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Fantasy & Sci-Fi Campaign Building Guides

Everyday Life in Earlier Eras ~ La Conquista/The Conquest ~ Weapon, Equipment, Building, & Armor Compendiums

Central Casting Character Background Creation ~ Karen Wynn Fonstad's Atlases ~ Generic Aids

Fantasy & Sci-Fi Campaign Building

I think of gaming as akin to the "cooperative authorship" of a book. The referee and the players write a story that can be more powerful than the creation of any one person alone.

The referee designs and moderates the adventures and the overall campaign, but the players always add their decisions to the mix. To adapt a cliché: A referee's plans seldom survive contact with the players.

Nevertheless, the referee is responsible for the creation of a living, breathing world. Though the books below are intended to guide fiction writers, they would be just as useful for RPG referees.

The Writer's Guide to Creating a Science Fiction Universe

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Aliens and Alien Societies

"Whether you're a writer or a reader of science fiction, this how-to guide provides thought-provoking analyses of the ways in which aliens and alien societies can be portrayed convincingly. It's almost as fascinating as the many classic SF texts it analyses."

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Borderlands of Science

This is one of my favorites. Sheffield explores the frontiers of science for the layman, tackling subjects such as quantum theory, stellar objects, chemistry (why it's impossible to have a "helium-breathing" alien), methods of space travel, and plenty more. Indispensible if you plan to run a science fiction campaign.

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How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy

"Finally, Orson Scott Card's Hugo award-winning classic on the art and craft of writing science fiction and fantasy is available in paperback! Card provides invaluable advice for every science fiction and fantasy writer interested in constructing stories about people, worlds and events that stretch the boundaries of the possible...and the magical. They'll learn:
* what is and isn't science fiction and fantasy, and where their story fits in the mix
* how to build, populate, and dramatize a credible, inviting world readers will want to explore
* how to use the MICE quotient--milieu, idea, character and event--to structure a successful story"

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The Science of Science Fiction Writing

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What Does a Martian Look Like? The Science of Extraterrestrial Life

"Since H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds startled Victorian sensibilities with the outlandish notion of an invasion from Mars, we have become increasingly obsessed with the possibility of extraterrestrial life. From Klingons to Ewoks to giant blobs of goo, we have imagined space aliens in every conceivable form. But if aliens do exist (and they probably do), what do they really look like? Would we recognize alien life if we saw it? Given the rules that science has devised for life on earth, can we predict how evolution might proceed in environments quite different from our comfortable air-and-water world?

In What Does a Martian Look Like?, two respected scientists and authors combine real science with the creations of some of the world’s most inventive science fiction writers to imagine how life may have evolved elsewhere in the universe. They show that the universe is not populated with countless variations on the humanoid form or horrifying creatures drawn from your worst nightmares. Instead, they demonstrate how universal principles of life might produce amazingly diverse outcomes when applied in different environments.

You’ll learn the difference between astrobiology and xenoscience, find out how scientists model alien ecosystems, and discover the real trouble with tribbles. You may be disappointed that some of your favorite fantasy aliens are dismissed as scientifically impossible, but they are replaced with a galaxy of fascinating creatures, including Cain and Abel, the mentally adroit millipede and the sentient spray of mist whose explorations of earth introduce the theme for each chapter.

You’ll also find lively and enlightening discussions of the life forms and environments created by celebrated science fiction authors such as Wells, Arthur C. Clarke, Harry Harrison, Hal Clement, Larry Niven, Philip K. Dick, and many more. Using the works of these and other renowned authors as points of departure, you’ll take off for the stars and discover the vast opportunities for alien life that actually exist throughout the universe.

Whether you’re a die-hard science fiction fan or a skeptical scientist, What Does a Martian Look Like? will challenge your preconceptions and open your eyes to the real possibilities for extraterrestrial life."...from the flap

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The Writers Complete Fantasy Reference

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World Building

"Another in Ben Bova's series on Science Fiction Writing, here geologist and SF scribe Stephen Gillett helps you construct star systems and planets from the atoms up. While it may take you a little more than the proverbial seven days (well, six with rest), when you're done, your knowledge of gravity, weather patterns, cosmic mass and stellar patterns--in this universe--will be greatly enhanced."

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Worlds of Wonder: How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy

"While both science fiction and fantasy evoke "a sense of wonder in the audience," says David Gerrold in Worlds of Wonder, science fiction "is about what's possible," while "fantasy is about what's not." Writing for both these genres is a lot like "playing with a set of Lego bricks," Gerrold says: you're creating your own world, but you have to work within a logical framework. Like other forms of storytelling, says Gerrold (best known for his "Trouble with Tribbles" Star Trek episode), science fiction and fantasy rely on mysterious first sentences, effective exits, and surprises in every sentence in between. The difference is that your characters inhabit whole worlds of your own making, worlds that may be "marvelous and surprising to the reader," but must remain ordinary to the story's characters. To carry this off, says Gerrold, "you have to write each moment"--no matter how improbable--"as if you lived it yourself.""

