What is the MOST VITAL INFORMATION to put in the DM's Guide?

What should go in there? You can cite what you like about previous edition's DMG's, or be generalized.

For me, I figure giving them the tools to create encounters quickly, and good advice on how to avoid un-fun situations, to get the plot rolling without the players feeling like they're backseat in your minivan.
I just flipped through my 2nd, 3.0, 3.5, 4e and essentials book for this. 

Everything you mentioned is pretty much the core of what needs to be in DM guides along with magic items and how to moderate and wing it. Assuming how the new system actually turns out, a section for playble npc races, custom classes, and spells would be very good too. 

You'll of course also want rules for different terrain, playing in different realms and traps for the more adventurous DM.

Again these are the things I found in all the DM guides consistantly.  
There is one, and only one thing that absolutely must be included in a DMG:

Chapter 1: The Dungeon Master Experience
1.1: What is a Dungeon Master?
1.2: What is the Dungeon Master's Job?
1.3: How to be a Good Dungeon Master
Not the rules of running a game, but how to be a DM. The 4e DMG lacked this section, and it shows. The 3.5/3.0 DMG lacked this section, and it shows. By contrast, the WoD ST guide did have this section, and it showed.

And if they want to do it right, they hand this assignment to Perkins and tell him to take his time with it. 
-m4ki; one down, one to go

"Retro is not new. Retro-fit is not new." --Seeker95, on why I won't be playing DDN

|| DDN Metrics (0-10) | enthusiasm: 1 | confidence in design: -3 | desire to play: 0 | Sticking with 4e?: Yep. | Better Options: IKRPG Mk II ||
The Five Things D&D Next Absolutely Must Not Do:
1. Imbalanced gameplay. Any and all characters must be able to contribute equally both in combat and out of combat at all levels of play. If the Fighters are linear and the Wizards quadratic, I walk. 2. Hardcore simulationist approach. D&D is a game about heroic fantasy. I'm weak and useless enough in real life; I play RPGs for a change of pace. If the only reason a rule exists is because "that's how it's supposed to be", I walk. I don't want a game that "simulates" real life, I want a game that simulates heroic fantasy. 3. Worshipping at false idols (AKA Sacred Cows). If the only reason a rule exists is "it's always been that way", I walk. Now to be clear, I have no problem with some things not changing; my issue is with retaining bad idea simply for the sake of nostalgia. 4. DM vs. players. If the game encourages "gotcha!" moments or treats the DM and players as enemies, adversaries, or problems to be overcome, I walk. 5. Rules for the sake of rules. The only thing I want rules for is the things I can't do sitting around a table with my friends. If the rules try to step on my ability to roleplay the character I want to roleplay, I walk. Furthermore, the rules serve to facilitate gameplay, not to simulate the world. NOTE: Items in red have been violated.
Chris Perkins' DM Survival Tips:
1. When in doubt, wing it. 2. Keep the story moving. Go with the flow. 3. Sometimes things make the best characters. 4. Always give players lots of things to do. 5. Wherever possible, say ‘yes.’ 6. Cheating is largely unnecessary. 7. Don't be afraid to give the characters a fun new toy. 8. Don't get in the way of a good players exchange. 9. Avoid talking too much. 10. Save some details for later. 11. Be transparent. 12. Don't show all your cards. Words to live by.
Quotes From People Smarter Than Me:
"Essentials zigged, when I wanted to continue zagging..." -Foxface on Essentials "Servicing a diverse fan base with an RPG ruleset - far from being the mandate for 'open design space' and a cavalier attitude towards balance - requires creating a system that /works/, with minimal fuss, for a wide variety of play styles, not just from one group to the next, but at the same table." -Tony_Vargas on design "Mearls' and Cook's stated intent to produce an edition that fans of all previous editions (and Pathfinder) will like more than their current favourite edition is laudable. But it is also, IMO, completely unrealistic. It's like people who pray for world peace: I might share their overall aims, but I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for them to succeed. When they talk in vague terms about what they'd like to do in this new edition, I mostly find myself thinking 'hey, that sounds cool, assuming they can pull it off', but almost every time they've said something specific about actual mechanics, I've found myself wincing and shaking my head in disbelief and/or disgust, either straight away or after thinking about the obvious implications for half a minute." -Duskweaver on D&D Next
There is one, and only one thing that absolutely must be included in a DMG:

Chapter 1: The Dungeon Master Experience
1.1: What is a Dungeon Master?
1.2: What is the Dungeon Master's Job?
1.3: How to be a Good Dungeon Master
Not the rules of running a game, but how to be a DM. The 4e DMG lacked this section, and it shows. The 3.5/3.0 DMG lacked this section, and it shows. By contrast, the WoD ST guide did have this section, and it showed.

And if they want to do it right, they hand this assignment to Perkins and tell him to take his time with it. 



That, the DMG should primarly be "How to use correctly the rules".

