Book Review: Dungeon Master 4th Edition For Dummies

Dungeon Master 4th Edition For Dummies, by James Wyatt, Bill Slavicsek, and Richard Baker

The biggest issue with this book is that it focuses attention on the 4th edition, which is likely the least accomplished edition of D&D to come out in some time.  Admittedly, when I picked this book off the shelf at my local library I was in a very big hurry and had about five minutes before closing time so I was not being particularly choosy but rather looking for something that I could read quickly and that I figured I would at least modestly enjoy, being fond of the Dummies series in general [1].  So it is that I can say that much of this book is still worthwhile for the superior 5th edition (as well as the superior earlier 3.5 edition as well) when it comes to being a good Dungeon Master and that only a few elements of this book are specifically focused on the 4th edition itself.  This is for the best because while being a good dungeon master is certainly a skill that can carry one far beyond specific games or specific editions, and that is something that this book captures well.

This book is a fairly sizable one at more than 350 pages in length and 26 chapters in five parts.  The book begins with a foreword and introduction that seek to establish the credentials of the authors in writing about their chosen subject.  After that the book discusses how to run a great game (I) by discussing the role of a dungeon master (1), preparing for playing (2), running the game (3), narrating the adventure (4), dealing with players (5) in a fair-minded fashion, teaching the game (6) to those who are not as adept at it, and providing an introductory adventure in Kobold Hall (7).  After that the authors provide some insight on advanced dungeon mastering (II) by talking about how to run an on-going game (8), choosing one’s game style (9), creating excitement at the game table (10), growing your game (11), and using every available resource (12) to make the experience more enjoyable for everyone.  The authors discuss how one can create adventures (III) by using some tools of the trade (13), and making adventures using dungeons (14), wilderness (15), event-based methods (16), randomly generated (17) elements, as well as paragon and epic adventures for more advanced characters (18), including another sample dungeon with the necromancer’s apprentice (19).  After this the authors provide some tips on building a campaign (IV) through building a continuous story (20), creating memorable villains (21), and bringing the world to life (22).  Finally, the book ends with the part of tens (V) that includes ten heroic (23) and paragon (24) encounters as well as ten things to avoid when dungeonmastering (25) and ten things to always do when dungeonmastering (26), followed by an index.

As is frequently the case in this series, those who read the book are generally by definition not dummies despite the title of the series.  After all, desiring to be better at something, even something as arcane as running campaigns of a tabletop role playing game, is something by definition makes someone not a dummy.  The fact that one seeks information and insight in getting better puts one more than a step ahead of the vast majority of people, many of whom never bother to read any book for enjoyment or instruction at all, even when it comes to something as silly as games.  It is very likely that those who read this book are well aware of that fact, which is why there are so many books that are so popular in this series, because those people who seek after knowledge are demonstrating by that search that they are anything but dumb.  And though some people might wonder what ways a book like this can prove itself to be worthwhile outside of a subculture of gamers, there are truly some skills here about being fair-minded and consistent and understanding the motivations of others that are useful in many worthwhile endeavors.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to Book Review: Dungeon Master 4th Edition For Dummies

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Blogging For Dummies | Edge Induced Cohesion

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