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Central Casting

Written/Illustrated by Paul Jaquays, released by Task Force Games, this popular series helps flesh-out characters with a rich background. Out-of-print and difficult to find.

Hole Delver's Catalog (All-System Catalyst Series)
"Players, are you tired of going into a shop and only being able to buy a sword, a shield, a pack, a tent, a-nother generic piece of equipment? Wouldn't it be nice to get hold of something special for a change? GameMasters, want to offer something different?
Then just peruse this paltry portion of paraphernalia we propose you purchase! Then just peruse this paltry portion of paraphernalia we propose you purchase! Then just peruse this paltry portion of paraphernalia we propose you purchase!
That's right, say it three times in a row and win the opportunity to buy this little beauty.

How often have you been welcomed into your enemies' stronghold with open arms? (Us, too.) But we at Trojans found a way in easier than fighting and even easier than sneaking! In fact, the enemy actually will invite you in!
What we do is build an image of their favorite animal god big enough for you and your friends to hide in! Don't worry> we can make the animal large enough for a small army! All you do is roll it up to the enemy gate late one night, jump in, and..."

1987 ... 68 pages ... TFG 8531

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Central Casting: Heroes of Legend
(Fantasy Characters) "Until now, beginning heroes have been flat, lusterless characters with no sense of history or depth of personality. A warrior was a fighting machine, a wizard provided the heavy artillery, a thief acted as a mobile lock pick, and an elf just had pointy ears.
With Central Casting: Heroes of Legend, characters take on lives of their own. They gain families, friends, enemies, personalities, detailed past histories, and most importantly — gain motivations for life and adventuring.
Central Casting is a detailed, stand-alone system of tables, charts, and roleplay guidelines for creating thoroughly individualized roleplay characters. By following simple, step-by-step instructions, both game masters and players can give life to player and nonplayer characters alike!"

1988 ... Paul Jaquays ... 96 pages ... TFG 8542 ... ISBN 0922335001

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Central Casting: Heroes of Legend (2nd Edition)
Extremely rare 2nd edition of Heroes of Legend has literally double the pages of the first edition.

"Are your heroes flat, lusterless characters with no sense of history or depth of personality? With Central Casting: Heroes of Legend, characters take on lives of their own. They gain families, friends, enemies, personalities, detailed past histories, and most importantly - gain motivations for life and adventuring!
Central Casting is a detailed, stand-alone system of tables, charts, and roleplay guidelines for creating thoroughly individualized, involved and invigorating backgrounds for both player characters and non-player characters."

1995 ... Paul Jaquays ... 192 pages ... TFG 8546 ... ISBN 0922335702

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Central Casting: Heroes For Tomorrow
(Science Fiction Characters) "Unlike Fantasy genre roleplaying, Science Fiction games have studiously depended upon character backgrounds to give their heroes skills and professions. Yet like their fantasy brethren, SF adventurers are usually nothing more than two-legged weapon platforms or the under-utilized organic parts of 50 ton battle machines. Sure, they served with the space marines, picked up a few skills and a gigawatt microdoom blaster, but they're still just a bunch of lifeless statistics—nothing but flat, lusterless characters no different from a hundred other ex-space marines.
With Central Casting:™ Heroes for Tomorrow, characters take on lives of their own. They gain families, friends, enemies, personalities, detailed past histories, and most importantly—they gain motivations for life and adventuring.
Central Casting is a detailed, stand-alone system of tables, charts, and role-play guidelines for creating thoroughly individualized role-play characters. By following simple, step-by-step instructions, both game masters and players can give life to player and non-player characters alike!"

1989 ... Paul Jaquays ... 100 pages ... TFG 8543 ... ISBN 0922335036

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Central Casting: Heroes Now!
(Present Day Characters) "They're not stereotypes - nor are they cloned from a motion picture or television screen. Real heroes are unique. Even when made larger than life, they still vibrate with that last keyword: "LIFE!"
Yet so often, role players fall back on stereotypes - flat, un-original, cliché characters. If characters are developed at all, it's in terms of their possessions or powers. Can someone really be defined by the car they drive or how well they throw a punch?
With the Central Casting:™ character creation system, characters take on lives of their own. They gain families, friends, enemies, personalities, detailed past histories, and most importantly, - they gain motivations for life and adventuring. Complete a Central Casting history for a character and you will know where she carne from, what she's done with her life, and who she knows - both her friends and her enemies. You'll have a real character on your hands.
The Central Casting system is a stand-alone network of tables, charts and roleplay guides for creating thoroughly individualized characters. By following step-by-step instructions, Game Masters and players can give life to any character. All you need is dice."

1991 ... Paul Jaquays & Randall G. Kuipers & John Terra ... 112 pages ... TFG 8544 ... ISBN 0922335117

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Central Casting: Dungeons
"Suitable for use with any fantasy role-playing game. Central Casting: Dungeons has been designed to enhance your gaming experience by taking the drudgery out of creating a dungeon from scratch. Central Casting: Dungeons contains over seventy different types of rooms and mapping examples, dozens of role-playing suggestions, and literally hundreds of tables to take you, step by step, through the basks of constructing a unique and entertaining dungeon!
Your underground world of adventure awaits!"

