I had other plans for today but I feel I must do this.
I had planned to do something else for Friday’s post. However, when I woke up I realised today I was going to visit the LGS and get the awesome alternate cover version of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. And I decided to give it a quick look and write about my first impressions.
Xanathar’s Guide to Everything is the first major rules expansion for D&D 5th Edition. Of course, Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and Volo’s Guide to Monsters provided a lot of new content, but this one contains a ton of rules and mechanics.
Chapter 1: Character Options
The first chapter contains a lot of new character options. We get 31 subclasses! Let me say that again. Thirty one subclasses. Most of them are new ones. The ones that aren’t new are the Monk’s Way of the Sun Soul, the Rogue’s Mastermind, and the Sorcerer’s Storm Sorcerer. All the others are new and come from last year’s insane amount of Unearthed Arcana articles. I believe I’ve written an analysis for most of them.
I’m not going to write an analysis for the classes here because that would take me a ton of time. However, I did see some changes in the wording so I’ll have to check them out thoroughly. If I see any important changes I’ll write an analysis for the subclasses affected.
What I’d like to talk about is how the subclasses are presented. Their mechanics are presented the same way like in the Player’s Handbook, with an added list of features at the beginning of each one. There are, however, two additions that I consider excellent.
The first one is that there’s content that helps you enrich your character, based on their class. So, for example, the bard gets sections about their defining work, their instrument, ther embarrassment, and their muse. Most of them come in roll table form, like character traits you get to roll, and there are three or four for each class. While these don’t mechanically impact the game, I believe they are really helpful for both the player and the Dungeon Master.
The second addition is character art. There’s one piece art for every subclass, which is pretty useful. It’s nice to have a visual idea of what your character may look like.
Seriously, there are a lot of tables. For example, there are tables for your parents, your birthplace, your background, your class training, and your occupation. A really nice bonus is a series of art pieces that depict the progression of a character from street urchin to a badass wizard sailor.
And last but not least, there are a few racial feats. They are 20 in number, and all of them come from an Unearthed Arcana article. Again, I’ll have to give a very thorough look at them to see if there are any mechanical changes, but I did saw some changes in the wording and in which race can get each feat.
Chapter 2: Dungeon Master’s Tools
At least for me, this is the best part of the book. First of all, we get some rules regarding, simultaneous effects, falling, sleep, adamantine weapons, and tying knots. Are these situational? Probably. Will they be helpful when they come to play? Definitely. However, I consider them more as clarifications and suggestions more than solid rules.
Then we come to a segment that was missing from the Player’s Handbook, and the game in general, and I’m absolutely delighted to see it here. We finally got some rules about tool proficiencies. For each of the tools, we get a description of their components. For example, we now know what the alchemist’s supplies include.
Also, we are presented with a couple of ideas on how the tools can be combined with skills. Moreover, we get some information on how we can use the tools, which is accompanied by a table with activities and their DCs.
After that, we get some extra rules on spellcasting. Again, I consider them clarifications based on the questions people have asked over the few years 5th Edition is out. A big part of these rules covers the areas of effect and how you can use them on the grid. I really liked the visual representations because they use dice to show the areas of effect.
Moving on, we get another product of the Unearthed Arcana articles, and that’s encounter building. This segment features the alternative rules on how to build encounters. The steps look the same like in the Unearthed Arcana article, but they seem a bit more refined. Again, if I do see any important changes, I’ll make sure to write about it later.
Speaking of encounters, the next part contains a huge amount of encounter tables. The tables feature the same environments that can be found on Appendix B of the Dungeon Master’s Guide(page 302), but greatly expand on them. There are four tables for each environment, each one for the levels 1-4, 5-10, 11-16, and 17-20.
It’s important to note that the tables are separated by the tiers of play. The encounter building rules, that are presented right before these tables, separate the levels differently. Technically, they are considered alternative rules and also the Dungeon Master should tailor the encounters based on the party but, still, that doesn’t sit well with me. It feels a bit weird. Finally, no CR is mentioned in the tables, as opposed to the ones in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.
The next segment is another one of my Unearthed Arcana favorites. This one is about traps. It contains pretty much the same content with the article. It’s not bad but I’d like to see a couple more examples of complex traps.
