In 1989 the very first book was released that heralded in
the 2nd Edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, that book was
product 2100 Dungeon Master Guide. Now I am going to do my best to keep
my word count down, but it is hard, as I am very passionate about this book;
but I promise that I will do my best to be fair.
I bought my first copy of the DMG back in 1994; at the time
I had the reprints to choose from, or this copy. Now, technically, I wasn’t a
DM yet, but the gaming store that I shopped at had only one copy of this
specific book in stock and they wouldn’t be getting anymore, so I picked it up.
I didn’t read it! But I did own it. Once I decided to start learning how to
become a DM, I finally cracked it open and have used the very same book ever
Back in the day, the players weren’t allowed to read the
DMG, they were told that this was because it had secrets that were best learned
through play. The soundest way to become an adequate DM was to play, and play,
and play! You’ve got to have a really good working knowledge of the Player’s
Handbook before you can be competent enough to start calling a game, and let me
tell you; your first one is a nightmare. Thankfully, the more you do it, the
more you learn and the better at it you become.
This book is one of three books that are required to play
the game. The other two are the Player’s Handbook, and the Monstrous
Manual. The physical specifications of the DMG are that it is a hard cover book,
which has put up with a lot of abuse through the years and is none the worse
for wear. A couple of my corners are dented in from dropping it, or having
stuff hit it on the shelf, but the colors of the beautiful cover art are just
as bright as the day that I removed the shrink wrap.
I love the paper that it was printed on, it is strong enough
to last for years and years, yet it wasn’t so shiny that it didn’t take ink
from making permanent notations inside of it (a complaint that I have with more
modern printing practices). The binding is super-heroic: it has held perfectly
all these years later, which is something that I can’t say about original
AD&D books, and, most importantly, the book lays flat and keeps the page
that you have it opened too for easy reference.
I’m not going to go through all of the chapters, this blog
in itself is a huge love letter to this book; but I will share my basic
thoughts and feelings in regards to it. Quite often this book gets a lot of
heat because people say that it isn’t complete, and it isn’t. 2100 specifically
wasn’t written to replace the original Dungeon Master Guide written by Gary
Gygax, it was meant to simply update many of the mechanics, but at the same
time be complete enough so that the user doesn’t necessarily need the Gygax
DMG. Me, personally, I use both books, with a preference to the 2nd
Edition during play as my 1e DMG requires much more love and care because it is
trying to fall apart. For the most part, I’ve mined what I really love from the
1e copy and transferred it into a binder that I can abuse and use during prep,
but like I said, for the most part, I stay with the 2e copy.
People also complain that it doesn’t have the huge wealth of
knowledge that the original contained, and it doesn’t. A few chapters of the
Gygax version appeared as their own books, which expanded the ideas that he
created into fully formed products. Whether this is a good thing, or a bad
thing I’m not going to judge, everybody has their own opinion on the subject.
The fact is that there is a ton of information in this DMG! This is one of the
books that I read regularly, and even though I’ve read it cover to cover many
times, I still find new stuff hidden inside of it.
While I’m not going to break it down into chapters, I will
tell you some of my favorite points in the book, but first, what I don’t like.
There is way too much advice in this book for my taste.They made it a point not to make an
instruction manual, as the user only needs to read that once and then, ever
after, it is a waste of space. While the advice that it does give you is
extremely helpful, once you get it, then you got it. The first three chapters
of the book seem to contain, mostly, advice for new to intermediate level
Dungeon Masters. There is some good mechanics hidden in there, but more often than
not, you don’t look at it anymore.
There also seems to be more effort put into describing weird
magical items than anything else. There is a lot of stuff in this book that was
left vague and caused more questions from the reader that were never ever
answered, meanwhile they’ve got the full stats for weird stuff that chances
are, you are never going to give to a pc, ever.
I love this book, and while some of the chapters are
extremely wanting, there are chapters that I really love! Specifically, the NPC section, from generating personalities, to defining jobs and how to determine success or failure for NPC skills, and how much one should charge for services is always helpful and entertaining.
rules are better detailed in this book than in the PHB, it wasn’t just recycled
text, almost everything in this book is unique to it. Creative thinking is the greatest tool that a PC has at their disposal, and this book tries to help you judge such attacks which were purposefully left out of the PHB.
The greatest and most
helpful thing in the DMG isn't the secrets which it contains, but is the Index. The Index isn’t just to the book itself,
but it also has the pages and topics listed for its companion book, Product
2101: Player’s Handbook. This amazing index saves a lot of headaches,
especially if you aren’t sure which book a specific fact is in.
The artwork is amazing, and serves a dual purpose, not only
does it inspire the DM, but it also helps him flip through the book and find
his favorite sections, providing landmarks of sorts.
As this book is required to play the game, that alone gives
it a high grade, while some of the writing is purposefully confusing, it gives
you all of the tools that you need to either use this book to make a judgement,
or at least, gives you a large enough feel for the game so that you can design
your own. For a new DM, the advice is incredibly helpful; it doesn’t leave the
user hanging without a sense of direction. No, it doesn’t tell you how to play
the game, but discovering out how to do that should always be a personal
journey, and besides, there are enough resources out there now for new users of
the game to get a really good grasp on things that can either go wrong or what
a DM is supposed to be doing with his time.
This book was replaced by a reprinting of it, as well as
some corrections made periodically during its own print run, however I have
never been able to actually spot what these corrections were, though I admit
that I use the last run of it. Though an update is available, I have always chosen to stick with this copy.
I give this book an easy B+. It isn’t perfect, but what book
truly is? Yes, many modern users won’t need the advice given, and chose to seek
it from online sources, but there is much more to this book than meets the eye.