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Thursday, December 18, 2014

So I bought the D&D 5th edition Dungeon Masters Guide, Here is what I think, about all of it.


And you know what? It's pretty legit.
This is going to be a long post, you have been warned. I should split this bear up, but I didn't.


This blog entry will be written one hundred percent from my perspective as a guy who runs games, not from the stance of a review. This will be me riffing on the  new DMG. I can safely assume there will be thousands of reviews written on blogs that  are written by people who are more adept than I could ever be at pulling apart a book and  tweazzing every pube out of it.
So here's my  "review"
     It's legit, buy it if you want a 5th ed DMG.
     You can quote me.*
What I'm going to do is point out things that I think that I would in fact get some use out of. I will also point out parts I'm going to steal form my own games, or change so that they become useful.

So what do I look for in a DMG?
I have a love / hate relationship with  Dungeon Masters guides. I don't want a book preaching to me about how to run my game,  that's what a starter set is for. All the  rules to make kick ass characters are in the Players Hand book, so we wont see any of that in the dungeon masters guide. I don't like endless lists of crappy magic items, save those for a splat book I wont buy.
What I want is a tool kit of things that the  authors wanted to do with the system and did not implement for whatever reason. I also want random things piles of them so if I get stuck for an idea while I'm working on my game I can roll on a few charts and hopefully be inspired by the results.
For the record I think the 5th ed DMG does a pretty nice job giving me the toy box I want. While some of this post might be negative, my overall impression  as I stated twice before comes to "The books Legit" **

Lets get rolling!

The introductions:
Know your role know your players, what is a GM and all that good stuff. I look at this section as the mission statement of a book. The part that has to be written, should be remembered, and is not be read all that often. The phrase "The DM creates a world for the other players to explore" crops up right at the start.
Two things I like in that defining statement. "FOR the OTHER PLAYERS".
That phrase is loaded with win. Yes DM's do it for the players. The game is about the characters and for them solely. DM's do it because DM's love to create and DM's love to see their ideas come to fruit, but in the end it's for the players. If the players are not interested in what the DM is running then no matter how skilled the DM the game isn't going to fly. Secondly "The Other Players" yes the DM is a player! Have fun, Play the game, enjoy what is going on. Be an active player and participant.

Then the nice how to use this book blurb along with the presentation of the Master of Worlds, Master of Adventurers, and Master of Rules paradigm the authors put forward. Good stuff if the reader is new to GMing.

I like the "know your players section." Knowing that different people want different things from their games is one of the first hurdles Gm's have to jump while learning to run a game. Having it right up front like that I think is a very good idea.

Part 1 Master of Worlds.
First off we get a full color picture at the start of Part 1 a druid a ranger, a half-ling, and some fairy dragon thing. I am not an artist everything in this book is better than I can do, but I will say that it's not may favorite piece in the book.

The authors start out with core assumptions for the  standard vanilla D&D world.  Then the "It's your world" section basically says "you can do what ever the F# you want.
I love that. It hearkens back to the  2nd ed days where  Birthright, forgotten, and, Dark Sun all shared shelf space. It's your game. If the DM wants a world with no magic, go for it. You bought the book, do what you like.
In fact the blurb for  "The world is new," inspired me to think about  creating a world that's brand spanking new, as it's the opposite of what I normally run.

Then off to deities. Something that I have never really dealt with in fine detail in my game. Sure there are gods and different regions worship different gods, but I have never sketched the pantheon or anything like that.

Page 10 gives us a nice list of the Dawn War Deities, and page 11 references the 4th edition hand book  form which those gods spawn. Fantastic. I like that the  5th edition remembers that there are 40 years of history behind it. More references to old editions please. (Note: I never found another one.)

Four whole pages for gods including  types of religious systems Monotheism, Dualism, Animism and so on. Putting forth again that the DM doesn't need to use the forgotten realms pantheon, make up your own, or don't, or worship the  spirits in all things, its your campaign.

The splotch ink wash / watercolor like borders around the interior art works on for the picture shown on page 13 and is distracting as hell in other places.

The mapping your campaign section is excellent in that is speaks of and gives a system for zooming in and out and making maps to scale. Again this is an issue many new GM's fight with and having a solid three pages solely on this topic this early in the book is a great idea.

I like the  art plate on page 15. I want my maps to look like that isometric drawing, they don't.