1991(?) ... 192 pages ... TFG 8545 ... ISBN 0922335524

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Karen Wynn Fonstad's Atlases

Atlas of the Land: Stephen R. Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
Here's the perfect companion and guide for Stephen R. Donaldson's celebrated Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Karen Wynn Fonstad brings out every detail of the geography of the Land in riveting graphics and engrossing text.
Detailed two-color maps showing every place visited by Thomas Covenant in his travels across the Land
Pathway maps detailing the routes taken by Covenant in his travels across the Land
Schematics of the fortresses and villages where the people of the Land lived and worked
Fascinating descriptions of the geography and architecture of the Land"

1985 ... 201 pages ... ISBN 0345314336

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The Atlas of the Dragonlance World
"Accompany the Heroes of the Lance on their epic travels across Krynn in this magnificently illustrated volume. Behold the beauty of the King Priest's Hall of Audience in the Temple of Istar. Smell Raistlin's herbs as you wander the hallways of the Tower of High Sorcery at Palanthas. Become hopelessly lost in the thirty-five levels of Mount Nevermind.

Karen Wynn Fonstad, author of The Atlas of Middle-Earth, The Atlas of Pern, and The Atlas of the Land, draws you into the lives and places of the DRAGONLANCE Saga as never before."

1987 ... 172 pages ... TSR 8448 ... ISBN 0880384484

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The Forgotten Realms Atlas
"TORIL...Visit the exciting and fantastic world of the Forgotten Realms. Join adventures renowned as they trek across Toril in the detailed, beautifully illustrated atlas. Ride with the Ffolk in the magical Moonshae Isles. Brave the brutal elements of Icewind Dale. Follow the gods as they wreak destruction from the Dales to Waterdeep. Watch as empires of East and West collide. Karen Wynn Fonstad, author of "The Atlas of the Dragonlance World", "The Atlas of Middle Earth", "The Atlas of Pern, and "The Atlas of the Land", now brings you the spectacular and dynamic settings of the Forgotten Realms."

1990 ... 176 pages ... TSR 8442 ... ISBN 0880388579

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Generic Aids

Apothecary on the Street of Dreams (Little Shop of Poisons and Potions Book 2)
"That Master of Alchemy, Griswald Grimm is back, with 60 new poisons and potions for the fiendishly discriminating player-character or Gamemaster! Delightful destruction, rude revenge, fearsome fogs, drastic disguises, and all manner of environmentally safe forms of magical and non-magical chemical compounds await the adventurous, the curious and the bold.
Check this out:
* MASQUE - disguises for the truely desperate.
* POWER - for that barbarian muscle tone.
* BLOATBELLY BEANS - now you’re cooking with gas.
* LIVING DEAD POWDER - when no cleric is handy.
* CAPTURE - if you ever wanted to be a sword.
* GRIMM'S REAPER- there's no poison like it!"

1989 ... 68 pages ... Bob Liddil ... ISBN 0926895001

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Heroes of Yesterday and Tomorrow: Fantasy and Science Fiction Character Illustrations Suitable for Use in Roleplaying
I profiled this book with a flip-through on YouTube.

"This book collects the works of many fine artists, including some of the gaming industry's favorite illustrators:
• Rob Caswell • Liz Danforth • David R. Deitrick • Dan Engwall • Rick Harris • James B. King • Phil Morrissey • Blair Reynolds • Richard A. Tomasic • David L. Transue • Michael Vilardi.
Players and referees alike will find this collection of fantasy and science fiction character illustration to be a handy sourcebook, as the illustrations under this cover will serve nicely as both player and non-player characters. This is the kind of book players can browse through and say, "Oh! Now that's me — that's my character!" Even art fans will be pleased to own this book!"

1991 ... StarLance Publications 1003 ... ISBN 0962703028

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30 Sided Character and Other Tales
singing the p.r. blues
species with embelishment
the way you are
family and kinsmen who influenced you
what the gypsy read in the cards
how tall, how heavy and how unusual you are
things that make you different
childhood trauma affecting you
things you love and hate
the profession of your choice
things packed in your knapsack by your mother
combat wounds and traumas

people you meet out and around
people you meet in a bazaar
people you would find in a tavern
more people in a tavern
conversations with tavern owners
more conversations with tavern owners
conversations and encounters with gate cards
men, nearmen and notmen who can spoil your day
groups of men and notmen looking for trouble
encounter with a wizard
people you meet in a village
animals domestic or otherwise
the undead, near dead, never alive & very, very bad

swampland and jungle trails
specialized terrain (mountains)
weapons, weapons
more weapons
treasure, treasure
alternate worlds
other alternate worlds
magic spells you never heard of on scrolls
mondo magic spells
cryptic clues and signs of the times
more signs of the times
close encounters of th indoor kind
yes-no table
too weird to classify"

1986 ... Bob Liddil ... 45 pages ... Armory 8002

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| Everyday Life | La Conquista Campaign | Weapon books |

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