The release of the new 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons has been accompanied by a lot of positive buzz about the product, but under the surface another sound is starting to be heard. This is the sound of Dungeon Masters wondering when it's going to be their turn to benefit from the new edition.
Wizards of the Coast chose a staggered release for all of the products related to the new edition. First came the free rules download that served as a teaser for the game. Next came the Starter Set that was geared toward beginner players. August saw the release of the Player's Handbook and the Monster Manual will be released at the end of September. Curiously, the Dungeon Master's Guide won't be released until the 18th of November, three full months after the release of the Player's Handbook.
Why are DMs so upset about this timeline? While the Player's Handbook contains all of the basic rules for the game, the Dungeon Master's Guide has all of the tools that are needed to create your own adventures. WotC has already released Hoard of the Dragon Queen, a pre-made adventure module and will release a second module, The Rise of Tiamat on October 21st, but many DMs have no interest in pre-made campaigns. They want to be able to create their own quests or even translate current campaigns over to the new rules. Without the Dungeon Master's Guide, they can't easily do this.
So is there a reason why Wizards of the Coast is holding out on the Dungeon Master's Guide? Conspiracy theorists would probably point to the new aspect of the 5th Edition: the Dungeons & Dragons Adventurers League. Here's a quote from the D&D website:
If you're a DM, the D&D Adventurers League is a great way to run D&D games without having to spend time creating your own campaign world or adventures for it. As a DM, not only are you a guide to weaving a fantastic shared story, you also act as an official for the table you're running, providing your players with their characters' experience points and rewards at the end of each session. Our adventures provide guidance on how to DM for the D&D Adventurers League.
The Adventurers League is an organized play system that is meant for running the official 5th Edition modules. There is more emphasis on public game sessions at conventions or game shops. Wizards of the Coast doesn't want you running your own D&D adventures in your basement with your group. They want you out in the open running officially licensed D&D modules. Whether Wizards of the Coast realizes it or or not, this isn't necessarily the best approach to expanding the player base for this game. While conventions might produce some new players, many people who are interested in playing for the first time aren't able to go to a convention. As for game shops, what if new players don't live somewhere with a close shop? There is also the issue that many of the sessions that occur there aren't the most inviting places for new players especially women. They might not even feel comfortable going into the game shops where they live.
Public gaming sessions are not the way to introduce new players to the game. This is where Dungeon Masters come in. D&D gains its strength through the dedication and imagination of DMs. They need to be able to build their own campaigns for the groups that they feel comfortable with. The players in these groups are the ones who will invite in new players and show them how much fun RPGs can be. This is the way that I started playing and probably most of you as well.