The 3rd Edition Dungeon Master's Guide focuses on how to create and run a fun Dungeons & Dragons game. Like previous editions, the 3rd Edition DMG further explains the rules introduced in the Player's Handbook. But this book goes beyond rules and offers valuable tips on pacing, story creation, conflict, villains, motivation, and player rewards.
Novice DMs will benefit from the sections on creating individual adventures and describing action, while even experienced DMs will appreciate the notes on extended campaigns, detailed world creation, and high-level play. We loved the "Behind the Curtain" blurbs, which explain the reasoning behind the changes made in 3rd Edition. Well-considered optional rules are offered to daring DMs, including rules for monsters as PC races (troll paladin, anyone?), high technology, and guidelines for creating custom races and classes.
The nuts and (lightning) bolts of DMing are also covered in great detail. The book teaches DMs how to gauge Challenge Ratings for players and monsters in order to create balanced encounters. These encounters are easier to run thanks to 3rd Edition's standardized monster abilities, each of which are covered in depth. Rewarding players for successful encounters is also easier, now that the cumbersome treasure tables of 2nd Edition have been replaced. Particular attention is paid to magic items: how to award them, how players create them, how to adjudicate them, and how to take them away. The new magic item enhancement rules (similar to the magic items in the computer gameDiablo) are also detailed.
One dramatic departure from D&D as we knew it could have used a bit more attention. The DMG introduces the concept of prestige classes, and includes rules for six sample prestige classes: arcane archer, assassin, blackguard, dwarven defender, loremaster, and shadowdancer. Characters can't take these classes at first level but must instead work toward them by choosing specific classes, skills, and feats. For example, before taking a level in arcane archer a character needs to be an elf or half-elf and have a high attack bonus, specific archery feats, and the ability to cast at least one arcane spell. Unsure how these classes will affect your game? Want tips on how to properly create and balance these classes? Sorry, the DMG does not provide adequate answers.
But aside from this complaint the DMG stands out as an honestly useful guide book to the incredible new Dungeons & Dragons game. The rules and tips are well organized and easy to find, thanks to a detailed table of contents and full index. Artwork, examples, and diagrams are liberally placed throughout the book. All this attention to detail makes the DMG an easy and effective read. We wouldn't want to DM without it.--Mike Fehlauer