Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Comparing DMGs (P. 2b)

[continued from here...I really hate to break this up, but the thing was already a giant wall of text]

In part 2a of this series, I went over Chapter 1 of the 5th edition Dungeon Master's Guide (DMG5). Chapter 1 forms the bulk of the first section of the DMG5 (which consists of three sections, total, plus four appendices). The rest of Part 1 (i.e. Chapter 2) consists entirely of a discussion on Creating a Multiverse for high level play: other dimensions, planes of existence outside the material plane, etc. As with the earlier chapter, there are few hard, fast rules here but mainly suggestions, or ideas. For example, the section on Planar Portals states "a portal can have any conceivable requirement" for opening, then lists a handful of possibilities. There are suggestions for which planes to include in one's campaign (one for fiends, one for celestials, one for elementals, etc.), but no default multiverse. Much of the chapter is taken up with sample planes, most of which are recognizable from the earliest editions of D&D, and there are "Optional Rules" scattered throughout the text. However, it's clear that uniformity is not on the list of priorities for 5E. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.

[and that's really all I want to say on Chapter 2 of the DMG5; at least you won't need to buy a Manual of the Planes with this edition]

As stated in the initial post of this series, the AD&D DMG opens with a parallel of the Players Handbook, providing expanded information "for the DM's eyes only," prior to getting into any new material. This "new material" begins on page 86 with a section entitled THE CAMPAIGN. In this regard, there is some similarity between Gygax and the 5E design team: as with 5E, AD&D moves right to world building once the "nuts & bolts" are out of the way (5E just puts their nuts & bolts in the PHB5).

Gygax gets right down to it but, unlike the DMG5, he advocates a bottom-up approach to campaign creation. After congratulating the perspective DM on their new career as a "universe maker," he writes:
"...To belabor an old saw, Rome wasn't built in a day. You are probably just learning, so take small steps first. The milieu for initial adventures should be kept to a size commensurate with the needs of the campaign participants - you available time as compared with the demands of the players. This will typically result in your giving them a brief background, placing them in a settlement, and stating that they should prepare themselves to find and explore the dungeon/ruin they know is nearby. As background you inform them that they are from some nearby place where they were apprentices learning their respective professions, that they met by chance in an inn or tavern and resolved to journey together to seek their fortunes in the dangerous environment, and that, beyond the knowledge common to the area (speech, alignments, races, and the like), they know nothing of the world. Placing these new participants in a small settlement means that you need do only minimal work describing the place and its inhabitants. Likewise, as player characters are inexperienced, a single dungeon or ruins map will suffice to begin play. 
"After a few episodes of play, you and your campaign participants will be ready for expansion of the milieu. The territory around the settlement - likely the "home" city or town of the adventurers, other nearby habitations, wilderness areas, and whatever else you determine is right for the area - should be sketch-mapped, and places likely to become settings for play actually done in detail. At this time it is probably that you will have to have a large scale map of the whole continent or sub-continent involved, some rough outlines of the political divisions of the place, notes on predominant terrain features, indications of the distribution of creature types, and some plans as to what conflicts are likely to occur. In short, you will have to create the social and ecological parameters of a good part of a make-believe world. The more painstakingly this is done, the more "real" this creation will become. 
"Eventually, as player characters develop and grow powerful, they will explore and adventure over all  of the area of the continent. When such activity begins, you must broaden your general map still farther so as to encompass the whole globe. More still! You must begin to consider seriously the makeup of your entire multiverse - space, planets and their satellites, parallel worlds, the dimensions and planes. What is there? why? can participants in the campaign get there? how? will they? Never fear! By the time your campaign has grown to such a state of sophistication, you will be ready to handle the new demands."
Gary Gygax, Dungeon Masters Guide, 1979

Here we see Gygax's blueprint for campaign creation: start small, expand as necessary. Don't overwhelm yourself from the beginning, focus on the needs of the players, mastery (for the DM) comes with time. Detail is good for creating the immersive process (making the game more "real").

