Sunday, March 22, 2015

D&D 5e Impressions - Dungeon Master's Guide


That's what went through my head as I frantically flipped through the pages of the new DMG. After reading the Monster Manual and enjoying it page after page, I was really eager to put my hands on the definite guide for all those dungeon masters out there - and boy am I impressed!

If one word could be used to summarize my thoughts and feelings while reading through this book - it would have to be this one: Inspiration.

This whole edition feels like someone was trying to get the rules out of the way and inject as much possible inspirational material that can be used to create great adventures, campaigns, characters, locations and story lines. The DMG is the pinnacle of that effort - and IMHO the best book out of the trio.

Don't get me wrong - the previous two where superb (especially the Monster Manual) - but the DMG makes you want to throw everything aside and write that great campaign or adventure you always wanted to run. The book focuses on inspirational material, leaning much less on mechanics, and therefore reads like a textbook, and not like a rule-book. It covers topics previous DMGs did not even get near to - such as alien technology(!), sanity and madness, siege-weapons, and other 'non-D&D' concepts such as firearms, fear-and-horror, and explosives. Variants of many classic rules are presented, that allow further customization and 'breaking' of the mold.

If 4th edition was extremely codified and 'strict', 5th edition is all about returning control to the DM, and allowing him to tell his story in his own way, while providing as much advice, examples and ideas to spark that flame of imagination and wonder that somewhat diminished over the last few editions.


It seems to me that every time I crack open the DMG, falling on a random page, I find something interesting to read. It's a good pastime book, even if you're not running a campaign - and it certainly makes you want to run one. The book doing a good job expanding on subjects like world-building and NPC creation, delving deep into adventure design and game running advice. It provides tips and advice on 'out-of-game' activities for players and DMs alike - just look at that Dungeon Master Inspiration page at the end of the book - a collection of works that can 'help you become a better storyteller, writer, performer and mapmaker'.

I've been playing (and running) D&D games for more than 25 years now, and I'm still amazed by how much I don't know about the various aspects of this game. The new DMG uses the collective knowledge of players and dungeon masters, binding that knowledge into a book that can inspire, teach and ignite that spark of imagination that keeps us scribbling notes about that old castle in the mire, or about that vampire lord plotting the downfall of a paladin.

At this point in my life, the last thing I need is a book full of rules, codes and mechanics. What I need is inspiration, ideas, advice and examples I can learn from and put to good use, and the new DMG provides just that, and plenty of it.