I think I could sum up this review from the Foreward:
"Phil, on the other hand, has taken his expertise as a project manager and his genetic predisposition to nigh-obsessive preparedness and applied these qualities to an entirely systemic and effective treatise on the matter. He’s broken down the whole of the concept, applied a step-by-step presentation of all of the factors you need to consider, and presented it all in a clear, concise, easily grasped way.
The best part of this book is that Phil doesn’t just lay out a list of steps that every GM must follow to the letter. Honestly, that would be fairly useless as well as pretentious. A wiser man, Phil, in that he instead guides you in evaluating your needs as a GM, based on your style of play. From there, he helps you figure out the steps that make the most sense for you."
Phil Vecchione is a regular contributor to Gnome Stew, a site of articles for gamemasters. He's also one of the authors of Masks: 1000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game, and Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters. These products have previews available on the Engine Publishing Website.
Us gamemasters know that proper preparation is key to a good game session, but that's about it. Never Unprepared: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Session Prep breaks down prep into five phases: Brainstorming, Selection, Conceptualization, Documentation, and Review. Brainstorming is the spawning of ideas. Selection is the selection of ideas to use in an upcoming game. Conceptualization is the expansion of each idea, giving it log, a description, and a fit into the overall game. Documentation, aka. the part of the prep process most associate with prep, is writing down the concept that is meaningful to you, the gamemaster. Review, often the most overlooked phase, breaks down into proofreading, directing (reviewing and rehearsing), and playtesting (taking the perspective of the players before the game session).
But, on top of these steps, the book attempts to get you, the gamemaster, to accomplish these phases. What tools do you use for prep -- and even which phase of prep? How do you optimize your creative cycle and personal schedule? What are your strengths and weaknesses as a GM? The book also includes a concrete guide to templates (eg. NPCs and scenes). The Prep-Lite and Prep in a Real World chapters help you compensate when you cannot properly prepare for a game. These sections go beyond the "how to" guidelines of most gamemaster tip articles.
The book comes in both PDF and text format. The PDF is 134 pages long, with art interspersed throughout. Like too many other RPG materials, the art isn't really relevant to the text and could just as easily have been left out. The text is in the UTF-8 character set.
The book isn't for the lazy GM. If anything, it's a project management guide for gamemasters -- and it's still your project. The book has no shortcuts like an "instant NPC generator" or such. It also doesn't address prewritten adventures and their own problems. Nor does it give advice on gut improvisation during a game session. (It does give advice for last-minute preparation.)
I'm also just a little hesitant to recommend this to neophyte GMs. Sure, if you have ideas all brimming in your head, you will want this guide to help organize your thoughts and notes. However, the book may be a little intimidating with how much work you *can* do towards gamemastering. Don't think of it as what you *must* do.
One audience I think this book is absolutely for is the aspiring writer. I'm sure there are plenty of how to's for new writers, but you should be able to use the principles in this book for that novel you've always wanted to write. Many of the guidelines, especially time management, tools, and "thinking about it throughout the day" will be particularly useful for you to get your project off the ground. NaNoWriMo is coming up soon enough, and if all you do is prep, you'll do a better job than those who just pound the keyboard all day.
Overall, Never Unprepared: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Session Prep is for any dedicated gamemaster who designs his own adventure. Very well written, and very recommended.