Wednesday, March 6, 2013

In Retrospect: the AD&D 2e Dungeon Master's Guide

I've often considered the AD&D 2e Dungeon Masters' Guide to be the "weakest" of all the DMGs for D&D. Back in the day I hardly ever used it--the 1e DMG had all of the "cool stuff," so speak. The 2e DMG didn't have a whole section on artifacts and relics. And what happened to the Random Dungeon Generation tables? Where's the sections detailing percentage chances of contracting a disease? And there's no random tables for City Encounters--the much loved random harlot table is gone (you could no longer get a "Saucy tart" nor and "Expensive Doxy"in the city).

TSR got rid of a lot of this stuff to make the game more family-oriented and to appease segments religious right, of course. And the rules read more clearly in this book than its predecessor. While I'm a fan of Gygaxian prose, sometimes I just want to get to the point.

Yet all of this led to myself being torn over AD&D 2e. As I said, the 1e DMG still had all of the "cool stuff."  But I'm supposed to "keep up with the Joneses." 2e was much better with organization and rules layout. The AD&D DMG felt like a medieval tome with artwork that lent to the mystery and wonder of the game. Even the funny cartoons were almost like medieval illuminations. You didn't see much humor in the 2e AD&D DMG.

The 2e DMG did have some "cool stuff," like sidebars for optional rules, like say for aerial combat, differentiating between group and individual initiatives, and so on. This would be the last DMG where its editors say: "These are the rules, but you're the Dungeon Master, change them if they'll improve your game." WotC got away from that philosophy, in my opinion.

The 2e DMG may the "weakest" of all of the D&D DMG, but it isn't horrible. It is organized, reads clearly, and a beginning DM could do far worse that to consult it.

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