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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Dungeon Master's Guide - Master of Rules

Here we are at the fourth and final part of my comprehensive look at the 5th edition DMG. I still have to rely on photos from the book for the most part, so I apologize in advance.

If you missed them and you want to start from the beginning, here's some links to the earlier parts of this review:

Part 1: Master of Worlds
Part 2: Master of Adventures
Part 3: Magic Items

Chapter 8: Running the Game

We kick this thing off with a few pages on table etiquette and the pros and cons of rolling in front of your players. I always roll right in front of them. I have this gigantic grey d20 that always seems to roll high... they hate it.

We go over the basics of a Difficulty Class. It goes like this:

Easy: 5
Moderate: 10
Hard: 20
Very Hard: 25


We get details on when Inspiration should be handed out. It's meant as a reward for role-playing, acts of heroism, and "genre emulation". Genre emulation refers to a player doing things that fit the style of your game, like not being able to resist a dame (or dude) in a noir-style game.

What really interests me is this: "Remember that a player with inspiration can award it to another player." I had no idea this was an option. In my Hoard of the Dragon Queen game, I have two players who are constantly getting inspiration for doing cool team maneuvers in combat (mostly revolving around the elf throwing the gnome at monsters). This ought to help quite a bit, as I've had trouble getting my players to use their bonds and flaws to get inspiration.

We get a nifty chart on convincing NPCs to do stuff. We are given a nice little list of object hit points (a fragile barrel has 4 hit points, a resilient barrel has 18!).

There's a great chart for improvising damage which is a nice guideline. If you are submerged in LAVA, you take 18d10 damage. I remember some 4e adventures where you took 15 damage per round or something. That was pretty goofy, glad they fixed it. Seems like getting hit by lightning should do more than 2d10.

I love the juice in the d4

There's a great section on chases. Basically, you'll use a dash action each round. Once you've dashed 3 + your Con mod in rounds, you'll need to roll each round to avoid becoming exhausted.

There's a big table for complications that occur during a chase, like a crowd blocking your way or the classic 'two guys carrying a stained glass window' thing.

We get into siege equipment. They thought of everything! This book is really great. In case you are wondering:

Ballista: +6 to hit, 3d10 damage It takes an action to load, an action to aim, and an action to fire
Trebuchet: +5 to hit, 8d10 damage Two actions to load, two actions to aim, one action to fire

There's details on diseases, poisons and... madness! Let's roll up a long-term madness. I rolled a 22:

"The character suffers extreme paranoia. The character has disadvantage on Wisdom and Charisma checks."

Chapter 9: Dungeon Master's Workshop

This chapter kicks off with some seriously intense optional rules. Hero points?! A PC starts with 5 hero points and can use them to add +d6 to a die roll.

Get a load of this: new stats! Sanity and Honor! Honor might work well with the "Station" rules in Al Qadim. Sanity is obviously a horror game device, like in Call of Cthulhu. Failing Sanity saving throws would give you madness effects from the chart in the previous chapter.

There's rules for a "gritty" game where a short rest is 8 hours and a long rest is 7 days. I kind of like that, as it helps make time pass in the campaign. It always bothers me when the PCs go from level 1 to 10 in 2 weeks of in-game time.

Lingering Injuries

I love this section. There's a chart for special injuries, perhaps used when there's a critical hit, failing a death save by 5 or more, that kind of thing. It reminds me of the Paizo critical hit deck, which I converted to 4e when I ran Scales of War and everyone loved it. Conversely, nobody - and I mean NOBODY - wanted me to use the fumble deck.

I think I might ask my players if they want to use the lingering injuries chart in Hoard of the Dragon Queen. There's no beheading, it's stuff like losing an eye, arm, or leg and getting a scar or broken ribs.

There are a pile of pages on making monster stats and monster abilities. I will be re-skinning so this doesn't interest me much. There's a neat little section on making your own spells, with guidelines for how much damage spells of different levels should do.

Then we get into rules on making your own races and a spell point system.

Appendix A: Random Dungeons

This is a pile of charts to help you make a dungeon. I hope some intrepid individual turns this into an online program to generate random dungeons at the click of a button.

There's charts for different kinds of dungeons, including mazes, planar gates and death trap dungeons. Let's roll up a trap:
  • A doorway that, when opened, causes spears to shoot out of the floor at an angle doing d10 damage (I rolled: Moved through, setback, spears on page 297)
Now let's roll a random trick:
  • Brain preserved in a jar that, when touched, moves other objects nearby. That is great. You could have it animate shards of broken glass to strike the PCs, or you could have the PCs touch certain lobes to telekinetically move objects to help solve a puzzle or something.
Let's give our dungeon some dungeon dressing:
  • The air is damp and the smell of manure stings your nostrils. You can hear a shuffling noise echoing in the distance. A broken five foot pole lies on the ground. (Maybe the pole has manure on it? Or maybe... uh... let's move on..)
Appendix B: Monsters

This section lists monsters by environment. In the arctic section, there's a yeti. In the desert, there's a giant scorpion. That kind of thing.

Then there's monsters listed by challenge rating.

Appendix C: Maps

We get a few pages of great maps by Mike Schley. Some of these maps are from previous releases. I think one of these is the map to Vault of the Dracolich, and the ship map is from Talon of Umberlee (which is in my opinion the best ship map out there by far).

It's nice to have these and all, but I'd like it if they released some of these as poster maps. The inn, the ship, a dungeon and the cave seem like good ones to start with.

I don't know, maybe the poster map packs don't sell well?


So after 4 posts of ranting and raving, I think you can tell that I really like this book. It seems like they thought of everything.

It's funny, in 4e the general feeling seemed to be that a DMG was something that was difficult to make content for. But here, there's everything and the kitchen sink. They included all the little things that often get forgotten - the cost of a building, how to maintain a business, useful magic item creation, and cool variant rules like the injury chart.

I also greatly appreciate the random dungeon charts. They are extremely useful and inspiring. The NPC and villain generators are top-notch, too.

If you have any interest at all in being a DM, you should get this book. Heck, even if you're a player and you want to be able to refer to the magic items or plan your downtime properly, you should get this book.

The 5e Dungeon Master's Guide is a home run, and it is easily the best of the three core books.


NorseLord said...

Perhaps the Schley maps will be available for digital download purchase from Schley's web site, just like the LMoP maps.

NorseLord said...

Here they are...