Page by Page: Gary Gygax’s DMG Part 13

Rowdy bar scene from the 1979 DMG by Gary Gygax. No artist is identified.
Image from the DMG. No artist identified.

This is the thirteenth installment of my continuing series on the 1979 Dungeon Master’s Guide, written by Gary Gygax. This post begins with the section “Non-Player Characters” on page 100, and continues through “Hiring Non-Player Characters to Cast Spells or Use Devices” on page 104. My purpose is not to review the DMG, but to go through it as a modern gamer, learning about the roots of Dungeons and Dragons, and making note when I see something surprising or interesting, or something which could be adapted for a modern game.

You can read all posts in this series under the Gary Gygax’s DMG tag. And yes, this is the second day I’ve posted one of these in a row. And nobody can stop me! Mwuahaha!

Personae of Non-Player Characters: Random charts to determine an NPC’s traits are nothing new. Though, I suppose they probably were new when this book was published. None the less, the concept is commonplace enough that I don’t really have anything to say about it.

The execution of this particular set of charts, however, is odd. Some of the charts seem to overlap each other (such as Alignment & Morality. More on that later), while others seem only marginally useful, such as “Energy” and “Thrift.” Why does every NPC need to be defined on a scale between “Slothful” and “Driven?” Despite these complaints, the charts are pretty good. I like the idea of rolling for an NPC’s level of bravery, or their level of honesty. I don’t recall seeing those on most NPC generation charts, and it seems like something I would use.

Reading this section gave me an idea I’ll need to play with at some point. The gist of it is a set of ‘tiered’ random charts for determining NPC traits. The first tier contains only the most vital information for generating a random NPC, such as their age, race, and profession. It’s small, and can be kept at the table to quickly come up with interesting characters. The second chart would be a little more detailed, and could be used if this particular NPC ended up sticking around for an entire game session or two. It would determine character traits which might not be immediately apparent, such as the character’s piety or knowledge. If the NPC became a long-term addition to the game world, a potential third chart could be used to give them some items of minutia (backstory, marital status, etc.) which the GM can use to keep the character interesting over time.


Morals refer to the sexual tendencies of the NPC, although this trait rating can be used with regard to some ethical questions.”


First, why is that a thing the GM needs to know? Second, why would this come up? Third, why is sexuality framed as morality? This bothers me a whole hell of a lot. Look at the possible options when rolling on the ‘morality’ table:

Morals (d12)
1. Aesthetic
2. Virtuous
3. Normal
4. Normal
5. lusty
6. lusty
7. lustful
8. immoral
9. amoral
10. perverted
11. sadistic
12. depraved

The progression is pretty clear: the more sex you have, the less moral you are. I’m just happy he didn’t go so far as to define what he meant by terms 8-12. I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t like knowing what G.G. thought of my sexuality.

Non-Player Character Encounter/Offer Reaction Adjustments: This is a good example of what I was referring to yesterday when I wrote that Gygax was a poor communicator. I honestly have no idea what anything in this section means. At all. There are some words, and some percentages which can either positively or negatively affect something based on aforementioned words…but that’s all I can gather.

Based on the title of the section, I imagine there’s a concept described either elsewhere in the DMG or in the PHB which I’m supposed to apply this section to. But that doesn’t really help me much.

Height and Weight Tables: Why not use the tables that were printed for player characters? Why did they need to be printed again? 0.o

Special Roles of the Dungeon Master: I don’t have a lot to say about this section, but I feel like I’ve been harshing on Gary a lot in these last two segments. So I want to point out that these ~1.5 pages are great. They cover their topic in detail, along with an example to help budding GMs understand how the directives presented here function in play. I particularly like the subsection on monsters, which demands that the GM always play the monsters intelligently. And demands it with no lack of emphasis, going so far as to say “In all cases, the DM is absolutely obligated to play the monster in question to the best of his or her ability.” The example of play demonstrating the difficulties a player might encounter when searching for an NPC wizard is also very well written, and pretty funny to boot.

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4 thoughts on “Page by Page: Gary Gygax’s DMG Part 13”

  1. It appears the Reaction Adjustments table might have something to do with the hiring reactions and loyalty modifiers that start on page 35. That said, the provided chart is so vague as to be nearly useless, any of the statuses will modify the reaction by + or – a percentile range? As near as I can interpret, your supposed to randomly determine the adjustments and use those to modify a base number (50% perhaps) and the final adjusted number is the hiring interest of the henchman. Maybe…

  2. Reaction Adjustments are based on the reaction-adjustments from CHA, and are based on how you interact with a group you’ve just met… the “at a glance” diplomacy rolls.

    Morality and sexuality, as seen by the Catholic Church and in games like Ultima 4, are intrinsically linked. “Good” is based on the christian ideal. This is one of my largest complaints about the original alignment system, and one that I’ve done away with (ranging, instead, from Hedonistic to Psychopathic, and Individualistic to Collectivistic, in my interpretations of G-E/C-L, respectively).

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