Saturday, February 11, 2012

Let's Play DMG Roulette!

Random page.

Type I DMG
3.5 DMG

"(A chapter about mining)
As Dungeon Master you will be interested in the subject of dungeon building for two reasons. Most important is the work will take place in various underground settings you devise for your players. Work will probably be in progress prior to their venturing into the labyrinth, during the course of their adventures therein, and even after they have moved on to some other project or task. Later, high level player characters will build their own strongholds, and they will desire some dungeon mazes thereunder."
"Gaining a level is the most significant reward the game has to offer, but even that reward has its own tidal rhythm. Characters gain new attack powers at odd-numbered levels, and they gan new feats, ability score increases, and global adjustments to all their attack and defenses at even-numbered levels. both are exciting, but they feel different." (Facing page: picture of leafhippie)
"Epic Ranger
Whether cunning protector of the wild or cold blooded hunter of the weak, the epic ranger is one with the wilderness, moving with deadly grace and keen mind through the natural world"
Round one:
Rather than emphasize the differences between these passages (easy to do) instead I'm thinking about the similarities:
All these passages are fucking pointless

The first one is, at least, subjectively useless (and funny), while the last two are absolutely redundant. Why do they even make DMGs?

Round one to Gary.

"When the paladin reaches 4th or higher level, he or she will eventually call for a warhorse. It will magically appear, but not in actual physical form. The paladin will magically "see" his or her faithful destrier in whatever locale it is currently in, and it is therefore up to the paladin to journry to the place and gain the steed. As a rule, of thumb, this journey will not be beyond 7 days ride, and gaining the mount will not be an impossible task. The...(and then a bunch of adventure hooks)"
"The basic nature of puzzles--that they rely on player ability--is the reason that some people love puzzles in the game and some people dislike them. players who enjoy puzzles and are reasonably good at solving them generally like running into them in the course of an adventure. players who don't like puzzles, or who balk at the idea that a 25th-level wizard with a 26 Intelligence can't solve a simple number square, find puzzles an intrusion into the game. Looking at the motivations of your players (see Chapter 1), you'll find that puzzles engage some explorers and many thinkers, and they can grab a surprising number of watchers, but instigators, power gamers, and slayers quickly get impatient with them. If your group consists mostly of the latter types of players, it's best to steer away from puzzles."
(Related from the same DMG: "Some D&D adventures feature puzzles. Some DMs believe puzzles should test the characters, and see puzzles as a form of skill challenge. Others see puzzles as a challenge for the players, and welcome the variety and hands-on nature of puzzles that they can solve personally or as a group. Use puzzles as either sort of challenge in your game.")
Dust of Appearance

This fine powder appears to be a very fine, (one would assume) very light metallic dust. A single handful of this substance flung into the air coats objects within a 10-foot radius, making them visible even if they are invisible. It likewise negates the effects of blur and displacement. (In this, it works just like the faerie fire spell). The dust also reveals figments, mirror images, and projected images for what they are. A creature coated with the dust takes a -30 penalty on its Hide checks. The dust’s effect lasts for 5 minutes.

Dust of appearance is typically stored in small silk packets or hollow bone tubes.

Faint conjuration; CL 5th; Craft Wondrous Item, glitterdust; Price 1,800 gp.