The information about settlements, adventure sites, and  towns is solid. The bullet list questions are a nice starting framework for location creation.  I started thinking about Dungeon World while I was reading this section as it has a similar feel to that games treatment of locations, if not as regimented. I can see some  experienced GM's scoffing that the guidelines in the  book do not offer enough information to run a game with.  I would  argue allot of experienced GM's myself included create volumes of information that they never use in game, it's the nature of the beast.

Page 18 first random chart. Forms of government, each one being explained on the joining page. Again this is useful stuff when setting up a game, Even if it only serves to get the  DM's creative juices flowing.

Skipping a bit to Factions and Organisations on page 21.
This is good stuff. Again the factions feel like something from Dungeon World. I can see a DW influence here that I might be imagining ***

The subsystem for Renown that is presented on page 22 is the first optional system presented in the book and  I would use it in a hot second.I woudl use it even if it does remind me of doing quests for  ranks in an MMO on my computer. It's a system that ties the actions of the players back to the  world in a way that can be quantified and that's one of those things that tickles my design jones in a positive way.

On Pages 23 to 24 is a section called "magic in your world." It's good, but I'm not sure if it's in the right spot?
The section about teleportation circles misses an opportunity to say "Think how a teleportation circle would change the very foundation of a worlds economy."

The next section is  "creating a campaign."
Here we go with a bit of usable advice and a handful of small random tables.****  The tables are fun but very small. Six leader types? Ten world shaking events?
I'm not complaining. Anytime I can roll 1d10 and get a random idea to riff on I'm happy.
For example:
I like Pg. 28  Cataclysmic Disaster chart number 6 "Rain of Fire (meteoric impact)." Hell a DM could base a hole campaign off that one. Survivors of the blast crawling out of their shelters to find a world changed and their way of life gone..GO!

The art on the top of page 29?

The small charts and idea sections for things like, "extinctions / depletion" and "discoveries" go on for a healthy five pages and are chock full of ideas. I could complain that it's all kind of vanilla stuff, but I feel it should be. This isn't Narcosa, this is a basic guide for DM's. If someone reads the DMG and reacts with, "Well these charts are all boring as shit." I would say that reader is first of all correct and secondly that same reader is ready to go searching until they find Dungeons Dozens and never want for a chart again. This DMG is handing us the tools and if we want for more there are an amazing amount of home made materials floating around out there to use.

On page thirty four the book starts addressing play style. For one page.

Hack and Slash, Immerseive story telling, something between. I feel strongly this deserves more space, and more examination. If knowing your players is worth a full page in the books opening, learning what style works for them and  how to support those styles with the  rules deserves more than one page front. I fell this is decent section but a missed opportunity. ***** As an aside the bullet questions on page 34 are very good and any DM would do well to answer most of them with the players before starting out.

Tiers of play on pages 36-37, I skipped it I'm not going to lie. I don't like the idea of player character tiers. If a level twenty warrior wants to go back to her home village and make it the  most well protected potato farming village ever, I see no problem with that. Even if she is not "determining the  fate of millions in the material plane."

Handy chart on 38 if you start your players out above level 1.

Another nice section on "Flavors of fantasy" again hammering home the idea that a DM can do what ever she wants with the game. Interesting inclusion of Wuxia as a genre. I like the chart on 41 that gives the names of some Chinese and Japanese weapons, as well as linking them to D&D weapons that are already stated out. I understand that someone is going to  yell, "A katana a Jian and a long sword are NOT the same or equal! SNORT RAGE.."*x6 Fine stat them out yourself have a blast, please post it. I'm just happy to see the  Chinese names printed out considering they are not as commonly known.

Page 41 Ghost Busters reference, FTW.

Chapter 2 creating a multiverse will appeal to somebody, but I don't use the planes of existence in my games so for me it's just kind of filler.
I was thinking the  whole time I read the twenty six page faces *x7 dedicate to the planes that, "Hey man save something for the Planescape rule book..that I will never buy .. and can avoid."
Aside form my  own opinion about the  planes in general, I like the  special rules for each plan.
The  optional rules are evocative, simple, and  very interesting. It's great way to make planes feel different and be more significant than just aesthetic differences from ye old prime material. I might steal some of those rules for other uses in my game.

