You are one of a very special group of people: AD&D® game Dungeon Masters.
Your job is not an easy one. It requires wit, imagination, and the ability to
think and act extemporaneously. A really good Dungeon Master is essential to a good
The Dungeon Master Guide is reserved for Dungeon Masters. Discourage players from reading this book,
and certainly don't let players consult it during the game. As long as the
players don't know exactly what's in the Dungeon Master Guide, they'll always wonder what you know that they don't. It doesn't matter
whether you have secret information; even if you don't, as long as the players think
you do, their sense of mystery and uncertainty is maintained.
Also, this book contains essential rules that are not discussed in the Player's Handbook. Some of these rules the players will learn quickly during play—special
combat situations, the costs of hiring NPCs, etc. Others, however, cover more
esoteric or mysterious situations, such as the nature of artifacts and other
magical items. This information is in the Dungeon Master Guide so the DM can control the players' (and hence the characters') access to
certain bits of knowledge. In a fantasy world, as in this world, information is
power. What the characters don't know can hurt them (or lead them on a merry chase to nowhere). While the players aren't
your enemies, they aren't your allies, either, and you aren't obligated to
give anything away for nothing. If characters go hunting wererats without doing
any research beforehand, feel free to throw lots of curves their way. Reward
those characters who take the time to do some checking.
Besides rules, you'll find a large portion of this book devoted to discussions
of the principles behind the rules. Along with this are examinations of the
pros and cons of changing the rules to fit your campaign. The purpose of this
book, after all, is to better prepare you for your role as game moderator and
referee. The better you understand the game, the better equipped you'll be to
handle unforeseen developments and unusual circumstances.
One of the principles guiding this project from the very beginning, and which
is expressed throughout this book, is this: The DM has the primary
responsibility for the success of his campaign, and he must take an active hand in guiding
it. That is an important concept. If you are skimming through this
introduction, slow down and read it again. It is crucial you understand what you are
The DM's "active hand" extends even to the rules. Many decisions about your
campaign can be made by only one person: you. Tailor your campaign to fit your
own style and the style of your players.
You will find a lot of information in this book, but you won't find pat
answers to all your questions and easy solutions for all your game problems. What you
will find instead is a discussion of various problems and numerous triggers
intended to guide you through a thoughtful analysis of situations that pertain to
The rules to the AD&D 2nd Edition game are balanced and easy to use. No
role-playing game we know of has been playtested more heavily than this one. But that
doesn't mean it's perfect. What we consider to be right may be unbalanced or
anachronistic in your campaign. The only thing that can make the AD&D game
"right'' for all players is the intelligent application of DM discretion.
A perfect example of this is the limit placed on experience levels for
demihumans. A lot of people complained that these limits were too low. We agreed, and
we raised the limits. The new limits were tested, examined, and adjusted until
we decided they were right. But you may be one of the few people who prefer the
older, lower limits. Or you may think there should be no limits. In the
chapter on character classes, you'll find a discussion of this topic that considers
the pros and cons of level limits. We don't ask you to blindly accept every
limit we've established. But we do ask that before you make any changes you read
this chapter and carefully consider what you are about to do. If, after weighing
the evidence, you decide that a change is justified in your game, by all means
make the change.
In short, follow the rules as they are written if doing so improves your game.
But by the same token, break the rules only if doing so improves your game.
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