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Dungeon Master's Guide (1e)
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Dungeon Master's Guide (1e)

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The 1st Edition Dungeon Master's Guide is Back! Dungeon Masters everywhere, rejoice! Too long have you had to suffer along with crucial charts and tables spread through many works. Too long have you had to use makeshift references trying to solve the problem. You now have a complete compilation of the most valuable material for your refereeing, the Dungeon Master's Guide. Herein you will find:

  • Combat Matrices
  • Encounter Tables
  • Monster Attacks Alphabetically Listed
  • Treasure and Magic Tables and Descriptions
  • Gem Values by Type
  • Random Wilderness Terrain Generation
  • Random Dungeon Generation
  • Suggestions on Game Mastering
  • And a Whole Lot More! 

This excellent tome is a must for every Dungeon Master!

Note about the Print edition: While this book is black & white, it was printed using the Standard Heavyweight "color" option for better quality paper.

Product History

Dungeon Masters Guide (1979), by Gary Gygax, was the second book of rules for the AD&D game. It was published in August 1979.

About the Cover. The iconic cover to the Dungeon Masters Guide shows adventurers fighting an efreet; it's only when you look at the back cover that you realize the battle is being fought on the elemental plane of fire, in the City of Brass. Players wanting more information on this legendary locale would need to wait a few decades for the release of ALQ4: Secrets of the Lamp (1993) — unless they were able to play in Rob Kuntz's tournament adventure in the last '80s.

This cover was later replaced with a Jeff Easley illustration of a dangerous-looking dungeon master.

About the Title. Like the Players Handbook (1978) before it, the Dungeon Masters Guide purposefully eschewed its apostrophe. The punctuation wouldn't return until AD&D 2e (1989).

About the Other Illustrations. The interior artwork in Dungeon Masters Guide is by David C. Sutherland III, Dave Trampier, Darlene Pekul, Will McLean, David S. La Force, and Erol Otus. It includes a few pieces that would surprise modern players, including some partial nudes and some cartoons — both of which were common in the early D&D releases. The most famous illustration in the book is probably Trampier's beautifully executed full-page illustration of "Emirikol the Chaotic" riding through town. A number of the cartoons are quite memorable too, such as the picture of the +2 backscratcher and the image of a fighter cringing from a rust monster.

Moving Toward AD&D. TSR began moving toward a new edition of the D&D game in 1977 — either with the publication of Basic Dungeons & Dragons (1977) or the Monster Manual (1977), depending on how you categorize those early releases. However, it took two years for that new game to full appear; between December 1977 and August 1979 most players were playing a hybrid game, using the monster from the Monster Manual and the character races and classes from the Players Handbook in their OD&D games.

In 1979, the AD&D rules were finally completed and players now could play pure AD&D games if they wanted. Many new players surely did, but the line between OD&D, BD&D, and AD&D remained fuzzy throughout the early '80s, and older players were just as likely to stay with their hybrid homebrews.

Many Printings. All of the original AD&D books were reprinted extensively in the '80s, and even into the '90s. TSR records 14 official printings of the original Dungeon Masters Guide, but the Acaeum web site notes more, in part because variant versions were sometimes hand-assembled at TSR.

The first printing (1979) of the Dungeon Masters Guide had a big problem: half a signature was printed with pages from the Monster Manual instead of the Dungeon Masters Guide! TSR was forced to recall the book, which made the long-awaited finale to AD&D rare even after its publication!

The sixth printing (1979) — published just four months later, in December — brought the first large-scale change to the book. It incorporated extensive errata from Dragon #35 (March 1980) and even added two appendices: O — Encumbrance of Standard Items and P — Creating a Party on the Spur of the Moment. This and all later printings were labeled as a "Revised Edition".

The eighth printing (1983) was the one that replaced the cover, as part of a general upgrade to TSR's new trade dress; the new books all featured Jeff Easley covers and an orange spine.

As with the other classic AD&D books, nostalgic editions were later published by Twenty First Century Games (1999) and Wizards of the Coast (2012).

