D&D 5th Edition DMG
Posted by: Jendor -- December 17, 2014
So I figured now that I've had my DMG for a week or so that it was time to give everyone here still on the fence about buying it an idea of the content if they haven't even looked yet.
My first impression, can be boiled down into basically a single word.
After years of buying new versions of the same books as new versions and editions came out, I honestly feel I can say that they finally got the DMG completely right.
While it does contain rules about how to play from the DM's perspective it is NOT a book of rules. I hope you will forgive me if I begin to ramble, but I will break down the book chapter by chapter for you below.
The book is broken up into 3 parts, and 9 chapters. It also includes 4 appendixes.
The first part that they title Part I: Master of Worlds contains two chapters, the first chapter is "A World of Your Own".
Is basically an in depth guide on how to actually build a world. And when I say in depth, I really mean in depth. It starts with having you decide on the "core assumptions" about the world. How the gods interact with the world, how much is tamed and how much is wild, how old is the world, what sort of conflicts shape it and how magical the world may be. Through out this section you are given many examples about how other worlds have been designed in the past.
They give advice on how to choose the gods, how they are organized, if there are more than one pantheon, are there cults, and gives multiple paragraphs dedicated to each of these areas and topics. Including information on Monotheism, Dualism, Animism and more. It covers information about how the "lesser races" deal with their deities as well.
It then moves on to tips for mapping the campaign, from different scales (province, kingdom, continent) to combining different scales. It talks about types of settlements and what their purpose is. Choosing its size, atmosphere, government (with information on 19 different types of governments), commerce, currency, languages & dialects, factions, renown. When talking about magic in this section, it talks about how common it is, if there are restrictions, what schools are used or legal, teleportation circles, and reincarnation.
When creating your own campaign, they advise to start small, cover the little things first and then start building from there. Create a home base, create a local region, create a starting adventure, set the stage, involve the characters, create a background. It gives detailed information on campaign events, and how to shake up the game with examples of major events that could cause problems with the world at large. It gives tips on tracking time, and how to end a campaign. It also out lines different play styles, such as Hack and Slash, and Immersive Story telling with pro's and cons of each along with guidelines for running something in the middle.
It provides tips on continuing or episodic campaigns, and campaign themes, along with Tiers of Play. Advice on starting at higher levels, and information on different Flavors of Fantasy.
All of that was just in chapter one!!!!!!! 42 pages of information on just how to create your world and campaign with information on how to do so with useful examples.
Chapter 2: Creating a Multiverse, just takes things to the next level. It starts talking about the Planes of existence and how to create them. I talks about travel between the planes and common methods associated with doing so. It gives details on the common planes and how they function such as the Astral Plane (with information on astral projection, color pools and psychic winds), the Ethereal Plane, the Feywild, the Shadowfell, information on the inner planes (the elemental), and information on the outer planes which are usually the homes of the gods. Chapter two isn't quite as long as the first chapter coming in at about 24 pages, but still full of useful information.
Then we come to Part 2: Master of Adventures. Chapter 3, the first chapter in part two covers Creating Adventures. It starts with defining the Elements of a Great Adventure, such as, A Credible Threat, Familiar Tropes with Clever Twists, A Clear Focus on the Present, Heroes of Matter, Something for All Player Types, Surprises and Useful Maps. They give some information on how to work with Published Adventures including making changes to them. They give advise on Adventure Structure including tips for the Beginning, Middle and End.
Followed by that is Adventure Types (location based, event based) including tables on different types of goals for the adventure based on location. Or when building Event-Based Adventures to start with creating the villain, then work on his actions, then the parties goals, then NPCs, anticipate the villains reactions to the parties choices and more.
After that is information on how to create encounters, taking into considerations the Character Objectives taking into account difficulty, party size and more. Then there are several pages covering information on random encounters and how to add them to the game. Chapter 3 comes in at about 25 pages.
Chapter 4: Creating Non-player Characters, is basically everything that you'd expect it to be after reading the title. It gives information about creating NPC's both Quick and Detailed. It provides a multitude of tables to provide everything from talents and mannerisms to traits, ideals, bonds and secrets or flaws. It gives information on using Monsters as NPCs and also NPC Party Members. It gives information on Contacts, Patrons, Hirelings and Extras. It also begins to give more information on how to craft Villains.
Chapter 5: Adventure Environments begins with some information about the subject and then starts breaking into how to create dungeons, everything from choosing its location, to who created it and its history. Then you move on to its purpose and the inhabitants of the dungeon. It gives tips on the ecology and difficulty before moving on to giving tips for mapping the dungeon and adding features to it.
After dungeons it talks about the Wilderness and different approaches to travelling through it for adventuring groups. It gives tips on how to map the wilderness and on moving on the map. It then moves into wilderness features such as monster lairs or monuments, ruins and settlements, strongholds or places that are just plain weird. After that it breaks into Wilderness Survival talking about weather, or hazards, foraging and getting lost.
It provides tables to generate Settlements, and buildings within them, gives tips on mapping them, and for urban encounters. Then it moves on to detailed information about Unusual Environments such as Underwater, or in the Sky. It talks about Traps and how to handle and use them.