My first DMG; mostly destroyed.
Note that much of what is discussed in these three paragraphs (I've included everything from the opening section of the chapter, minus the introduction), is similar to the advice provided in the DMG5, just minus the extra padding. Later on, he writes about considering ecology and climate, typical inhabitants and social class/rank in society, all with an aim towards a singular goal: creating a world that is "real enough" to create an enjoyable experience while still being fun, and not detracting from the game. The DMG, he explains:

"...this is a rulebook, not a text on any subject remotely connected to climatology, ecology, or any science soft or hard."

He writes that while there's a presumption of some sort of social rank/title structure in Dungeons & Dragons, it may be defined by individual DMs depending on their needs, and that some may prefer to draw on historical data (though as I wrote in the last post, Gygax provides a list of noble titles...both eastern and western...as well as a list of possible governments, both real and fantastical). This in addition to an overview of medieval classes and townsfolk of the kind that (presumably) fits his paradigm view of D&D as having a fantastical medieval society.

Following this information (sorry...I skipped the part about designing the first adventure; I'll return to that when comparing the DMG5's adventure creation section), he has a large section on economics, taxes, tariffs, and the like. Again, this information has specific, pertinent use for Gygax: it addresses how to deal with all the treasure the PCs will be accumulating (as the objective to the game system) and how this accumulation will interact with the campaign world. It is practical information, not simple "color" for one's campaign setting; it has consequence and reason for being in the DMG. He does mention different coin types (for his campaign) in passing, but there is no detailed thesis on designing money for one's campaign.

Directly after Economics, etc. (but still in  THE CAMPAIGN) comes three large sections describing Placement of Monsters, Placement of Treasure, and Placement of Magic Items. While there are no tables or charts in these sections, they are still "rules," directions as to how DMs should structure their campaigns for maximum benefit. These are less ideas or suggestions, more admonishments and warnings. They pertain to creating adventures within the campaign setting, with an eye towards preserving the campaign integrity, all towards that previously discussed priority of enabling long-term play and enjoyment. It may come off as heavy-handed ("How dare the author tell me how to run MY campaign?") and only actual experimentation with his methods over time will tell how if his assertions will be born out. I know that I've seen similar essays from more than one of our present day "Old School" writers, based on their decades of experience.

The final portions of the AD&D campaign section concerns the development of territory by players (not just building strongholds, but affects on the monster ecology) and a small section on "the chattel" (Peasants, Serfs, & Slaves). Again, these are actual rules regarding how fast (or if) monsters will repopulate areas, how land can be developed, and how strong armed uprisings of the populace will become if revolutions aren't put down quickly. This part of "The Campaign" is something fairly foreign to current editions of D&D, and I wouldn't expect to see its parallel. The point to note is that these are still rules, and ones pertinent to an older style of D&D gaming.

Oh, yeah...the Campaign section of the DMG ends with a sample dungeon and example of play. But we'll look at that in a later section of this comparison.


  1. I've read that book many times, but there is stuff hidden in there. Perhaps the longer we play, the more his texts make sense? I never realized that Gygax told you to play classic D&D before going advanced. Part of me is shocked, but another part of me thinks that it isn't a bad idea at all! How many epic mistakes that I made while learning to DM wouldn't had happened if I would had just kept stuff that simple?

    I recently noted on my own blog that one can save a lot of money while playing 2e by just getting a copy of Gygax's DMG. The DM Suppliment: Campaign Sourcebook & Catacomb Guide, while a good book, still took an entire book to cover what Gygax was able to in a single chapter, and he did it in such a way that he didn't overwhelm you.

    I don't know if I would consider what Gygax did here to be instructional, today we just do this stuff, but back then these were all new ideas, and form the very basis of what separates OD&D from AD&D. Players wanted more then just one village with a megaduneon, we wanted to explore politics, and grander ideas then just how long can I keep this character alive, and how deep can we go?

    I can't express how surprised I was by the ending of the Hobbit when I read it all those years ago, Kill the Dragon and live happily ever after! That was how things worked. It is still something that gets every boys attention when they read it. THAT is AD&D.

    Sorry I got so long.

    1. @ Ripper:

      No worries. I tend to write long comments, too.
      ; )