I own hundreds—perhaps thousands—of gaming books. Some are amazing works; others are crap. However, one book stands head and shoulders above the others.
One book has never steered me wrong, even though I haven’t played the game more than sporadically for over 20 years. Packed full of wisdom, hints and tips for running epic games, its contents withstand the test of time. For me, the advice therein yet guides me in my gaming quest. I know without a shadow of a doubt my campaign would be a pale shadow of itself without this book by my side.
So what’s the book?
Given my old-school bias, and the fact I’m a bit of an old fart, you’ve probably guessed by now. Of course, it’s the AD&D 1st Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide by Gary Gygax.
This book—gloriously disorganised and utilising (sometimes) a baffling vocabulary—more than any other book is responsible for my love affair with gaming. Frankly, when I first started playing D&D, I wasn’t using even a rough approximation of the rules. I was young, I was crazy, and I was having fun. But that’s not the point. The DMG inducted me into the incredible world of fantasy gaming, slipped its ebon tentacles about me and never let me go. Within its pages, I caught a glimpse of what a truly epic game was like.
Sure the book has tons of tables I’ve never used. I’ve rarely needed to know how far a gnoll can dig through soft rock in a day, for example. There are bags of artefacts and relics I’ve never used in my game. (And frankly the pummelling, grappling and overbearing rules always baffled me.) But that’s not the point. The inclusion of all this material (and much, much more) spoke to me of the kind of detail—dare I say verisimilitude—a comprehensive and downright awesome campaign should include.
To this day, I return again and again to this book for inspiration. While ultimately D&D is a game of imaginary combat and exploration, the DMG strove (successfully) to give a sense of the broader campaign. It speaks of the importance of weather, time, taxes, hirelings, artefacts (I’d never own), richly detailed dungeons and more.
And, of course, with a comprehensive, more rounded campaign world comes more rounded and fully fleshed out player characters. The kind of player characters that almost become friends; that you can imagine as real people, not merely a collection of numbers scribbled on a piece of paper who exist only to slay and loot.
Nowadays, my DMG is looking a little battered. It’s dog-eared, I’ve scribbled notes here and there, and it’s festooned with page markers. There are even muddy paw prints across the Random Dungeon Generation appendix left by my beloved childhood Labrador when I foolishly took the book into the garden and paid it more attention than her!
But that just makes it better. This book is my companion and my guide. It is part of my (gaming) past and future. I shudder to think what my campaigns (and to a large extent by life) would have been like without this book.
You won’t pry it from my cold, dead hands.
Do I Know Best?
Do you agree? Is the 1st Edition AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide the best gaming book of all time? What’s your greatest gaming book of all time? Let me know, by signing up for a full Gameatory account and joining our exclusive Slack channel.