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69 of 72 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2008
This is NOT a review of 4th Edition D&D Rules.

The new Dungeon Master's Guide (DMG) is a very useful reference for new and seasoned DMs alike. Similar to the 3.5 DMG, the 4E DMG is mostly devoted to teaching GMs the black art of creating the adventure and running a game. This may come naturally to seasoned and as such the book is of somewhat less value to those folks.

The book's most easily stated purpose can be found in the title of the first chapter: How To Be A DM. This theme is echoed throughout the book as it goes on to provide reams of inspiration for any DM looking to craft a memorable play experience.

The first three chapters are devoted almost entirely to those folks who are DMing for their first time and want to put their best foot forward. The middling chapters provide guidelines for constructing the actual content of a game: Encounters, Adventures and Campaigns. The final chapters focus on the rules minutae of creating monsters, dealing with environmental hazards and construction of entire worlds. It also presents a completely developed town and area to start your players out in if you so choose. You can also use this area as a useful example when designing your own worlds.

Naturally, however, even experienced DMs would be wise to take a look over this book as it contains numerous useful nuggets of information and guidelines on structuring well paced 4E adventures. It's a great refresher for any DM - especially those who think they know it all. Seasoned D&D DMs are, in my humble experience, usually very thickheaded. They have ONE way they like to run their game and they actively ignore any ideas to the contrary. Every DM has his "way" that he follows like a religion and is very closed off to change or feedback. I am guilty of this myself to some degree, but I try to always remember that I am there to make the game fun for my players. I think some DMs miss these points and these are the type of folks that won't like most of this book.

(FYI, these are most of the people giving this book 1 Star reviews, as they clearly have no grasp of the purpose of this book and are just using Amazon to vent their frustrations with what they perceive the rules are lacking. What these folks are missing is that the rules aren't as important as having fun at the table.)

The bulk of the rules type stuff is contained in the last half of the book. These chapters contain rules on rewarding players, various environmental factors, artifacts, world-forging, monster-making and random dungeons/encounters. For those thickheaded DMs, this is mostly the stuff you will pay for as it constitutes the bulk of what you will need to make 4E adventures. Another interesting thing I personally noticed about the monster creation sections is how easy it would be to "fake" a monster on the fly if the DM needs it. Very cool indeed.

This book's stated purpose is to teach someone how to be a good DM. Truth be told, there are exceedingly few "good" DMs out there and newbie DMs can be advised that if you follow the guidelines in this book then you can't go wrong. With the exception of some seemingly forgotten items like constructing Minions, this book otherwise fulfills it's purpose completely and admirably. The 4E DMG stands as an awesome reminder of what D&D is all about: having fun!
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102 of 115 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 2008
This would be the third major re-imagining of the DMG I've experienced and this time WotC has very nearly made the book I wished I'd read before I first became a DM.

The fact that I've DM'ed for decades doesn't diminish the enjoyment of this version, either.

As with 3rd edition - A sizable amount of the book is devoted to telling DMs what to expect and what is expected of them. It boils down gamers and gaming sessions to a degree that more thematically-minded players might find offensive.

Seeing the framework of an encounter spelled out in stark language (e.g. "Wolf Pack-Hard: 6 skirmishers of level n+2") or having player archetypes defined (e.g. "The Actor: Be sure the Actor Doesn't Bore the other players by talking to everyone and everything [or] Justify disruptive actions as being 'in character'") might ruffle a few feathers.

There will likely be (yet another round of) accusations of WotC playing to the number-crunching wing of the gaming community.

Here's the thing:

Boiling the game down to its essential components is not limiting - it is instructive. Seeing the numeric skeleton of a gaming session does not mean that players will feel less inclined to flesh it out. I'd argue they'd have a better understanding of what they were doing when did so. Broad brush gamers are still free to ditch the lot and just improvise.

