Dungeon Master's Guide II



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Dungeon Master's Guide II

Author: Various
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Publish Date: 06/2005
ISBN: 0-7869-3687-8
Pages: 285
Rating: 9 out of 10
Retail Price: $39.95

 

Since this book debuted, I’ve heard many people complain about how a second Dungeon Master’s Guide isn’t needed. It seems that I’ve heard everything from “Why wasn’t this information included in the original?” to “The first one is enough, why do we need another?” to “This is just Wizards of the Coast trying to make more money by forcing us to buy two books.” I couldn’t disagree more. While Dungeon Master’s Guide contained the basic mechanical information needed to run the game, Dungeon Master’s Guide II is a different animal altogether, focusing more on the sorts of things a dungeon master might want to use to boost his game from good to great.

I was highly impressed with the first chapter of this book, which was a 36-page discussion about how to read and deal with many of the various types of players as well as different types of characters, settings and games. While most of it was old hat to an experienced DM like myself, I can see how it would be of immense help to someone just starting out in the DM’s chair. I would actively support a decision to print a short book consisting of just this chapter and marketing it for $10 all by itself.

The second chapter dealt with other issues a DM might run into, such as how to spice up what would otherwise be a fairly bland adventure site, giving several examples, such as a burning building. It also dealt with another issue that many DMs face eventually... what is stopping the player characters from coming into a town and taking whatever and whomever they want, since most towns are comprised mainly of level 1 commoners, which pose no threat to most PCs? The Crowd and Mob templates are extremely well written ways to handle this situation without resorting to spot ruling against the players, which can often cause problems. Lastly, the use of battlemats and miniatures was touched on, though the focus was drawn too tightly towards the Chainmail miniatures game, rather than using minis to improve the quality of the Dungeons and Dragons game itself.

Chapter three was the really crunchy chapter. It opened with a discussion about good and bad ways to run a campaign, which seems like it would be extremely useful to a newer DM looking to cut his teeth on a custom campaign. I was extremely impressed with the simplified breakdown of medieval society and the pecking order of a basic Feudalism. Likewise, the overall message of the chapter seemed to be that when one is working on designing a city, nation, world or even an organization as small as a moose lodge, it pays to think about what the people involved with these things will be doing, thinking and feeling, which impressed me. Towards the end, the chapter touched upon magical events, which are meant as a means to have special things happen without the need to mimic existing spell effects, such as a portal to another plane opening during a solar eclipse. The sample magical events given were nice, but they didn’t really inspire me to go out and create my own magical events.

The fourth chapter was a complete breakdown of an entire city, including locations, NPCs and plot hooks. I was impressed with the scope of this breakdown and I was especially impressed with the sheer number of plot hooks that are offered, many of which tie in with one another extremely well. This chapter could also serve as a sort of template or “how to” for any DM looking to do a breakdown of his own city creation.

Chapter 6 was inappropriately named “characters.” It bounced from topic to topic a bit, focusing a great deal on a few aspects of the game that, honestly, I have never seen come into play. For example, there were rules for how to run a business, but while they were extremely simplified compared to the reality of running a business, they honestly looked like a bunch of added die rolls and math computations that don’t really add to the heroic aspect of D&D. I was, however, pleased with the section about the how and why behind creating custom prestige classes and organizations, which encouraged the DM to think from the perspective of his NPCs as much as his PCs.

The final chapter in this book dealt with magic items. New types of enhancement bonuses were included, as well as a few new specific items. However, I was extremely unimpressed with how the chapter started out, with a chart dedicated to assigning descriptions of magic items. I was also not entirely impressed with the section dealing with magical locations (areas that bestow magical abilities on the PCs) as treasure. Most of the section dealing with new item templates was fairly good, though. The chapter ended with a short discussion about how and why to include (or not include) specific artifacts in your game, which I thought was fairly well done.

At the end of the day, I think this book is a good investment, especially for a newer DM that has many questions about how to create things in his game, including the campaign world itself. Like most other books, the reader is required to take the good and leave the bad, but I think that the good material far outweighs the bad. I don’t, however, think that the material justifies the retail cost of this book, but to anyone that can find it on sale or perhaps at a reduced price online, I highly suggest acquiring a copy.