These are all more interesting:
Gary gives us an adventure in a box, the 4e DMG talks about the central 4e issue (player skill vs character skill), and the 3.5 gives us an 1800 gp magic item that works exactly like a keg of baking soda. What a strange world.
I'm giving this round to the 4e DMG, for being straightforward.
If any cleric was more powerful than the renowned Dahlver-Nar, histories do not tell us. The gods themselves gave special powers to him, and these have passed on to others by means of the great relics of Dahvler-Nar, his teeth. Each of the Teeth has some power, and if one charcter manages to gain a full quarter, half, or all of them, other grand benefits accrue. In order to gain the power of one of these teeth, however, the character must place it into his or her mouth, where it will graft itself in the place of a like missing tooth. The teeth can never be removed once so emplaced, short of the demise of the possessor. Their powers/effects are:
If none of the characters in your 6thlevel party uses a long bow, don't put a 10thlevel longbow in your dungeon as treasure. A great way to make sure you give players magic items they'll be excited about is to ask them for wish lists. At the start of each level, have each player write down a list of three to five items that they are intrigued by that are no more than four levels above their own level. You can choose treasure from those lists (making sure to place an item from a different character's list each time), crossing the items off as the characters find them. If characters don't find things on their lists, they can purchase or enchant them when they reach sufficient level. Each set of ten treasure parcels includes one less magic item than there are characters in the party. That's not meant to be unfair, just to make sure that characters gain magic items at a manageable rate. Make sure that over the course of several levels of adventuring, you award items evenly to all the char acters, so that over the course of, say, five levels, every character has acquired four useful and exciting items.
Sometimes, however, players come to you and say that they like a certain class, but they want to change a single feature or two. Michele might want to play a ranger with no desire to obtain more than one favored enemy. She wants to play a beast-slayer, and her character hates dire wolves. She’s also interested in the paladin’s warhorse. You can decide, as a DM, that it’s acceptable to trade those ranger abilities for the paladin’s mount. In fact, you might decide that it’s not a fair trade, and that Michele’s character can have the detect evil ability as well. (She is, after all, giving up an ability usable at 1st level as well as one that comes into play later for one that she can’t achieve until 5th level.) Allowing a player to play the character she wants to play is always a desirable goal. Sure, sometimes it can’t be achieved--the player asks for too much, or what she wants doesn’t fit with your campaign--but the effort to accommodate reasonable modifications is almost always worth it.
Mmmmm...this round the 4e DMG definitely loses, but who wins? Magic teeth are cool, but the 3.5 DMG advice is solid and probably more often useful than the teeth which, being insanely powerful and possibly very silly, will only be as cool as they should be 10% of the time. Plus this totally sounds like something Michelle would actually do.
Round 3 to 3e...
Oh it's a 3way tie.
Tiebreaker round:
"While there might be as many as 25 or more prospective henchmen in the city of 25,000 cited above, the player character desirous of locating one or more for service must be able to reach the NPCs in order to let them know there is a henchman position available. In order to get this sort of information around, there are several methods which can be used singularly or in combination:" (and then a chart with costs and percentages)
"An artifact's concordance score measures the artifact's attitude toward its wielder. The scale ranges from 0 (angered) to 20 (pleased). When a character takes possession of an artifact, it starts with a concordance of 5. (The owner's race, class, or other characteristics might adjust this starting concordance.) Various actions and events increase or decrease this score as long as the character possesses the artifact. When the artifact is pleased with its wielder's actions, its concordance goes up. When the wielder acts contrary to the artifact's desires, its concordance decreases. The wielder knows of the factors that alter the concordance--it's in the artifact's best interests to communicate its desires and expectations. But keep the artifact's concordance score a secret, telling the player only if the artifact's powers or properties change. The player shouldn't ever know exactly how close the artifact is to changing its attitude."
"Obviously any stat block you create for your own use can be as sparse or as detailed as you need it to be. If all that relly matters for an encounter is a creature's hit points AC and attack bonus, then those are the only characteristics you need to make note of.
Use your own stat blocks to streamline the action during play by enabling you to have what you need at your fingertips--but don't feel that your stat blocks have to provide every single conceivable statistic for every creature (unless that's what you want them to do, of course)."
Sorry AD&D DMG: nobody uses that system and even if they did, it's way too cheap and if you fail, then what? Go without? No. you have enough gp--you just do it again and cross off game weeks? Give me a Jeff Rients henchgenerator over that any day.
The 4e Concordance mechanic--you get more artifact powers the more you "agree" with you item--is a pretty good mechanic. Though, in general, artifacts don't (or shouldn't) come up that much, so if I give this one the round then I'd have to go back and give the Teeth of Dahlver Nar the round before...

Then the 3.5 comes in with totally dull but absolutely unarguable advice on statblocks that some people still at this late date have not gotten through their little pea-brained heads.
Whereas if I just go for what's shiny and awesome then y'know, artifacts are cool and 4e and AD&D are tied...

Mmmm...does the 3.5 DMG wins this match with its Tortoise vs. Hare approach to DM advice?
Is there a 4e/AD&D tie?

Or do I just go back decide "Teeth of Dahlver Nar" is such a viscerally evocative name that it makes up for boring henchweeksearchbloat and just give it to Gary?

What a hopeless game.


Jesse said...

Reading these, the style of the writing really strikes me. I've never read any Type IV stuff before, but the kind of casual tone in these extracts rubs me the wring way. The similarities between the styles of 3.5 and AD&D are also way more pronounced than I ever would've guessed.

Zak Sabbath said...

The AD&D DMG seems like a 19th century reference work written by some chatty narrator who can't stop inserting advice.

The 4e book is basically a book of advice.

The 3.5 is, unsurprisingly, in-between.

Jack Guignol said...

I'm surprised you gave a pass to the Type IV passage about puzzles; it uses an awful lot of words to say "Some people like puzzles, others do not!"

Simon said...

I had no idea the 3.5 DMG had that last "don't sweat it" advice in there. OTOH I do actually use the 1e DMG henchman acquisition rules!

But overall I think this has to go, mirabile dictu, to the 3.5 DMG!

David S. Goodwin said...

I remember now why I liked 3.x when it came out - it seemed so well-thought-out and didn't jerk the reader around much. Compared to 2nd ed, I mean

But I really remember how those batshit rules in AD&D, those ornate tables that I never used, and the amazingly insane magic items got me into gaming in the first place. Magic teeth were wonderful.

Rod said...

What's magical about the Dust of Appearance is how much coverage you get per tablespoon. Presumably.

Carter Soles said...

