I have kind of a history with the first edition Dungeon Master's Guide. When I was in fifth grade, I used to check it out from the local library over and over. Much of what I thought D&D was in those days what I managed to extrapolate from that book, Oriental Adventures, and the book Fantasy Role-Playing Games by Eric Holmes, which contained a simple little fantasy adventure and rules in it. Yeah, from those sprang a bizarre homebrew D&D that persisted in our group until one of my buddies got the AD&D 2nd Edition books and I got the D&D basic set with the red dragon on the front. Earlier this week, I finally got my own copy of the DMG.
Man, what a hot mess this book is. No chapters, information provided in an order that I'm sure makes sense to someone, but not me. It also contains a lot more information on the "True Way" of doing things than I remember, and some of the information seems to contradict the supposed tenants of old school play. Consider that the book actually advocates skipping wandering monster tables if the dungeon is well stocked or the players are eager to get to the heart of things. One of the thing about our recently ended game of S&W I often found frustrating was just getting from the damned dungeon to town and back. The wandering monster dice rolls punished us again and again with trolls, a cockatrice, and (on two separate occasions) adult dragons. This, for first level characters. In fact, ol' Gary says that the most important part of the game is "action and drama."
Zounds! Drama? Isn't that for all them new-fangled White Wolf games*?
I'm enjoying reading through the book, and it is making me think that maximum lethality is not something strictly "old school" and not an inherent part of the game. Hell, at one point, the book even refers to the player characters as "larger than life heroes and villains", which also contradicts the boot-camp, "you are nobody" feel that is often evoked in the name of retro play.
Plus, you know, it had that comic strip about Papers and Paychecks, and that shit was golden, baby.
*I actually like, run, and play White Wolf games, but I can't help but disparage even the things that I like.