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Xanathar's Guide to Everything Hardcover – November 21, 2017
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Pre-order today
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I’m an older gamer and a DM. I cut my teeth on the second edition, but spent most of my youth playing AD&D 2nd Edition. I’ve played every edition since, except for fourth, quite extensively. And I have a lot of experience with other game systems like Star Wars, DC Heroes, MERP, GURPS, Rifts, and so on.
Xanathar’s guide is functionally a compendium of all the “more” that’s been accumulating since the first major waves of books for 5th Edition D&D was released. My book came in great condition. The artwork and quality are excellent. Here are some of the most heavily featured sections of the book.
Chapter 1: Character Options
This section details the additional subclasses that have been steadily coming out via Unearthed Arcana. They have been cleaned up and balanced (though not all are perfect) for release in this single compendium. Many of the options include some revised takes on older class variations (like the Samurai and Swashbuckler), some new attempts at previously tried themes (A more evil-ish Paladin in the Oath of Conquest, or the Arcane Archer), and some completely new (to my knowledge) subclasses like the Horizon Walker, a ranger of the planes who moves through the multiverse.
At the end of the chapter are some new, optional racial feats. Most of these are most interesting when used on some of the “weirder” races like the Dragonborn. Many of the changes and options in this whole chapter put a greater emphasis on role-playing centered classes and class options. Our group is more into the role-playing than the roll-playing. So that’s a plus. Combat-focused gamers may find some of the new classes underwhelming.
Chapter 2: Dungeon Master’s Tools
As a DM, this section is fantastic. It leads with some rules clarification and additional options if the DM wants to make things more interesting. There are also some visual helps regarding area of affect and how they are presented on grid-systems. Also included here is a much needed thorough breakdown of “fair” encounter building with tables and suggestions for DM’s.
My favorite part of this section is the random encounter tables. They finally include tables for random encounters that are broken out by level and type of environment. And there is quite a collection. Pages and pages. And the tables all have really cool, interesting things your players could run into. Really, really fun and excited to try.
Following that is some really good, thorough help regarding traps and how to make them more interesting, some ideas for down time and after that there is a nice collection of new magic items. Nerd candy to read. Also included are some ways to make magic items and their creation more interesting.
Chapter 3: Spells
New spells. Always nice. And at the end, multiple pages of names for quick name generation.
If I had to say something negative, I’d say it’s a smaller book and it doesn’t anything super new like a completely new class or magic system. Another criticism is I wouldn’t recommend this to new players who are not going to DM. There’s a lot of “spoiler” information in here that may kill off the wow-factor of springing something new on a party that DM’s love to have.
This is a fantastic book. I would say if I had to recommend three books to fans of 5e. 1 and 2 would of course be the Players Handbook and then the Dungeon Master’s guide. This would be number 3. It’s more of everything. More character choice, more race choices, more rules choices, more tables, more spells and more variety. And especially to DM’s this will be incredibly useful. It’s a book that I’ll have out in front of me every time I run a game. A great addition.
Is Xanathar's Guide a must-have? Not in the sense the PH, DMG, and MM are. Nothing in here is essential to playing the game, and a player without Xanathar's Guide is in no way handicapped compared to one who does. Do I recommend it? Without a doubt. Having played with 5th edition for a few years now, I really feel this book helps refresh the game.
The new subclasses are well designed and flavorful, with some of the most interesting new abilities not being focused on combat. GMs may detect a little power creep here and there (is there a reason to choose College of Valor now that College of Swords exists?), but play will tell.
The character life-path tables are fun, but their usefulness will depend on how much character background you want to leave to chance. As a tool for inspiration, however, they could be very useful.
Likewise with the random encounter tables. Some GMs will get more use out of them than others, but they're a nice option to have. Unfortunately, they do not seem to include any of the monsters from Volo's Guide to Monsters. A strange oversight.
Many of the new options originally appeared in Unearthed Arcana, and most do not seem to have been significantly altered. It's nice to see these things have an official release, but it still leaves the reader with the feeling of having seen these things before.
The worst part of the book is the last several pages dedicated to tables of random names. I understand the thought process behind including it, but mostly it seems like a way to inflate the page count to justify the $50 recommended price tag. At $30, though, it's only a mild gripe. Minus one star for the filler.
Unrelated to the book itself, Amazon's packaged for this item was abysmal. It was sent in a box too large for it with nothing but a single sheet of air bubble wrap tossed on top of the book to "protect" it. Unsurprisingly, my copy arrived damaged. I guess Amazon has reached the point where they are so dominant that they no longer have to care about the quality of their work. Amazon's completely inadequate packaging job did not affect my rating of the product itself.
Having all of the different special classes to choose from feels like it brings more customization to character creation. I really like the traps section. The expanded spell lists are pretty cool. Having the random tables for names will come in handy, also a section on making a quick encounter (helpful for a newb like me).
Every section of the book is great. I don't find the downtime activities parts extremely useful but they are nice to have.