Yesterday was D&D Game Day, celebrating the release of the Dungeon Master’s Guide 2. I remain conflicted about the DMG2. On the one hand, I read through it, and it actually has a lot of good advice for running games, especially pointed toward breaking DMs out of the ‘standard’ mode (long supported by all traditional rpgs) – that of the DM-as-author and players-as-tactical-combatants who also sometimes get to speak a few lines.
On the other hand, I’m aggravated by the slew of extra “basic set” books that WotC seems intent on putting out there. I mean, are we going to have the PHB5? 10? Where does it stop? When will diminishing returns really kick in? I’m finding that my thinking is moving away from the traditional supplement model of rpgs.
That being said, I can recommend the DMG2 for beginner DMs who want to up their game or for anyone who wants to get a lot of solid-seeming advice on how to run games more skillfully. This is not a crunchy book at all – in fact, it is downright chewy. There is a lot in there to think about, particularly if you are new to games, or are stuck in a kick-in-the-door-kill-the-baddie rut.
For my part, I came down to the FLGS here in San Rafael and ran a little module for some eager players. It was a lot of fun, and I learned something. 4th Edition runs really well with three players. I used three of the PCs distributed by WotC for use in games running on D&D Game Day (I let the players choose from the 5 there were) and just altered the encounters I’d set up to accommodate fewer PCs. It was probably the most fun I’ve had running 4th Edition D&D – about 3 solid hours of fun and no dragging. Lots of ass was kicked.
So I recommend tossing out the idea of the ‘classic’ 4-PC D&D party for a try. Go with 3 or even 2. I think the game not only works well, but actually better, with fewer players. You can’t throw as much at them, and that is it’s own kind of fun; I just felt like more happened.