Monday, August 18, 2008

DMG - The World

With the release of the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide, I've had to force myself to read the last two chapters of the Dungeon Master's Guide before moving on.

The World chapter is a big mishmash of stuff, seemingly a dumping ground for all the miscellany that didn't fit anywhere else.

The D&D World

The first section starts off explaining the general mood of the 4e world - fantastic, ancient, mysterious. The "points of light" were mentioned, of course. It is emphasized that the world is the DM's, and that many things aren't going to be spelled out, unlike previous editions. There's no default world, and only the gods and other powerful beings are spelled out. I feel this is good and bad; it means that there's very little canon for a DM to have to argue about with his or her players, but it places a bit more work on the shoulders of new DMs who aren't ready, willing or able to create that much.


I've always liked this section of the DM's Guide in past versions, where it mentions the different sizes of towns and cities, what kind of population figures to expect, and the range of economy to be found there, for purposes of buying and selling goods.

This edition is missing the gold figures, but otherwise provides the needed information to help DMs decide how big of a location they need for each purpose, and how to think about establishments they find in published works, if it isn't spelled out within. A bit of detail is given to areas such as government, defense and commerce, but I think all of these areas would be good for Dragon articles, to provide further ideas.

The section on Organizations, too, is one that I'm certain will get expanded upon in Dragon articles, as organizations tend to provide a lot of story ideas, whether they're evil cults or benevolent churches. So, too, do the Fantastic Settlements - who hasn't had to deal with a city being secretly run by a mind flayer?

The Wild

Not much to say about this section, except I found it a weird that here there were game rules, such as Endurance DCs, where the rest of the chapter contained flavor instead. This was the section that made the chapter feel like a bundle of leftover information.

The Planes

I've talked before about the reworking of the planes in D&D, and how I like how they've simplified quite a bit. Here we do have some specifics, some "geography" that's defined for the campaign, and some residents within that geography. It's nice to have this information, so a DM can create a world, a campaign, or a module within some guidelines, even if the planes or their residents are many levels away from where the party might be. Having a destination for future adventures, or a background of which the party's escapades can be a part, is useful.

The Gods

I've always liked the gods in D&D, whether in the standard campaign or in Forgotten Realms. The gods, with their machinations, churches and cults, always provide plot and intrigue for all sorts of adventure. The Time of Troubles in the Forgotten Realms history is one of my favorite storylines, bringing the gods down to Faerun where they had tangible effects on the land and the people, and provided a way for players to interact with the divine without having to be near-divine themselves.


This definitely feels out of place in this chapter. Agreed, they can be considered "part of the world's weave", but they've always been with the magic items in the past, and that's just where I expect them, even if they have a history tied to the specifics of the world.

I like the idea that artifacts are a temporary item in the lives of the characters - that these items have a destiny of their own, and being "owned" by one of the characters is only one part of that destiny. Players that acquired an artifact in earlier editions saw it as theirs, felt that they earned it (and probably did), and that it was theirs until the character died, or retired, or attained godhood. Now they might have to accept the fact that this item will serve their purposes once or twice and then continue its journey to the next adventuring party.

Again, this section has some actual game rules, including a few example artifacts, which makes it stand out in this chapter. It should have been elsewhere.


This section was more interesting than I expected it to be. It provides a reason why there are only ten languages, and how they came about. Our playing group has always paid attention to languages, with some players always choosing certain ones for their characters, and others trying to spread the knowledge out to make the party as versatile as possible. Already, language has played a role in the current adventure, and it's a great way to provide story events with such a simple mechanic.

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