The Alphastream Game Design Blog
Mike Shea, known by the name of Sly Flourish, has written the above book. This is his third book targeted at helping DMs. You can find an excellent summary of the book and an interview here on The Id DM’s site.
I have to admit I was a bit skeptical of this book when Mike first told me about it and asked me some DM preparation questions. I’m of the mindset that preparation is important and even that over-preparation may be important for DMs to help them try things and improve. Also, I felt like I personally liked preparation.
As I traded e-mails with Mike and later in reading this book I came to realize two reasons why this book was really useful for me. First, I need ways to find more hours in a day. There is a lot I do to prepare for my campaign sessions and I always wish I could do a bit more. If lazy DM approaches could help me shortcut some aspects of my preparation, then that would yield more time to do those things I never get to do. Or, it might help me find ways to do those things I never get to because I find ways to do them faster. Reading this book has shown me ways to do that.
Secondly, like most DMs I find myself increasingly focusing on ways to give players the ability to influence where a campaign goes and to tell their own story within story. (I’m not talking about endless open sandboxing. As I’ve written before, I’m not a fan of that. I’m talking about the players interacting with the robust campaign narrative and impacting how it develops.) Lazy DM techniques help me identify which parts of my preparation can be kept as a rough sketch or outline such that the players’ actions add the details and effect the development. There is a lot of truth to Mike’s advice, such as the warning that we might “build a story before it should be built”. He also offers a number of framework approaches which can keep the game flexible and reactive.
DMing is really interesting and often contradictory. I think most of us can alternate between feeling like we are rocking it and faking it. That’s because so many aspects of the game can bring surprises and because there is so much to learn. Reading about alternate approaches offers tremendous value. Mike offers great value in this book.
I’ve had the fortune to meet Mike, game with him, and work on Vault of the Dracolich with him. He’s a very fun gamer, super-smart, loves sharing advice, and all while being a very “regular” and “approachable” guy. His Twitter feed and blog are among the best. And, he’s one of the few guys who has great business sense. That can make him seem like he’s motivated by cash, but I don’t find that to be true. I know from working with him on a project that he is glad to put in the unpaid extra hours for the benefit of the community. And he really shares a genuine love for the game, for players, and for DMs.
On Vault, he had excellent writing skills – very efficient and immediate high quality. It really showed me what a talented person he is. He’s the real deal. We are fortunate to have him in this community. His book is a really good buy and he’s a great guy to support. Best holiday gift for a DM (or yourself)!
(Originally posted in 2012 on my WotC blog)