The 4th edition Dungeon Master’s Guide (DMG) was written by James Wyatt and is a high quality book with a sturdy binding and 221 pages of not-for-DM-eyes-only content.

The Secret’s Out

That was actually one of the first things I noticed. This book is not-for-DM-eyes-only. Previous versions organized the books so that the generally available information was in the player’s handbook and the “secret” information was in the dungeon master’s guide.That isn’t the case in the 4th edition books. I first noticed that something was different when I saw that the magic items were fully described within the player’s handbook.

The dungeon master’s guide, instead of being a secret tome of hidden knowledge that only the DM should see, is now designed more along the lines of a how-to book, walking the DM through the various steps necessary to be an efficient DM. I think this is a marvelous change and a much more useful distinction between the books.

Player Types

The DMG breaks down the various types of players into eight distinct groups (Actor, Explorer, Instigator, Power Gamer, Slayer, Storyteller, Thinker, and Watcher) and discusses how to approach each type of player, what each player type wants to get out of the game and how to manage your game in such a way that it meets the needs of each of the player types and makes everyone happy.

The Art of DMing

It discusses in depth skill challenges, puzzles, traps, hazards, quests, the use of terrain and circumstance in your encounters, how to increase or reduce the difficulty level of individual monsters, how to create new monsters and how to apply monster templates to various creatures.

As always, there are situations that arise that aren’t handled easily by the standard rules usually used for combat. the DMG gives suggestions for dealing with these special circumstances and gives some specific examples to help the DM prepare in advance for these types of special encounters.

Each campaign is different and every DM needs to decide how she wants to design her world. The DMG details a great many aspects of and assumptions about a dnd world and tries to show some alternatives to each.

Monster Roles

This edition introduces monster roles (Artillery, Brute, Controller, Lurker, Skirmisher, and Soldier) as well as role modifiers (Solo, Elite, and Minion). These various designations indicate the types of tactics the given monster will adopt. The DMG discusses how to play the various roles effectively and how they interact and support each other.

Treasure Parcels

The DMG also introduces a new treasure generation method: treasure parcels. For each level, there are 10 treasure parcels. Four contain a single magic item each (one to four levels, respectively, above the level of the treasure parcel). The other six parcels contain treasure valued at 20% to 100% of a predetermined value for that level. Furthermore, each of these parcels lists a few options for the breakdown of the treasure within that parcel.

For instance, a parcel cold have a value of 200 gp. That could be made up of 200 gold coins or it could be four 50 gp gems or maybe 2000 sp.

At first I thought this was a pretty silly method of determining treasure. After some consideration, I determined that it worked reasonably well and gave you a simple method of controlling treasure values while maintaining some randomness (even if you are merely simulating randomness through careful selection). I still don’t care for it but I no longer dislike it. I think it is a very viable solution. Plus it ties itself nicely to the experience system.

Experience

In 4th edition, the experience you get from a balanced encounter (say 5 characters against 5 monsters where everyone is the same level) will gain you experience equal to one tenth that necessary for you to gain a level, regardless what level you are currently. That means that for every ten balanced encounters, you will gain one level. Having a treasure system with ten parcels per level marries nicely to the system where every ten encounters gains you a level.

My Impressions

Overall, I am extremely pleased with the DMG. The material is presented in a well thought out and logical manner. I agree with most of it. And the material isn’t restricted to any particular version. What is presented could quite easily be applied to any version of dnd, or any other similar gaming system.