The Magic Tree


The best of the web – magical, mythical and majestical! Fantasy and Mythic websites and materials/downloads. Roleplaying, Tabletop and Esoteric Games.


By James Treu
Chapter 10, The DM’s Toolbox, gives some good info on customizing monsters (once you wrap your head around the magic threshold concept, which is a bit of a complication necessary because of the streamlined-and bit artificial-rules for monster and NPC generation), and monster templates (e.g. feyborn, mummy lord, vampire lord, etc.) and class templates. It also includes design steps for creating monsters and NPCs. The NPCs are usually the truncated and watered-down versions of the PC classes, and I have definite mixed feelings about them. NPCs are almost like hollow or stick figures in comparison to 3.5, and there are no pre-equipped NPCs. And no NPC classes either.
Variants like damage to specific body areas, or critical successes for skills, are either completely missing or so scant you can see a future book coming on them. The chapter finishes out with random dungeon and random encounter generation, and even playing without a DM.
Chapter 11 includes a sample town and its surrounding region, and a sample dungeon. The town is good as far as it goes, and actually gives DM tips for use in the game. The dungeon is mostly okay, until it gets to its final encounter. The drive to get a dragon (it’s Dungeons and DRAGONS after all) into the DnD sample adventure lost a little on balance. That dragon will OWN any party of the level intended. I TPK’d [1] a newbie party, even though I actually handicapped the dragon. So, the perennial problem of the past is still there in 4E: properly played monsters of certain types are extremely deadly to parties unless they are relegated to poorly executed facsimiles that “do their thing” once or twice, and then just essentially just stand there in WAY non-optimal fashion so the PCs who are supposed to win can do just that. Even some of the previous encounters are a bit off. In fact, most monsters executed as written will put a lot more wallop on PCs than what typically happens. The kobolds on average did more damage and hit more often than the party. So there’s a danger that monsters will be rarely played up to their write-ups, but only as fall toys.
The book concludes with PC and monster combat cards, and index, and a sample playmat grid.
So let’s get to some chapter-less beefs:
Nothing on age and aging. AT ALL. No rules, no guidelines, NOTHING. Just more propulsion to what can be the artificial feel of the game, which is all too easy have exist in some unbelievable video-game world where such things never come up. After all, no one asks how old your character is in WoW, do they? I can MAYBE see why they left it out of the PHB, but no way should it have been omitted from the DMG, especially since they had no “ecology” type stuff for the races in the Monster Manual (MM).
As the PHB showed, there are no familiars for wizards, and there’s nothing in here about them either (probably coming in another “Complete Arcane” supplement or something).
Stuff on intelligent magic items, cursed items, and artifacts are small, small. Yep, am sure that’ll be in a future Magic Compendium or something.
As for bright spots, I listed them in the chapters’ review already. The encounter and treasure tables and rules were very well done I thought, and really simplified and made clear a previously awkward or confusing portion of the game.
Best thing about the DMG and 4E in general:
I can now focus on the game and adventures and themes and stories and personas, without endlessly trying to adjust for or “fix” shortcomings in the rules. Or taxing my brain with rules memorization. That’s more fun for me and my players.
If you want to get more on the general design philosophy, James Wyatt (DMG author) has an “Under the Hood” article on the Wizards site.
[1] TPK = Total Party Kill


Post a Comment