Actually, that is not DM-only territory, I propose to rename the "Dungeon Master Guide" into "Learn HOW to use the rules Guide".
That, the DMG should primarly be "How to use correctly the rules".

Actually, that is not DM-only territory, I propose to rename the "Dungeon Master Guide" into "Learn HOW to use the rules Guide".


No. That's PHB territory--the book that contains the rules of the game
-m4ki; one down, one to go

"Retro is not new. Retro-fit is not new." --Seeker95, on why I won't be playing DDN

|| DDN Metrics (0-10) | enthusiasm: 1 | confidence in design: -3 | desire to play: 0 | Sticking with 4e?: Yep. | Better Options: IKRPG Mk II ||
The Five Things D&D Next Absolutely Must Not Do:
1. Imbalanced gameplay. Any and all characters must be able to contribute equally both in combat and out of combat at all levels of play. If the Fighters are linear and the Wizards quadratic, I walk. 2. Hardcore simulationist approach. D&D is a game about heroic fantasy. I'm weak and useless enough in real life; I play RPGs for a change of pace. If the only reason a rule exists is because "that's how it's supposed to be", I walk. I don't want a game that "simulates" real life, I want a game that simulates heroic fantasy. 3. Worshipping at false idols (AKA Sacred Cows). If the only reason a rule exists is "it's always been that way", I walk. Now to be clear, I have no problem with some things not changing; my issue is with retaining bad idea simply for the sake of nostalgia. 4. DM vs. players. If the game encourages "gotcha!" moments or treats the DM and players as enemies, adversaries, or problems to be overcome, I walk. 5. Rules for the sake of rules. The only thing I want rules for is the things I can't do sitting around a table with my friends. If the rules try to step on my ability to roleplay the character I want to roleplay, I walk. Furthermore, the rules serve to facilitate gameplay, not to simulate the world. NOTE: Items in red have been violated.
Chris Perkins' DM Survival Tips:
1. When in doubt, wing it. 2. Keep the story moving. Go with the flow. 3. Sometimes things make the best characters. 4. Always give players lots of things to do. 5. Wherever possible, say ‘yes.’ 6. Cheating is largely unnecessary. 7. Don't be afraid to give the characters a fun new toy. 8. Don't get in the way of a good players exchange. 9. Avoid talking too much. 10. Save some details for later. 11. Be transparent. 12. Don't show all your cards. Words to live by.
Quotes From People Smarter Than Me:
"Essentials zigged, when I wanted to continue zagging..." -Foxface on Essentials "Servicing a diverse fan base with an RPG ruleset - far from being the mandate for 'open design space' and a cavalier attitude towards balance - requires creating a system that /works/, with minimal fuss, for a wide variety of play styles, not just from one group to the next, but at the same table." -Tony_Vargas on design "Mearls' and Cook's stated intent to produce an edition that fans of all previous editions (and Pathfinder) will like more than their current favourite edition is laudable. But it is also, IMO, completely unrealistic. It's like people who pray for world peace: I might share their overall aims, but I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for them to succeed. When they talk in vague terms about what they'd like to do in this new edition, I mostly find myself thinking 'hey, that sounds cool, assuming they can pull it off', but almost every time they've said something specific about actual mechanics, I've found myself wincing and shaking my head in disbelief and/or disgust, either straight away or after thinking about the obvious implications for half a minute." -Duskweaver on D&D Next
Magic items need to either be in the PHB or here.  Doesn't really matter to me which book, but the DMG works fine if they choose that route.

Otherwise, I have found that in every edition the only things truly useful in the DMG are much more conveniently listed on the DM screen.
Rule 0, surely.

Chauntea/Lathander/Torm Cleric since 1995 My husband married a DM - καλὸς καὶ ἀγαθός

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/14.jpg)

Normally this is about the point where I'd go on a long-winded rant about how being a good DM has nothing to do with the rules, but I've become convined in the last three weeks that mediocrity is all people want from their DMs, and prefer to treat someone who has mastered the skillset of storytelling as it applies to running an RPG as some sort of mythical, unattainable ideal.

So, fine: charts, graphs, tables, magic items, random x generators. You can fill 300 pages with that. You'll have a book that is utterly meaningless, but it'll sell. 
-m4ki; one down, one to go

