D&D Archives07/13/2003


The Group Process of Revising
the Dungeon Master's Guide

By Rich Redman



Ed Stark approached me to revise the Dungeon Master's Guide. I knew that Andy Collins would revise the Player's Handbook, and that Skip Williams would revise the Monster Manual. The whole idea scared the heck out of me! I mean, it's the Dungeon Master's Guide for gosh sake! I've been playing D&D longer than the Dungeon Master's Guide existed. It's the holy of holies, and Ed wanted me to mess with it! I've known Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, and Skip Williams long enough to know they're not perfect, but being given responsibility for revising their work -- well, I didn't think I was worthy. When I worked in RPG R&D, I got a schedule for an entire year showing all my projects. I had months to worry and fret over the revision before I actually started work. Ed and Andy coaxed me into doing it, and were very encouraging of my initial ideas. Gradually I gained confidence.

Originally, the 3.0 Dungeon Master's Guide was supposed to be a catalog or dictionary of rules. Most of what you needed to play was in the Player's Handbook, and the Adventure Game introduced people to their roles as players and Dungeon Master. By the time of the revision, production on the Adventure Game had stopped. While there was some discussion of creating another adventure game, one of the key points of revising theDungeon Master's Guide had to be making it more user-friendly for beginning DMs. I thought reorganizing the book could resolve most of that, and when I presented my outline for the revised Dungeon Master's Guide, everyone agreed.

Then began a long process of reviewing material that we knew there were issues with. We knew we wanted to review magic item functions and pricing. Originally, the magic item chapter was written and then rules for creating and pricing items were created, tinkering with them to try to recreate the prices already set in the book. We knew we wanted more information about prestige class design. Prestige classes were a late addition to the 3.0 Dungeon Master's Guide, and we'd had three years of experience designing them since then. We wanted to add mundane items to the treasure tables and still have them produce the same average value of treasure. There were other concerns, like trying to get the Dungeon Master's Guide information on powerful races to match Savage Species, but they were smaller. I started a series of meetings with Andy Collins, Skip Williams, and Ed Stark to review magic item prices and started badgering Jonathan Tweet with questions about why the Dungeon Master's Guide worked the ways it did.

As I worked on the Dungeon Master's Guide (and other projects) Andy was further along in revising the Player's Handbook. So I attended meetings where we brutally criticized his work, dissecting it in detail, demanding he justify every little change, and arguing about whether a change belonged in v.3.5 or in a later edition. He faced Ed, Skip, myself, and sometimes David Noonan, James Wyatt, Rich Baker, and others while in the hot seat. Heck, several times Stephen Radney-McFarland attended to represent the RPGA! Again, this was a huge advantage for Wizards of the Coast because it had this pool of talented designers who were not involved in the daily business of the revision and who came to these torture sessions with fresh eyes. Andy handled it professionally and with great equanimity, but I could see that it took its toll. I expected to go through the same thing, and only hoped I would handle it as well. So in a way, I got lucky in September ’02 when I got laid off.

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