Tabletop Review: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition Dungeon Master Guide

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition Dungeon Master Guide
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast (Originally TSR)
Page Count: 256
Cost: $49.99 ($32.01 at
Release Date: 05/21/2013
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Yesterday we looked at Wizard of the Coast’s premium reprint of the Second Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook. Today it’s the Dungeon Master Guide‘s turn. Like the PHB, this is actually a reprint of the 1995 version of the book, and is better known as “2.5” rather than Second Edition amongst longtime fans of the system. This was an odd choice because the original version of Second Edition, which was printed from 1989-1995, is strongly preferred amongst gamers both for the art style, readability of the text and overall design of the game. Even stranger is the fact that while the Player’s Handbook had its two and a half decade old errata fixed with this reprint, the errors in the Dungeon Master Guide still remain intact. Of course, there was a lot less errata for the DMG compared to the PHB (a single table in fact), but when that table is the item saving throw one, it’s an important fix that should have been made.

Still, aside from these issues, this premium reprint of 2.5 AD&D is far superior to the original version from 1995. You have a faux level cover with a green background and gold embossing and lettering. The design is striking and far better than the original art covering the 2.5 edition. The art is still there, but it has been cropped and turned into a small diamond, allowing the new quality design to take center stage. As well, the 2.5 version of the logo has been replaced by the original 2.0 design from 1989. This is another welcome change and, as you flip through the entire book, you’ll see that everything has been improved on from the 1995 version. Instead of adds on the opening and ending pages, we now have sheets of pure goldenrod which are stylish and less hawkish than in the original 2.5 edition. The book is noticeably heavier than the original 2.5 edition because of the materials used. The cover is thicker and of a much sturdier, higher quality material. The binding is also tighter and clearer. The font of the pages have been redone from the ground up and so it is crisper and easier to read. The art is clear and the colors are more vibrant, making this a welcome change from the original 1995 version which was (and is) so jeered by Second Edition aficionados.

At fifty dollars, this reprint of the Dungeon Master Guide is going to be a hard sell for many gamers. For those that revile the art and layout changes from 2.0 to 2.5, there’s not much here to make you want to pick this up save for the fact it’s a better looking version of the book you already don’t care for. At the same time, it’s twenty dollars more than you would have originally paid for the 2.5 DMG, which makes the sell all the harder. Now, for those who still play and love Second Edition and need a new DMG, this is actually the best way to go. You can pick this up on Amazon for a hair over thirty dollars right now. You’re getting better materials, cleaner text and crisper art for a little more than you would have paid for 2.5 back when it original came out. What inflation, right? I got rid of my 2.5 DMG a LONG time ago because my superior 1989 print in still in great shape but I’m happy to add this version of 2.5 to my collection because it is built to take a beating and is worth using while preserving my original version to look at enjoy as a fan, rather than a player.

With all the references to the 1989 version, you’re probably wondering what’s different and doubly so when I tell you 2.5 is 256 pages long compared to 2.0 being 192. There must be a LOT of new content in those pages, right? Well, NO actually. 2.5 is mainly larger, crappier art, a font that takes up far more room (while being uglier and harder to read, if you can imagine that!) and the original version of the 1995 printing had a lot of poor layout decisions caused words to be hyphenated across pages and it just didn’t look good at all. Meanwhile the 1989 version had some amazingly gorgeous art, a better font, better layouts, better structure and it weighed less; a great concern back in the days when you had to lug half a dozen books to a game session instead of having them all on your Kindle or iPad. The good news is that the reprint clears up all of the font and layout issues and really the only reason why the original 1989 version is superior at this point is because of the art. The art is a BIG THING for some gamers though, but considering the 1989 print version can range from between three dollars and over a hundred on the secondary market based on condition, it might be easier and even cheaper to go with this premium reprint edition from Wizards of the Coast.

Content is king here and everything you need to run a game of Second Edition can be found in the premium 2.5 reprint. There are rules to help make characters, explanations on demi-human class restrictions and level caps, how to manage money and magic in a game, how to dole out experience points, a ton of combat rules and a plethora of magic items for your players to find, wield and be cursed by. There is so much good stuff in here that I can’t imagine playing 2e without it. The rules are 99.99 percent the same in 2.5 as they were in 2.0 (at least until you start bringing in the Player’s Option books into things…shudder), so even if you are a stalwart 1989 edition fan, you can still use this reprint in the exact same manner as your original 2.0 version and you don’t have to worry about damaging your preferred edition.

The Second Edition DMG is my favorite out of all the Dungeon Master Guide‘s ever produced. It flows the best, is structured and laid out the best and is by far the easiest to use because of all of that. Edition Wars aside, 2e DMG was the best for actual use in a session compared to 1e (which was all over the player content location wise), 3e (which is a close runner up but a lot of content that should have been in it was spun off into other supplements to make WotC more money) and 4e (Which regardless of your views on quality gets dead last because there is MORE THAN ONE DMG for it). I love this thing and although it’s not as pretty, light or compact as the 1989 edition, I’m more than happy to have this on my shelf alongside all my other AD&D books. If you can find this for around thirty dollars and you’re even remotely interested in Second Edition AD&D, then yes, grab this as it’s a great deal at that price point. With the actual $49.99 MSRP, it’s a much harder sell because those that love 2e almost certainly have the 1989 and/or 1995 versions and asking them to pay another fifty dollars for something they already own (twice?) is a bit too much. Seriously though, if you ever wanted to partake in the version of D&D that is the most famous, most mainstream and arguably most successful, then grab the 2e products and read through them. These things are a blast to read even if you never use them, and the DMG and PHB are gateways into some of the best adventures, campaign settings and supplements you’ll ever come across for D&D.



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