"Retro is not new. Retro-fit is not new." --Seeker95, on why I won't be playing DDN

|| DDN Metrics (0-10) | enthusiasm: 1 | confidence in design: -3 | desire to play: 0 | Sticking with 4e?: Yep. | Better Options: IKRPG Mk II ||
The Five Things D&D Next Absolutely Must Not Do:
1. Imbalanced gameplay. Any and all characters must be able to contribute equally both in combat and out of combat at all levels of play. If the Fighters are linear and the Wizards quadratic, I walk. 2. Hardcore simulationist approach. D&D is a game about heroic fantasy. I'm weak and useless enough in real life; I play RPGs for a change of pace. If the only reason a rule exists is because "that's how it's supposed to be", I walk. I don't want a game that "simulates" real life, I want a game that simulates heroic fantasy. 3. Worshipping at false idols (AKA Sacred Cows). If the only reason a rule exists is "it's always been that way", I walk. Now to be clear, I have no problem with some things not changing; my issue is with retaining bad idea simply for the sake of nostalgia. 4. DM vs. players. If the game encourages "gotcha!" moments or treats the DM and players as enemies, adversaries, or problems to be overcome, I walk. 5. Rules for the sake of rules. The only thing I want rules for is the things I can't do sitting around a table with my friends. If the rules try to step on my ability to roleplay the character I want to roleplay, I walk. Furthermore, the rules serve to facilitate gameplay, not to simulate the world. NOTE: Items in red have been violated.
Chris Perkins' DM Survival Tips:
1. When in doubt, wing it. 2. Keep the story moving. Go with the flow. 3. Sometimes things make the best characters. 4. Always give players lots of things to do. 5. Wherever possible, say ‘yes.’ 6. Cheating is largely unnecessary. 7. Don't be afraid to give the characters a fun new toy. 8. Don't get in the way of a good players exchange. 9. Avoid talking too much. 10. Save some details for later. 11. Be transparent. 12. Don't show all your cards. Words to live by.
Quotes From People Smarter Than Me:
"Essentials zigged, when I wanted to continue zagging..." -Foxface on Essentials "Servicing a diverse fan base with an RPG ruleset - far from being the mandate for 'open design space' and a cavalier attitude towards balance - requires creating a system that /works/, with minimal fuss, for a wide variety of play styles, not just from one group to the next, but at the same table." -Tony_Vargas on design "Mearls' and Cook's stated intent to produce an edition that fans of all previous editions (and Pathfinder) will like more than their current favourite edition is laudable. But it is also, IMO, completely unrealistic. It's like people who pray for world peace: I might share their overall aims, but I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for them to succeed. When they talk in vague terms about what they'd like to do in this new edition, I mostly find myself thinking 'hey, that sounds cool, assuming they can pull it off', but almost every time they've said something specific about actual mechanics, I've found myself wincing and shaking my head in disbelief and/or disgust, either straight away or after thinking about the obvious implications for half a minute." -Duskweaver on D&D Next
I think you need at least 40 pages of advice on how to use the rules and run a game.  This is really for new people who haven't run a game before, so it should be real real basic.

Since I've been doing this for a while, I rarely crack open a DMG except to find a specific rule and at this point I'll probably just use the rules compendium or the online compendium.

What I could really use is a big big chapter on ways to threaten the party (thus creating drama) that aren't monsters and aren't necessarily XP granting traps.  Terrain effects, examples of evil organizations, how they fit into a setting, puzzles.  These are what really make a game (especially a 4E game) challenging and interesting and there aren't nearly enough of these non-encounter threats in published adventures.  This includes lots of advice on creating your own versions of these things. 

Poking through a DMG should inspire ideas which requires flavor text and fluff.  The 4E DMG adventure chapter had advice to create your own, but how about examples of those ideas put into practice?  Like, I loved the Exemplars of Evil supplement in 3.5 because every line in that first chapter had an example of a villain trait, and then a potential villain that has that trait.

Vampire Class/Feat in 2013!

I prefer Next because 4E players and CharOpers can't find their ass without a grid and a power called "Find Ass."

The majority of "How to be a DM" advice and recommendations are the same across all editions, so you don't need an edition-marked book in which to print it.  You can just make a "How to be a DM" advice book.  The DMG should, in my eyes, explain to the DM how to mechanically construct sessions, campaigns, and worlds within the foundational rules of the system in which it is edition-marked.
So, fine: charts, graphs, tables, magic items, random x generators. You can fill 300 pages with that. You'll have a book that is utterly meaningless, but it'll sell. 


Except those things aren't meaningless to me, but yet another book that repeats the same opinion columns that I have multiple copies of already is meaningless to me.  I want a book that is packed with stuff that goes into a world, along with a good supply of random tables on the side for rapid on-the-fly generation.  I don't need a book that tells me that maps are useful.

The pages that I have tabbed in my DMGs are the ones that inform me of the mechanical results of the actions or queries of my players.  For instance, I don't put a door somewhere to be "easy" for the players to open, nor do I put one somewhere that is "hard" for the players to open.  I simply put a door somewhere, and its ease of opening is based on what kind of door its builder placed there.  When the players get to it, it may be impossible to open, it may be simple, it may just be unlocked.

I get the DMG needs to be for all DM's, novice and veteran, so at least a compromise on the above I can understand.  But I need a DMG for things like, "I want an environmental challenge here," so I open the DMG and there it is.  Or, "one of my characters has decided to Intimidate a street vendor, I'll assess (or use a roll to determine) the street vendor is a level 3 NPC classed Commoner," so I crack open the DMG and there are all the stats of a level 3 NPC classed Commoner; I know how the Intimidate check will mechanically play out, and I can even utilize that Commoner if the situation comes to blows, because I know exactly everything about that NPC.

