In this post, I’ll share my Top Ten recommended buys during the 2019 GM’s Day Sale at DriveThruRPG.
March 4th—”march forth,” get it?—has become International GM’s Day, the holiday on which tabletop RPG players thank and celebrate their game masters. According to the website gmsday.com, players might show their appreciation with a small gift for their GM, picking up the pizza tab, or with “a simple ‘thank you.'”
That’s all well and good, but we all know that what makes a holiday truly special is a big, fat sale. So if you’re looking for GM’s Day discounts, DriveThruRPG has you covered, with discounts of as much as 40% on thousands of RPG rulebooks, supplements, adventures and play aids. The sale has been going on all week, and concludes early Monday morning, March 11. I’ve taken the week to scan through the tidal wave of offerings to pick out my ten favorites—along with a few supporting products as a bonus! I present them sorted by category, rather than in order of importance.
RPG Core Books
Almost 40 years after its debut, it’s easy to forget how important RuneQuest was in the early days of the RPG hobby. RuneQuest was the one of the first RPGs to achieve both artistic and popular success by tossing out D&D’s tropes and conventions, rather than mimicking them. Its innovative, percentile-based game system, its characters without class or level, and its richly-imagined, bronze-age setting of Glorantha, proved that an RPG didn’t need dungeons or d20s. I recently rediscovered my own, original copy of this book (boxed up for over two decades!). It’s the definitive version of the game, and I strongly recommend it anyone interested in first-generation RPGs, or who just wants a good, different game to try at the table.
If you are looking to play Runequest 2e, you may want to pick up Apple Lane or Snake Pipe Hollow, two of the legendary early setting supplements written for the game. Snake Pipe Hollow is especially interesting; modern RPGers would call it a sandbox setting rather than a single adventure path. Both are written or co-written by RPG legend Greg Stafford. If you don’t know who he is, google him. Now.
Dungeon Crawl Classics takes original D&D, adds a heavy-metal soundtrack, and paints a wizard on a unicorn on the side of its custom van. Goodman Games’ modern spin on old-school gaming comes in a 480-page volume full of 70s-style B&W line art and gonzo weirdness. This is the best price I’ve seen on the PDF, which is usually $25, so it’s a great time to pick up DCC. Most of the DCC adventure modules are on sale as well, so be sure to check them out; DCC #67: Sailors on the Starless Sea, is a 0-level funnel adventure that’s a great place to start your DCC experience.
In this massive volume, master GM, game designer and novelist Aaron Allston collects all of the rules from Metzner/Cook BECMI version of D&D into a single, dense tome. Its 300 pages are sparsely illustrated, crammed with content set in three columns of 8-point type, so the Cyclopedia is more a reference manual than a recreational read. But BECMI D&D is the universal foundation of the OSR movement, every OSR gamer should have his own copy of this crucial book; it’s a bargain even at its regular price of $10. If nothing else, at least read the extensive history of the book and BECMI D&D on DriveThru’s Rules Cyclopedia page.
You’ll probably never play this, the original white-box edition of Gygax and Arneson’s D&D. If you really want to try, you’ll need the combat rules from Chainmail as well! But if you’re an RPG hobbyist, you really ought to read it, just to know where this hobby came from. Only a few thousand copies of this earliest version of the game were ever printed; most of those have been lost to time, and collectors pay hundreds of dollars for the handful of sets that remain. Fortunately, Wizards of the Coast has put a lot of effort into making early D&D material available in PDF format, so we can all have a look for the price of a Big Mac meal.
It was the haunting, evocative line art and maps that first attracted me to Roan Studio’s Bay of Spirits OSR campaign setting, but I love the history, culture and adventure presented in the rugged, snow-covered lands surrounding a vast, icy fjord just as much. This book gives a general overview of the remote barony of Wyvernsbane and vassal lands that surround it, while other books in the line, such as The Wreckers of Windward Isle and Pipers Quay zoom in on specific locations. Several adventures are available as well; to give you a sense of what to expect in a Bay of Spirits adventure, Roan Studio offers Jaunt: Blood in the Snow for free!
