Overdue DMG 2 Review, AKA Unwelcome Rant

I’m a little behind on getting this review up. I’m usually quicker off the mark; this time, I’ve waited several weeks before posting my review.

The truth is that I’m very conflicted about the Dungeon Master’s Guide 2.

See, I knew that it was going to be much harder to produce this book than the PHB 2 or the MM 2.* The PHB 2 can get away with just adding some classes and races. The MM 2 can get away with piling on the monsters. But the DMG 2 is tougher, because it has two jobs: first, it is supposed to provide advice as to how to run games, how to manage your group, how to build adventures, all that good stuff. Second, it’s supposed to have lots of lootable bits, like traps and templates and other little surprises that the DM can just plunk right into his or her own game with minimal retooling.

And the book does that. But I’m not sure I like the way it does it.

Because roughly 15% of the book (by page count) is stuff I’ve already paid for once.

I’m not talking about the preview stuff hosted on the WotC site, either. I’m talking about entire Save My Game, Dungeoncraft, and Ruling Skill Challenges columns plopped into the book. I’m talking about the bulk of the new section on traps being lifted from a Dragon article. I’m talking about a significant portion of the example skill challenges being pulled from published adventures and other sourcebooks.

Now, the stuff that’s been repeated is not bad – in fact, it’s quite good, most of it – but as I said, I’ve already paid for it once. It bothers me to find that I’ve paid for it again in buying this book.

Now, an argument can be made that repeating the material is a good thing, because it gives people who haven’t bought the other books or subscribed to DDI a chance to get their hands on the material.

Utter crap.

Firstly, it’s not my job to subsidize those who haven’t bought the other books by paying for some things twice.

Second, you can’t tell me that WotC wouldn’t rather get all those other folks buying the other books and subscribing to DDI. You know they would.

So, I am forced to conclude that WotC is double-dipping with this material either to cut corners or as a misguided attempt to lure those who have not already done so to give them more money by advertising the cool stuff available in other products. I say misguided because it strikes me as a bit of a slap in the face to the alpha-geeks like me who already buy all the 4E stuff that comes out.

I dunno. It just doesn’t seem like a good plan. Of course, the WotC .pdf sales policy proved to me that they don’t think things through very well at the best of times, but that rant is done, and no one wants to hear it.

So. Rant is done. You know my negative feelings about the book. How about the quality of the material?

It’s good. I like it. There is more of an emphasis, which I think is sorely lacking in 4E, on how to infuse your game with more story and roleplaying elements. The story branching section is very well done, and offers good advice to DMs both new and old. The section on Skill Challenges, though lifted almost completely from Mike Mearls’s column in Dungeon, is great, showing nice ways to use Skill Challenges and make them unobtrusive in the game. The section on Sigil has got me jonesing for a Planescape game. The new monster creation and customization rules look solid and easy. The traps and fantastic terrain examples are useful. And the advice on dealing with player motivations is very good.

One of the nicest things, though, are the little sidebar tips. These can add a little bit more information, or an example of what’s discussed in the main text, or just a little bit of advice from someone who’s been there. These are the things that stand out most in my mind after reading the book.

Well, there it is. I like the book, but am upset by the recycling of material I’ve already paid for. It hasn’t put me off WotC or D&D, but it does mean that I’m going to be checking the other supplements they publish to see if there’s enough original stuff in the book to warrant a purchase.

Because it’s good to know before I pay for it instead of after.

*Which I didn’t bother to review because it, like Adventurer’s Vault 2, is just a laundry list of things to add to the game. You’ll like some of the contents, and hates some of the others, and the ones you like or hate will probably differ from mine. Back