Much as I hate to deny Gary his tie with D&D IV, I would surely give that last round to 3.5. That is a crucial piece of advice that gains importance when one considers how long it takes to stat anything in 3.5.

Trent_B said...

I feel like maybe this whole post is just a premise for the last sentence. I dig it, nonetheless.

Zzarchov said...

Well Noisms,

When I play, if I player says "I would like a box of Arm & Hammer" I think I will strive to ensure they have a 4/5 chance of finding such a thing after an epic and evenly balanced quest.

noisms said...

I have no idea what Arm & Hammer is, but why is it your job to strive to ensure that they have a chance of finding it after an epic and evenly balanced quest, and not their job to ask the GM where they think a box of Arm & Hammer might be available and then go and try to get it? said...

The 3.5 advice about stat blocks seems to be impractical, given how many sub-systems (grappling, actions in a round, magical abilities of high level monsters, just to name a few) in 3.5 rely on stat block info. Sure, I could ignore all those rules, but then why am I playing 3.5? (Note, I now play OD&D.)

Zak Sabbath said...


I have heard this (incomprehensible) idea before.

Why 3.5 if you are not "building" the monsters from the ground up?

Basically look at all the ideas Castles and Crusades took from 3.5: that's why. saves that are described rather than named, bonuses instead of a chart, customizability, etc.

That's why.

Also: pretending you can't run a 3.5 combat with just a few numbers is essentially saying "Despite the fact that I have frequently heard about people performing this activity, I continue to presume it is not occurring"

Kindling said...

Arm & Hammer is toothpaste. Can't fight dragons without sparkling smiles.

Nagora said...

I don't see the problem with "we spend enough to make sure we find some henchmen; how long does that take? Okay, what are they called?" It's not like the DMG suggests everyone doing nothing while the time passes in real life, is it?

I'm generally in favour of things that move the calendar onwards. If the time is valuable to the PCs, then they have something to make a significant choice over - wait until the henchmen are sorted out or press on without them.

deleted said...

I wish you would have picked the 3.0 dmg instead of 3.5.

Next installment use the Pathfinder Game Mastery Guide. I predict it will dominate this contest.

Zak Sabbath said...


I don't have those

Roger G-S said...

The real problem with puzzles which that passage misses is that even if your players are thinkers or watchers or ENTF Libras, 40% of the time they will not get it, and 30% they will get it too easily. And if you have the other types selfconsciously saying "this is a puzzle and I hate it" because you have a room whose floor is tiled in a sudoku, that's your own fault. Open-ended, practical problems yes. MENSA puzzles no.

Zak Sabbath said...


The discussion here of "platonic" puzzles is, for me, a useful version of the discussion about more open-ended puzzles (war as puzzle, intrigue as puzzle, vampire-slaying-as-puzzle).

Platonic puzzles themselves don't interest me that much, but most of what is said there is also true of more interesting situations that address creative problem-solving issues .

Jon Hendry said...

Arm & Hammer in this context is baking soda, Zak's suggested alternative to dust of appearance. It's also used for absorbing smells in the fridge.

The idea of questing and getting a box of Arm & Hammer is hilarious.

noisms said...

I failed my North American Cultural Knowledge check there and totally didn't get the joke.

Rasa said...

I got my start on 4e, and even being a newbie I was utterly appalled by the idea of the party getting 4+ magic items just for having the balls to go into a dungeon. It was insane. I'd almost deduct 2 points for that kind of chicanery.

deleted said...

fair enough.

The 3.0 DMG is quite a bit different than the 3.5.

The Pathfinder GMG is very useful, filled with tons of complete NPC's for easy use. Also a set of really good random magic item tables.

333 said...

The outrage over "4e gives out too many magic items" strikes me as ill-informed.

Most magic items, out of a whole level's packages, are supposed to consumables, like healing potions.

The rest of your magic items are mostly just enhancement bonus (extra damage) AND the special powers of one require Action Points to be spent, aside from a very few 'free uses' per day. And the entire haul of magic items is supposed to be spread out across the party (so each character would only get one permanent magic item).

In other words, magic items are fairly limited, when they are not just bonuses to hit chances or damage.

Or is something else that annoys people?

Zak Sabbath said...

I dunno how it "officially" works, but is there "slots" like in 3.5?

Is there presumed turnover of items? Like you trade in your +1 sword for a +2?

And the wish list thing--that just seems sooooo much on the "Marvel" side of the Marvel/DC continuum. Too much beawesome vs. see awesome for most DIY D&Ders I thnk

Marcus said...

The GameMaster Guide is indeed a very useful book, no matter what edition you're playing.

Unknown said...

I wuv this blog!

If I can be an opinion monster here for a second... 3.5 seems like the winner since it advised in a way that might actually help an actual GM.

Although the baking soda thing was truly ridiculous... and the epic ranger thing was pointless...

ok, wait, I dunno anymore.

Secular Transhumanist said...

I read "She’s also interested in the paladin’s warhorse" and I'm sure I couldn't possibly be thinking what the author was intending with that one...