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I picked up the most recent Dungeon Master’s Guide yesterday, a week early, thanks to our Friendly Local Gaming Store being a premier store for Wizards of the Coast. It was also small-business Saturday, so I picked up a Monster Manual, a copy of Torchbearer and the fifth wave of X-wing ships. When I arrived home my deluxe collector’s edition of Metamorphosis Alpha arrived from the Goodman Games kickstarter. Needless to say, we should have many upcoming reviews for you in the forthcoming weeks. But, I digress:
So you’ve played your first game of D&D and want to play again. Time to think about your character; where do they go from here? The D&D Beyond New Player’s Guide has you covered with tips on how to get your very first D&D campaign up and running. Feb 05, 2016 Trying to find a place where I can print hex paper so I can map out a campaign site. The DMG recommends using hex paper sized at 5 hexes to 1', which makes a lot of sense. I've searched using the googles, and while I found a few, they wind up being more like 3 hexes to an inch, which adds up over time and isn't exactly what I'm looking for.
The 5e Dungeon Master’s Guide retreads a lot of familiar ground, as it should for new DMs, or that most vaunted of demographics, players inspired to try their hand at running the game. Interestingly, this DMG is structured exactly opposite of the 4e DMG and firmly places magic items back in the hands of the DM (where they belong, in my opinion). The 5e DMG is broken down in to three parts: Master of Worlds, Master of Adventures, and Master of Rules, in that order. This demonstrates the “outside-in” type of design in which you examine the big-picture themes and create the world first, then adventures, NPCs and adversaries, then the individual rules for certain situations like save DCs, when/why to grant inspiration, and optional rules like facing and flanking as well as diseases and poisons. The 4e DMG was exactly the opposite with the “inside-out” type of design which focused on rules and running the game first, then designing adventures, then world creation.
This book is best suited for the tinkerer. It includes rules for adding races, sub-races, classes, as well as variants for initiative, resting, gunpowder, alien technology, hero points, plot points, and a lot of optional systems you can add to your game to tune it how you want D&D to run. It is an excellent resource for both old and new DMs alike and includes a lot of tables for adventure inspiration in the second section. The section on adding races and sub-races adds Eladrin and Aasimar is playable races with features associated with those. The classes section adds the Death domain for clerics, and the Oathbreaker anti-paladin which was alluded to in the PHB.
The layout and artwork are superior to the Player’s Handbook, much to my surprise and delight. Apparently they saved all the intense action artwork for the DMs (sorry players!). Almost all of the artwork involves some immediate action, but its not all just wands firing and spell effects. There is party hiding from a huge group of (very minion-esque looking) modrons, a party doing their best against a Tarrasque tearing through a city, a diverse party looking into the maw of a forbidding cave, and the magic item art really stands out. Surprisingly, (and sadly) the DMG has returned to being almost entirely white people. While the PHB was very racially diverse on almost every page, that diversity does not extend to the DMG. The page numbers in the corners are still nigh-unreadable, but the color coded corners of the page that delineate which section you are in are much more prominent than they were in the PHB. I had to look back to see if they even did this in the PHB, and they did, but almost imperceptibly. The index for the DMG is in a much more readable 9 point font, as opposed to the PHB 6 point index.
The magic item section is where this book really shines. It includes tables for the origin of a magic item, as well as tables for history, minor powers and quirks (much like DCC…) as well as iconic magic items like a necklace of fireballs, boots of elvenkind, sphere of annihilation, staff of power, and a wand of wonder. The illustrations in the magic item sections are really inspirational and well thought out. I really enjoyed flipping through pages of cloaks, rings, staffs and wands, all thematically rendered to make them look unique, and fantastic.
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Oct 03, 2014 My hunch is that square graph paper was a lot easier to find in the 1970s than hex graph paper, but I'm mostly guessing here. OTOH, the Outdoor Survival map board is, if I correctly recall, hex-based, so there's some foundation for asserting that the D&D default for outdoor and small-scale maps is hexes. Cheers, Roger. There are some guidelines in the DMG for mapping your world, starting at page 14. They suggest that for the widest scale (which they call 'Mapping a Continent') that you should use about 60 miles per hex. This will make a world a bit smaller than Earth, but still something plenty big for a campaign.
The tables for adventure creation cover the main bases and can serve as a good starting point for new DMs. More experienced DMs and players may recognize and see through some of the more tired tropes (a stranger approaches the party in a tavern and urges them to the adventure location, a village needs volunteers to go to the adventure location) but the basics need to be covered before you start getting more creative with adventure design. I am likely spoiled in this regard by the Dungeon Alphabet, in which there is much more creative (in my opinion) adventure seeds, items, and encounters. When you are ready to level-up your adventure design, be sure and pick that up.
