently available for PFRPG – it makes flying a viable option, helps with various different builds and is one of the best crunch books I’ve ever read. Players may not be that into flying, but as a DM, you NEED to have read this – after this book, flying suddenly makes sense – in whichever way you choose.
Cerulean Seas Campaign Setting by Alluria Publishing
Why it’s essential: Wait, Campaign Setting? Forget about that part – it’s just one chapter. This book is ESSENTIAL because it features truly astounding underwater rules – and you know that sooner or later, you’ll drop your PCs in just such an environment, don’t you? With spell-component substitutes, buoyancy and depth tolerance rules and concise help in making 3d-combats, this is just as required as Companions of the Firmament.
Terrain Toolbox by Sneak Attack Press
Why it’s essential: Terrain is one of the most overlooked parts that make a good DM and a memorable encounter and this humble little tome did more good in my game than most 300+ page-books of monsters, feats, etc. With rules to create your own damage-dealing ground, ample nice hazards and generally, just fine ideas, this book may not be impressive, but it’s one of those humble, essential helps you won’t ever want to miss. it may not be perfect, but in actual use, it works superbly well – at least for me.
Ultimate Battle by Legendary Games
Why it’s essential: Let’s face it – mass combat can be damn cool, if only for a diversion. Ultimate Campaign does a valiant job at such a system, but the page-count simply wasn’t enough to properly go into finesse, into details. Well, what happens if the designer actually got that space due to being the head-honcho of Legendary Games and properly expands a decent system into something glorious? You get the BEST d20-based mass combat system – Period. Tactics, upkeep etc. – even when not playing kingdom-building games, the rules herein make inserting mass combat infinitely more rewarding.
101 Mystical Site Qualities by Rite Publishing
Why it’s essential: Fighting on the branches of Yggdrasil, in a sinkhole of negative energy, on an ancient battle-ground – the world is magical and thus should have places that feel magical, with all the rules to support them. This book by Rite Publishing is, in a nut shell, the magical companion to the Terrain Toolbox, the book that offers strange effects for places galore and makes the world feel less predictable and more magical.
GM’s Miscellany: Wilderness Dressing by Raging Swan Press
Why it’s essential: DM cheat-sheets for environments and more dressings than you ever need. Makes running wilderness so easy, it’s ridiculous. There is no book even approaching this one’s usefulness. When using it, your players won’t be able to make out whether what you described is part of the module or just from these tables. That good. A must have and one of the most-used books EVER at my table.
GM’s Miscellany: Dungeon Dressing by Raging Swan Press
Why it’s essential: What the wilderness dressing book does for journeys, this does for dungeon creation and dressing. Every aspiring designer and DM should own this incredibly useful, glorious tome.
GM’s Miscellany: Urban Dressing II by Raging Swan Press
Why it’s essential: The first urban dressing book didn’t achieve the level of awesome of the other two; the second does. This book singlehandedly makes your towns more alive and awesome.
Ultimate War by Legendary Games
Why it’s essential: Fluid transition from aerial to naval to regular amss combat, exponential increase in tactical options, this makes running mass combat centric-based campaigns possible – “Ultimate” indeed!
Microsized Adventures by Everyman Gaming
Why it’s essential: Because it not only allows really big monsters to ignore those puny toothpicks and allows for Shadow of the Colossus-style boss fights; it also provides perfect rules for shrunken heroes, new combat maneuvers based on size difference and fixes the broken weapon-size issues. A superb book if there ever was one.
Call to Arms: The Magic Satchel by Fat Goblin Games
Why it’s essential: Because it is a genius encumbrance system that allows for limited crazy-prepared stunts, makes the game more exciting and loses NONE of the simulationalist details. My new default encumbrance-system. ‘Nuff said.
All right, that’s it for now! Drop me a comment if you agree/disagree or if you just want to share your experiences with these books and next time, since it was requested, I’ll take a look at 3pp-classes that I and my players have come to enjoy using – those I’d never, ever want to miss at my table.