Review: Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 – Advanced Encounters, Terrain, and Better Traps

2009 September 17
by Dante

I won’t lie… yesterday’s discussion of Group Storytelling was pretty exciting for me, but now its time to dive further into the Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 (DMG2).  Because I want to cover some specific items, this is not a comprehensive review of everything contained in the next few chapters of the book.

Advanced Encounters

The excellent examination of campaign building continues into the second chapter of the book, which covers more advanced encounters that include encounter specific objectives.  The addition of a “ticking clock” type of scenario involving a wounded captive, a ritual taking place, or sneaking into a secured area are as old as D&D itself, however intentionally engineering and placing these encounters can be a bit difficult.  This chapter explores each of these scenarios (and more!) and gives some advice how to structure them so they are more easily implemented in your campaign.

In addition, this chapter explores designing encounters for both small and large adventuring groups, providing ideas how to apply the mechanics of encounter creation in 4e to each of these different types of parties.  Again, much of this information would’ve been handy to me a few months ago as we were began our 4e campaign.  We went from a small group to a large group in a very short time, so the ability to scale encounters properly would’ve been nice to have.

A Wonderful World of New Terrain

The DMG2 contains five pages of new terrain.  The descriptions are pretty excellent, and I can see using them to construct some significantly cool atmosphere instead of the standard trees and rocks.  One of my favorites, Fey Circle (don’t judge me, ok?), allows you to teleport five squares as a minor action if you start within the circle.  I can see some creative ways to use this to change the dynamics of an encounter.  Combining this terrain with a secondary encounter goal is an interesting notion that I might use soon!  Also these terrain elements are very flexible, many doing damage on a “per tier” basis so they scale as your characters move up in level throughout the adventure.

In addition, this section contains Terrain Power rules, which outlines how the players can use terrain elements as weapons or tools for their benefit.  It’s nice to have some tables around this type of action as well, I know Vanir loves to take parts of “the set” and use it to his advantage.  Now I know how much damage to do when he pushes over a giant boulder on something!

Last, but not least is the section on designing traps.  Everything in the DMG2 appears geared toward building of a good narrative, and this section contains an inset that describes the types of traps to avoid in your campaign and another inset that explains ways to make your traps more fun.  The combination of good advice and interesting sample traps is inspiring… my adventuring party is going to be in for some excitement!

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