Complete KOBOLD Guide to Game Design Softcover—Non-Mint

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Got Questions About RPG Design?

Wolfgang Baur, Monte Cook, Ed Greenwood, Mike Stackpole, and other industry veterans have the answers you asked for...and the advice you need!

Want to create great new adventures, monsters and magic for your RPG campaign? Maybe even design your own game?

The Complete Kobold Guide to Game Design offers 240 pages of in-depth essays on what makes RPGs tick. Get time-tested advice from the top designers in the industry. This compilation includes all three volumes of our Kobold Guide to Game Design series—now with all-new material by Wolfgang Baur, Mike Stackpole and others!

From core rules and magic systems to fantasy adventures, monster design, playtesting, and much more, these 40 essays cover every aspect of RPG design in clear, accessible language, to show you what it takes.

Pick up the Complete KOBOLD Guide to Game Design today, and starting designing your RPG tonight!

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My Design handbook


This book is in my shoulder bag right now. When I write pitches, I look it it's advice. I'm currently writing an adventure, and I find the insight in the kobold guide to game design vital. The years of industry experience in this book makes the difference.

Interested in Game Design?


If you have any interest in game design, you owe it to yourself to get this book. It's been an invaluable aide in many a starting freelancer's toolkit.

Invaluable aid


I was going to write a longer review about this book but frankly KTFisch7 nailed it. Not only will this book change the way you read rpg books and prepare adventures, if you ever want/have to design your own material, or even want to go into designing your own products - buy this book.

I can suggest the Print/PDF bundle, it's very attractively priced. I didn't read it on my PC or notebook (lacking a tablet pc) but if you ever want to read a specific chapter again, you can do so wherever you can access your pdfs.

A Must Have for any gamers library


The Complete Kobold Guide to Game Design is an intimidating and healthy 244 pages of collected musings, thoughts, insights and essays from a collection of industry names that should prove familiar to most gamers or would be designers looking to sit down and read through this book. At first glance, and yes by the assumption made from the books title, it would appear this book is strictly for the designers out there, a how to guide if you will, on how to make a successful game and thereby put your name on the map when it comes to the gaming industry. But looking through the chapters and essays contained within one discovers very quickly there is so much more to this book then first impressions. Written largely by Wolgang Baur, you will be treated to his insight on everything from borrowing concepts from throughout all of media and history, why MtG worked as a game, how one actually defines design, to nurturing one's own creativity. Wolfgang spends a great many chapters walking the reader through the many different aspects behind what makes a great designer, as well as why many will fall flat on their faces. He takes an unblinking look at the industry, and then reflects that here for the readers, which I have to admit, was refreshing. Far too many people are convinced they have the next great idea, and find themselves at a total loss when the whole o f the world doesn't agree with them. He even voices his opinion on Magic Item Creation ala RPG Superstar, he has judged twice now, and is well established to detail what works, and what doesn't. I can't help but think every gamer/designer who's ever considered publishing or submitting would do themselves a great service to spend some time reading at the very least the first section of this book, if not all of it.

Section 2 takes us into what I thought of as the reason gamers would want this book, not that the material and thoughts of the first section were not excellent, but they were aimed more towards designers looking to publish, as opposed to GM's (who in their own right are designers, whether they realize it or not). Here is where this book really starts to attack the concept of how to improve one's game from the ground up. Chapters dealing with topics like plot design, handling city adventures, the underdark and what one can really do with it as an ecological setting as well as a built in monster infested killing field. Hordes, humor, mystery and hardboiled adventures, this section tackles several different topics I can honestly say I wasn't aware I had problems in until I found myself reading through these and realizing that I saw parts of my game in what they were addressing. Again, any GM worth his player's time should spend some time with this section.

Section 3 takes us back to the business side of it again, with Writing, Pitching and Publishing. And again, we find that unblinking eye, which is what is needed in a product of this nature. After all, if you are going to buy a book that is largely a collection of advice and insight on how to succeed, would you want it to be sugercoated? No, you would want exactly what is delivered here, a fantastic collection of industry veterans not only telling you how you can improve your design and game, but how they themselves have improved their own games and designs. And just who are we talking about there when I say industry veterans, take a look:

Colin McComb– Extensive writing credits with TSR, Malhavoc Press, Paizo, and Open Design.
Rob Heinsoo – lead designer for D&D 4e as well as an extensive list of RPG, tabletop roleplaying, board, miniature and card games.
Michael A. Stackpole – Author, Game Designer both within the computer world and RPG industry
Ed Greenwood – The creator of the Forgotten Realms and successful author
Bill Collins - ENnie award winning designer (Tales of Zobeck)
[b]Nicolas Logue
– WOTC Voyage of the Golden Dragon, Several credits with Paizo,
Ben McFarland – credits on several Open Design projects, contributor to Kobold Quarterly, and The Breaking of Forstor Nagar
Willie Walsh – Longtime contributor to Dungeon Magazine, AD&D Road to Danger & Dungeons of Despair, Member of the Werecabbage Freelancers Creative Guild, 0one Games
Monte Cook – 1/3 of the design team for D&D 3e, Malhavoc Press, Arcana Unearthed, Ptolus, Iron Heroes, World of Darkness
Wolfgang Bauer – TSR, ICE, Open Design, just to name a few companies he has worked with. Won the eighth annual Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming in 2008.