Which brings me to the ONE, MOST VITAL thing I really, really want to see in the next DMG, which are the 8-12 pages of charts showing default statistics for an NPC of every PHB1 class at every level.  Hopefully they include a chart of NPCs at each level for each of the NPC classes as well (and hopefully they have NPC classes).  But I want it to take seconds for me to determine the answer if, say, a thief among my players decides to go pickpocket a town watchman, without having it require that I make up some arbitrary answer.  If all the DMG is going to tell me to do is make up arbitrary stuff, I probably won't buy it (even though I may still play the system), because I already know how to do that.

Somnia, the Evanescent Plane -- A 3-set Block
Set 1 — Somnia
Set 2 — TBD
Set 3 — TBD
Planeswalker's Guide to Somnia

Build Around This
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Build Around This #1 - Sage's Starfish Wish
BAT #1 was built using the Legacy format with Spiny Starfish, Sage's Knowledge, and Make a Wish. Winner: Dilleux_Lepaire with Fishy Starfishies. Runner-Up: JBTM
That, the DMG should primarly be "How to use correctly the rules".

Actually, that is not DM-only territory, I propose to rename the "Dungeon Master Guide" into "Learn HOW to use the rules Guide".


No. That's PHB territory--the book that contains the rules of the game



Well, yes and no. I prefer a single core book, so for me it's okay to have everything in the same place. But D&D needs to sell books, so 3 is the most efficent way to do that.

Anyway, the rules are a thing, but learning how to use them is a whole different beast. While the PHB tells me how to attack a monster and what a class can do, the "Learn how those rules interact with the players" book tells me how to use those rules to achieve the desired effect and how to avoid mistakes that can break the game.

For example, the "Spirit of the Century" book spend most of his pages to tell the master how to use the rules to achieve a fulfilling experience, how to recreate a pulpy feel, how to avoid "traps" that render the game boring or frustrating etc etc.


We are probably saying the same thing :p 
It'll sell better if they put the magic items in there.
A Rule 0, but a new version of it:

Rule 0
More important than any of the mechanical rules you will find in these books is the most important rule of any and all games - Have Fun.
Of course with RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons, having fun is a bit more complicated than just saying it. Everyone finds different things fun, especially in an imagination based game. This ranges from things like just what kinds of adventures they have to things like plot immunity and availability of magic. That means the first thing to do have fun is finding out what the people in your group will enjoy before you start tinkering with the rules to provide it.
Two other things are important to keep in mind when using Rule 0.
First, this is still a game system, with the mechanics set around a particular base point. You can tinker with these rules all you like, but past a certain point the the system will fail. If you want to do things that differently don't be surprised when a bunch of other things suddenly don't work as well.
Second, one of the bigger, and we feel more enjoyable, elements of the Dungeons and Dragons experience almost from its start has been the shared experience between groups. This is especially found in the organized play environment. Organized play provided by Wizards of the Coast will always use the system as presented in these rules. However much you like your house rules they will not be used in organized play, and you should respect the other players who show up and expect to play the game by the rules as they are appear here. That also means respecting other players in the online community, neither attacking people who say they play differently, nor being upset with people who cannot answer your questions because they do not use your particular house rules.
House rules can be a lot of fun, we certainly use them all the time, but you must remember their purpose and limitations, and their place in the Dungeons and Dragons community.    

Don't just write Rule 0; explain how to use it.      
Normally this is about the point where I'd go on a long-winded rant about how being a good DM has nothing to do with the rules, but I've become convined in the last three weeks that mediocrity is all people want from their DMs, and prefer to treat someone who has mastered the skillset of storytelling as it applies to running an RPG as some sort of mythical, unattainable ideal.

So, fine: charts, graphs, tables, magic items, random x generators. You can fill 300 pages with that. You'll have a book that is utterly meaningless, but it'll sell. 



I'm with M4kitsu. Any experienced player can arbitrate the rules, they've seen that part done. A whole lot of other stuff happens behind the screen in a good campaign. If they want to help new DMs become better there should be a lot of examples of how good DMs handle in and out of character situations and examples of different styles of gameplay. Discussion of how to build plots and how to help characters find in character goals beyond stat progression. There should be ideas for ways to coax peoples imaginations. Minor example: a good DM once told me not just to ask a player if they knock on the door but how, by knocking on the table. A newer player who isn't yet comfortable speaking in character may find it easier to decide if they knock politely or forcefully.
If they want a new edition that reflects the best of every edition then it can't only be about rules arbitration.
i think the DMG should focus on how to run a game, written with an eye towards the new DM. D&D is practically defintionally RPGs and is the flagship RPG in all gaming. as such, a lot of first-time GMs will get their first taste via D&D. therefore, i feel it should include:

