Thursday, February 02, 2012

Short answer: 1st edition DMG

In the comments to yesterday's Gameblog post Hartful asks "What would you recommend must reads from old editions as a DM?"

The original cover.
Like it says in the title, the first edition Dungeon Masters Guide is the first thing you ought to read.  It's the only RPG book I read from cover-to-cover every two or three years.  Not only is the classic Gygaxian prose in full effect, but it's just full of stuff that you can use in any fantasy game, not just D&D: random NPC personalities, gem types, herbs, random dungeon charts, siege engines, castleworks, government types, noble titles, gambling methods, crazy mofo artifacts, ships, potion ingredients, etc., etc.  I have yet to run a fantasy campaign without opening this baby up at least once, no matter what rules I use.  Comparing the 1st edition DMG to the lackluster 2nd edition version really shows the difference between a competent game designer and an actual ludo-genius like Gygax.

Cover of later printings.
The DMG is the reason why I'm so excited about the forthcoming AD&D1 reprints from WotC.  The Monster Manual is only so-so.  If I had to pick a single 1st edition monster book to use for all future gaming this would rank 4th or 5th on the list with the Fiend Folio at the top.  It's main value back in the day was basically "Holy crap! Look at all these monsters!" and "Wow! They do games in hardback now?!"  The Players Handbook is good not great.  Warts and all, the DMG is one of the best texts ever produced by the hobby.  Even if you don't own the rest of the line and have no plan on playing AD&D, you need a DMG.

The other TSR items I would definitely recommend for new DMs especially are the two early adventure modules B1: In Search of the Unknown and B2: The Keep on the Borderlands.  Both have great advice and provide examples of what you can do in your games.  Just don't assume they're the only way to play.

Non-TSR items would be a whole nother post I think.  Maybe tomorrow.