DMG Review: Open the Box

Chapter 8: Running the Game. Now we’re getting to the nitty gritty. At this point the DMG wants to take the DM through the possible levers to pull or buttons to push in their games. Before that though, a brief discussion on how to address real life issues, like table talk, or odd group sizes. Thankfully we don’t get any nonsense about ‘bad’ player types, or much drama about real life conflicts. Good. A D&D book isn’t the place to learn grown up relationship skills, no matter how high your Cha or Wis.

Best bit? Right at the start, the authors lay out what they see as the three absolute fundamentals of the table contract: foster respect, avoid distractions, have snacks. That, ladies and gentlemen, is 5e in a nutshell. Simple, straightforward, inclusive.


Similarly there’s then advice on the nuts and bolts of the DMs job, making judgement calls, with consistency and accuracy. This includes Inspiration, a new rule for D&D. I’m glad it gets expanded treatment here, in the PHB it was trotted out as an obvious given. It’s not, it’s new, it’s terrifically effective, and with the tweaks and options offered here, potentially a real campaign changer. Like it.

This chapter so far is essentially the DMs commentary track for the PHB rules, so it’s a bit stop/start in its subjects. I think I’d have liked to hear what other DMs actually do with their campaigns, some real examples. Everything here is offered as sound advice, but perhaps we could have had some fleshed out consequences, or at least war stories.

The combat stuff is ok. I know many of us were expecting a full on ‘module’ that might bring the tactical game up to 4e standards. This isn’t it. It’s some nods in that direction, and it does drop the design curtain a bit too. You can see improvised damage, and some mobs stuff as well as a bit of guidance on using minis. Flanking gives you advantage. Simple enough. Facing gets a section, and I’m not sure who was cheerleading that particular bell/whistle. And then a chase rule. Like almost every chase rule ever presented in an rpg, this one doesn’t do anything that a well prepared, or a talented improviser type DM wouldn’t do. It provides a couple of tables for complications. Shame. I know that Paizo managed a lovely sub system for Pathfinder, and there’s plenty of other places to look for inspiration too. Should have done better.

And then siege equipment. Told you it was a bit random.

Poisons and diseases get a story based treatment, meaning low on rules, high on consequence. I’m cool with that. Beating both for word count is the section on Madness, which is a long overdue addition to the core rules. It’s genre appropriate stuff, which needs the sanity rules (presented later, oddly) to fully implement. A pc driven to madness has more story implications than one confined to bed with poison or disease, so I think they’ve got this about right.

Lastly some obvious xp options (faster, slower, or not at all. Fighting, talking, or development based) and we are done.

All decent and workmanlike advice for actually running the game, which is what you’d expect. It runs into an issue in that it expands on stuff presented in earlier chapters, and relies on later ones to fill out what it’s saying now. So, a transitional chapter, and not a straight read for that.

Next up: the Hackers Guide to D&D


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One response to “DMG Review: Open the Box

  1. Pingback: Dungeon Masters Guide: Chapter by Chapter | Treehouse:

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