1. rule 0, whatever variation on it is deemed most harmonious with 5e.
2. how to run and build encounters, and how to tell stories through them.
3. how to run a game, whether campaign or encounters, whether deep, immersive drama or more casual kick in the door style delving.
4. how to go beyond the rules.

when you come right down to it, everything can be subsumed in the foregoing that i feel is important and relevant in a good DMG.

rules adjudication is good and one role for the DM, but it is far from the only, at least IMX. knowing when what's fun trumps what the RAW says is paramount, IMHO.

on a personal note, i still reference my AD&D1 DMG because there was a lot of great flavor, starting with the back cover art (city of brass, i've always assumed) to the artifact descriptions.

ed
Actually, I can do better than be huffy and jaded by all of the clueless players who are rooting Cook's gowed-up antics on, and I can do better than to try and explain what I'm talking about. 

The rule is "show, don't tell" right? Well:

THIS. RIGHT HERE. THIS BOOK. 

The first 126 pages are THE BEST GUIDE, period, on crafting a compelling and interesting story. The rules and ideas it presents are tuned to screenwriters, but it doesn't take much to adapt them to any other form of storytelling. 

Google tells me the book can be had for around $10 US. It's worth that. It's worth more. Even if you don't know what denouement means and think three-act structure is a bunch of crock. 

If someone wants to get a DMG right, and they include those sections of the Screenwriter's Bible, they will have just succeeded in creating the best "how to be a DM" guide that has ever or will ever exist.

And hey look: you still have a hundred-seventyish pages to pack in all the charts, tables and handy quick-references the game needs.

Done.




(And I'm quite serious about this, by the way. The book is plain-written and honestly useful advice about how to tell good stories, and it will make you a better DM. That's worth $10, right? That's less than you'd spend on an average pizza.)
-m4ki; one down, one to go

"Retro is not new. Retro-fit is not new." --Seeker95, on why I won't be playing DDN

|| DDN Metrics (0-10) | enthusiasm: 1 | confidence in design: -3 | desire to play: 0 | Sticking with 4e?: Yep. | Better Options: IKRPG Mk II ||
The Five Things D&D Next Absolutely Must Not Do:
1. Imbalanced gameplay. Any and all characters must be able to contribute equally both in combat and out of combat at all levels of play. If the Fighters are linear and the Wizards quadratic, I walk. 2. Hardcore simulationist approach. D&D is a game about heroic fantasy. I'm weak and useless enough in real life; I play RPGs for a change of pace. If the only reason a rule exists is because "that's how it's supposed to be", I walk. I don't want a game that "simulates" real life, I want a game that simulates heroic fantasy. 3. Worshipping at false idols (AKA Sacred Cows). If the only reason a rule exists is "it's always been that way", I walk. Now to be clear, I have no problem with some things not changing; my issue is with retaining bad idea simply for the sake of nostalgia. 4. DM vs. players. If the game encourages "gotcha!" moments or treats the DM and players as enemies, adversaries, or problems to be overcome, I walk. 5. Rules for the sake of rules. The only thing I want rules for is the things I can't do sitting around a table with my friends. If the rules try to step on my ability to roleplay the character I want to roleplay, I walk. Furthermore, the rules serve to facilitate gameplay, not to simulate the world. NOTE: Items in red have been violated.
Chris Perkins' DM Survival Tips:
1. When in doubt, wing it. 2. Keep the story moving. Go with the flow. 3. Sometimes things make the best characters. 4. Always give players lots of things to do. 5. Wherever possible, say ‘yes.’ 6. Cheating is largely unnecessary. 7. Don't be afraid to give the characters a fun new toy. 8. Don't get in the way of a good players exchange. 9. Avoid talking too much. 10. Save some details for later. 11. Be transparent. 12. Don't show all your cards. Words to live by.
Quotes From People Smarter Than Me:
"Essentials zigged, when I wanted to continue zagging..." -Foxface on Essentials "Servicing a diverse fan base with an RPG ruleset - far from being the mandate for 'open design space' and a cavalier attitude towards balance - requires creating a system that /works/, with minimal fuss, for a wide variety of play styles, not just from one group to the next, but at the same table." -Tony_Vargas on design "Mearls' and Cook's stated intent to produce an edition that fans of all previous editions (and Pathfinder) will like more than their current favourite edition is laudable. But it is also, IMO, completely unrealistic. It's like people who pray for world peace: I might share their overall aims, but I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for them to succeed. When they talk in vague terms about what they'd like to do in this new edition, I mostly find myself thinking 'hey, that sounds cool, assuming they can pull it off', but almost every time they've said something specific about actual mechanics, I've found myself wincing and shaking my head in disbelief and/or disgust, either straight away or after thinking about the obvious implications for half a minute." -Duskweaver on D&D Next
Tell the DM what his responsibilities are:

1. Create or select a setting and the characters who populate it. Create or select procedures to run it.
2. Roleplay characters in the setting. In detail when they interact with the PCs, in abstract when they are off-screen.
3. Adjudicate situations which aren't covered by a specific rule, and adjust play to ensure your specific group of players have sufficient opportunities to do interesting, enjoyable things.

