When DMG2 was released recently for 4e, I admit I was curious. I am a 3.5 player (now hugging Pathfinder book), but I am ALWAYS looking for new tools and ideas to improve my DMing abilities.
After seeing several glowing reviews on the book, I was leaning more towards buying it, but I was still apprehensive. What does a 4e DMG2 have to offer a 3.x player? And that’s when I had an apostrophe..
Captain Hook: “I think you mean an epiphany.”
“Lightning has just struck my brain…”
CH: “I’m sure that must have hurt.”
Alright enough Hook references! When I had my “apostrophe” I knew how I wanted to approach the book, not just for myself, but for other 3.x DM’s who are curious about and hungry for more DMing material.
The part of the book that I was honestly most excited for was Chapter One, written by Robin Laws! From reviews it seemed that this would be a very useful chapter to ANY DM, regardless of edition.
So without further ado, I shall charge head first into my review (again keep in mind that this is with 3.5 DM’s in mind)!
Chapter One focuses on a different approach to storytelling than in previous editions of the DMG. Bum bum bum.. Group Storytelling! The chapter deals with pacing, tension, story branches, hooks, and character motivations. It is a great chapter, a very pleasant read, but I was honestly left longing for more (I will touch on this longing at the end of the review, part 2).
Certain aspects that stuck out for me were:
• The example of group chargen in the DM Workshop. I really liked how the example showed wonderful group cohesion and creativity. This example gave me ideas on how to run chargen in the future.
• Mid chapter they introduce group storytelling. I liked many aspects of this, and I have to really congratulate the authors for putting in an abundance of examples, one for each style of group storytelling.
o The only type I honestly did not dig was Direct Assertion, but that may just be the control freak DM in me. I’m fine with having players give input, but something about them shoving down my throat makes me wary. The book even warns about this aspect of DA style storytelling.
• I like the suggestions of companion and supporting characters, very simple and easy to use and construct. A DM’s dream. Even though I’m not a 4e player, I can appreciate the simplicity of how companion characters can be generated to assist or even be a small pest to the party.
• Advise for hooks, especially backgrounds and giving ownership very awesome.
• Vignettes- Good story telling devices.
• Don’t be a sinker- making fun of the players for acting ability or ideas for game. This was GREAT advice! I’ve seen so many players be punished and teased because their idea wasn’t stellar by more seasoned or asshole players!
Chapter Two is, sadly, the last chapter, in my opinion, that can really be utilized by 3.x DMs. I will cover the rest of the book in less detail, because there may be 3.x DMs who are interested or what to use these ideas/mechanics.
This chapter deals with sample encounters, player motivations, movement, terrain, traps, and other nifty things.
• Sample Encounter Objective- Ok, but should be more detailed. There really isn’t anything new or thought provoking here.
• The Player Motivations part of the chapter shows DM’s how to handle differing player types, even suggesting where to have such a personality sit at the table. I did enjoy this aspect of the chapter.
• The book also suggest to add something else to the game… Achievements… I can’t say I’m thrilled by the this idea, since it feels, once again, that DnD is attempting to mimic WoW and other MMOs. I’m not knocking you if you like this concept or it thrills you. This is just my take on it. I honestly don’t care for achievements in VG’s all that much either.
• Traps was an enjoyable section of this chapter. I like how the book gives examples of traps with multiple angles to defeat them. So often in past DnD books, there really were no examples for that. I also like treating traps as encounters with an initiative to add a dynamic feel to it, and not just an instant “poof it’s done, take your damage” type of encounter, although those are still present as well.
Alright, I’ll cover the rest of the book tomorrow as well as my final verdict and other thoughts! Thanks for reading! Feel free, as always, to comment and share ideas, but no trolling!