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John Taber
United States
Santa Clara
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Work hard, play hard!
-== What is it? ==-

Never Unprepared: The Complete Game Master’s Guide To Session Prep (NU) is geared to help GMs prepare for sessions in a meaningful and efficient manner so that play session run smoother. The book is written by Phil Vecchione and published by Engine Publishing. It was release in 2013.

NU has a color cover and an entirely black and white interior. The book is 6” x 9” and is 132 pages in length. In includes a table of contents and an index. I am reviewing a print copy that I purchased online.

-== What I Like ==-

NU starts by defining “prep” and what makes good prep. It then breaks out the preparation process out into five phases. In sequence the phases are Brainstorming, Selection, Conceptualization, Documentation, and Review. Each phase comprises an entire chapter of NU and is laid out in a similar fashion. The phase is discussed, questions that are answered by the phase are listed, what happens if the phase has too little or too much attention, a self-quiz to determine where the reader stands in their mastery of the phase, and finally how to improve in that phase. This content is the meat of NU and it really delivers. The information is easy to read but forces lots of introspection . I think these sections on phases impacted me the most.

Following the chapters on the five phases of session prep NU dives into chapters on tools, creative cycles, applying the material to your situation, and evolving your current prep process.

The tools section of NU is a great review of the strength and weaknesses of various tools and how to select tools based on the campaign and your GM style. I thought the depth of this discussion was really great.

NU has a fascinating section on how to evolve your prep style based on the material in the book. I think that sometimes self-help or time management books sometimes fall short on material in this area. NU does not skimp on this material and I found the author’s approach of applying his techniques based on your own GM style refreshing and extremely useful.

The section on templates was fine but again not revolutionary to me. I have used templates for my adventures, NPC, etc for quite some time. I did like his suggestions on what type of material is valuable in the templates and how it should be presented so that play during the session can be facilitated. As a suggestion I would love to see some of the author’s templates posted on his blog site for download.

There is a section in NU that the author calls “Prep-Lite”. As you might guess this is a section for GMs who do not like to do any prep. I am not personally one of those people but the section did provide some good advice to help focus the GM on areas where they need assistance. NU provides some nice advice in this area.

The artwork in NU is nicely done and well matched to the material. At times interior pieces are so well suited to the text that it made me smirk. Matt Morrow did the wonderful cover that reminds me of something Storn Cook might create. Matt Morrow and Christopher Reach did all of the interior artwork. John Arcadian did the art direction.

-== What I Don’t Like ==-

The chapter on creative cycles was really about time management. This information was not at all new to me as I work as a software engineer. The project management practices that I have learned over the years are reflected in this section. I can see someone who does not have this exposure getting something out of this section but it did not do a lot for me.

The section on references seemed very small and it was really focused on blog articles posted on Gnome Stew which is sort of the blog arm of Engine Publishing if I understand it correctly.

-== Summary ==-

NU is a book that will teach every GM how to improve their prep and thus their game sessions. Even GMs who think they have it all figured out need to read this book. This might be the best book I have read for GMs. For a $9.95 cover price for the PDF NU is a bargain. I would give it more paws but my scale won’t go that high.

I give it 10 out of 10 paws.
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Martin Ralya
United States
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Thank you for reviewing Never Unprepared! I'm glad you enjoyed it so much.
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