Many view the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide with fondness and nostalgia.

Yet some view the book is an outdated mess of poorly organized rules.

I see the DMG as a product of its time.

I’ve kept the old DMG at my tabletop for years, even when I left First Edition behind. I referenced it often, but I’ve never read through it cover-to-cover:

Until now.

After finishing it, I recommend others to do the same. Here are nine reasons:

1.The Illustrations and Cartoons.

None of this modern-day computer generated drafting stuff with characters resembling superheroes with everything all nice and clean-cut. No!

These illustrations resembled medieval black & white illuminations or 19th-century woodcut engravings, or a doodle in your friend’s high school notebook.

And there’s mild nudity.

Well, its only a couple of drawings toward the back of the book among the random tables. One is a mermaid, the other is a succubus.

Both are by Darlene, who illustrated the World of Greyhawk poster map.

Other artists would become household names in the industry also had their works featured here.

I wonder what happened when it didn’t work…

The cartoons and illustrations hearken back to a day when the hobby didn’t take itself as seriously and wasn’t afraid to poke a little fun at itself.


2. It’s a piece of RPG history.

The AD&D DMG was the first hardbound DMG. It feels like a spellbook and contains eldritch secrets of a bygone age.

Such as…


3. To Learn How to Actually Play the Game

“As this book is the exclusive precinct of the DM, you must view any non-DM player possessing it as something less than worthy of honorable death.” –Gary Gygax, Page 8.

Players weren’t supposed to read the DMG. That’s how it was written and organized.

Most of the rules for running the AD&D (combat, exploration, and so on) are found in the DMG, not in the Players Handbook.  In fact, not even the PHB was complete. See #4


4. Gygaxian Prose.

Some love Gygax’s diction. Others hate it.

Yet no other Dungeon Masters Guide reads like the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide.

From page 9.


4a. To play the “Milieu” Drinking Game (That’s pronounced “milˈyo͞o”)

Every time Gygax says “milieu” or “milieux” take a drink.

If you feel yourself sobering up, switch to every time you read cf.,  i.e., e.g., q.v., and viz.


5. To Discover the Meanings Behind cf., i.e., e.g., q.v., and viz. 

Hint: they’re not forms of coinage (i.e.–g.p., s.p., and c.p.).

Yet Gygax doesn’t adequately explain the Latin origins behind these abbreviations in the book’s glossary, just the definitions.

Let’s just say that people in the 1970s were too busy to write stuff like “compare,” “that is,” “for example,” and the like.

There was too much disco and free love abound to be bothered by such trivial details.


6. The Random Harlot Table

Just as no other DMG will ever again feature Gygaxian prose, so too, has the random Harlot Table gone by the wayside.

A pity. Because, according to the rules, harlots have a 30% chance of knowing valuable information whether they are a “haughty courtesan” or a “sly pimp.”


8. To find Hitler’s Charisma Score

There it is, right on page 15–the absolute proof that Dungeons & Dragons is evil, evil, evil.

But did Hitler roll 3d6 for his ability scores or 4d6 and drop the lowest?

Or did he cheat?



9. Appendix N.

’nuff said.