Published on February 8th, 2018 | by Guest Writer0
Xanathar’s Guide To (Nearly) Everything
Xanathar’s Guide to Everything made me want to play Dungeons and Dragons again.
by Will McMillan
More to the point it made me want to run a game. As a player I have been involved in the tabletop RPG world for a hair over a decade now, but for the first time I now feel like I have enough resources at my fingertips to give me the confidence to try my hand at Dungeon Mastery.
Dungeon Master Help
The information in the various tables throughout the book isn’t new, but it is better organised than I’ve ever seen it before. There are new tables for skill check results, for downtime, for dungeon building and traps. If you can come up with it, you no longer have to because you can just roll a die and pick whatever the table tells you to. Experienced Dungeon Masters won’t need it and I imagine many DMs won’t use it all the time, but it’s there if you need to fall back on it, or if you don’t have the time or energy to pour into next weekend’s game.
Gone are the days of rifling through a half dozen books to find the perfect monster for an encounter, simply flip to one of Xanathar’s many helpful charts, and choose a monster based on the environment and the level of your players. Struggling with spell effect radius or imbalanced combat? Xanathar has helpful chapters just for you. Want to reward your players with some neat magical gear that won’t break your game? Xanathar is your man… Well, he’s your beholder anyway, and his book is certainly beautiful.
Not everything in the guide is designed for DMs of course. The first seventy-three pages (over a quarter of the book’s one hundred and ninety-two pages!) are devoted to new class options that do a great deal to broaden player choice. Want to be a sorcerer who is devoted to one of the gods? Divine Soul should punch your ticket nicely. Wanna play a bard but feel like they don’t get to shine enough in the combat portion of the game? The College of Swords is for you. Drunken Master? You’ve got it! And those are just the mechanical bits.
With Xanathar’s Guide to Everything you could roll up a fully developed and realized history, with a background and a family and everything without having to make so much as a single creative choice. It’s not something every player needs, but it’s certainly a neat thing to have.
Art & Production
Kate Irwin’s art direction has led the illustration team to create a book chock full of some of the most vibrant and interesting fantasy art in the DnD line, to say nothing of the charming margin notes from the book’s would be author Xanathar, the Beholder crime lord of Waterdeep whose love of his pet fish and utter lack of respect for just about everything else makes for a genuinely engaging read. For all of its charts and tables, this is a book whose creators understand that it is part of a game and should at least be fun to read.
It’s Not Perfect Though
On the negative side, I found many of the new spells to be somewhat unexciting and beyond the new class options very little of the book is new content. It’s mostly just rearranged content from the older books. It’s better arranged in my opinion, and consolidated well enough that you could run a game using only this book and the DM’s Guide But the lack of more new information in an expansion is disappointing.
The final twenty or so pages are a made of tables upon tables of names for every conceivable racial and ethnic group one could imagine. It’s a neat addition in theory, but it seems more like padding than anything else and I feel those twenty pages could have been better spent on more new content.
In short, what is new is very good, and what is old is better organised than it ever has been before, but it’s more old than new and that is a bit disappointing. The fact that one could now theoretically make an entire (though simple) campaign just by rolling on various table is interesting, but not a thing I’ve heard anyone ask for or that I imagine many would be excited to do.
I love all of the new content and cannot wait to try out many of the new class options. The streamlined accessibility of the rules for everything from traps to downtime really makes the idea of running a game far less daunting to a novice. But the book suffers for being a bit of a rehash of older material for three quarters of its length. It’s a fun read to be sure, (more fun than most RPG supplements I’ve encountered) but not a necessary part of every role player’s library, but it’s certainly worthy of the shelf space it takes up. If you’re a collector of DnD books, or a huge fan of 5e it’s worth picking up. But if you are a casual player or are looking for the most new content for your dollar, Xanathar’s Guide is one you can probably do without.
I’d give it seven and a half beholder eyes out of ten. Ask for it as a gift or buy it if you want to fill out your collection, as everything in the book is very good. But don’t feel to disappointed if you can’t get a hold of a copy, as relatively little of what is in the book is new.