When Raging Swan’s prolific auteur Creighton Broadhurst decided to create a campaign centered around an old-school megadungeon, he realized that laying out level maps and detailing individual rooms isn’t the hard part of designing a megadungeon. No, the tricky bit is the big picture stuff–where is the megadungeon, what are its major sections, and why does it exist at all? Those are the questions that are answered in the Gloamhold Campaign Guide, a 60-page overview that describes the subterranean regions and diverse denizens of Gloamhold, a vast and ancient delving across Hard Bay from the city of Languard. If you’re like me, reading Gloamhold will get you fired up to create your own version of Broadhurst’s megadungeon; I got so inspired I subscribed to Raging Swan’s Patreon, so I get everything to do with Gloamhold as soon as it’s released.
If you want to learn more about Ashlar, the duchy adjacent to Gloamhold, and its other towns and adventure locations, Raging Swan has released several more adventures and supplements in the Gloamhold campaign setting. The City Backdrop: Languard book gives an overview of Ashlar’s capital and your adventurers’ likely base of operations, while the various Languard Locations books explore parts of the city more closely, quarter by quarter. For a while, I was contemplating a campaign inserting the megadungeon of Gloamhold into Roan Studio’s Bay of Spirits setting—which would totally work, by the way—but the Languard material that has come out recently is just too good not to use.
Written by OSR superstar Matt Finch, co-designer of OSRIC and designer of Swords and Wizardry, the Tome of Adventure Design is my go-to tool for busting through the GM version of writer’s block. Organized into four “books”–“Principles and Starting Points,” “Monsters,” “Dungeon Design,” and “Non-Dungeon Adventure Design”—the Tome is presented as a huge array of linked tables, including every adventure hook, patron motivation, villainous plot, and bizarre monster aspect you ever thought of, and literally thousands more that you never would have come up with. It’s tempting to treat the book as a 350-page menu of ideas, but I encourage you to follow one of Finch’s several prescribed approaches step by step to force your creativity into overdrive. Frog God Games rarely discounts its products on DriveThruRPG, so this sale is a rare opportunity to pick up one of the best GM resources ever at the best price you’re likely to see any time soon.
I grew up playing Advanced D&D in the late 70s and early 80s, and I’ve always loved the Fiend Folio even more than the original Monster Manual, though I’m not sure exactly why. The format of the two books is virtually identical, but the Folio somehow takes the Monster Manual formula and cranks it up to eleven. Maybe it’s the introduction of then-innovative, now-classic monsters like Kuo-Toa, Slaadi, and Hook Horrors. Maybe it’s the first appearances of now-playable races such as the Aarakocra, Kenku, and Tabaxi. Maybe it’s just the kick-ass githyanki picture on the cover—TSR’s first cover illustration that didn’t look like it was painted in a high-school art class. Whatever the reason, the Fiend Folio will always be one of my favorite D&D books.
By now, you have to know that I’m addicted to printable miniatures. Fortunately, the GM’s Day sale is one of the best times of the year to fill out your collection of cardstock miniatures, as many of the top creators include most or all of their catalogs at 30% or 40% off. Rather than pick out one or two sets, I’m just going to refer you to a few of my favorite artists, and let you browse their work:
- Mayhem in Paper – Excellent line of SF and fantasy minis and armies
- Permes – Huge line of ancient and historical miniatures, along with fantasy
- Trash Mob Minis – Fantasy heroes and monsters
- Okumarts – SF, fantasy, superhero and steampunk miniatures and games
And while you’re at it, you can pick up a few Dave Graffam Models buildings on the GM’s Day sale as well!
Darkfast Dungeons: A Dungeon with No Master!
What better way to appreciate your GM than to give him a night off? Darkfast Dungeons is a tabletop dungeon-crawler that can be played solo, cooperatively or competitively, without the need for a GM! A typical raid on a randomly-generated dungeon takes a couple of hours to play, using a game system that is simple and fast-moving, suitable for gamers of all ages and experience levels. And it comes with printable miniatures and terrain you can use in your traditi0nal fantasy RPG campaign! If you like DFD, enhance the game with Realm of Shades, an expansion set introducing new scenarios, playable characters, and undead monsters.
Take some time this weekend to jump on some of the great deals on the GM’s Day sale, but even if you don’t read this until it’s too late, I stand by these recommendations. Additionally, most of the games, supplements, and other products I’ve recommended in previous posts are on sale this week as well. Every product I’ve mentioned is one I’ve bought myself and found well worth the investment. And if you find the PnPG blog useful or entertaining, feel free to support it by purchasing my OSR magic supplement, Cantrips. It’s on the GM’s Day sale, too, for just $1.59!
Until next time, keep on printing, and keep on playing!