One nice thing this section  has some fun artwork  page 42 is a full page plate that's actually interesting showing some adventures trying not to be found by the characters from the next big pixar film (modrons from Mechanus I think.) Another silly plate of modrons on page 66 which is a refreshing palate cleanser after a shameful lack of silly images in D&D products in the past 10 years.

I also like the plates of pages 56-57.

Known worlds of the material plane page 68 .... are they going to do new setting materials for all 7 of the settings named? possibly even  Aebrynis as in Birthright to? Please.  Dark sun, Please and and .................Sorry I forgot to breath and passed out ... back to work.

Part 2 Master of adventures:
Page 70:  BabaYaga,s hut! I love that picture.

This begins the creating  adventures section, which is bound to be useful. In the  introduction the  authors move slightly away from the  whole "this is for the  players" idea that they put forward in the opening of the  book with "writing  adventures let you do it your way."
I look at the introduction text like a coaches pep talk. Just fluff to get the reader excited about this next section. They do go on to say "adventures must meet the needs of the players and the campaign." which I feel is true.

The beginning of this section reads again a bit like dungeon world. "Familiar tropes with Clever twists" could equal  "Portray a fantastic world." "Heroes who matter" is a bit like "be a fan of the characters." and so on. I know it's a stretch, both games cover similar ground and I do think connections can be drawn. This DMG is definitely  written with a different slant than the  3rd edition DMG form example.

Page 73 holds what for me are the first truly meaty charts for the game. Dungeon goals and Wilderness goals. One roll and start riffing off the result. These kind of things can be a life saver if a Gm gets stuck for an idea and just needs a boost. Again the  entries are kind of plain, but again I feel they should be  for this book. I want my character to have to enter a dungeon in order to win a bet, that has a rousing game written all over it.
Page 73 is where for me the book finally gets out of it's own way. It's like the authors said, "At last we finished all the parts we HAVE to write now lets get to the workable parts."

Nice green demon face reference in the plate on page 73.

A few good adventure creation charts follow, with "adventure ally" being a stand out that could add some nice random twists to an adventure that needs it. I question the  Ideal Adventure Climax  chart given that the DM would have to force the adventure in the direction of an ideal climax and  that's never good.
Pages 75 to 78 are called "event based adventure design" and there are some good tidbits. I do wish at some point the text said "Create the event have it happen if the players choose to ignore it so be it. Move on to something else." That will happen, The GM could have a necromancer rob an apothecary and turn the proprietor into a zombie right in front of some players and they might  just turn around and leave, all that planning concerning the necromancers motives, curing the merchant, and  the  wizards hide out  would go up in smoke. That's the problem with railroads, sometimes things go off the rails.

page 79 framing events chart is useful and well done.

I like the  quandary list shown on page 80 if only because it  puts inter-character interactions and NPC interactions in the spotlight as important parts of adventures.

I have to be honest to everyone reading , I read page 82 Combat encounters and my eyes glazed over.

"Determine the  party's XP threshold" what? Modify Total XP for Multiple Monsters, huh?
Will this make my game more interesting? I don't think so. I know why it has to be here, but honestly as long as I own this book, I will never look at page 82 again.

I do like that the authors offer a few different ways to build encounters over the next couple pages. On Page 85 there are bullet points about making  encounters fun and interesting, which are all things we need to be reminded of. Orc standing in  cave..meh. Orc standing onto of a pile of rubble wielding a juvenile rust monster  lashed to a stick..*x8 Fun and interesting.

I like the notes on page 86 about creating your  own random encounter tables, solid advice.

Sylvan Forrest encounters example chart entries 5 ,10, 15, 18 , 19. That's what I'm talking about. Make charts with all kinds of stuff on them. Then drop the  unicorn at 20 and replace it with "Giant Sloth ridden by obese goblin."

Starting on page 89 we get creating NPC's.
A few charts to roll up random quick NPCs which I will undoubtedly use.

Page 93 features NPC loyalty rules which I like very much. I don't know if I would remember to  track loyalty if I used it, but I think I would like to TRY and use it. This is a great example of the DMG acting as a tool kit for the DM. It's simple and usable and 100% optional.

How about some NPC boons linked to loyalty? Future blog fodder.

