1E DMG vs. 3E DMG vs. 4E DMG

Ycore Rixle

First Post
Hm, for function, defined as use at the table, I'd have to go with the 3e DMG. I used many traps, NPCs, random spells (roll on the wands/potions table), poisons, materials, etc. straight out of that, right at the table. 1e comes in a close second here because back in the day, I did use it at the table for save charts, to-hit charts pre-THAC0, wands of wonder, those cool glyphs in the spell section, the assassination charts, psionic charts, and all the wonderful stuff in the appendices like monster stats (on trips when I didn't have room to pack the Monster Manual) and random dungeon features.

4e has good advice for people who have never DM'd before, or who have never taken it seriously. There are certainly some of those out there; I have a bunch of them in my RPG club at the high school where I teach. I do question whether or not there are enough of them that the entire book should have been pitched to their level. So, no, I don't use the 4e DMG too much at the table. In prep, and if I were still publishing D&D adventures in Dungeon or with WOTC, I can see how the DM's Toolbox would get a lot of use. But I still don't see how I would ever use those at the table. In fact, it can be seen as one of 4e's achievements that you don't really need the rulebooks a lot at the table, especially if you're using power cards.

In form, the 1e is far superior to any other edition. Reading it is a feast. I'd say that its form is part of its function, in the sense that it inspires and informs play, more than any other edition's DMG has.
 

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Treebore

First Post
You think the 1E DMG has the worst function? Really? When was the last time you read it? I still find it the most useful of all the DMG's. All the information packed in there is still useful. Random encounters, random character traits, useful herbs, properties of gemstones, etc... I use all of it at one time or another.
 

delericho

Legend
I've never read the 1st Edition DMG, so can't comment on that one.

The 2nd Edition DMG was almost completely useless. Were it not for the treasure tables and the magic items chapter, it would have been easy to drop it entirely from the game. It should have included the advice from the "Campaign Sourcebook and Catacomb Guide". Now there was a DMG worthy of the name!

The 3e DMG is a very solid book, provided you already know how to DM a game. That is, it's not very good for teaching you to run a game, and is over-complicated for newbies. However, it's absolutely packed with useful material - traps, environmental hazards, poisons (bit weak, though), diseases (likewise), and so forth.

The 3.5e DMG is much like the 3e version, but adds yet more good material, such as the elemental planes and the Epic level rules. Sadly, the latter are rubbish. Also, the 3.5e DMG is less well organised than the 3e version, IMO.

Both the 3e and 3.5e DMGs are hard to read - a big wall of text with something of the textbook about them.

However, it was not until DMG2 that 3.x finally got a book providing suitable advice for handling groups, preparing adventures, and other "how to DM" topics. This is a major failing of that edition.

The 4e DMG is much easier to read than the 3.x equivalents (and perhaps better than the 2nd Edition one). It also includes extensive "how to DM" material, which is a great improvement. However, the 4e books suffers a great deal in the usefuless scale, IMO. It's very good on generalities, but woefully short on specifics. For example, it includes a handful of traps, but no advice on how to design new traps. It has a brief discussion on environmental hazards, but no actual examples. (If a PC falls into lava, what happens?) And the one massive enhancement of 4e, skill challenges, don't work at all well as written.

In an earlier post on another thread, I noted that the 4e DMG might be less useful than the 2nd Edition equivalent, which at least included magic items. In making that assessment, though, I had omitted a couple of key elements of the 4e DMG (as was pointed out to me later).

So, in terms of form: 4e > 2e > 3e > 3.5e. (Insert "Campaign Sourcebook" right at the top, with the 3.5e DMG2 immediately after, but note that neither of these is a complete DMG in its own right.)

In terms of function: 3.5e > 3e > 4e > 2e. (Because they aren't complete DMGs, the "Campaign Sourcebook" and 3.5e DMG can't really rate on this scale. If added to the corresponding editions DMGs, they boost those significantly, but probably don't actually change the order.)
 

justanobody

Banned
Banned
Does a DMG usefullness come from its need during play, or from the fact that it isn't needed during play, but conveys its message well enough that you already have it without needing to always look it up in a table?
 

Jack99

Adventurer
Between the 1e and 4e DMG's, you have all you need regarding form and function (IMO) - Together they cover the whole spectrum, if you can look past the whole making new traps/hazards (if you play 4e), although I had little problem figuring it out from the 23 examples present in the DMG.
 

delericho

Legend
Does a DMG usefullness come from its need during play, or from the fact that it isn't needed during play, but conveys its message well enough that you already have it without needing to always look it up in a table?

IMO, a DMG shouldn't need to be referenced much if at all during play.

However, where it really shows its usefulness is during preparation for the game, in the form of traps and environments, dungeon dressings, adventure generation assistance, and a reminder of all those things that I've forgotten. The DMG should also be a 'how-to' guide to Dungeon Mastering.
 

AllisterH

First Post
Ironically, the 4E DMG is the one I use the LEAST at the game table. The 4E DMG is the best DMG when you need to do the prepwork but once you have the DMG screen, you really shouldn't be referring to the DMG at all during a game.

In fact, I think this was an actual design goal of 4E. To reduce the amount of time spent opening and flipping through the PHB/DMG during actual gameplay..
 

Ravellion

serves Gnome Master
You think the 1E DMG has the worst function? Really? When was the last time you read it? I still find it the most useful of all the DMG's. All the information packed in there is still useful. Random encounters, random character traits, useful herbs, properties of gemstones, etc... I use all of it at one time or another.
I read it about a year ago. For the first time, mind you, so no feelings of nostalgia mixed in. So many people here recommended it, that I was greatly disappointed in it after reading. Nothing useful for a 3e game. No useful tips on gamemastering.

I hate being told what to do (Myers-Briggs ENTP :) ) and Gygax has a writing style that is very... directive. I just constantly think either "why?" of "you're wrong" after reading a "you must" or "take care to". Add onto that lots of tables with details my players never want or need (gemstone traits? herbs? Really?) and it was simply not useful to me.
 


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