To me, the 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Masters Guide by Gary Gygax is perhaps the best gaming book I have ever owned. In fact, I think it’s a strong contender for greatest gaming book of all time.
Inevitably, some bits of the book are better known than others. For example, much has been made in recent years of Appendix N (Inspirational and Educational Exercise) and it’s become a little bit trendy to post your own Appendix N. (Which reminds me, I really must get around to doing just that sometime.)
Other bits are less well known—in fact you could call them unsung. (By the way, I’ve slightly cheated here. My favourite unsung table from the book is actually a series of tables.)
There are many contenders for Best Bit of the 1st Edition AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide. It may not surprise you in the least to learn I love the dungeon dressing section in Appendix I (Hell, I published a 334 page book based on that section) but—at the end of the day—it’s a relatively well-known section.
The table(s) I love, and use in my own Borderland of Adventure and Shattered Star campaigns, are those dealing with Disease and Parasitic Infestation in the “Character Age, Ageing, Disease and Death” section (pages 13 and 14). In brief, the tables deal with the possibility of a PC contracting a disease or parasitic infection and provide an array of such maladies while in a town, city or other such location. I love them (and so do my players…sort of).
Why do I love them? Well it’s not because I revel in the death and suffering of the PCs.
Rather, I love the nod toward verisimilitude and detail to which the section eludes. It perfectly encapsulates Gary’s approach to the game—to create a world that reeks of realism and detail (as much as any world stuffed full of dragons, elves, orcs and more can anyway). Medieval cities were dirty, dangerous and unhygienic places wracked with disease, malnutrition and more. It stands to reason anyone living there would have a higher than normal chance of contracting some kind of nasty disease or ailment.
One downside of the tables is that—in theory—a PC could die of some virulent disease. That’s not particularly heroic and not really what the game is about—unless said disease was contracted from a mummy or suchlike.
Luckily, this hasn’t come up yet in my campaign. If it did, I’d like to think I’m a competent enough GM to offer or provide a way out of the situation, which could enhance the campaign. Perhaps a PC’s illness could lead to an interesting sidetrek or sub-plot. It could lead to the introduction of a new re-occuring NPC who helps cure the PC. At the very least—hopefully—it’s going to end up with some interesting roleplaying challenges.
Your Hidden Gem
So what’s your favourite little known section of the 1st Edition AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide? Have you used the tables yourself? Let me know in the comments below.