Page 94 and 95  Villain  Scheme's and Methods charts of nested charts ...majestic.
For a big bad using a chart to set things up is not a great idea but for a fast minor villain or supporting cast bad guy I love he idea of  riffing off of a few results from these charts.
"Bargrad the  one eyed works for Vorul. He is currently tracking the player characters but meanwhile he is also scheming to "seize control of an army," by "forcing press gangs." to fight for him. "
I rolled that just now.  Bargrad the one eyed seems more interesting now that he is not just some lackey tracking the players around? Right?

Some nice evil class options on the next page (96.) I have always liked the idea of having a separate class for a fallen paladin or an anti paladin.. I digress.

Dungeons get the next five pages. This section is sort of DMG  dungeons 101, What is a portcullis? Is the kind of question the reader finds answered here.
Again I can almost see the authors banging away at their  keyboards on this section while thinking about another section. The opening section contains some nice charts to randomly  make up  the  basics of why, what and who concerning your new dungeon. I like the charts. I'll say again it's fun to roll a few results then just start riffing off the results. I will say result 1 under "dungeon Purpose" is death trap. If Gary Gygax were still alive the one question I would ask him is, "why would some NPC build a vast, expensive, deathtrap and then just leave it there hoping adventurers would dig it up go in and die? "

Next up wilderness gets a similar treatment and I'm glad to see it. The section starts out by presenting two ways of approaching wilderness travel which  serves to remind the  DM sometimes walking to a place can also be pretty dangerous. I have long held the belief that D&D has never done wilderness justice. Imagine slogging up and down slopes, through swamps, crossed streams and what not with a pack ad armor on.Things like thirst and  hunger get short shift in D&D and they are at least addressed here.
On page 110 they even mention altitude which is a nice thing to see.

Page 112 to 116 is chuck full of charts for  building  settlements and urban areas.  This is good stuff.
I will make use of these charts. Why was this not back near page 14? Why don't my maps look like the full page picture on page 115?  I will never know either answer.

Under water and and the sea get the next page, and on page 119 the  air gets a paragraph. Sorry Griffon Rider your screwed.

Page 122 and 123 deal  with traps and offer some sample traps up to and including a fricking sphere of annihilation somehow mounted in the  face of a gaping statue. "Push the elf in it will be a hoot!" I was hoping for some alternative disarm rules rather than just setting a DC and roll here but no such luck. The traps are all well described, there are plenty of forms and types of traps to get a DM's creative juices flowing.

Chapter 6 between adventures:
I have been looking forward to this.

What the characters do between adventures has always been a pet interest of mine. I want them to spend all that ill gotten gold on houses, ale, whores, horses, weapons, and  hopefully this section will give me some ways to facilitate that.
Some nice Gm advise about planting adventure seeds starts the section, thank you.  We also get a very handy chart for daily expenses for  things owned. Which I like very much  because it allows me to have an amount of gold to ask for when the party returns to town and all their hirelings have their hands out expecting a paycheck.
Page 128 building a strong hold needs more than one column. I have some old 2nd edition  books that can fill in those blanks nicely.

There is a very politically correct carousing chart, which I am glad to see, but still use this one instead, and extend it with this and your game will have some REAL carousing that Hasbro could never approve of.

Crafting magic items gets a blurb, I like that it's not overly complicated. I am sure there will be more in depth  item forging rules published eventually.

Running a business gets a chart,
There are some good things here but all in all the between adventures section feels a bit too brief. Though I have restate I'm just happy to see it in here, and all of the most common things players like to do after the adventure is over are covered.


Page 135 to 139 hold some swank treasure charts including gems, art objects and magic items. Which my players will say I may never use because I never give out magic items. They are right I never give out random magic items.

Page 140 mixing potions and scroll mishaps yes please.  Spell activates 1d12 hours latter  oh that's fun when your trying to cast lightning bolt.
These charts are nice , but if a DM spends about  a minute on the internet they can find bigger and more interesting charts that cover the same ground. I'm glad these charts are here, but I would rather have seen some alternate rules for adjudicating spell back fires, like the DCC magical taint rules.

The boxed text Magic item formulas on page 141 reads right out of some MMO text about crafting.

The chart on 142 and 143 are gold and are begging to be extended. What quirk does it have? "My wand causes me a flash of intense pain when I use it." That is golden. as a gm I woudl attach some small mechanical effect to the  quirks, like an initiative penalty on the  next round after using the painful wand. At least ever want of magic missiles ones not have to be a carbon copy of every other wand of magic missiles.

144 to 149 random magic item tables. Nice to have.

