Saturday, April 24, 2010

DMG As Referees Toolkit

DMG Dungeon Masters Guide Advanced Dungeons Dragons Gary Gygax The 1979 Advanced Dungeon Masters Guide, authored by Gary Gygax, is the original, and still best, Referee's Toolkit. It is almost entirely setting-neutral, and contains nearly every topic that a Dungeon Master could possibly need to deal with, during the course of a regular campaign.

Certainly, that version of the DMG is not exhaustive, but it gives referees the essential tools to create and develop their own campaign, and provides a myriad of other tools to add color and depth to their world. I recommend every referee own a copy of the original DMG, even if you never play that version of the game, nor ever intend to. It is an excellent resource for any version of D&D, or any fantasy RPG for that matter. And the original DMGs are easy to come by, and relatively cheap.

Several months ago, I purchased and reviewed the Ultimate Toolbox, which is billed as another referee toolkit. That is also a great resource, and I recommend it as well (although the price is somewhat steeper than the DMG).

In addition to those two resources, does anyone have any recommendations for other referee toolkits? I also have the first three Arduin Grimoires, Philotomy's Musings, and the Dungeon Alphabet, which are all handy resources, but I am looking for another comprehensive referee toolkit, to augment my current resources.

Edit: I can't believe I forgot to mention the Ready Ref Sheets by Judges Guild. For $3, as a pdf download, this is the same price as it was back in the late 1970's. Also, see the comments section for some additional referee resources. Kellri's CCD4, in particular, is quite general and covers a lot of ground.


James said...

Kellri's CCD #4.

Unknown said...

It's amazing how much I use or refer to the AD&D 1e DMG, considering that I haven't run AD&D in decades. As a fantasy reference, it is unsurpassed.

As for my recommendations for generally useful toolkits:
* The Magical Society books from Expeditious Retreat
* The Big List of RPG Plots:
* The Creature Crafter:
* The original Lankhmar: City of Adventure (for urban games)

Sean Robson said...

I agree, totally. Ironically, I use and appreciate the DMG more now than I ever did when I was playing AD&D. In my youth I didn't appreciate just how brilliant a resource it was, and used it for little more than the attack matrices and magic items.

Aaron E. Steele said...

The appendices alone are incredibly inspiring.

Thanks for the suggestions, I checked out the links, some really excellent resources!

Akiyama said...

I think you've mentioned everything there. But what I wanted to say was that I've seen both the Ultimate Toolbox and its predecessor, the d20 Toolbox (at different times) and the d20 Toolbox (which is actually system neutral), struck me as the more inspirational of the two, even though it is shorter (or maybe because it is shorter?). I don't know if it is still available.

Some not-really toolkits that might be nice to have around - "best of" collections (Dragon, Dungeon, The Dungeoneer). The Random Esoteric Creature Generator. The old TSR World Builder's Guide (excellent), Dungeon Master's Design Kit (average) and Dungeon Builder's Guide (mediocre). Cities by Stephen Abrams and Jon Everson. The best of the One Page Dungeons, 2009 and 2010. Module B1. Copies of Fight On! The Miscellaneum of Cinder.

I haven't seen them, but maybe Engineering Dungeons and Yggsburgh are worth checking out. Also Mythmere's Adventure Design Deskbook. And How to Host a Dungeon. There are also pdf products called Random Fantasy Adventure Generator, Random Dungeon, Dungeon Hazards, Mythic Game Master Emulator and PC Pearls, but I don't know much about these. Some of the products Gary Gygax did for Troll Lord Games (e.g. Insideae) are interesting.

Maid RPG contains a ton of amusing random tables, but they might not play well with D&D.

Akiyama said...

And the "Advenced Fighting Fantasy" RPG books (Dungeoneer, Allansia, Blacksand) contain some interesting random tables and advice for DMs, but we're definitely into non-essential stuff now. FF was the first real RPG I owned, so I probably have soft spot for it.

Another non-essential but possibly interesting item - the 4th Edition Hackmaster rulebooks.

Norman J. Harman Jr. said...

> The Magical Society books from Expeditious Retreat

> Original Toolbox better than Ultimate Toolbox

I second both of those. Hackmaster DMG is just more in extreme sense of what's in DMG. For me Google and Wikipeadia searches have largely replaced books for inspiration and background flavor.

Sean Robson said...

I have Engineering Dungeons, which is a 26 page book with some random dungeon-generation tables, some encounter tables and a few dungeon dressing tables. It is okay, but it is really just a slight elaboration on the DMG, so if you have that you won't benefit much from Engineering Dungeons.

If you can still find them, the Gygaxian Fantasy Worlds series is worth having. Living Fantasy and Nation Builder are two of the most useful books in the series, and the Extraordinary Book of Names is extraordinarily useful - it breaks is an exhaustive treatment on names and naming conventions from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds and I find it invaluable. Insidiae is a brainstorming guide to adventure writing, which is interesting but I don't use it much. Cosmos Builder is an incredibly esoteric guide to graphing the dimensional matrices of the cosmos. I didn't find this one of any use at all.

Jim said...

I ditto the comments above and I'll throw in the Blade CityBooks I thru VII. They are fantasy, but system neutral. Lots of great ideas for organizations. Cool NPCs. Plot ideas. I think Flying Buffalo still has some of them available to order online.

Dr Rotwang said...

I dig you, brother.