- At 320 pages, it is a big book.
- There is a lot of art including fully illustrated maps.
- Lots of magic items
- Lots of optional rules
- Lots of tables to generate loot and evil things by rolling
- Some purposed rules have strange side effects or require interpretation.
- No PDF*
* Denotes nitpicking
Scheduled for a December 9th, 2014 release date, the Dungeon Master's Guide is meant to help a Dungeon Master create and run games of the 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Overall I think it is a well put together book with great production values and generally well written rules, but it is held back from being perfect thanks to a few optional rules that I find kind of strange. For more detail, read the long version below and for a list of things that keep in from being perfect in my eyes, skip down to the “Other Notes” section (where I also throw up some quick solutions). In general though, since the “Other Notes” section basically lists all my problems with the book (localized to a few pages out of the 320 page monster), I have to say it was a great Dungeon Master's Guide, even when compared to previous editions. For those on the fence, take a look at the table of contents and other preview material.
The content of the book covers a lot of material. There is material on how to handle interactions with factions and gaining reputation with them. There is a section talking about currencies and how it can be more complicated than the copper, silver, etc. system presented in the basic rules. Different aspects of campaign creation are covered (along with how to create villains) as well as rules for creating new monsters and magic items. In general there is a lot of material here and to see just how much there is, you can just take a look at the table of contents.
In terms of layout and the content provided, this Dungeon Master's Guide is a return to the older model. In this book there is no adventure and there are no grid pages at the end (like in 4th edition) but there are fully coloured maps to get the creative juices flowing. The overall focus is on providing the Dungeon Master tables, ideas (there is significant effort put into fluff and world building), optional rules and magical items to use in adventures. It also tries to define the rules clearly and concisely while still having its fair share of nicely written fluff (entire chapter dedicated to creating a multiverse).
A large number of optional rules are provided. Some are the kind of thing I thought of while reading the basic rules, but newer players might appreciate them being written down. For example, there are multiple different systems of healing purposed as well as changes to the duration of short and long rests (they even have a rule for those 4th edition players who liked second wind). There were also some optional rules I never thought of, and I have to say are very good.
There are a lot of tables. There are tables for treasure generation. There are tables for giving weapons characteristics and personalities as well as selecting particular types of gems (instead of a gem of value 10 gold pieces). For those Dungeon Masters who love tables, they have you covered.
However, the Dungeon Master's Guide is not perfect. There are a few optional rules that seem to interact weirdly with each other and need to be ruled by the Dungeon Master (see my list of “Other Notes” at the bottom) in my opinion. Keep in mind the list contains all of my gripes big and small in the rules so viewed in context, I have to say the book did a very good job and is well written. If you are a more veteran D&D player with older Dungeon Master's Guide(s) and weren't interested before, it may be hard to come up with reasons for getting this one besides the production values and optional rules. Luckily, Wizards of the Coast released a significant amount of preview material that should help these veteran players make the right choice for them.
|One of the pages that is located before the start of a chapter. This one in particular is one of my favourite pieces of art in the entire book and helps highlight how good some of the art really is.|
The Art and Book Build Quality
The quality of the book is in line with the rest of the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons and is laid out similarly. The fake torn corners of the Monster Manual are gone but fake paint running effects are still present on the pictures and add to the overall aesthetic of the book. For a Dungeon Master's Guide, there are a lot of pictures. Out of the 64 pages of magic items (not including sentient items or artifacts), only 6 pages didn't have an illustrated item while most pages had multiple items illustrated per page. Just about every chapter has a full page picture (my favourite is above). The art style is also very similar to the other books with the same painting like quality, further emphasized by the fake paint run effects. However, the fantasy style used for some of the weapons wasn't my favourite as I tend to prefer simpler, more historically accurate depictions. I would not call them badly done at all, and if you like this kind of fantasy style, you will probably be very happy. There is also some very nice artwork in here that appeals more to my tastes (look at that beauty above). The pages are decent thickness and the book itself feels high quality. If you liked the other books in this edition, you will probably like this one too.
The font is the same as the other books. I don't really have much more to say on this point, though if you still aren't sure, you can look at a preview page from the Wizards of the Coast website.
