Add ‘The Game Master’s Book of Astonishing Random Tables’ to Your DM Toolkit

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I have definitely seen the Game Master’s Book line popping up online when looking for gift ideas for my husband who often DMs for our gaming group. It’s a Dungeons & Dragons 5e-based line that can be used to help create your own adventures. There are books for NPCs, random encounters, various traps, villains, and even dragons. It’s definitely a pretty cool collection. I have not grabbed one of them quite yet, but when I found out about The Game Master’s Book of Astonishing Random Tables and got a chance to review a copy from Media Lab Books, I was all for it. 

What Is The Game Master’s Book of Astonishing Random Tables?

The Game Master’s Book of Astonishing Random Tables is a 5e-compatible supplement for Dungeons & Dragons. It’s designed not to be campaign specific so that it’s useful for players running games in a variety of settings. This volume includes features for world-building, storytelling, locations, magic, and even three one-shot adventures. The book comes from Media Lab Books and was written by Ben Egloff with contributions from Jim Davis, Marty Matt, and Nick Forbeck. The forward is by Robbie Daymond of Critical Role and Exandria Unlimited. The pages of the book itself are filled with table after table for world-building, session-building, and magic-based situations, as well as a collection of random but fun other ideas.

What Is in the Book?

Most of the book is made up of a huge selection of tables so I’ll break them down by category.


This might be one of the best resources I have seen for world-building as I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a new DM popping into one of my online groups super excited about wanting to DM… but they really want to use their homebrew world that hasn’t quite been fully developed yet beyond a few basic concepts. World-building takes a lot, and if you look through a campaign book you’ll notice how many pages often get devoted to showing players the unique politics, culture, locations, and people of a new adventure setting. These new DMs are usually coming to a group for help in sorting something out or trying to figure out what they are missing. My own middle-schooler is interested in homebrewing up a world with one of his friends, which is another reason I thought this book would be useful for our household of gamers.

For the world-building side, DMs are walked through the following steps of world-building. Some of these come with a series of questions to consider, but an uncertain DM has the choice to simply roll for it on a table and let the dice sort it out. The following areas are covered:

  • Building a Pantheon
  • Defining Magic
  • Building a Planet (or Realm)
  • Forms of Government
  • Population Type
  • Building a Population
  • Creating an Economy
  • Creating Laws, Customs, and Their Consequences
  • Establishing Beliefs
  • Businesses
  • Guilds and Unions
  • Local Color

Many of these are self-explanatory, but “Local Color” includes things like landmarks, unique foods of a region, the underbelly of a city, and random organizations. Those are things a new world-building DM might not have thought of on their own, but it will really add layers to your world-building as well as create fun details for adventures.


The biggest challenge always is building sessions. Once your world is built you may feel solid, but it’s the constant creation of new adventures for your game sessions that’s really going to take your time up. Luckily, this book contains tables for that and can help you with the following:

  • Random Encounters
  • Chase Complications
  • Side Quests
  • Environmental Hazards 
  • Travel Complications

I love that the Random Encounters are organized by region/terrain type (coastal, urban, forest, etc.) as well as level. The monsters noted are in bold so my brain can latch onto that and quickly look up creature stats. The environmental hazards feel like a good way to challenge up a situation where my players might just be able to steamroll something otherwise. I actually needed a one-shot I could create for my players, and within two rolls I had a level-appropriate situation where they’re going to take on water elementals in fog conditions. It will be interesting to see how they can handle this sort of situation, and once I had a few things decided, it wasn’t hard at all to create a story around the situation.

Magic and Miscellany

This might be my favorite section because it has such an interesting variety of useful and fun things including the following:

  • Spell Scrolls
  • Positive and Negative Potions
  • Items With Personality
  • Personalities in Items
  • Teleportation Gone Wrong
  • Variant Wild Magic
  • Pickpocketing
  • Gifts and Curses
  • Dreams
  • Prophecy
  • Reincarnation
  • Strange Mutations
  • Tools of the Trade
  • Heraldry and Crests
  • Books
  • Art Objects
  • Wares That Might Not Strictly Be Legal
  • Location Upkeep
  • Drinking, Carousing, and Consequences
  • Ships and Shipwrecks
  • The Weird, Wild, and the Random

This is the section of the book where I feel like the more you look over it, the more you go, “That’s brilliant, I love it.” In fact, this section may cause me to haul my book along to the FLGS where I run things because it’s just too useful not to have.

The Spell Scroll section is brilliant. When a treasure table says to roll for a Level 1 Scroll, there is a table for all the Level 1 Scroll options (as well as the other levels), so you can just roll to pick one. But other tables cover things I love too. I get a kick out of my players finding random books in places and have often granted advantage on knowledge rolls later if the character read a book that might be relevant. This book actually has a table for random book title generators. There are also tables to describe the art pieces found in treasure hoards, tables for strange things in shipwrecks, a variant wild magic table, rumors on the streets (another good way to build an adventure), and even a table for the contents of a gelatinous cube. As someone who plays rogues, there is also a special place in my heart for random items you can pickpocket—I fondly remember my World of Warcraft days and the steamy romance novels you could gain from pickpocketing bad guys—and I know my group would get a kick out of the song list with descriptions of the songs. (Some really creative bards can have a field day with that if they decide to write the rest of the song.)


The book also contains 3 one-shots:

  • “Never Tell Me the Odds”: The party investigates a murder among killers. Levels 3 -7.
  • “Animated Defense”: A mage’s tower protects itself a little too well. Levels 2-6.
  • “Things Are Not What They Seem”: A sinister plot is uncovered by accident. Levels 8-12.

Why You Should Buy The Game Master’s Book of Astonishing Random Tables

Honestly, I’m tempted to call this the Game Master’s Book of Astonishing Useful Tables, and I think this is the sort of book where, if you can only pick one book from the line to start off with, this would be the one to go with. The more time I spend with it, the more I find myself going “This is useful” or “Where was this book when this happened?!?” It’s like the book of everything you didn’t know you needed until you start flipping through it. The only issue might be the preteen DM and I fighting over who gets this book when, and I’ll likely be showing this copy to the owner of our FLGS as “I found this really neat book I think other DMs will like too…” This is one I want to keep in my bag for those just-in-case situations, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself pulling it out more and more. Honestly, this makes me want to start grabbing books from the rest of the line, and if they do another boxed set, I really think this volume should be included. With a list price of $24.99, it may be one of the cheapest and most useful gaming books you can buy. The book releases on June 20th but can be pre-ordered for $22.49 on Amazon.

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