Then, give him the tools to fulfill these responsibilities, and advice on how to use these tools well.
Actually, I can do better than be huffy and jaded by all of the clueless players who are rooting Cook's gowed-up antics on, and I can do better than to try and explain what I'm talking about. 

The rule is "show, don't tell" right? Well:

THIS. RIGHT HERE. THIS BOOK. 

The first 126 pages are THE BEST GUIDE, period, on crafting a compelling and interesting story. The rules and ideas it presents are tuned to screenwriters, but it doesn't take much to adapt them to any other form of storytelling. 

Google tells me the book can be had for around $10 US. It's worth that. It's worth more. Even if you don't know what denouement means and think three-act structure is a bunch of crock. 

If someone wants to get a DMG right, and they include those sections of the Screenwriter's Bible, they will have just succeeded in creating the best "how to be a DM" guide that has ever or will ever exist.

And hey look: you still have a hundred-seventyish pages to pack in all the charts, tables and handy quick-references the game needs.

Done.




(And I'm quite serious about this, by the way. The book is plain-written and honestly useful advice about how to tell good stories, and it will make you a better DM. That's worth $10, right? That's less than you'd spend on an average pizza.)



I will agree to a point, owning the book helps me with that. Just understand that there is a big difference to how a story is told in a movie or in literature. There is a specific formula that the action follows towards the falling action of the climax. Where a plot line in these two media might look like a line slowly ascending up with some peaks and valleys, the dropping off after the climax. The story in a PnP game looks more like someone having a heart attack. This is a little more difficult for new DM to deal with vs an experienced player/DM. Unless the players buy the railroad ticket.

This is not to say it is not a good storytellers book. Just be ready when the train leaves the station for the PCs to make to the door at any time.

MY DM COMMITMENT To insure that those who participate in any game that I adjudicate are having fun, staying engaged, maintaining focus, contributing to the story and becoming legendary. "The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules." Gary Gygax Thanks for that Gary, so now stop playing RAW games. Member of the Progressive Front of Grognardia Suicide Squad
A good DMG will tell DM how to be a good DM for players that are theater majors, math majors, and everything in between, and will give them the tools to do it. I want lots and lots of random charts of stuff in my DMG, others want storyteller advice... sure. More is better than less in this case. 

I think we would be better served, though, if WotC just made more of a consistent commitment to building a bigger, better DM, beyond just the DMG. In the case of DMing (or anything), the best way to learn is by watching people do it. I learned a ton about DMing, for example, just by listening to Chris Perkins and the Penny Arcade guys. WotC should put out more podcasts that show excellent DMs doing their thing, or promote independent podcasts that do the same. I remember Mike Mearls writing about skill challenges for over a year in Dungeon, but DM's STILL have no friggin clue how to run them well. It would have been nice to watch or listen to a couple of podcasts showing well-run skill challenges. Maybe they wouldn't be such a dirty word today. 
Actually, I can do better than be huffy and jaded by all of the clueless players who are rooting Cook's gowed-up antics on, and I can do better than to try and explain what I'm talking about. 

The rule is "show, don't tell" right? Well:

THIS. RIGHT HERE. THIS BOOK. 

The first 126 pages are THE BEST GUIDE, period, on crafting a compelling and interesting story. The rules and ideas it presents are tuned to screenwriters, but it doesn't take much to adapt them to any other form of storytelling. 

Google tells me the book can be had for around $10 US. It's worth that. It's worth more. Even if you don't know what denouement means and think three-act structure is a bunch of crock. 

If someone wants to get a DMG right, and they include those sections of the Screenwriter's Bible, they will have just succeeded in creating the best "how to be a DM" guide that has ever or will ever exist.

And hey look: you still have a hundred-seventyish pages to pack in all the charts, tables and handy quick-references the game needs.

Done.




(And I'm quite serious about this, by the way. The book is plain-written and honestly useful advice about how to tell good stories, and it will make you a better DM. That's worth $10, right? That's less than you'd spend on an average pizza.)



I will agree to a point, owning the book helps me with that. Just understand that there is a big difference to how a story is told in a movie or in literature. There is a specific formula that the action follows towards the falling action of the climax. Where a plot line in these two media might look like a line slowly ascending up with some peaks and valleys, the dropping off after the climax. The story in a PnP game looks more like someone having a heart attack. This is a little more difficult for new DM to deal with vs an experienced player/DM. Unless the players buy the railroad ticket.

This is not to say it is not a good storytellers book. Just be ready when the train leaves the station for the PCs to make to the door at any time.