Pages 150 to 213 magic item descriptions.. Holy hell that's allot of pages. Why not give me more tools for creating magic items? Some kind of optional rules for magic items? The Cipher system is pretty popular right now, why not optional rules for cipher style magic items?

Ok I'm going to do this quick and dirty. Magic Items. My feeling is that the  authors are giving us the basics of magic items and we will have to fill in the details ourselves. The problem for me and perhaps some other long time player / DM's is that I have seen all of these items (give or take) in other books ad-nauseam. "Bag of holding." no surprises here. I have never had the temptation to grab an sharpie and go all Zak Smith on an RPG book until I hit this section. I wanted to just rip it up and write my own stuff ll over it. *x9

  • Amulet of Health, makes your con 19 if your con is 19  it is a cool necklace.  I could not with a clean conscious give that boring piece of crap to a player. Mind you it's a good mathematical bonus, but why is it there, who the hell makes them? Is there any more to it?
  • Ammunition +1 +2 +3, gives me the same reaction as the amulet. Can't these be just well crafted arrows?
  • Apparatus of Kwalish is pretty darn cool. I like any thing that will confuse the hell out of the players for a few minutes.
  • Bag of beans, a nice distraction.
  • Three different bags of tricks Sweet.
  • Word of advice. Wait until your campaign is over before dropping a deck of many things on the party. It will ruin every thing. also write your own custom cards. It's a [piece of shit McGuffin of an item.
  • I like the  dust of sneezing and choking.
  • Iron Bands of Bilarro are evocative (Pg 177.)  I could see players coming up with off label ways to make use of them.
  • I like the oath Bow page 183 I could see that leading to some interesting situations. The item creates it's own story hook. I would  have that sworn enemy escape, making the user of the oath bow have to hunt them down.
  • The tentacle rod (page 208) makes me think of this. whihc is positive. The item, which is made by the drow, hits with tentacles at + 9 if three tentacles hit the target must save Vs. dc 15 or the targets speed is ............. ohh sorry I dozed off.
I don't want to continue this complaining and end up sounding like a complete ass. Basically I'm not impressed with this huge swath of recycled magic items in the middle of the book. I feel for the authors honestly. If they left them out people would  have screamed, "Where are my magic items?!" Once they started putting them in they have to hit all the classics, the bags of holding and the hammer of thunderbolts type items HAVE TO BE THERE. or someone would cry foul. Then once the authors take the time to write all of those magic items (again) someone like me who is tired of reading the  same magic item descriptions for 20 years whines like a baby. It's a no win.
For the record, the items are well illustrated, and well described and  as brief as the  necessity to include the classics allows. They did a good job with this section. My wanting to read it or not is completely irrelevant.

There follows a nice section about sentient magic items.  With guidelines and charts to roll them up. Its very brief, but it is as much as a DM needs to get started down the  talking sword route.

Page 219 and 220 contain the rules for  creating  artifacts which is pretty much what I would use to create any magic item, because a glove that makes you immune to  disease but leaves you deaf,  and can only be destroyed if swallowed by a dragon turtle seems more interesting to me than a ring of disease resistance.
Why not give me 10 pages of  charts like these to create random magic items instead of  60 pages of recycled magic items? (still bitching)
I wish this section was more in depth.

There are some sample artifacts provided which read like a whose who of things that were the goals in old modules. Even the  hand and eye of Vecna make an appearance! Each one has a history and built in story hooks so they are interesting and usable. This is how I like my magic items. *x10


228 and 229 the book talks about other rewards like Parcels of land and favors. I think these things are far more likely than being given a ring that shoots fire, or a crown that reads minds. I like the  concept of giving land and letters of recommendation to players at the end of a campaign, either one could lead to further adventures.

