Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Catacomb Lord Guide

I'm kidding, I'm actually going to talk about the Dungeon Master Guide for 5th edition.  You see how I did that there?  Anywho...

It's been a month since I reviewed the Monster Manual and another month since the Player's Handbook.  Well, now comes the third, and usually least important book of the triumvirate of DnD- 

Anyone who's been playing DnD for any amount of time knows that the DMG is probably the least useful book in the set.  You need the PHB for building characters and spell lists (not to mention the basic rules!); you need the MM for all the monsters and villains that will plague the heroes through all the adventures; but the DMG is rarely used for more than just Magic Items.  In fact, that used to be the only part that I bookmarked in my old editions!

  Admittedly, that much still hasn't changed.  The section on Magic Items is awesome, alphabetically organized (and since the list isn't nearly as long as the old 1st and 2nd edition days, there's no need to categorize them into Rods and Staffs and Wands and Orbs and Potions and Knickerbockers and...  you get the point.  There are images of most of the items above the descriptions, and most importantly of all, there's a whole section for artifacts and magic items with personality (bringin' it back)!  I'm not saying that this part of the book is anywhere near necessary, but I will say that it's nice to have those options always available.

  But this is where it gets good- the DMG is useful beyond the chapter on Magic Items!  That's right, you heard me!  The book presents so much more.  It starts with the chapters on how to run a game (you know, the ho hum of how to manage people's personalities and choose the tone of the game), then morphs into the rules themselves.  I really enjoy how the DMG presents some interesting options to use for DMs, such as Inspiration, Healing 'modes', and even different kinds of elements like Sanity and such.  In other words, the DMG adds more tools to the DM's collection.  Wait, isn't that what it's supposed to do?

  But there's more!  Continuing the theme started in 3rd and becoming a focus in 4th, the DMG actually gives step-by-step instructions on how to build encounters up to entire campaigns.  It includes not only Experience Points, but the option of Milestone 'leveling' (my personal favorite), Challenge Rating, and how to properly modify monsters, NPCs, and overall encounters depending on what the DM needs.  I know that most of us 'old hat' DMs don't need this stuff, but it's actually really nice to have right there.  And for the newer DM, well, all the tools one can get can never hurt.

  But wait, there's still more!  Every DMG since the beginning of time discusses 'world-building' and plot design.  This DMG does it better than any I've seen before.  I swear that some of the Tech Level and Government stuff was stolen from some other SciFi rulesets, but the book takes it a step further and helps the DM create specific towns with specific NPCs.  From the description of the different Planes to the list of magic stuff available in the average General Store, it's all able to be determined right there.  It's not the 'video game' crap that 4th edition presented, but it's all the information that even veteran DMs might forget to think of.  The DMG even comes with 'template' maps of towns, taverns, and cave systems just in case the DM is otherwise occupied during the week!  One more little thing to add to this- stats for traps and such!!!  Again, just one of those little things that even the beardy old gamer would forget to consider...

And that's where the best part of the DMG comes in- a DM can actually randomly run an entire game night right out of the book!  There are so many random tables that divide everything into ecology and race and population level and everything else that you can imagine that the DM can pick up a die or three and generate everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) as the players are rolling theirs.  The DM had to work late last week and didn't have time to write up this weekend's adventure?  No problem!  Just set up the DM Screen and open the DMG and start rolling.  Six hours later and the players have something to talk about and the DM just packs up and goes home!  Seriously, this book really allows that.

  The book also includes an appendix (or three) that has all the information that was missing in the last two books.  Evil Gods, the Challenge Rating list for Monsters, even information on how to create your own Monsters and such.

  So what do I think of the DMG?  I love it!  Not only am I totally geeked with 5th edition, but I really feel that the DMG is the best book of all these new ones.  It became the most useful version of the book outside of Loot that I remember, and it's now the thing I, as a DM, grab before the PHB.  That should say something right there.

As always, let me know what you think and Happy Gaming!

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