I received my 1st edition AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide yesterday. I should note that I have never previously owned the book, but have heard for years that it is a must-own for any real RPG aficionado. I'd probably flipped through a copy at some point in the past, but it didn't leave much of a lasting impression on me, so it was with some excitement that I cracked it open and began to read.
I think I hate it.
I've read Gygax before, but his writing style here is pedantic to the point of incomprehensibility. This is no Monster Manual - the artwork consists primarily of cartoons and Sutherland stuff, which is not to my taste. The DMing advice, as far as I can tell, is almost exclusively negative. The author tells you not to change the rules, not to allow monster player characters, not to alter the tone of the game... well, not to do lots of things. I didn't see much in the way of telling a DM what he or she should do, but plenty of reflexive "if you do this, you're playing my game wrong" admonishments.
What you do get are exhaustive sections on subjects as esoteric as casting spells underwater, footnotes telling you that a roll of "mastodon" on the Pleistocene marsh encounter table actually indicates a shovel-toothed relative of the mastodon, and charts telling you how much damage a wereboar takes if he changes into boar form while wearing plate mail. There's a certain insane appeal to the bewildering degree of attention paid to the pointless minutiae of situations that will probably never occur in the typical D&D game, but I'm afraid that for me, it's not enough. Except for the sections on generating wilderness environments, settlements, and dungeons, this thing is almost completely useless to me. Still, I know a lot of people love this book, and that's great. Maybe one of them will want to buy my copy.
(To be clear, I'm not taking a dump on AD&D 1st edition or Gary Gygax. I own plenty of AD&D stuff, much of it written by Gygax, and have enjoyed reading it. I just strongly dislike this particular book.)
In happier news, I like the fun, freewheeling attitude of the D&D Basic and Expert Rulebooks a lot. So, what I've learned is that if I'm going to go for "old school" D&D, I should probably stay away from AD&D and stick to Basic.
Okay... now that I have probably enraged or alienated most of my readers, I am going to prepare for the onslaught.