Epic Boons?
For level 20 characters when you complete some mighty task rather than being rewarded with stuff the character could get a Boon. It could be looked at as increasing the power of characters that have already maxed out their levels. The the next page has a list of 26 example boons. Yes I like this it's a usable option, and  it ties the deeds of the characters to advancement beyond the constraints of the experience system. I would use this. I would also work out my own boons as the ones in the book are not fantastic, but so what it's a great idea. (more fodder for future blogs)

Part 3 running the game:
Starts at page 235
Starts with the table rules section about  what to do when  players miss games, fostering respect and rules discussions at the table. I'm surprised this was not earlier in the book.
These are some of the things that can  flummox a new DM and it seems a bit buried back here. The next few pages are full of solid advice for running the mechanics.
Page 240 contains a lengthy section about inspiration a mechanic which  I felt was not explained well enough in the players hand book. They even offer a variant where only players can give inspiration to other players which is exactly how I would do it with my own group.
Page 242 includes a section called success at a cost, which says if the player fails by 1 or 2 they let them succeed only at a cost, and  play more Dungeon World. All Jokes aside its a good option that as a DM I have pulled out on occasion long before dungeon world codified it into a system. "Ok You hit ..buttttt the ogre tosses you into the camp fire."

The Resolving  Interactions section on page 244  is quick and to the point which is nice to see. Too much  mechanical dickering  when it comes to social interaction can stifle players. Just walking up to  NPC's and  talking which for me is one of the  fun parts. Don't over complicate reactions or the whole group DM included will avoid interacting.

Pages 247 to 253 contain some detailed fiddling with  combat. Rules for using  grids and miniatures all that good stuff.
This section includes a quick and dirty option for a singles player character fighting a mob of monsters. I will use that.
There are also rules for adjudicating a chase which  I don't think I would ever use, they just seem clunky, just narrate the damn chase. I do like the  charts on page 254, chase complications, I will totally use the charts.

Suddenly siege equipment.. not sure how this happened but here we are with  nice descriptions of  Rams and Cannon. Then we move onto the  next logical  subject diseases. I'm not sure how this was ordered and laid out, I guess everything has to go somewhere, but I don't see any internal logic in how this part of the book is put together.
(search the interweb for "Random D&D diseases" to find better stuff.)

I like the art plate on page 256 it's evocative and implies a story.

Nice sections on poison and  Madness, again if you look around on the web there are people out there who have done great treatments of random madness and  poisons of all kinds. Within the scope of this book both sections are quite good.

Page 261 contains the  Level Advancement Without Xp option.  It's literally 4 paragraphs at the bottom of the page, but it sums up this edition nicely. You don't like XP? Screw it! level up via story based goals, or by numbers of sessions.. whatever gets your horse to a gallop cowboy.

 For the record I have been leveling characters via story based goals for years, tracking  XP seems burdensome to me a this point. So for me it's kind of nice to be validated even if it is in an obscure blurb at the bottom of an obscure page.

Chapter 9  Dungeon Masters Work Shop:
A whole section of optional rules each one deserves it's own blog so for this writing I'm just going to touch on some quick points.
  • Will the rule improve my game
  • Will the players like it.
Yes I didn't directly quote the book, yes it is purposeful.  Will the players like it and will it improve the game are definitely a great place to start a section like this . If the DM starts dropping in options that the players hate, then there is no point.  I think it was wise of the  authors to put that right out front.

Proficiency Die:
looks good gives being good at a things a more tactile presence. On the other hand it takes the  player bonuses and  makes them random, which will lessen the  average effectiveness of the character and  blah blah.
I don't think I would use this but I like it. If I did use it I would allow the shifting of the  Proficiency die up or down a die in certain circumstances as a supplement to advantage / disadvantage. The player narrates some clever way to sneak attack that orc, cool shift your d4 proficiency to a d6.

Under Skill variants after a quick reading I would use "Personality Trait Proficiency," or " Background Proficiency," as they tie effectiveness back to the character and I'm all about that.

Hero points are interesting, but why not just say the  character can have advantage a few times a game for free. Mathematically it's pretty much a wash. I think if I were to give out hero points they would be to add some element into the present situation. Like I spend a hero point and, "hey there's a trap door under this rug!" That just might be my grimy story gamer underwear showing.

Honor and sanity attributes are great for exactly what the book says they are great for, settings that need them. I am currently playing in a game that is Cthulhu like investigation, that game needs sanity. My normal vanilla fantasy setting, not so much,

Adventuring Options 
Fear and Horror again  great if the setting calls for it.

The Healing options section and rest section is a run down of the healing methods from every edition of D&D. Which is cool but what it fails to address is if  a GM is going to adjust how slowly or quickly characters heal they also have to adjust your encounters accordingly. If a gm is going to use that nice new 5th ed monster manual that same Gm might not want to mess too much with how healing works, at least not yet.

