Since receiving my review copy of the newly released "Dungeon Master’s Guide", I have been trying to digest all of its contents. The manual is well designed, but there is a lot of information.
A quick flip to the appendices (where I always start) reveals much more content than I was expecting. The random dungeon generator tables are back but, in addition to this, there are several full-color pre-generated maps ready to use. The always useful random monster tables are still present as well. A list of books – selected by play-testers and the D&D Creative Team – was also included to assist DMs in fleshing out their adventures.
The second place I normally turn is to the section on cosmology. One can learn much about a world by the metaphysical beliefs of its inhabitants. When the Planescape campaign setting stated that the “Great Wheel” was the true arrangement of the planes and that all other views were created by scholars who could not see the true nature of the multiverse, I know a lot of people were upset. I personally like that arrangement and the explanation for other beliefs made sense to me. Three editions later, things seem to be more diplomatically stated; several possible layouts are proposed with the statement that none of them are truly accurate as no one can step outside of the cosmos to see its real structure. This seems like a good compromise: suggest possible layouts for those who do not wish to come up with their own, but refrain from telling people that the layout they used is incorrect.
The section on running the game has many pieces of advice that should be stated more often in gaming literature. For instance, "don’t touch others’ dice if they are sensitive about it." While I have not known many individuals who cared, the ones that do *really* do. Other advice such as “have snacks” is probably extremely useful advice for a new player trying to get a group together, but is so foreign to me after playing for three decades that I would have never though to suggest it. It is clear that the developers put a lot of thought into suggestions for all experience levels.
To summarize, the artwork is beautifully illustrated, the content is voluminous and well thought-out, and the layout is put in a logical and easy to find order. Overall, 5th Edition is quickly turning out to be one of my favorite editions and is definitely a huge improvement over the much maligned previous edition.