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Dungeon Master's Guide 2 (4e)

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A source of inspiration for Dungeon Masters of any level.

This core rulebook for the Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game features advice and rules for Dungeon Masters of all levels of experience, with a particular focus on running adventures and campaigns in the paragon tier (levels 11–20).

It includes advanced encounter-building tools (including traps and skill challenges), storytelling tips to bring your game to life, new monster frameworks to help you craft the perfect villain, example campaign arcs, a comprehensive look at skill challenges, and a detailed “home base” for paragon-tier adventurers—the interplanar city of Sigil.

Product History

Dungeon Master's Guide 2 (2009), by James Wyatt, with Bill Slavicsek, Mike Mearls, and Robin D. Laws, is the second core GM's book for D&D 4e. It was released in September 2009.

A History of Dungeon Master's Guides. When AD&D (1977-1979) was released, the roleplaying world was a very different place. Most notably, many GMs thought that players shouldn't know the rules of the RPGs they were playing. As a result, the original Dungeon Masters Guide (1979) was the main repository of rules for the AD&D game. That changed in AD&D 2e (1989), when the Dungeon Master's Guide (1989) gained an apostrophe and lost most of its mechanics. You could still find magic items in the Dungeon Master's Guide, but from there on out, it increasingly became a book that was about how to run a D&D game — not the specific rules for doing so.

The Dungeon Master's Guide for D&D 4e (2008) took the next step. Though rules for skill challenges found their way into the Guide, it was mostly advice and background; even the magic items were gone (other than artifacts). For the most part the Dungeon Master's Guide was now a reference and resource especially intended for less experienced GMs.

Continuing the Core Series. The Dungeon Master's Guide 2 was the final book in the second series of core rulebook releases for D&D 4e. Just as each new Player's Handbook was intended to introduce a new power source, each new Dungeon Master's Guide was meant to reveal a new level of play. The original Dungeon Master's Guide had covered heroic adventuring (levels 1-10), so now the Dungeon Master's Guide 2 detailed paragon adventuring (levels 11-20). However, there is much more in the book too, including storytelling advice, skill challenge and monster customization, and the return of one of D&D's most beloved settings.

Unfortunately, just 15 months after D&D 4e's release, Dungeon Master's Guide 2 marked the beginning of the end for the line. Though a Player's Handbook 3 (2010) and Monster Manual 3 (2010) would appear in 2010, there would never be a Dungeon Master's Guide 3, and so epic adventuring (levels 21-30) in D&D 4e would never get its day in the sun.

Updating D&D. Skill challenges, a mechanical system for non-combat encounters, was one of the biggest innovations in D&D 4e. Unfortunately, the rules had serious issues as presented in the original Dungeon Master's Guide, requiring considerable errata that appeared on D&D Insider. The updated skill challenge rules finally appeared in print in the Dungeon Master's Guide 2. It also contained numerous examples for the unfamiliar system, most of them reprinted from other sources.

Monsters were also a'changing. This revamp dated back to the Monster Manual 2 (2009), which revised the math for creating elite and solo monsters. The updated rules for creating monsters of these sorts then appeared in Dungeon Master's Guide 2. Monster math would continue to evolve over the course of 4e until appearing its its final form in the Monster Manual 3 (2010).

The Dungeon Master's Guide 2 also expanded monsters by presenting more templates and introducing monster themes as well.

Was 4e Roleplaying? The need to polish the 4e challenge and monster systems was the cause of some of the early criticism about the game, but another question frequently arose in critical reviews: was 4e roleplaying, or was it just a video game brought to the tabletop? The 4e design team had no doubt that they'd designed a new version of their favorite tabletop RPG, and they got the opportunity to finally prove that in the Dungeon Master's Guide 2.

The opportunity came thanks to Robin Laws. He was an indie designer known for his work on Feng Shui (1996), Hero Wars (2000), The Dying Earth (2001), and others. In May 2008, he had started running a D&D 4e game, but he'd been concerned about characterization getting lost in the "crunch-based system". So, when he began the game, he asked his players to come up with two possible outcomes for their characters' arcs over the course of the game. Then Laws started writing about his game on Livejournal, which brought him to James Wyatt's attention; this eventually resulted in Laws authoring much of the first chapter of the Dungeon Master's Guide 2, on "Group Storytelling".

The chapter was one of the most widely lauded parts of the Dungeon Master's Guide 2. It leaned heavily on the indie communities that Laws was a part of by pushing the idea of "distributed authority": just like in Laws' own game, players involved in "Group Storytelling" could take part in a cooperative campaign where they would supply many of the large-scale motives for their characters, and so influence the setting.

Expanding Planescape. The Dungeon Master's Guide 2 also saw the return of the fan-favorite setting of Sigil. This city at the center of the multiverse had been at the heart of the Planescape Campaign Setting (1994), but had been largely ignored during the 3e era, except for half a page of coverage in that edition's Manual of the Planes (2001).

Sigil was faring better in 4e, despite the large-scale restructuring of D&D's cosmology. After a brief mention in the Dungeon Master's Guide (2008), it got five pages of detail in 4e's Manual of the Planes (2008). Now it was laid out as a full paragon-level setting. There's not much new here for old-time fans of Planescape, but there was one big change as a result of Faction War (1998). The factions that caused much of the conflict in Planescape are now gone:

"In the aftermath of a terrible war between the factions, the Lady of Pain made a rare and stunning appearance before the surviving leaders. With a dabus in tow to communicate for her, the Lady proclaimed: The city tolerates your faction no longer. Abandon it or die. They compiled, and Sigil no longer hosts any organized factions."

The Dungeon Master's Guide 2 also contains "A Conspiracy of Doors", the first Sigil adventure to see print in many years.

About the Creators. Wyatt was one of the core members of the D&D 4e design team. He'd worked on almost half-a-dozen 4e books in 2008, and now was also contributing to the Eberron Campaign Guide (2009).

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

 
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File Last Updated:
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