Sadly, no story can survive the impact of the players on it. Well, not sadly, luckily! It would be a very boring and railroady game instead (I counteract with The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast).

While a good screenwriting book can surely help, probably advices from an improv theatre book will be more usable in a real game.
Every ruleset, not every rule, provides a theory, or several, about why a ruleset is the way it is.

One Rule to rule them all: no rule, with the exception of this one, is set in stone.

For instance, a healthy compilation of treasure tables and magical items proceeded with theories why not too give players too much, or too soon. Mechanical reasons why an item should be introduced at certain group levels and no sooner but may be included anytime at your [dm] discretion (no rules set in stone Rule).

 

I just said something and you just read it. Sorry about that.

The best things in a DMG: oh my, thats a big order.

Let me start with he DM:
1) To define what the DM is supposed to achieve (aka "whats his job at the table")
when you understand his job then the game gains a sense of clarity from the perspective of the players side of the screen.
Is it the DM's job to "win" ...whats constitutes "winning"?
Is the DM considered an impartial judge thats simply reads story content and checks tables for success?
Is it the DM's job to entertain?
Is it the DM's job to challenge? what does it mean to "challenge"? 
...do you challenge the player?
 .....do you challenge the character?
 ....do you challenge what they have "built" (castles, concepts, spells, items, alliances, guilds, marriages/family, friendships etc)?
....do you challenge the party?
.....do you challenge their sense of morality?
...do you chalenge the dogma of their beliefs? 
...do you challenge their ideals of laws?
...do you challenge their concept of what it means to have "skill X" (does it need to be practiced to be maintained...do you allow higher forms of trade skills since most of their time is spent adventuring and not working a trade)?
...do you challenge their race and/or cultural aspects?
...do you challenge their capacity to draw a usuable map while listening to descriptions?
....do you challenge their capacity to listen to minute story details and take good investigative notes?   
...do you challenge every aspect of every thing within the system that is comprised of the people present and the fantastic beings they have created and everything those being have come to touch and interact with?
or are you allowed to?

2)What is acceptable in the system without going overboard and making it into a circus act? How much is too much magic items, etc ..or how much is too much too quickly for magic spells inside a wizard's spellbook? How will it impact the game to allow players to play races that are normally not allowed? Explain why limit these aspects.

3)Attaching, to some extent, real life mechanics as per what the game is intending. We want there to be gravity...how many segments passes in a round per 10 feet of falling etc. (this can be closely tied to what his "job" is at the table). If my character is at initiative 10 ...do i start at 10 then run across the room....how long does my movement take or do i start moving at 7 or 8 then arrive at the bad guy at initiative 10?

4)Helping the player understand that reading and learning about real life stuff sure helps with describing things and gives a better sense of truth when "on the fly" DMing needs to be accomplished. A "for the DM publication" which comprises of a single page listing of 5 books of the month that are suggested reading. These books include aspects of subjects like "how long does it take to become a trademan", "building of castles and castle walls" "how much farmland does it take to feed a city of 20,000" "the art of story telling" ...these publications are not D&D published but outside sources that touch on the subjects that would come up in a fantasy world such as D&D.

5) a basic flow chart to help recognize players desires within the game (tied once again to his "job at the table"). Maybe even a photocopyable questionare that lets the player deliver on paper what he expects out the game rather than trying to discover it in game while making the players have a boring time of it all.

6) put all magic items inside the DMG, especially anything you wouldn't want a level 1 to 2 character to be walking around with while all the most minor items (including minor healing salves) should be put into the PHB. Tell the DM why they're in there so he won't bother showing the list like its a quickiemartofmagicgear.

7) Show flying combat, water combat, astral plane combat etc...demonstrate all this stuff via diagrams so the DM can easily put "strange" or "unafamiliar" into immediate action!

8)list all modifiers to combat ....as per ranged/melee/spells/landriding/airriding or some other strange effects that are situational ....surprise,backstab,higher ground,non proficiency,drowsy on wake up,eyes adjusting from bright light over to infravision/nightvision/darkvision/catsight/ultrvision,charging,set for charge, prone, prone fighting etc etc etc just source every edition for this information and include it all with appropriate blank spaces on the DM screen that comes with the DMG that the DM can actually write into which ones he wants in his campaign. 

9) give the DM some teeth...illustrate how he can alter scenarios on the fly to make them tougher/deadlier besides giving them 100 extra HP each ...this prolongs combat...its doesn't always make it tougher, in fact sometimes it makes it more boring as the combat draws out into way too much time.

10)Illustrate to the Dm how and when "gods" should or would come into play ....and when he should use an avatar or simply a powerful minion instead.