Firearms:
This has always been a D&D bugaboo. It's nice to see them addressed here. The 5th edition DMG gives a very quick overview and as I have said before for this book it's enough. I think if a DM is bringing firearms especially modern fire arms into a game then they are probably comfortable with  house ruling a few things.  The damage for many of the modern items listed in the DMG are a bit low. 3d6 save for half for dynamite. I'm nitpicking. (The HR4 A mighty Fortress source book for second edition did a nice treatment of historic fire arms.)

Alien technology? Cool. Could I just retro fit spell effects or magic items that already exist in the game? Sure I could. Seems a silly inclusion at this level of depth. Aliens would need a book of their own, or something, play gamma world.

Plot points:
This is what I wanted to see under hero points, and I like these options, even though I might not use them in a straight D&D game.
Option 3 is right in my wheelhouse the rotating GM thing would play well with the group I play with. I don't think I would run a full campaign that way but a few games in a row might be fun.

I  am happy to see these options included. It says to me that the designers of this edition cast a wide net into the waters of indy design and story gaming while trolling for ideas. Which in my opinion is a good thing. The venerable formula known as D&D needs to rub up against new ideas every now and again even if it's just to recognize what doesn't work.
Initiative options are funny because I use all of them wherever I think they fit, Nice to see speed factors get a nod. Speed factors just always felt right to me. Big slow sword or small fast daggers. It gives a player a reason to look at what weapon they use based on more than just  damage die.

Action options
Hey Mark is  in here I can rebuild my 4th edition fighter..I'm not gonna but I can.

I think this option for disarming make it a bit too easy. I would expect  swords flying all over the place if this option was in play.

Overrun will be handy for  phase-ball matches.. (inside joke.)

The lingering injury and the System shock rules would  add an edge to combat. I like system shock, and I would definitely use it. If a character has 20 Hp and takes 15 Hp of damage from a  two handed sword, yeah going into shock is the least of the character's worries.

273 to 283 Creating Monsters and some note on NPC's:
This is a big section on creating monsters. I think the most useful three items out of these 10 pages are the chart titled "Monster Statistics by Challenge Rating" on page 274, and the "Monster Features" chart on 280 and 281, followed closely by the  NPC feature chart on page 282. With those charts I could rough out a monster's stats on the fly and the rest would be narrative and description.

I don't think I will will ever calculate a monsters overall damage output, or  calculate DC's much beyond using the  table and shifting the numbers op or down a bit.

The blurb called "Monsters with Classes"  basically says, yeah your monsters can have a class , but they don't get the equipment, don't use the class HD and don't get the proficiency bonus. The features are what's important, and in the book they use the  example of a 4th level barbarian werewolf, Which should be a thing.

Page 283 contains my favorite art from this book.

Creating a spell:
Quarter page, they could have just said "wing it." I'm sure there will be research rules somewhere down the line in  splat book. Though the chart for spell damage by level on page 284 is a handy reference.
The spell creation blurb is followed by an almost as brief section on creating magic items. The advice here is modify existing  magic items when appropriate. Yes please do that. The rest of the texts are brief  guidelines on keeping new magic items in balance with the  system as written.  Not really much of any use to me on this page. 

Creating New Character Options:
This section covers sub-races like Tall Dwarfs, and Shaftlings. *x11 Like most of the book the most useful part of this brief chapter are the bullet points. Answer those questions and a GM is well on the way to having a sub-race or race. There are even two examples given, the Eladrin another brand of fey folk and the Aasimar a breed of part celestial that are competing with the  aardvark for domination of the worlds dictionaries.

Next up is Modifying a class. 
This is about how to keep your ideas working within the mathematics balance of D&D 5th edition. Page 288 offers an honest to goodness variant when it presents "spell Points." While I like the idea it ends in  function being very similar to using spell slots as written. Though the text says a caster may never reduce their spell slots below zero. I say screw that. Yes you can, at the risk of  mutation, madness and the attention of demons whose bonds are starting fray. In other words this variant could  be used to open a door on more interesting spell casting in D&D.

Creating a new Background. 
This section simply goes over each part of a background. The section never mentions that ideas should be written as to have one option per alignment, which I found odd in that the PHB maintains that form.  It does say that background features should ignore strict game benefits which I'm glad to see. Writing a background with the benefit if being given a fine longsword of such quality if grands a +1 damage bonus, would be counter to the  spirit of the background mechanic.
Here is a big old list of community made backgrounds.