Overall, once again, I am much more impressed than I thought I would be. This edition has succeeded at getting back to what the core of the game is, while respecting not only the history but the innovations of the last four decades of tabletop RPGs. While expensive, this DMG is 100 pages longer than the 4e DMG, and very much worth it. This book is an excellent toolbox to create your world, and populate it with interesting and diverse characters and adventures.
OK, first of all: as was the case with the Monster Manual, Rory and my names are in the Dungeon Masters Guide! We’re credited as “Additional feedback provied by”. It’s notable that I didn’t review the acknowledgements section, or that particular spelling error would have never gotten through. In fact, since I saw early drafts of DMG sections, a third or more of the book is completely new to me.
Of the core books, the DMG benefits the most from close readings: things that were explained fully in previous DMGs are often presented in complete but compressed form. I’ll probably find things to unpack in this DMG for a few weeks.
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Today I’ll be talking about page 14 of the DMG. In the 3e DMG we got, like, a chapter on worldbuilding, demographics, and settlement generation. In 5e we get page 14. This contains the outdoor campaign mapping rules, into which is encoded a lot of world demographics information. From this page, what can we learn about the D&D world? Is it more like a medieval dark age, or the early Renaissance, or is it totally ahistorical?
Page 14 recommends getting hex paper with five hexes to the inch (so about 2000 hexes per sheet, more or less.) Following in the footsteps of BECMI, the DMG recommends maps at three different scales. This time it’s Province (1 mile hex), Kingdom (6 mile hex) and Continent scale (60 mile hex).
First of all, there’s a major error in the section about combining scales: it says that at continent scale, “1 hex represents the same area as 10 kingdom scale hexes.” Wrong. 1 continent hex is 100x times the area. Similarly, a kingdom hex is the area of 30 province hexes, not 6 as claimed. It looks like this was simply an error of saying “area” when they meant “length”, and, with that substitution, the rest of the math on the page works out fine. Still, that will confuse some poor saps when they get around to making new campaign maps.
OK, on to those sweet demographics!
On a province-scale 8 1/2 x 11 map, which takes about two days of travel to traverse, the DMG says that you’d expect to find one town (population generally around 4000, based on settlement size ranges) and 10 villages (population around 500 each), which works out to about 5 people per square mile in settled lands, about the same population density as the Western Sahara. Wow! Fantasy medieval Europe is empty!
The kingdom scale of 6 miles per hex is just about standard for D&D outdoor hex scales (5 to 8 miles per hex, depending on edition). A kingdom map of a settled area will have 10 notable cities or towns; villages are not shown at this scale. Considering that a kingdom map contains 30 province maps, each of which is likely to contain a town, it’s probable that small towns aren’t shown on the map either.
Continent scale is huge. At 60 miles to the hex, you could fit Europe on one sheet of hex paper, plus about a third of Russia. If your continent fills the map, it has the same area as 3000 province maps, and it takes three months to traverse at 25 miles per day. That’d give you a population of 30 million people if the entire continent were settled, but probably it’s half wild. Apparently this matches the demographics of Europe in 650, right after the Plague of Justinian wiped out 50% of the world population.
OK, so D&D demographics match a) 650 AD, one of the worst post-apocalyptic times in world history and b) Western Sahara, a current nearly-uninhabited strip of desert.
We don’t have to do anything with this information. We can run a jolly D&D campaign with dragons, kings, and quest givers without wondering about the number of peasants in a square mile. But we can also find inspiration in the game’s parallels with Earth demographics. Here’s what the numbers suggest to me.
a) There was a recent event, probably within the last 100 years (because population recovers over a few hundred years), that killed a lot of people. Everybody still remembers it and it terrified of its return. What was it?
b) There are a lot of deserted villages. Furthermore, in every village, town, and city, there are a lot of empty houses. Land is cheap.
d) The king is happy to give you a parcel of land and a border fort when you hit name level. Why not? That border fort is sitting empty right now.
e) A lot of abandoned dungeon locations were probably thriving civilized structures within the last 100 or 200 years. For instance, that border fort the king just gave you.
These speculations are borne out by other parts of the DMG.
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-Standard city size caps at about 25,000: larger metropolises, like Waterdeep and Greyhawk (or Toulouse!) are rare. These city populations are fairly low for medieval city population, but make sense in the wake of a plague that wiped out half the population.
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-In the Wilderness section, a wilderness province contains “ruined villages and towns that are either abandoned or serve as lairs for marauding bandits and monsters.” Wilderness doesn’t have to mean old-growth forest or untamed mountains: it might also mean farms and villages given over to chaos.