With Chapter 6 we are now more than half way through the book. Chapter 6: Between Adventures, gives information on how to handle characters and the game when they aren't out saving or endangering lives. It talks about linking adventures together, how to use an Overarching Story (with examples). Planting adventure seeds, and foreshadowing. It talks about Campaign Tracking with ideas such as a Campaign Planner, character notes, player handouts, and adventure log, NPC notes, a campaign calendar and a toolbox. It talks about Recurring expenses and maintenance costs for buildings. It gives advise for downtime activities with tables for such things as Building a Stronghold, Carousing, crafting magic items or running a business. It also provides tips on how to create downtime activities.
Chapter 7: Treasure, is where the "good stuff"(tm) starts to show up. This section brings back very strong memories of 2nd edition for me. The treasure section starts with advise on Random Treasure and introduces the Treasure Tables with information on how to use them, it also talks about the Treasure Hoard Tables. There are tables for generating gemstones and art objects. There are rules on how to handle magic items based on their rarity. There are tips on how to handle buying and selling of magic items, how to identify them and more information on Attunement.
The first set of tables are Individual Treasure tables by Challenge, these treasure tables only have currency as the rewards. The next set of tables are Treasure Hoard by Challenge rating. These tables start having information about giving away Gems and Art as well as Magic Items, many older GM's will recognize the layouts of these tables as they include thing such as:
79-80 2d4(5) 25gp art objects - Roll 1d4 times on Magic Item Table C.
It gives information on Cursed Items as well and then information on the different categories of magic items (armor, potions, rings, rods, scrolls, staves, wands, weapons and wondrous). It talks about Wearing and Wielding items, activating items, and the Resilience and special features of magic items. It provides tables for things such as Who creating a magic item or was intend to use it, what is a detail from its history, what minor property does it have, and what quirk does it have. Then it starts with the magic item tables, giving us Magic Item Tables A - I, with the higher letters having the more rare and powerful items.
Following that is the description on each of the individual magic items that are provided in the DMG which takes up 63 pages. After that it discusses Sentient Magic Items and creating them, followed by some examples such as the Moonblade and Blackrazor. It talks about artifacts and brings back the Beneficial and Detrimental property tables. The example artifacts include the Axe of the Dwarvish Lords, the Book of Exalted Deeds, the Book of Vile Darkness, the Hand and Eye of Vecna, the Orbs of Dragonkind, the Sword of Kas and the Wand of Orcus.
It also gives information for other rewards that can be given to players such as Supernatural Gifts (blessings, and charms) Marks of Prestige (letters of recommendation, medals, parcels of land, and special favors), Special Rights, Strongholds, Titles and Training. It then moves on to talk about Epic Boons designed to add more special abilities to 20th level characters.
After that we move to Part 3: Master of Rules, where they finally (232 pages later) start actually talking about the rules.
Chapter 8: Running the Game, doesn't start out breaking into the rules for 5th edition (the Players Handbook really did most of that) the first thing covered is setting Table Rules designed to Foster Respect, Avoid Distractions and above all Have Snacks (yes that's in there). They Advise setting expectations about table talk, how dice rolls are handled, rolling attack and damage at the same time to speed things up, creating policies about rule discussions and metagame thinking. How to handle missing players, how to work with small groups and new players.
They talk about games where dice are used to decide everything, and games where dice are never (or virtually never) used at all, or coming up with a middle ground. They talk about using Ability Scores, Attack Rolls, Saving Throws, Difficulty Class and Proficiency. They give more information about Advantage and Disadvantage, and Inspiration. It brings up Resolution and Consequences, and then talks about Exploration and setting travel paces. It talks about visibility, noticing other creatures, tracking, social interaction and resolving those interactions. It gives information roleplaying and how to be an NPC, including using your voice, or your face and arms, engaging the players, including targeting specific characters.
It talks about Objects and how hard they can be to hit or destroy, it gives tips on Combat, everything from tracking initiative and keeping a list of how is visible to using index cards. It gives tips on tracking monster hit points, keeping track of conditions and how to handle critical hits, along with improvising damage and working with areas of effect.
They discuss mobs of creatures, and using miniatures on tactical maps, the difference between using Square or Hex based maps, and optional rules on flanking, diagonals and facing. They talk about how to run a Chase in the game, how to work with siege equipment, diseases, poisons, and madness. They bring how how to handle absent characters, noncombat challenges, milestones and level advancement without XP.
The final chapter of the book is Chapter 9: Dungeon Master's Workshop. This chapter is basically just a section filled with optional rules that the GM can choose to use or not use to make the game more unique. These are some of the sections included, Proficiency Dice, Skill Variants, Hero Points, New Stats for Honor and Sanity, Adventuring options for Fear & Horror, Healing, Rest Variants, Firearms, Explosives, Alien Technology, Plot Points. There are Combat Options for different ways to handle initiative, actions, cover, cleaving, injuries, massive damage and morale.
There is also information on creating and modifying monsters, creating spells, creating new magic items, creating races and sub-races, and creating or modifying classes.
That pretty much ends the actual content of the book, the appendixes include things for creating random dungeons, lists of monsters by environment or challenge rating, and a few pages of images of maps.
Over All, I would probably recommend this book to everyone who wants to be a GM no matter what gaming system they are using. Most of the information in it is rule agnostic and can be used to improve their skills as a whole.