11)NPC reaction tables. (common everyday NPCs). Give charts on "local response" when a rogue starts thieving in a town or city already "owned" by a local theives guild. Explain how a fighter can get common work within a city for a few silver a day to a small purse of gold....whther that fighter gets hired on as a local bodyguard, a dockworker (loading/offloading stuff), wrestler/fisticuff fighter in the seedy area etc. Explain what priesthood would accept "even grudingly" other priesthoods clerics. Explain to what extent a magic user can utilize a wizard guild if he is not part of it ...or what can be paid for services or paid for rentals. Give a massive listing of professions that can appear within a town/city based on typical climates/land usages.
 
12) the cost of hiring professionals from every walk of life based on the types of things they do...and what the increased cost is for danger pay and if they would be willing to go along with characters and how many guards (other than the PCs) they need before they feel "safe".

13) how to build a henchman and his loyalty and what the difference of followers and henchmen are.

14)pulling weights of common steeds within the system and character load limts and drag weights.

14.5) the multiplier increase in cost for exceptional steeds (bred for increased speed, better pulling, heavier load carrying, higher constitution, thicker hide etc, and how common they'd be to given areas) 

15)a comprehensive list of sages (fields of study) with costs for research based on level/degree of question being asked

16) gems and jewelery, how to roll them up....what is an "exceptional" piece and how does one go about "increasing value of"

17)a list of gem stones and common jewelery stones (in color) with general values of each and how one goes about "increasing value of"

18)cost of identifying magic items and/or unlocking the secrets, how to deal with intelligent items/artifacts and the extra costs/payout for cursed items and dealing with detriments

19) the variation on spells in strange climates(lightning bolts underwater etc, fireballs evacuating air in confined spaces, spells expansion in confined areas and checks made on portals to sutain the "shock wave or concusive force")

20) saving throw table for inanimate objects (consult DMG 1e for this)

21) cost to have spells cast (such as ressurection, remove curse, commune etc ...please make ressurection in the 100's of thousands of gp)


end of posting for now ...i'll return and add more
Uah... less teensy text, please. That's unreadable on my netbook.
-m4ki; one down, one to go

"Retro is not new. Retro-fit is not new." --Seeker95, on why I won't be playing DDN

|| DDN Metrics (0-10) | enthusiasm: 1 | confidence in design: -3 | desire to play: 0 | Sticking with 4e?: Yep. | Better Options: IKRPG Mk II ||
The Five Things D&D Next Absolutely Must Not Do:
1. Imbalanced gameplay. Any and all characters must be able to contribute equally both in combat and out of combat at all levels of play. If the Fighters are linear and the Wizards quadratic, I walk. 2. Hardcore simulationist approach. D&D is a game about heroic fantasy. I'm weak and useless enough in real life; I play RPGs for a change of pace. If the only reason a rule exists is because "that's how it's supposed to be", I walk. I don't want a game that "simulates" real life, I want a game that simulates heroic fantasy. 3. Worshipping at false idols (AKA Sacred Cows). If the only reason a rule exists is "it's always been that way", I walk. Now to be clear, I have no problem with some things not changing; my issue is with retaining bad idea simply for the sake of nostalgia. 4. DM vs. players. If the game encourages "gotcha!" moments or treats the DM and players as enemies, adversaries, or problems to be overcome, I walk. 5. Rules for the sake of rules. The only thing I want rules for is the things I can't do sitting around a table with my friends. If the rules try to step on my ability to roleplay the character I want to roleplay, I walk. Furthermore, the rules serve to facilitate gameplay, not to simulate the world. NOTE: Items in red have been violated.
Chris Perkins' DM Survival Tips:
1. When in doubt, wing it. 2. Keep the story moving. Go with the flow. 3. Sometimes things make the best characters. 4. Always give players lots of things to do. 5. Wherever possible, say ‘yes.’ 6. Cheating is largely unnecessary. 7. Don't be afraid to give the characters a fun new toy. 8. Don't get in the way of a good players exchange. 9. Avoid talking too much. 10. Save some details for later. 11. Be transparent. 12. Don't show all your cards. Words to live by.
Quotes From People Smarter Than Me:
"Essentials zigged, when I wanted to continue zagging..." -Foxface on Essentials "Servicing a diverse fan base with an RPG ruleset - far from being the mandate for 'open design space' and a cavalier attitude towards balance - requires creating a system that /works/, with minimal fuss, for a wide variety of play styles, not just from one group to the next, but at the same table." -Tony_Vargas on design "Mearls' and Cook's stated intent to produce an edition that fans of all previous editions (and Pathfinder) will like more than their current favourite edition is laudable. But it is also, IMO, completely unrealistic. It's like people who pray for world peace: I might share their overall aims, but I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for them to succeed. When they talk in vague terms about what they'd like to do in this new edition, I mostly find myself thinking 'hey, that sounds cool, assuming they can pull it off', but almost every time they've said something specific about actual mechanics, I've found myself wincing and shaking my head in disbelief and/or disgust, either straight away or after thinking about the obvious implications for half a minute." -Duskweaver on D&D Next