In the big picture - the advice section is not essential content for seasoned DMs, but it's not throwaway material either. The troubleshooting section is a great collection of things I've learned the hard way. It's gratifying to see those lessons in print (obviously, I'm not the only one who keeps making some of those mistakes).

For the number crunchers there are solid attempts at rules for disease and poison. In 3.0/3.5, they were two laughably inept concepts. In this version they might remain viable threats to upper level characters. (Does anyone in 3.5 have disease play a regular role in their campaigns? There's Lycanthropy and Mummy Rot - and a short list of things that aren't worth using once PCs are level 5).

This time around, diseases and poisons are scaled to the same levels of PCs (witness the Slimy Doom - a Level 23 Disease: Attack +26 vs Fortitude). That's an extreme example - but at least there's some chance it will get noticed by a mid-level character. Poison scales up - but the only way to scale truly fatal toxins away from low level PCs appears to be by price (Pit Toxin, Level 25 Poison costs 156,250 gp. Don't freak out, though the game economy has been re-imagined - so a +6 Holy Avenger now costs over 3 million).

Traps have been given a similar re-imagining, so there is the possibility that traps can matter above 10th level. It's still unclear to me if 4th edition rogues will be the chosen way to negate them (again, how often does any 15th level rogue in 3.5 roll to disarm a trap?).

I was very impressed with the skill challenge rules. Rather than a simple up-or-down roll on something that matters, the entire party can be involved in attempting to net a given number of successes as a group. The bonus is, they must achieve the right number of successes BEFORE they fail a set number of times (e.g. make 6 successes before accumulating 4 failures).

This makes big non-combat rolls less anti-climactic - and allows a challenge to involve the whole party. For example, say the whole party needs to "work the crowd" at a market to get information in a hurry. Everyone rolls and hopes that their tactless fighter doesn't sink their chances. This is a good game mechanic. I wish I'd thought of it.

There are extensive sections on balancing XP rewards, creating settings and encounters (complete with examples) as well as rules for creating custom monsters. 3.0/3.5 came with guidelines for PC treasure by level, and this book has them as well.

What you will *not* find in this volume:

Rules for making custom magic items. Having thrown the door wide open in 3.0/3.5, it looks like the 4th ed is pushing it shut. This is a great shame, as players who enjoyed that freedom *will* miss it. While I would expect that these rules will appear in a future supplement - they belong in a core rulebook.

The paradigm shift that began in 3.0 (from "DM has all the secrets," to DM/player collaboration) has resulted in the PHB getting fatter and the DMG getting thinner. 4th edition has continued this, moving magic items into the PHB so that the bulk of this book is adventure-building advice.

It makes the DMG less of a reference book that you use in each session. Now, it's more of a book that you use when you prepare - but don't actually take to the session.

This is not a bad thing - but fans of the old paradigm may think so.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 19, 2008
I had been running a game for about a year when I picked up the 4th Edition Dungeon Master's Guide. I have to say, it improved my game tremendously, and I highly recommend it, especially to relatively new dungeon masters. Here's why.

The book provided the guidance I needed without getting in my way. No assumptions were made about my DMing style, or the style and motivations of my players. Instead, the authors recognized D&D as a flexible game played by very diverse people, and provided advice to make the game work for everyone.

There is a section on the different archetypes of players and what their strengths, needs, and motivations are. I swear in my group I have one of each, and could never quite figure out how to deal with that. The DMG didn't pass judgment and say my power gamer was bad and how to force him to be more like my storyteller, it gave tips on keeping everyone happy but keeping them from stepping on each other's toes.

The encounter design section not only talks about how to make balanced encounters, but also how to make them interesting. There are ideas about terrain, monster roles, and hazards that help a lot. Last night, an encounter I previously would have done as "3 goblins pop out from behind a tree and whack you with swords" turned into a flaming arrow whizzing past them, setting trees behind them on fire and scaring their horses tied to the trees. They look up in time to see another flaming arrow coming from a single but powerful-looking hobgoblin sniper high in another stand of trees, and the arrow promptly sets one of the party members on fire. The melee fighters ended up trying to chop down the tree he was in, which I didn't expect, but I figured it's a large wooden object and quickly flipped to a page in the DMG that told me about how difficult it should be. A lot of advice scattered throughout the book combined to make it a much more interesting encounter than I previously would have done.

There are also sections on improvisation and what to do about actions the rules don't cover. A lot of people have complained about the lack of specific rules for things like craft and trapmaking, but I found I preferred using the general guidelines laid out in the book. There were less rules for me to keep track of, it sped up the game by not having to look up obscure rules all the time, but it was still easy to scale the difficulty as appropriate.

The one thing I dislike about the book is the huge number of mechanical mistakes. Almost all of these have been fixed in an errata which is freely downloadable from the website, but it is still annoying to have to consult the errata when something doesn't seem right.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 7, 2009
You know what is great about the 4E rules for D&D? They made it easy, and fun, for NEW PLAYERS to get into the game. They simplified and streamlined a lot of the nit-picky stuff (which, granted, some people love), and made it easier to just jump into the game.

What this means is that I can start an impromptu game with my little sisters, and actually keep and HOLD their attention all the way through an entire gaming session of about 2 hours. That is AMAZING! They have always liked the game, and the fun of the dice rolls, etc. What they DIDN'T like, was dying (or being knocked unconscious), limited spell use, confusing power rules, and almost no low level party members being able to to HEAL!

With 4E, EVERYONE can heal with the new "healing surge" abilities. I don't know about anyone else, but my parties generally ALWAYS suffered from healing problems in their lower levels. Either because nobody was playing a cleric, or there weren't enough healing potions to go around. Mages/wizards can now cast spells whenever they please (only being able to cast magic missile once per day/rest cycle is a real bummer to a little girl who wants to play a magic casting bad-arse as her character!), and all of the powers quickly and easily divided up into "at will," "once per encounter," and, "daily" powers. Given the almost unlimited choices available in 3E and 3.5E, they would get confused, overwhelmed, and stop wanting to play. Most little girls do not want to sit down and do homework to "play."

I am a 3E and 3.5E rule set owning DM, and I am here to say that 4E is not for everyone! But, if you are like me, and are trying to get new people into D&D, give 4E a try. I am fairly certain you will enjoy running a game for those people using 4E rules. I am switching over entirely to 4E for all new games I will be running hereafter. I will be hanging on to my 3E and 3.5E books, but those will be used for campaigns for D&D veterans. ;-)

Enjoy!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Quickly: somewhat conflicted book that definitely sets 4th edition up as a new game and not your old D&D.

Summary: I think anyone reading this knows what a Dungeon Master's Guide is so I won't spend much time on a summary. Basically it's the book that tells you how to DM a game of 4th edition D&D.

What's surprising is that it's very rules light. Chapters include How to Be a DM, Running The Game, Combat Encounters, Building Encounters, Non-Combat Encounters, Adventures, Rewards, Campaigns, The World, The DM's Toolbox and Fallcrest. The back of the book also has some Initiative cards and a two page battle grid.

Hot to Be a DM goes over The Gaming Group, types of Players, the role of the DM and some ideas on Table Rules. Running the game covers prep work and getting started, different game modes, narration and pacing, props, giving out information, improvising, ending a game, troubleshooting and a short section on teaching the game. Combat Encounters goes over the fundamentals then has some additional rules for mounted combat, 3D combat, underwater combat, disease and poison. Building encounters goes over monster roles, parts of encounters with templates and settings for encounters. Non-combat encounters go over Skill Challenges, puzzles, Traps and Hazards. Adventures covers published modules, fixing in game problems, building your own adventures, quests, mixing up encounters, settings and casts of characters. Rewards covers Quests, XP, Action Points and Treasure. Campaigns talks about published campaign settings, themes, super adventures, story, running and ending a campaign. The World introduces the generic D&D world, civilizations in it, the wilderness in between, the planes, the gods, artifacts and languages. The DM toolbox gives rules on customizing and creating monsters and NPCs, writing house rules and generating random dungeons and encounters. Amusingly it also has rules for playing with no DM. The final chapter gives a sample starting city and region with a short 5 encounter adventure.

The Good: As you can probably tell by the chapter headings alone this isn't any old edition DM's guide. Way more text and pages are devoted to being a good DM then to rules. I've never before seen an RPG that breaks down different players into types and gives suggestions on what to add into your games to make the game fun and interesting for all players. Similarly I've never seen an RPG that has a chapter on how to best spend your prep time including telling you what you should prep if you have one hour to prep, or if you have two, etc. In all this book has the best ideas and suggestions for DMing I have ever read. I would actually suggest any DM of any game read through all the non-crunch sections of this book.

Regarding the book itself it's laid out rather well with each chapter progressing in a logical manner. One page chapter introductions are nice for finding exactly the rule you need. The index is also very appreciated. Interior art is top notch and better then the PHB.

The encounter creation section of this book is probably it's most valuable part rules wise. The new method of generating encounters for 4th edition games is much more GM friendly and I think actually makes more interesting encounters then any previous edition. Challenge Ratings are now out the window and you return to the days of picking monsters by XP. There's a 4th edition twist on this though where you balance the encounter and make it interesting by choosing different monster roles. Gone are the days of fighting 6 identical kobalds. In are the days of facing a wall of Kobald Minions, supported by a pair of skirmishers and a Wormpriest and his Two Dragonshield guards. This section combined with the DM toolbox at the back of the book, which allows for the creation of Elite and Solo Monsters as well as templates that can be added to any monster, basically means that no two encounters ever need to be the same and all of them will be quick and easy to make.

The Bad: I personally would have liked a bit more Crunch. I can't tell you exactly what is missing but it just felt like there was something missing. Rules for creating your own Races and Classes would have been a nice start (though that's not something I usually do). Some repetition from the PHB would have been nice as well, though I do appreciate the cost savings. Especially in the section that gives additional rules for combat, there are a lot of references to the PHB. I think I would have preferred just having two copies of the movement rules for example instead of having to reference them while reading about flying. The random dungeon also confused me as half of each page shows a layout of Dungeon Tiles but no where in the text are they referenced. This was also true about a section on buying magic items in a low magic campaign. It noted to make the items cost more then the usual 10-40% more then list price. I don't recall ever reading that magic items cost 10-40% more then list price when bought from vendors and not created with the Enchant Item Ritual.

The Ugly: you hear a lot now a days about the 'next generation' being raised with a sense of entitlement. Well this game is written with that demographic in mind. This is a touchy feely D&D where players and characters get what they want because they are entitled to have fun at the table and have get treasure that they want. DM's are encouraged to say yes to anything a player tries (not so ugly are the great rules for coming up with damages and difficulties on the fly to support this). It's suggested that the DM get a list of Magic Items that the player's actually want from them and then when designing the encounters put these items in. It's strongly suggested that even players who aren't present for a game get full xp and that the encounters are weakened so that the challenge isn't too high so that everyone is kept at the same level and everything is fair. This isn't all of it, there's lots of suggestions like this. Now maybe to you this sounds great and is something that has been missing from the game for years. To me though it's just not very D&D like. If the random magic item found in the dragon's horde isn't for the party, too bad. If someone can't make it for a game (unless it's like a death in the family) then they don't get XP. To me it just feels like you are handing everything to the players and that the sense of accomplishment when they actually earn something they wanted instead of having the DM hand it to them (by level 5 all characters in the party should have 4 magic items). Now of course there is a really quick fix for all of this, and that's just to ignore it all and run the game how you want. Personally I'm trying my first campaign in 4th edition using their modules and running things the '4th edition way'. Maybe after a few sessions I will decide I like it, if not then my next game will be run more like the old style players vs. the module. Lastly, a pet peeve of mine, two references to page XX. Come on people, you couldn't hit Ctrl-F and typed in XX and hit find?!?

Overall: this is a great book for teaching you how to DM. Covering everything from how to prep for a game to what types of players you can expect to play with to what kind of challenges to face those players against. The book was well produced and well written. Personally I guess I'm a little old-school for the style of play described in the book, but I'm willing to give it a chance and see how it works. I strongly suggest any DM or prospective DM read the tips and suggestions in this book though, there is some great stuff in there. Regarding the sense of entitlement: I'll let you make your own call on that one.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2011
I come from 1e.

At that time, the DUNGEON MASTER'S GUIDE had all the rules. The PLAYER'S HANDBOOK had the options for your class and the benefits/penalties of your race, but the division was clear-cut.

Somewhere along the way, though, that distinction got blurred. Now, the PLAYER'S HANDBOOK has all the rules, especially the all-important rules of combat, while the DM's GUIDE has mostly advice for guiding your campaign, dealing with players, and designing encounter areas. The DM's GUIDE does have some rules, but only a few pages worth: combat rules for flying, rules for determining exhaustion, rules for mounted combat, etc.

Thus the first time I read this I was disappointed and a little angry. If you are going to DM soon, you don't need this book at all: simply focus on the "Combat" section from the PLAYER'S HANDBOOK. Hence initially I got nothing out of this.

It was only after DMing for about a year that I finally went back to this and read it again. I got a lot of useful advice out of it. So I suggest that you don't bother touching this until you've been DMing for at least a few months: otherwise you're going to get little out of it.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2008
This is a great book for the beginning DM. I already own DMG1 and DMG2 (from 3.5 edition) and had already been doing skill challenges (where was this initially introduced?) just as described in this book.

Its a fine book, but it only has a few rules that I might need to reference. The encounter building and the treasure are the only parts I'll probably need to reference, but that was only like 10% of the book.

I miss the DMG being this huge tome of knowledge that I could just kick back and enjoy on a rainy day, (1st edition DMG comes to mind).
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30 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2008
To start with, this is not a review of Fourth Edition, I have been reading through the character and combat system, and I like 4th edition (and I date back to the days of the original Chainmail). That being said, this book is utterly useless if you have played the game before, any version. There are no charts (other than disease and traps). Most of it is advice on how to roleplay, and what to do if someone has a family member that died and missed 2 months of gaming (I kid you not).

All the rules you need for 4th edition are in the players handbook. Heck, the monster manual is pretty worthless to if you are getting the modules, all the stats are in the modules. Magic Items, Combat Rules, all character powers, that is all in the PH.

There are like 10 pages of stupid made up artifacts that you will never use, pages on how to make maps, how to make encounters, and how many bowls of chips you should have at a game session. Honestly, there is NOTHING in this book that is need to play 4th edition, I would recommend only the PH and the first module if you want a feel for the game.

I do like 4th ediion though.. even though it seems like it was built as a video game engine. I have neices and nephews that it is really easy to explain to.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2009
I loved reading the AD&D DMG back in the day, it seemed like it had a lot of very intriguing magical stuff hidden in there and was quite evocative. when it came time to be a DM however, I felt pretty lost. I wish it also came with a copy of this book.

Since I got it I have mostly used it for designing encounters and NPCs but the general advice about being a DM I found to be spot-on and would strongly advise a new DM to give it a read.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
If your looking for rules, then this book isn't for you. In fact if you use published adventures it isn't even neccesary. However it does contain information on the defualt setting of D&D and if you want to make your own adventures its not neccesary, but definetely heplful.

All in all the book does what its supposed to do: guide DM's. It doesn't tell you what to do, it tells you what you can do.
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