So, 244 pages looking behind the curtain with some industry insiders. Very very few errors in editing, and by very few, I mean I think I found one. A must have book for both those looking to get into this industry, and those who merely want to play. I will admit, I did not know what to expect than I first saw this book, but by the end I was very happy that I turned the first page and kept reading, and I think you will be also.
I think my biggest fear in tackling this book was page hypnosis, and since it was a fear of mine, I would like to address it. Page hypnosis, as I call it, is that trance state you hit when reading textbook material type writing for hours on end, where you're not really absorbing anything so much as you're just staring at it because it's so boring. Why would I be afraid of that? Because every guide on getting into the industry I've ever seen before this one essentially ended up being one of the most boring reads I ever tried to get through. The Kobold's Complete Guide handles this with a very subtle method, that I think shows a great deal of intelligence on Wolfgang's part. No matter how interesting someone is, when they are teaching the human brain will attempt to go on autopilot eventually, so this book breaks up Wolfgang's writing style by interspersing essays from the other game designers throughout, giving you multiple writing styles to keep it fresh constantly. Now, am I saying that any of the material is boring? No, I am saying that the format of having multiple writing styles, and therefore multiple “voices” in this conversation proactively help to keep the book fresh throughout the entire read.

As I believe every GM and designer should have a copy of this in their library, I am going with a solid 5 star rating, but am adding the clarification, this is a collection of text. There is no pretty artwork breaking up the text, no game mechanics per say. This is a collection of insight into how to make the games we play that much better, and well worth the read, as long as when sitting down to read it, one understands that that is what they are sitting down to read.


I was wondering if this product will be offered in PDF format. If so, when?

The Exchange Kobold Press

1 person marked this as a favorite.

The original plan was not to offer it in PDF, but I'm rethinking that. it should be out in PDF within a week of the print edition.

Since I'm here, I'll also say it runs 240 pages and includes 3 new essays, by me, Michael Stackpole, and Willie Walsh.

Neat! :D


Wolfgang Baur wrote:

The original plan was not to offer it in PDF, but I'm rethinking that. it should be out in PDF within a week of the print edition.

Since I'm here, I'll also say it runs 240 pages and includes 3 new essays, by me, Michael Stackpole, and Willie Walsh.

Good news! You can count on me for a DL. Do you have an idea when print edition becomes available?


A flying kobold told me to expect a print edition very soon.


Print and Print/PDF bundles now available.

The Exchange Kobold Press

Hurray! This includes everything from Volumes 1 to 3, plus three new essays. One is on humor in game design (by Willie Walsh), one is on designing magic systems (by Michael A. Stackpole), and one is about the design space and when to leave room for the DM (by me).

It's a good-looking book.

Liberty's Edge

I have the three original volumes and can't say enough good things about them. There is some great advice within for freelancers and home GMs alike.

Having all three collected into one volume, let alone with the additional essays, is an awesome deal!!!

The Exchange Kobold Press

Thanks, Marc! I'll also point out that having all three under one set of covers makes it really affordable, too. Like getting one volume for free, essentially.

Oh, and CNN likes it.

Silver Crusade

I have bough it, the pdf looks nice and some of the chapters seem very well tailored for future RGP Superstars. I will write a review once I have finished the book (which will take about 1 month until the book arrives at my location) since a threat about reviews actually made me buy it.

BTW, the pdf+dead tree version bundle is a great idea, otherwise I might have postponed buying it (which I would have regretted)It came at a very fair price and I would love to get the same offer from paizo^^.

The Exchange Kobold Press

Hey, glad you like it! It's the culmination of about 4 years essay-writing in various venues, plus reaching out to some of the designers I admire for their thoughts and approach.

And as best I can tell above, Paizo offers a print+PDF bundle here as well, so that deal is not just available at the Kobold store.

Looking forward to your review!

Finished reading, got review up as well. Having never seen the original three, this was all new material to me, and I have to say, this is the type of book every true gamer needs on their shelf. Very well written, with so many pieces of sheer genius just waiting to be discovered within its covers.

Nice review, KTFish7 - I definitely have to get a review up as well. Oh, tempus fugit...

Endzeitgeist wrote:
Nice review, KTFish7

Thanks End!

Endzeitgeist wrote:
Oh, tempus fugit...