The copy of the book I reviewed had a case of “ripple pages” (when looking from the side, even with the book closed, the pages seemed to be wavy). If this is something that really bothers you, do make sure to check the book by looking at the pages. Over the few days I had the book the rippling seemed to get better and now is barely noticeable. The other slight variation I noticed was slight rise of some of the paper on the inside hard cover (I have seen this in other hard cover books before). I've checked and heard that this has been present on some earlier D&D 5th edition books but haven't seen it or noticed it until now. It could be just the luck of the draw on my end or the process of shipping and it doesn't seem to affect the sturdiness of the book.
There is no PDF copy. They never said there would be, none of the other books so far had PDF copies but I still feel this is important to note.
The book isn't out yet but the suggested price from Wizards of the Coast is $49.95 in the United States or $57.00 in Canada. When I looked for prices from the stores themselves I was able to find the book for about $30 in the United States and about $37 in Canada (Amazon and Chapters were the best places I could find, though some local stores might be even better).
What I felt was Missing
In general, I don't really feel anything was missing in terms of important sections of a Dungeon Master's Guide. However, there were those few rules listed that still seem somewhat odd to me (see “Other Notes” section).
For those players who are used to 4th edition D&D, there is no adventure included in this Dungeon Master's Guide and there are no grid pages either. The players who have this book can just use those grids for the new system. However, having a PDF grid sheet on the website would help newer players who wanted to use a grid.
In general, I liked this book quite a bit (though the Monster Manual is probably my favourite of the 5th edition releases). If you are a veteran player, it may be harder to think of reasons to buy this book but newer players should expect to learn a lot from it. If you are still unsure, look at the preview material like the table of contents or some of the item descriptions. The basic rules are still enough to play the game but at 320 pages long with a lot of art, the Dungeon Master's Guide adds a lot of content (and tables, can't forget tables). Out of all the Dungeon Master's Guides released so far, this has to be my favourite. Feel free to comment and I look forward to everyone else's opinion when the Dungeon Master's Guide is released.
- The mechanics of selling a magic item by the purposed rules have a few strange implications as written. They state that the highest bidder is “shady”. This seems strange to me. Why can't it just be a collector who really values the item and wants it now? What if the buyer really needs that item and time is of the essence (a healing potion for a family member). These aren't shady but would also account for the price difference. The shady word can easily be ignored but still, this seems odd to me.
- Reading the rules for crafting magic items exactly as written created some strange results in my opinion. A wizard without proficiency in smith's tools can still make a magical sword (fine, maybe the cost of hiring a skilled laborer is included) but a wizard with a proficiency in smith's tools doesn't get a discount or advantage for making a magical sword (this counters the previous point). This is easy enough to fix (wizard's proficient in a tool needed to make an item or those that have a proficient party member helping get a 2 gold discount).
- Running a business is presented in “Down Time Activities” but is quite simple. Running a farm? Running a smithy? Running a high end perfume shop? An Inn? The rules presented don't care and don't even mention adding in a multiplier from the Dungeon Master based on the profitability of the business. The way it is written, the business needs you to maintain it to make money. This means that while you are away, you lose money and while you are attending your business, your odds are better at making money (even if you are the worst business owner ever. In fact, ability scores don't affect it at all). I don't consider the part where you always have an advantage if you are attending your business a problem (though those who prefer a simulation style of play won't. For these guys, adding some kind of bonus for the skills deemed important should be enough). Your business loosing money when you aren't around is strange but easy to fix. Just roll like normal in that rule but without your bonus for being there.
- Building a stronghold is quite a nice idea and in general is defined quite nicely and compactly (click here for preview). However, the last sentence as written seems to say that if construction continues when your character is a way, it will make things worse. It seems to me that it should be interpreted as each day of construction costs 3 days when your character isn't present instead.
- The rules for creating magic items don't take into account some of the rules given for magic items in another section. Specifically, it says that consumable items are worth half price of their rarity but the rules for creating magic items don't adjust for this. As written, the rules for crafting magic items also don't scale with changes to the value of magic items, though the chapter on magic items give suggested ranges for the price. Just apply modifiers as you deem appropriate for your game or run as intended. This one really isn't a big deal.
- Repairing some ships will cost more than buying a new one. Using the full value of the ship in calculations avoids this issue.
Early review copy was provided by Wizards of the Coast. Images and preview pages are also courtesy of Wizards of the Coast.