A Different Sort of Dungeon Masters Guide. The contents of the 1e Dungeon Masters Guide would probably surprise a modern player of D&D. That's because more recent Dungeon Master's Guides have become books about how to run D&D, while the original Dungeon Masters Guide was instead the system's core rulebook.

To be precise, the first edition Dungeon Masters Guide contained all of the rules for the AD&D game except for those related to character creation — and Gygax drew that line very strictly. The Players Handbook (1978) included information on abilities, classes, and races, but the Dungeon Masters Guide contained many of the actual rules for those game elements. If you wanted to know how to roll your characteristics, how to turn undead, how to hit a monster, or how to save a throw, those rules were here!

This split resulted in a somewhat unusual organization for the Dungeon Masters Guide. The first 50 page or so exactly mirror the organization of the Players Handbook, with each section filling in the rules systems that hadn't been included in the previous volume. Only after that did the Dungeon Masters Guide fully embrace the dungeon mastering side of the game, with rules for combat and discussions of adventures, NPCs, and other favorites like magic items. The result is a real mish-mash that feels more like a random assortment of articles than a coherent rule book.

Figuring out what's where in the Dungeon Masters Guide is one of the most challenging parts of AD&D 1e play, because the book is full of tiny tidbits of information, often hidden in the most unusual places. Perhaps this was all an intentional part of the design, as the Dungeon Masters Guide does say that it's a "compiled volume". So consider it the "AD&D Omnibus".

What a Difference an Edition Makes. The AD&D Monster Manual (1977) and Players Handbook (1978) both expanded the OD&D (1974) game without rebooted it. They revised the rules to improve specificity and increase details without fundamentally changing the game systems.

To a large extent, the Dungeon Masters Guide is more of the same, with its emphasis on updating characters, combat, experience, and magic items. However, there are some notable changes in these systems.

  1. Characters are better. This is the result of changes to the ability score generation method. In OD&D, players rolled 3d6, in order, for their characteristics. In AD&D the least generous system has players rolling 4d6 for their characteristics and throwing out the worst number, then arranging the numbers as they see fit. The result shows two big changes in how D&D was being played: characters are more powerful and players are getting more choice over what they play.
  2. Combat is expanded (to over 20 pages!). A segmented combat system helps spells to better interweave with melee. Theoretically this is modified by weapon speed and even by a comparison of weapon vs armor type, but the complexity of the AD&D combat system was sufficient that many GMs left out many of its subsystems. This was also the case for AD&D's new unarmed combat systems, which most found too complex to use.
  3. Everything is detailed with unusual one-off rules. Every time you turn a couple of pages in the Dungeon Masters Guide, you'll find a rule that most 1e GMs probably don't use and don't even know about. Adjustments for pursuit and evasion based on party size? Special AC rules for unhelmeted characters? Organizational suggestions for monsters? Insanity lists? Intoxication effects and recovery? Government forms? Infravision that causes the eyes to glow bright red? It's all here.

Many Appendices. One of the most impressive parts of the Dungeon Masters Guide is its set of appendices. There are sixteen total, though the last two were only added with the fourth printing of the book. Some of the appendices were apparently heavily influenced by Bob Bledsaw of Judges Guild, who'd already produced notable GM aids like Ready Ref Sheets (1977, 1978) and who then sent Gygax hundreds of pages of material from his own campaign.

A few of the appendices are worth additional comment:

  • Appendix A is a random dungeon generation table which allows for solo AD&D play in an infinite dungeon.
  • Appendix C contains encounter tables for monsters and includes AD&D's most infamous subtable: the Random Harlot table.
  • Appendix E lists all the AD&D monsters' stats, including their experience point values, which had been missing from the Monster Manual.
  • Appendix N, the "inspirational and educational reading" list, is the most famous of the appendices. It shows the breadth of AD&D's influences, from heroic fantasy (Tolkien) to historic fantasy (Anderson) to swords & sorcery (Howard, Leiber, Moorcock) to science fantasy (Burroughs, Farmer, Lanier). Of course, some of these sources have since gone out of favor. Gygax would infamously claim in Dragon #95 (March 1985) that Tolkien wasn't actually an influence on D&D, while science fantasy would disappear from mainstream D&D in the '80s.

The Inevitable Lawsuit. Dave Arneson was the coauthor of the original D&D game, but when Gygax put together AD&D (1977-1979), Arneson's name disappeared. This caused Arneson to file a lawsuit in 1979, which was settled in March 1981. The exact terms of the agreement are confidential, but later lawsuits suggest that Arneson afterward earned royalties from the AD&D books.

Future History. The Dungeon Masters Guide completed what would become the traditional set of three core D&D books. However, Gygax planned for the series to actually have four books, with the last one being "Gods, Demigods, & Heroes", which was actually published as Deities & Demigods (1980).

About the Creators. Gygax was of course the author of D&D, but Arneson's lawsuit shows that there was contention over who did what, even while D&D was entering a new era of play.

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 Thanks to the Acaeum for careful research on Dungeon Masters Guide printings.

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
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Discussions (40)
Customer avatar
KEVIN D August 04, 2020 9:39 pm UTC
FYI, I see Premium option is gone again (see Adam J's note about p.138): Couple lines obscured somewhat by the spell book image which are:

Non-spell caster using cleric spell. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25%
Non-spell caster using magic-user spell. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30%

Guess it's back whenever they get around to fixing it.
Customer avatar
KEVIN D July 09, 2020 12:27 am UTC
Ahhh! The time has come finally Premium!
Grabbing the trilogy set as I feel the stars will never align again to do this. Heh
Customer avatar
Adam J July 13, 2020 3:19 am UTC
Agreed, don’t forget the Unearthed Arcana!
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KEVIN D July 14, 2020 2:11 am UTC
Thanks. Luckily remembered just when I was placing the order.
Customer avatar
Adam J July 09, 2020 12:24 am UTC
POD ordered!
Customer avatar
Pavel N June 30, 2020 2:49 pm UTC
Waiting this POD on daily bases for two months
Customer avatar
Adam J June 28, 2020 10:19 pm UTC
I sent an email to WotC asking them when they are planning to make the POD available again. I also promised them that their response would be posted here! We'll see what they say....
Customer avatar
Philippe J June 29, 2020 12:28 pm UTC
Fingers crossed, I can't wait to complete my collection!
Customer avatar
Adam J June 30, 2020 9:21 pm UTC
The general message that I got back from WotC is that they don't know when it will go back up on POD and that they are not willing to put in extra effort to ask/communicate with the team responsible for this function to get an actual answer. The wait continues......
Customer avatar
Paul J June 27, 2020 7:35 pm UTC
Waiting for POD to be reinstated so I can purchase the full set of core rules. Very disappointed that this one has been missing POD for so long as I don’t want an incomplete set.
Customer avatar
Brandon C June 26, 2020 4:51 pm UTC
Please bring back POD option!
Customer avatar
Sean M June 22, 2020 7:49 pm UTC
Do they plan on putting this back on print on demand. I only see a pdf version
Customer avatar
Ilias L June 21, 2020 6:51 am UTC
Hardcover, Premium Color Book pod please.
Customer avatar
Philippe J June 17, 2020 1:36 am UTC
I really hope as well this returns in POD to complete my set.
Customer avatar
Collin W June 18, 2020 12:17 am UTC
I know, right? It's the only one of the main three I don't own. I've been coming back to check weekly if it's back to no avail. Seriously, I just want a copy of this that pays the company and doesn't cost me $100 on Amazon...
Customer avatar
Adam J June 18, 2020 5:17 pm UTC
It more than likely will return, however, it is anyone's guess as to when?
Customer avatar
Chris B June 10, 2020 2:34 pm UTC
Is there any way to get this back POD? I'm not going to buy the PH, MM, and UA until I know for sure I can get the DMG POD.
Customer avatar
Adam J May 28, 2020 2:34 am UTC
I know it isn't quite the same, but you can still get OSRIC (AD&D 1e clone that is very faithful to the original) in print here:
Customer avatar
Dan D May 25, 2020 7:23 am UTC
Hoping this returns and in even higher quality :)

Does anyone know if these Premium Reprints are on sale for a limited time (PoD ones)? I am wanting to get UA for sure (I see it is OEF?) but will try to get other available ones together to save on shipping. Thing is not yet sure how many can get. If these "reduced" prices are their regular discount, great I got a couple weeks (1-2) to plan this out. If not, may just have to order the one or two and deal with waiting to order rest some other time definitely need a physical.
Customer avatar
Chris B May 22, 2020 12:14 am UTC
Can we please get a POD version of this? I'd be so happy!
Customer avatar
Scott N May 17, 2020 8:49 pm UTC
Holy crap, first I waited forever for a MM print to go up on here, now the damn DM guide is no longer in print!? What the heck is it with these books, it's like they don't want anyone to get a complete set all at once....
Customer avatar
Frank C May 17, 2020 1:50 am UTC
All--I guess I should have checked here earlier--the reason this was pulled from print was likely at least in part due to me putting in a ticket for some odd printing issues with the hardcopy I got a few weeks ago. As reported some comments below, there are still some issues with a few of the table alignments and some overprinting over a picture or two. Plus, the column lines don't line up with the PDF (and the WOTC print), to where the layout is "shifted" a handful of words to the previous pages. It's not awful...the book is still totally readable and the print quality itself is nice and clear, with nice bindings and paper. Just comparing it to my other copies it starts to look "off". They have contacted the publisher, and a new file was submitted for proofing awhile ago, I will be sent a new copy when that gets approved, they tell me. Meanwhile it makes sense that the POD got pulled, I guess. I am sure it will be back up when this all gets fixed.

For those who are asking, the...See more
Customer avatar
KEVIN D May 19, 2020 4:17 pm UTC
Well it's good that they will compensate you with a new POD for your quality check efforts. I'm surprised their internal QA didn't catch these issues but probably due to the print volumes they handle and perhaps not having the original to compare it to.

Also thanks for elucidating on the differences with the Premium. Honestly, I'm really hoping to buy this one for the long haul so that POD option is still desirable.
Even if the difference is slight, with the PH and MM now available with the POD Premium option, might as well go for broke and spring for the best possible for the trilogy.
Customer avatar
Frank C May 20, 2020 5:26 pm UTC
I agree, if they offer a premium print option I'd ask to pay the difference with the copy they will send me...hopefully
Customer avatar
Adam J May 22, 2020 5:00 pm UTC
Thanks for the information - let us know when it ships. I’m hoping to purchase POD when it’s available again.
Customer avatar
thomas K May 27, 2020 7:20 pm UTC
uggggh then I hate you...i wanted to re-order this- i could care less if there are alignment issues haha this PoD copy is now going for 200 dollars online!
Customer avatar
Marc-Antoine G June 08, 2020 4:41 pm UTC
I guess I got my POD order in just before they put them on hold for improvements.
Do you have a page number as an example of print issues you are referring to.
Customer avatar
Adam J June 18, 2020 5:18 pm UTC
Have you received your remake of this POD yet?
Customer avatar
Frank C July 06, 2020 1:54 pm UTC
Adam-- nope, not a peep from DTRPG on what's going on... :-(
Customer avatar
Adam J July 07, 2020 4:47 am UTC
Sorry to hear that - have you tried contacting "customer service?" I use that term loosely because I have contacted them and they don't seem to want to put in any effort to ask the team that prints these books when it will be ready for POD again. Although, they do owe you a copy, so you might have better luck?
Customer avatar
Frank C July 08, 2020 7:45 pm UTC
Coincidentally enough, I was just informed that new printfiles were approved, and a new order was placed for me to receive my replacement copy soon. And as you can see here, the POD is back up, and now with a Premium color option!
Customer avatar
Dwight F July 27, 2020 9:20 pm UTC
I can't seem to click on the read more. Do we know the difference between standard and premium? Is it worth the price difference?
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TSR 2011
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This title was added to our catalog on July 21, 2015.