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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Top 5 Dungeon Master's Guide Covers By Edition

Uhhh... that is not the Dungeon Master
We got some cool news today. For the new edition of D&D, there will be a basic set with rules for character levels 1-20 completely FREE and available online. How awesome is that?

For me, this will make for a fascinating test. My encounters group is full of people who do not buy books, they do not know the rules, and some of them do not even own dice. And yet they come to play D&D week after week, month after month. I honestly believe that they will not download this COMPLETELY FREE document, let alone read it! I have no idea why these people are like this. This is why I can't care about Encounters like I do my home campaign.

Last Friday, I was able to work the parody Castle Greyhawk into my D&D Next campaign. It's a long story, but basically the heroes can go there when they dream and keep the loot they find.
"The unicorn horns... urp.. will be MINE"
I was worried how this would go over. Castle Greyhawk is sort of funny, and sort of really stupid. Would they find it dull or lame? I originally would have liked to play through this dungeon while drunk in real life, but I generally don't like to mix booze with D&D for a whole bunch of reasons. The main reason being that I almost never drink and when I do, I have a ridiculously low tolerance. I once drank half of a bud with lime while DMing and.. well... I still hear about it 7 years later.

Castle Greyhawk went fine. The most well-received things were the jet-propelled stalagmites and the uni ducks. The group seemed to enjoy tricking the "Cretin" (a really dumb ettin). One player has a habit of "collecting" NPCs. She wants to have a "harem" or something. So a few creatures were abducted and brought into the real world: One minitaur, one uniduck, 5 miniature giants (fire, stone, hill and 2 frost giants - 5 feet tall).

If she does this for each level of Castle Greyhawk, their home (they live in a keep in a haunted forest) will be overflowing with completely ridiculous NPCs. That's fine with me, I love having NPCs interact in weird ways and seeing what happens.

Yesterday, I ranked the Top Five Player's Handbook covers. Today, I am going to do the same for the Dungeon Master's Guide. Again. I will pick my favorite from each edition. A commenter pointed out to me that the orange spine Player's Handbook cover was better than some.. I agree. I just didn't want to overload the list with books from the same few editions.

I think I will also do a "Basic D&D"/boxed set list, too. Obviously, Larry Elmore's red box art is going to be difficult to beat.

Now let's look at the Top Five D&D Dungeon Master's Guide Covers By Edition:

5. 5th Edition Dungeon Master's Guide

I'm not sure if this is the final art, but it's what we have to go on for now.  I like the lich, though his headgear is a little goofy. I don't like how undetailed and dark the lich's garb is. I really don't like the choice of using purple as the dominant color. I wish they would have gone with black and red. I guess maybe the red might conflict with the trade dress.

I don't like the pseudo-realistic style, with the white lighting and the lit mist. It's so real that it looks like they're on the set of the Mortal Kombat TV show. It looks like a straight-to-DVD movie set.

But what I really don't like about this cover is the hero. Does he have to look right at us? And does his hair have to stick up like that? I don't want to play that guy, and I don't want to play with that guy at my table. Everything is the same color and it all blends together and is, in my opinion, unappealing and forgettable.

4. 2nd Edition Dungeon Master's Guide
The thing I like the most about this cover is the colors. It's very bright and eye-catching. I love the Easley dragon. His dragons always had a heavy, distinctive look to them. They are brutish and powerful.

I don't know what the hell the deal with this wizard is. He is made of swirling energy...? Is he really shooting fire at a red dragon? And what exactly is the story with those bubbles on the left hand side? Why the hell are they there?

Clearly, this cover isn't too interested in telling a story, but rather it just focuses on making a pleasing swirl of colors that create an attractive piece of cover art. I like it.

3. 3rd Edition Dungeon Master's Guide
A lot of my complaints about the 3.5 Player's Handbook apply here. I hate the "Core Rulebook" text and I just feel like this was not the optimal idea for a cover. That said, from what I understand, these books sold extremely well, so who am I to argue with success?

There's something about this cover that I really like. What a weird idea. A tome with a (rotating?) metal globe embedded in it. It's cool. You could make a cool magic item inspired by this design. The world could be your fantasy world. What would be in this book? Secrets of your campaign world? The laws of creation? While I prefer a different style of cover, this one works and I like looking at it.

2. 4th Edition Dungeon Master's Guide

This thing is awesome. It's so simple. A red dragon looking at a magic scrying orb. The dragon looks incredibly cool. Wayne Reynolds is the man. But what I love the most is that this monster is looking at the heroes from the Player's Handbook cover. What a cool idea! This is a fantastic cover.

1. 1st Edition Dungeon Master's Guide
This is not even close. The orange spine AD&D 1st edition DMG cover is so much better than any other. This robed guy - he could be an evil wizard, or he could be you: the dungeon master. He has the key to the dungeon, and beyond him is a horde of monsters and a huge pile of gold with a shimmering beam of light striking it.

This tells you what you are and what your job is. You are the DM. You hold the key to everything. That's the fun of being a Dungeon Master. You get to sit down with your friends and create a great movie or novel - and nobody knows how it is going to end.

Tomorrow I run Dead in Thay. I've had a week to recover from the Bullying Incident. Tomorrow I'm going to have a little talk with them and hopefully we can put this "you're a horrible cleric" business behind us for good. I'll let you know how it goes.


Eshu Martin said...

What you have listed as first edition is actually 2nd edition. The first edition has a red Efreet on the cover.

Anonymous said...

Wrong. The listed cover is the second printing of the 1E AD&D DMG. The cover you are refrencing is the first printing of the 1E AD&D DMG.