Then we get the downtime activities options, another Unearthed Arcana article. The foils have been renamed rivals, which looks better to me, and they continue to be amazing as an idea. The example rivals have seen some changes, but nothing major.
As for the downtime activities, I was hoping to see updates on some of them, but they seem to be exactly the same as in the Unearthed Arcana article. I had mentioned I wanted to see a couple more activities, and also some extra info on the existing ones. I guess I was the only one with this issue, because the Unearthed Arcana content that is featured in this book has received very good feedback through the surveys.
The final segment of this chapter contains magic items, as well as a few rules for them. I’m really happy to see magic item tables. They contain the new items, as well as the ones from the Dungeon Master’s Guide. The tables are first separated into minor and major items, and then they are divided by rarity. One thing I liked a lot in the tables is that they mention if an items needs attunement.
Chapter 3: Spells
The third chapter contains spells. I’m not going to go over them one by one. They are a combination of new spells, spells from the Elemental Evil Player’s Companion, and some from an Unearthed Arcana article. I applaud the decision to include the Elemental Evil Player’s Companion spells here because it reduces the amount of supplements a player (and a Dungeon Master) has to go through to find the desired spell.
There are two appendices in this book. The first one contains rules on running shared campaigns. I believe this appendix draws a lot of its content from how the D&D Adventures League works.
The second appendix is 18 pages long, and contains a ton of character names. It has names for the fantasy races, and then human names inspired from reality, such as French, Egyptian, and Greek names.
I’ve seen some controversy when it comes to this appendix. Let me tell you my experiences. On a forum I saw people complaining about this appendix. They were saying that this is wasted space and something else should be here instead of just names.
However, this morning I talked to the LGS owner and he was genuinely excited about this book. I mentioned the appendix and he was excited even for that. You may say that he was trying to “sell” me the book, but that’s not the case. He knew I was going to buy it because I had told him to keep a copy of the alternate cover version for me. In September.
As for me, I can see the reasoning of both sides. Yes, I could see these tables taking less space so that something else could be featured as well. But also I’m absolutely sure I’m going to use them. My only concern is that I didn’t find my name in there.
Before the final words
I have a few extra notes. The first note is about notes. Not from me but from Xanathar. Like in Volo’s Guide to Monsters, the book is full with notes from Xanathar. I believe they’re much funnier because they’re written from the perspective of a beholder.
The second note is about the art. I’m not sure how I should put it so bear with me. Let me say that it’s great, so I can get that out of the way first. The art as a whole goes well with the art style of 5th Edition. However, I saw some things that were a bit different and that was refreshing. For example, when I saw the various archetypes of a class next to each other it reminded me the 4th Edition Monster Manual. Also, I saw some details in some of the art pieces that made them look different, in a good way.
The third one is about the price to pages ratio. That was another thing I saw being discussed online. The issue was that the book is less than 200 pages long but has the same price with the Dungeon Master’s Guide, which was a bit over 300 pages long. Personally, I don’t mind. I got a book with good content, an amazing cover, and I’m happy about. I just had to mention this because I wanted this to be a complete first impressions review thingy.
Finally, I kept the most important one for the last. Page 5 of the book is gold, I believe. It contains a segment called “Ten rules to remember” featuring the most important rules of 5th Edition. That’s nice, especially for new Dungeon Masters. However, it also contains a segment “The DM adjudicates the rules” which, in my opinion, captures the spirit of 5th Edition, and how it sees the rules, perfectly. The rules are there to help the Dungeon Master and not to enslave them. This is something that even experienced Dungeon Masters may forget sometimes.
Overall, I’m very pleased with Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. I consider the first, and hopefully not the last, major rules expansion for 5th Edition to be a success. Of course, as you saw above, I don’t believe it’s perfect but it’s still a good addition to the system. I also like that they keep making alternate cover versions for some of the books. It’s good that they don’t give every book a special edition, and that they make these editions hobby store exclusives as a way to support them. For me, this supplement gets an A-.
I hope you found this first impressions thingy helpful. As I said, I was planning normal Friday post, but then I got this idea and it wouldn’t leave my brain. Next Friday I’ll be back to my regular posts, unless something else comes up again.
And until next time, have fun!
P.S: I really wanted my name to be on the Greek names list, but I kinda get it why it’s not there. So we’re still cool, Wizards.