Every game is a space you explore, a foreign country that you spend time visiting. It could be a single screen with falling shapes that you learn to navigate or an open world to wander through, learning to understand the local customs. With tabletop roleplaying games, it is an all-inclusive package to a destination, only limited by your imagination.
Walking through the wastes of a forgotten continent, my comrades and I have faced unspeakable horrors. I’ve explored the corners of my own kingdom to discover the ruins of fallen empires. And in the deepest dark below the earth, I have faced legendary beasts and feared for my life.
With the release of the Dungeon Master’s Guides for the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons, the trio of core books that also includes the Player’s Handbook and the Monster Manual, these famous guidebooks for traveling to fantastic worlds have been reinvented once again. But the Dungeon Master’s Guide, and D&D as a whole, is about more than traveling through worlds. It’s about mapping them.
Dungeons and Dragons is a tabletop roleplaying game which was first released in 1974 and has been continuously updated over the years. A group of friends play as a party of adventurers and one player is the Dungeon Master (DM) who acts as both the storyteller and the rules arbiter. Besides the inherent excitement from interacting and experiencing that location and it’s encounter, there is the fulfilling feeling of mapping the world. You want a complete map, evidence of what you have accomplished and the fact you have done everything possible in a space.
This is the fifth edition of the game, and after 40 years of offering a framework for telling stories and acting out heroics, the fanbase has become splintered. Some groups of players still use the original system, or perhaps the second edition from 1989, or later editions from the years in between. Each group had the fantasy engine they enjoyed.
The new rules for Dungeons and Dragons which have been released this year offer a simplified ruleset which allows a group of friends to be cartographers of fictional landscapes. This edition is crafted to get to the core of D&D play, to try to appeal to the tastes of all the kinds of fans of D&D, from all different editions and decades. While D&D is not a perfect system, it is a fine game that seems to have been crafted to help people recapture that youthful glee of questing through fairy tale places.
And the Dungeon Master’s Guide provides a comprehensive collection to help the DM create or run their fantasy world. The guidances ranges from the small—creating supporting characters—to massive—forming pantheons of gods. There are tools to create villages and nations, including details like geography, economy, and politics. You can map your own heavens and hells, build your own dungeons and castles, or jot down global histories and city power structures.
Just reading a piece of a chapter here and another there, for example, a concept for a sheltered city state ruled by eccentric, god-like authorities came to me. And with the tools presented, I will could start fleshing it out. The enthusiasm in the book for crafting fantasies leaves me giddy to plan out this setting and take some friends through it over the holidays.
The DMG also helps guide you with running the game. What sub-genre of fantasy do you want to use: sword and sorcery, high fantasy, or another choice? What themes do you want to emerge as you play month after month? How do you want an individual storyline to unfold? Piece by piece, the writers and designers at publisher Wizards of the Coast help you create the play space you will provide.
A book for people running a game wouldn’t be complete without sets of optional rules. There are ways to make a game more about horror and madness or more focused on honor and codes of chivalry. There are storytelling techniques to make the game even more collaborative and let the players directly shift the tale. And there is the usual descriptions of treasure and magical items to reward players.
Like the hundreds of Dungeons and Dragons books that have come before it, this one exists to inspire you to game and stir you to embrace fantasy. This DMG provides what you need to develop a campaign, providing lists of rules and advice for the intangibles of worldbuilding and storytelling. And whether you are a veteran of D&D getting acclimated with the most modern take of the game or a newcomer who has only played videogame RPGs before, the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons can help you finally step foot into an epic fantasy. Just remember to bring your graph paper to map out that abandoned temple. That teleport trap in the South wing is tricky.