Last Updated on February 1, 2023
D&D is a game loved by many. Some might even say that its existence goes far beyond any product produced by a certain company. Those people would be correct, but that doesn’t mean the resources, like the Dungeon Master’s Guide, put out by WotC can’t be incredibly helpful, especially to newcomers to the community.
In this article, we’ll be looking at what the DMG, or Dungeon Master’s Guide, really is. What makes this book so special? Is it really worth dishing out your hard-earned cash? We’ll cover all that and more.
- The Dungeon Master’s Guide is a foundational resource for aspiring DMs.
- It includes the core rules of the game – everything a Dungeon Master needs to get started.
- It also includes advice on things such as:
- Making rulings
- Running adventures
- And more…
What Is the 5e Dungeon Master’s Guide?
The 5e Dungeon Master’s Guide, commonly referred to as the DMG, is one of the core rulebooks of Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons. Released by Wizards of the Coast, this book sets itself up as the authority on guiding new and old DMs alike through the rules of 5e.
Realistically, the book does just that. It’s truly an excellent guide in that it explains the two most important parts of D&D: How the rules actually work and when to ignore the rules.
A guide to D&D is often a double-edged sword. Since being a DM is a mixture of understanding how the game works and being able to improvise, guides run the risk of either being too strict and boxing DMs in or being too open-ended and not providing enough answers.
While there are certainly times that the DMG leans too far in either of these directions, it actually does do a great job of striking balance.
Essentially, the DMG provides rules and guidelines for how to run the game while also constantly reminding the DM that the final decision rests with them, their players, and the creative, collaborative process that drives the game.
What Comes With the Dungeon Master’s Guide?
The DMG includes a lot of content. Since this is really meant to be the only book a Dungeon Master ever needs to buy, it’s full of answers to all sorts of questions from “How do I make my players roll dice?” to “How do I create my own multiversal campaign setting?”
Fortunately, this is all broken down into easy-to-manage chapters in even-easier-to-manage parts. The three parts are as follows:
- Part 1: Master of Worlds (Chapters 1-2) – This teaches DMs how to build worlds, whether you’re creating something from scratch or simply running a pre-built adventure.
- Part 2: Master of Adventures (Chapters 3-7) – Being a Dungeon Master means guiding your players through adventures, and that means understanding elements like NPCs, dungeons, encounters, rewards, and more.
- Part 3: Master of Rules (Chapters 8-9) – As the “Master of Rules,” Dungeon Masters are the arbiters of D&D. To make decisions, you’ll need to not only understand the basic rules but also how to make a ruling on the spot. This section guides you through all of that.
Within these sections, each chapter breaks it down into a more specific set of rules and advice. Here are the chapters and specific content you can expect if you pick up this book:
- A World of Your Own – The basics of creating a D&D setting.
- Creating a Multiverse – How to incorporate the multiverse and planes in your D&D setting.
- Creating Adventures – A guide to understanding what an adventure is and how you can run and create one.
- Creating Nonplayer Characters – All sorts of NPC advice from monsters and villains to hirelings and rivals.
- Adventure Environments – More precise setting advice. This section teaches you what a world looks like while you’re adventuring within it.
- Between Adventures – Teaches you how to deal with downtime.
- Treasure – A compendium of magical items along with advice on how to divvy them out.
- Running the Game – THE MOST IMPORTANT SECTION OF THIS ENTIRE BOOK. The actual rules themselves.
- Dungeon Master’s Workshop – How to create everything you could ever want to create, so this can truly be the last D&D book you ever buy.
Sage Advice From the Dungeon Master’s Guide
While most of the DMG is a helpful resource, there are some pieces that go above and beyond. I don’t think I’d do a review of this book justice if I didn’t bring up some of its best points.
Know Your Players
Page 6 offers the final nuggets of wisdom from the introduction, which itself does an amazing job of capturing the essence of being a Dungeon Master. This last bit though, knowing your players, is absolutely paramount.
The section highlights five main areas of the game that your players might enjoy:
- Acting – Getting into the role of a character and exploring a fresh identity.
- Exploring – Discovering new worlds and hidden secrets.
- Instigating – Having an impact on the world around them and sparking new situations.
- Fighting – Taking down impressive monsters with an even more impressive amount of damage.
- Optimizing – Being able to perfectly respond to any situation. These players play to “win” D&D.
- Problem-Solving – Just the way it sounds, these players love figuring out riddles, solving puzzles, and getting their allies out of any bind with their creativity.
- Storytelling – Contributing to the narrative with elaborate backgrounds. These players want to play memorable characters.
As the guide suggests, being a good DM is a lot easier when you know what your players enjoy because it guides you in how to run your campaigns and adventures.
Who’s in Charge?
“The D&D rules help you and the other players have a good time, but the rules aren’t in charge. You’re the DM, and you are in charge of the game.”– Page 4, DMG
This is probably the best thing said in the entire DMG. It reminds us of one important thing: the rules aren’t really rules. To quote a wise pirate/ghost “They’re more like… guidelines.”
While the rules and advice outlined in the DMG are extremely helpful, especially for first-time DMs (and even more so for first-timers to TTRPGs in general), they’re not meant to be taken as absolute law. Instead, they’re meant to inspire you and, hopefully, to teach you how a balanced game runs. They are by no means necessary, nor law.
Is It Worth Getting the Dungeon Master’s Guide?
The answer to this depends on your experience. Complete newcomers to tabletop roleplaying games will definitely benefit from purchasing this guide. Longtime veterans of 5e probably don’t need this to make rulings, especially if they have a friend willing to help them out here and there.
The Dungeon Master’s Guide is an incredible resource and is definitely an investment. If you want something to look to for answers, it will do the job most of the time. If you want something to teach you how to DM, it will get you most of the way there.
Still, at the end of the day, nothing put out by WotC is “essential.” Even the so-called “Essentials Kit” isn’t necessary. What really matters is that you have some people excited to sit down and create a story together. From there, you can pretty much make up the rules on your own or lean on the incredible community for advice.
Be sure to check out our full guide to 5e books here.
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As a kid, I was often told to get my head out of the clouds and to stop living in a fantasy world. That never really jived with me, so I decided to make a living out of games, stories, and all sorts of fantastical works. Now, as an adult, I aspire to remind people that sometimes a little bit of fantasy is all you need when life gets to be too much.