Apendix A: random Dungeons.. 
I love this kind of thing so happy to see it here.
This series of charts is well laid out easy to read and very usable. Good fun. Some nice charts here, on page 295 Current Chamber State  room full of ashes? Yes Please. Again some of the entries might seem bland by internet / G+ / blog  standards but I have said a few times in this ridiculously long blog, for the intent of this book I think the tables are excellent.

Random tricks and Dungeon dressings are handy tables. Even if rolling "Ages first person to touch the object" would royally suck for whomever touched the object. That will teach the characters not to wonder about willy nilly in the dungeon touching this and that.

 Pages 290 to 301 are ten pages of random tables of stuff, which I love they always come in handy at some point.

Apendix B Contains random monster charts, I hardly ever use them but it is nice to see them here, at the back of the book where thy will be easy to find if I do need them.

Urban monsters last entry "Tarrasque," So that ole dogs gone all citified on us?

We also get Monsters by challenge rating which is also a handy reference. 

Is the art in this section taken from the monster manual? It's good, I particularly like the Bulette on page 304 and the  Troglodyte on page 306. That might be the  first picture of a troglodyte I have ever seen that is not just a crappy lizard man.

Apendix C maps:
The windmill is cool, Page 313's bay settlement is  lovely. These are all well done maps. It's nice to show what can be done, I would have liked to have seen at least one print of a scratched,  marked up, drawn on, soda stained piece of crap from someones actual game table. Just so new GM's would know what to expect.
Go here for more usable maps and such.

Next is Apendix D inspirations a long list of books. Nice to  see G Gygax's books listed as well as "Microscope" and "Grimtooth's Traps."

finally we me to the complete index which as I just implied is quite complete for this book. Tough it does not as some indexes in the past have also index the PHB for cross referencing. I think they should have, 

Whew.. that's it. My whirlwind tour of the  5th editions Dungeon master's guide is at long last complete.

Idon't have nay grand conclusion, I think its a good book and a legit reference for a new GM coming into the game. I also think there are vastly better versions of the things contained in the book out there online for free, which have been produced by the DIY RPG community.  I also recognize not every player particularly new players are going to know where to look or even take the time to look for all that online goodness.

 The one major omission I have to point out is that there is not one word about playing online via whatever method a DM pleases to connect on line. G+ hangouts, Roll20, and I-tabletop. I know they don't want to promote other companies services. I also know they explicitly want to promote at the table games. However an awful lot of people play online now days, and it changes the games dynamics to a enough of a degree that I feel online gaming deserves at least a paragraph or two in this book. Perhaps in the next printing they will drop "The Helm of Brilliance" and use that text space to give online DM'ing a mention.

If you are still here thank you for holding on.
Questions and comments are welcome in the hollow pit of wailing souls below.


-Mark




(* Quoting me would be awesome if you want to confuse your reader by quoting  someone no one has ever heard of.)

(** WARNING DIGRESSIVE RANT AHEAD: This line is like my internet disclaimer, I am crying out  I LIKE THE BOOK , but I might have some things negative to say about aspects of the book. I know that once I post this someone will  post a comment about how stupid I am for not liking the best DMG produced in the past 1000 years. When I explain to them I clearly state in the text that I do like the  book  and that they may have misunderstood my intent it will lead to s spiral of  bull shit.. I love the internet. I love the internet a bit less each day.)

(***I don't think I am, cross pollination is awesome and unavoidable)

(**** The tables should have reference numbers..Booooo)

(***** What are the looking at in the picture on page 35? do the  dwarf and the wizard not see it who has a flash light off frame to the left? we'll never know.)

(*X6 also leave the cult of katana superiority at the door. I'm no expert and don't claim to be but, I don't buy it. The katana as uber-sword has been  propagated by movies and pop culture, I have never seen any historic prof.)

(*x7 Did I mention play styles got less than a page?)


(*x8 The juveniles are even more potent than the adults.. lil bastards)

(*x9 You can still find the encyclopedia Magic in 4 volumes floating around out there, its 4 books of magic items from 2nd ed and it's better than this. I'm sorry but Armor +1 +2 and +3 really?)

(*x10 why does Orcus have a wand? Because Demigorgon says he can, and only for that reason.)

(*x11 Those shaftlings are some bad mutha .... hush yo mouth!)