To many great game products, never enough time...oh well, sleep when when I'm dead, lol

The Exchange Kobold Press

Um, wow, this book has been reviewed by the San Francisco Review of Books.

San Franscisco Review of Books wrote:
Game designers and those just curious about the process will all surely find something within these pages to capture their attention and imagination. Some of the articles are a little technical and hard to understand, but most are very accessible for even the most novice gamer. Highly recommended for gaming nerds everywhere.

Vic, can we get that added to the product listing? It's rare to get noticed outside the gaming circles (though if anyplace has a strong games press, it's SF).


Done, mighty Kobold-in-Chief!

The Exchange Kobold Press

A belated "Thank you, Liz!"

While we're talking about it, the Robot Viking review came out today. The key three words for me: "pretty damn awesome".

The Exchange Kobold Press

Oh, ok, I'll be shameless this morning and point out that this book was ALSO nominated for a 2012 ENnie Award, in the category of Best RPG Related Book.

Darn tootin', it's RPG-related!

The Exchange Kobold Press

1 person marked this as a favorite.

In the continuing category of "Proud Publisher Papa", this book won the Gold ENnie for Best RPG Related Product of 2012.

Silver went to Wizards of the Coast, for Lords of Waterdeep.

That still blows my mind.


Updated product description to include ENnie award! Way to go guys!

Silver Crusade

Wolfgang Baur wrote:

In the continuing category of "Proud Publisher Papa", this book won the Gold ENnie for Best RPG Related Product of 2012.

Silver went to Wizards of the Coast, for Lords of Waterdeep.

That still blows my mind.

The book certainly deserved to win. I just posted a tiny review, no need to repeat what KTFisch7 already wrote (much more eloquently than I could have done).

The Exchange Kobold Press

Thanks for the review, Sebastian!

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

So is there anywhere that someone could actually purchase a pdf of the adventures mentioned in this book? Castle Shadowcrag, Empire of Ghouls, etc? Thus far my searches haven't uncovered anything. Or is anyone who just picked this book up and had never heard of the Open Design patron system before just out of luck when it comes to viewing these adventures?

The Exchange Kobold Press

Sort of. The Empire of the Ghouls material is in the Imperial Gazetteer (and I have no idea why the reference wasn't to that title).

Castle Shadowcrag material is largely in the Zobeck Gazetteer (and again, no idea why that wasn't referenced).

In both cases, though, the adventures were limited editions, so what you get is the non-adventure material plus new sourcebook elements in those Gazetteers.

The perils of limited editions.

Grand Lodge

Can't wait for: Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding, is there an ETA?

The Exchange Contributor; Publisher, Kobold Quarterly

Yes, it's listed on the Kobold Store for preorders. January 2013.

Grand Lodge

Sweet, I'll pick it up via Paizo cos KP postage is too high and I can whack it in with my subscription packages. Thanks

The Exchange Contributor; Publisher, Kobold Press; RPG Superstar Judge

A review by Lou Anders, the editor of SF and fantasy at Pyr Books:

louanders wrote:
I have read a great many books on creativity and writing across the years and very few of them offer much of lasting value. The Complete Kobold Guide to Game Design sets in a place of honor amid this very select list. I highly recommend it not only to game designers but to anyone involved in any creative narrative undertaking.

The Exchange Contributor; Publisher, Kobold Press; RPG Superstar Judge

This ENnie-award-winning book now a steal at 25% off for the Paizo GM's Week Sale.

Here's one of the reviews:

Sebastian Hirsch wrote:
Not only will this book change the way you read rpg books and prepare adventures, if you ever want/have to design your own material, or even want to go into designing your own products - buy this book.

Adding my voice to the flames of 'Just buy this.'!

Cheapy wrote:
Adding my voice to the flames of 'Just buy this.'!

I agree. There is so much excellent information in here that any GM, new game designer, old game designer, or really anybody looking to put a toe into game design needs to read.

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Ordered it a few weeks ago, should ship with PF #71.

How usuful would this guide be if I wish to design an adventure in a system other and D&D or Pathfinder?

The Exchange Kobold Press

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Andre Roy wrote:
How usuful would this guide be if I wish to design an adventure in a system other and D&D or Pathfinder?

Definitely useful! The assumption is that you are probably designing adventures for fantasy or heroic genres (definitely D&D and Pathfinder, but also FAGE, COC, Runequest, Ars, S&W, etc), though I believe there are few references to Modern or SF tropes.

Mostly, it's not a book of rules math but rather of how to solve the most pressing design problems (compelling beginnings, gauging difficulty, how to run playtests, designing monsters and villains, humor, how to design a magic system, etc).


Actually, it's to help me with CoC scenario set in Invictus (Roman), Dark Age and Gaslight era. I have my synopsis/plan written down, so I know where to go...but yeah wuthering my luck, that's the kind of hurdle I'll probably run into.

Thank you

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