the wonder of role-playing games: reviews, solo rpgs, old-school & narrative games

13 Aug 2015

The GameMaster's Apprentice (Mini-Review)

The GameMaster’s Apprentice? A funny name for a little card-based tool. I playtested this yesterday had a lot of fun. It is a set of 60 poker-sized double printed cards with tons of random generators. At the same time, it’s a “GM-emulator” which you can use for solo role-playing. Each card contains 14 different randomizers 1. That’s a lot. Thus, you get a lot of material to choose from. You can get them HERE (aff): The Print-and-Play-PDF costs USD $9.99, Cards & PDF come at $19.99.

What’s the deal?

First off, I’m very happy with these cards. The generators are useful and each card contains a lot of information for you to use. While I like online generators like Abulafia, they’re a) internet-based and b) you need to dig around sometimes for the “right” randomizers. Other tools only have one or two kinds of generator (for example the Short Order Heroes cards: d6 results + an adjective).
While the GMA of course doesn’t have everything, the 14 randomizers will get you pretty far. Personally, I’m missing an image generator (like Rory’s Story Cubes or Tangent Zero Dice). I like them because they are very open to interpretation. However, the GMA offsets that with the Tag Symbols, the Elemental Symbols and the Norse Runes. I have to look up their meaning in the instruction PDF, but that’s ok. They provide a similar result. If you like, you can give the symbols their own meaning or customize them for your campaign. The GMA is one of the few “complete” tools for solo role-playing that I’ve seen. It has a difficulty generator, dice results and an “oracle” (the Likely Odds which tell you the answer to a Yes-No-question) and it comes with several more randomizers to use.
Normally, I use at least three tools for solo role-playing: a solo system/GM emulator, dice/a dice app AND a seed/event generator (in my case an image randomizer). But with the GMA you can have everything rolled up into one tool. That’s pretty nifty.
(That’s also a great way to play while traveling as you would only need the cards and a way to write down things - no need for rolling dice.) As for ideas on how to use the cards: the instruction booklet has some more bells and whistles you can try, but I only used the “basic” version which already works fine for most situations. Furthermore, there are so-called Adventure Guides for different settings in the works (i.e. Fantasy, Horror) which even give you even more utility.

Look & Feel

The design of the cards is pretty crowded albeit still usable. I would have liked to see a sleeker layout with more contrast/colors to distinguish the different randomizers. But all in all, it works though I don’t find it particularly pretty. I ordered the print-on-demand cards. The quality is acceptable but not superb. The thickness of the cards is ok, but I had several missprints in my order and many cards are slightly worn out at the edges. It’s not too bad, but I’m very picky about things like that. Luckily, Drivethrucards will send me at least a replacement for the missprinted cards. Normally, the card quality tends to be a bit better, perhaps I got a low-quality batch. The instruction PDF is barebones. It looks like it’s written in a word processor. There is nothing fancy here. It’s not bookmarked but, the index is hyperlinked. The instructions are easy to understand and there are some good tips for using the randomizers as a GM tool or a solitaire tool.


If you want to buy the print-on-demand-cards it’s not a cheap investment (USD $19.99 + shipping) but one that delivers a lot of value if you like randomizers. The print-and-play-version is considerably cheaper (USD $9.99) and you can choose if you want to print out the cards in color (brownish) or black and white. As a solo role-playing tool, this simply rocks because there are so many generators rolled into one card. I’d guess that the GMA is also handy for Game Masters who want to use the cards as a help in running or prepping games. For instance, you could use the Story Seeds or Plot Hooks to come up with an adventure idea.
Especially the randomizers for NPC creation are pretty nifty: it’s easy to come up with a name, some basic personality (Virtues/Vices) and other information (using the Belongings section or the Sensory Snippets). Furthermore, if you’re stuck on how to proceed in your running game, you could use the cards to come to a decision or introduce a twist.
I can’t say anything about how well randomized the cards are. In my playtest I didn’t find obvious errors, so for me that’s not a concern. The GameMaster’s Apprentice is exactly what I have hoped it to be when I backed the Kickstarter: a wonderful cards-based randomizer aid. It is especially handy for solitaire role-playing but surely also useful for running and prepping games.

Links: GameMaster’s Apprentice @DrivethruCards (aff) (Print-and-Play-PDF USD $9.99, Cards & PDF $19.99) Kickstarter

  1. Check out this graphic from the [Kickstarter