D&D Book Review: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

Remember when I reviewed D&D books? I’ve bought so many since then, my tastes have changed, and I’ve grown as a person. But I never really did review more books. And with a new one out, its time to dust off the old 10 Point Scale and give it a once over.

I haven’t had much time to go over the book in depth. It is likely that the more I use it, the less I will enjoy it as I spot it’s flaws. The fact that it already comes with Errata is a bad sign. (Edit: Speaking of errata, I posted this with the wrong title. Oops.)

Actually, I haven’t had any time to read the book, really. I’ve skimmed it. And its pretty much the only topic of discussion at D&D on Wednesdays (outside of the table, that is)

I wish I could dock a point for its advertising campaign. I’ve had to go to a lot of work to remain as spoiler free as I can. Previews of the book have been used as a cheap reward and that annoys me a lot. Most of the D&D content that has been generated in the last 3 months has revolved around this, so that’s annoying.

You’ll get just the one from me.  (unless people pester me for more.)

So what’s in this book? A bunch of new player options for various classes, some new feats, some new rules for varying types, new spells, and a lot of little tables. A good chunk of this stuff was in Unearthed Arcana, which I can never keep on top of, so I have no idea what exactly was from there and what changes they’ve made.

I did do the pre-order and got the variant cover. I think the design for Volos was better, because I think silver and black are gorgeous together, but it still feels really cool. Hmm. Looking at it again, even if it was black and gold, say, the design is still really cluttered and its hard to tell what’s going on, even if you know.

As a refresher, here are our 10 point questions:

  1. Did I like it?
  2. Is it useful for players?
  3. Is it useful for DMs?
  4. Does it provide good prompts for stories and campaigns?
  5. Is it system agnostic?
  6. Is it setting agnostic?
  7. Is there enough lore?
  8. Is the visual design worthy?
  9. Will you refer to this often?
  10. Is it well indexed and easy to consult?
Question 1: Do you like it?

Without super deeply reading it and only getting a surface skim, yes. Yes I do. And most of that comes down to the random tables. If you check out the Volo’s review, I was so excited that each of the monstrous races (Or a few of them at least) had a quirk table. This book has 3 little tables for each class! And there are a few more pages of other tables! And if you use downtime to try and do something, I have a few tables of complications that may arise. So many little random world build charts!

And of course, there is other stuff as well, but its those tables that make me smile and what I will probably go back to most. (Unless I’m a player.) +1 for Like.

Question 2: Is it useful for players?

Yes, I’d say so. In addition to the, what, 31 new archetypes, the new racial feats, a lot of those tables I mentioned are for building interesting characters. There is also stuff giving players ideas on how to use tool proficiencies, and things to do in their down time. And new spells don’t hurt either.

This is basically 5e’s take on the Player’s Hand Book 2, it just includes stuff for the DM, which is an interesting take on the concept. I think players would benefit from having this book, although it is not required. +1 for Players

Question 3: Is it useful for DMs?

Yes, sort of. If I had to define this book, it would be an amalgamation sequel of the PNB and the DMG. The bastard love child of the two is apparently written by a beholder. Huh.

This book is not required by the DM, but it’s useful. Such things like the sections on traps and magic items are nice to have. The tool proficiencies and the downtime activities (like scroll scribing!) should have been around for ages.

I can see myself referring to this book a lot in the next few months, and then, after that, having it handy only when I am using something directly from it. I don’t think it will fall into obscurity as quickly as the SCAG.

However, there isn’t all that much for DMs. Honestly, I’ve probably been muddling through some of this stuff without codified rules, so it will be easier to not use it. I’m going to give it a tentative +0 for now. It does not need to be on the shelf of every DM. You can get along without it.

Question 4: Does it provide good prompts?

Hmm. I think campaign prompts are a little light, but for characters? +1. Each class has those 3 tables that help promt the characterization fo, and there are a bunch of other things as well that let you come up with cool thing.

Oh hey, there are 16 pages of tables for generating your character’s life. That is awesome.

And, depending on what you’re doing as a campaign, a DM should be able to take fully fleshed out characters and weave them into the story. Sometimes its easier than others, but knowing small tidbits about the character’s past can definitely make it easier to do.

Question 5: Is it system agnostic?

Nah. While there are things that you steal from the ideas listed, especially for downtime and the tool proffs, so much of this is dependent on 5e.

Well…. all of the character detail tables would be system agnostic. They might not be super useful in, say, a super hero or scifi game, not without modification, but it could be handy.

I’m going to go with a +0, for general results. Better you look here with no hope and find, rather than walk away disappointed.

Question 6: Is it setting agnostic?

Man, I’m kinda cringing looking back on my older reviews with this question. I guess playing the Forgotten Realms so much as dulled my ire. Or Past Matt was just an idiot. One of those.

This book is very setting agnostic. I don’t know if I’ve seen anything that pins it down. So +1 for that

I do find it annoying that the Barbarian flavor tables use the very stereotypical members of that class. All the classes do that. I suppose it makes sense, but I keep telling my players a class is a set of mechanics, not a roleplay guide, and here comes counter-proof. Le sigh.

Question 7: Is there enough lore?

Hmm. I think I’m going to have to say no. +0. Lore is things you can read out in a campaign to give flavor and background. I think There isn’t anything by that description, at least. I may need to workshop this question, but for right now, the null stays.

Question 8: Visual Design?

There is a lot of various art in here. For the class archetypes, filling random pages, just what you expect in 5e. Pretty looking stuff. The tables all seem to work as well, so I am inclined to dole out the +1. I do wish I could get a .zip of the art assets, like I got for ToA, but it doesn’t really matter that much.

Question 9: Will you refer to this often?

It’s hard to tell, of course. I think when I create a character, I’ll pull this out. Even for an NPC. It’s likely that I won’t use the tables too much, but just knowing the options are there will help.

Maybe as a DM, I’ll pull this out to do downtime activities and the like, or maybe flip through some of their complication tables if my campaign has stalled, but it’s not likely going to be in my weekly bag. +0.

Question 10: Is it well indexed and easy to consult?

Hmm. Not as such. If you’re going into this book for one specific thing, like the new archtypes or spells or something, thos sections are large enough that they can easily be found. But for the smaller things, it is tricky. And there isn’t an inde, just the table of contents. Maybe if the book was organized by table size? so large sections are clumped together, that could work. But it is not. +0.

Conclusion

It looks like we scored a 5/10. I don’t think this is a book that everyone needs, but it would be useful to have one copy near your table, at least for character creation and downtime use.

I’d say to have it near for spells, but I use an app anyway, so that won’t change. Some fun new spells are in the mix, which is cool, but I haven’t gone over them yet.

All in all, I think this book is pretty good and basically what was needed. I can’t think of anything I would have preferred more. I mean, there are some small things I want, vut for a whole book? This will do for now.

All we need is for AL to catch up with it…

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *