Dungeons & Dragons: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

Anyone who has followed D&D since the older days will recognize the words “Unearthed Arcana”. This was title of a rules supplement for the first edition of AD&D. That book added a plethora of new optional classes and rules to the core game. Over the years since, there have been other Unearthed Arcana books released for various editions. These days, “Unearthed Arcana” comes in the form of downloadable rules and options that Wizards of the Coast release to players for testing purposes. This book, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything is a compilation and a refinement of several of those releases.

This should not really be looked at as a core rulebook. But instead, as a compendium of options for both the players and Dungeon Masters to consider. It contains information that should interest both. Let’s take a look at what’s included:

  • New Character Subclasses and backgrounds
  • New optional rules for DMs (resting, player skills, situational damage, traps, items, encounters, etc)
  • New magical items
  • New spells
  • Tables for name generation

The bulk of the book focuses on new options for existing character classes. Many of these options were previously presented in Unearthed Arcana articles, but they appear here more polished and refined. These, combined with the new spells and magical items really make up the most appealing content. The middle section contains new rules and options for Dungeon Masters. A lot these are very specific and situational, but come in handy nonetheless.

I personally find the subclasses included here to be of exceptional quality. There’s so many good options presented here!  But, players hoping for entirely new classes and races are out of luck. It seems that Wizards of the Coast is a bit gun shy about releasing such things. (Although we did get a taste of some new races in Volo’s Guide). Regardless, this book makes a fine addition to the 5E lineup. In my mind, this is a resource that DMs and players can borrow from in pieces. It has the potential to enhance and expand an already excellent game.But without stepping on the toes of the DM but overriding whatever house rules he or she might already have in place. That being said, I would like to see something a little more substantial in the future. I think 5E has played it safe long enough. It’s time to see some new campaign settings, classes, etc. I want to see a Manual of the Planes, a Dragon Lance book, a Monster Manual II…. something! May 2018 will see the release of Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, this new rule expansion will include monsters and playable races. So we’re getting there.

With this post, I am now all caught up on official Fifth Edition releases. From now on, posts will be made as products are released. I may occasionally take a look at some of the more popular third-party releases. I also plan to post updates on the site in regards to my upcoming home campaign. So stay tuned!

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation

Dungeons & Dragons: Tomb of Annihilation

Finally! We are up the most recent D&D adventure for 5th Edition. In fact, at the time of this writing, this is the adventure that is currently being run in official game sessions. Of course, I’m talking about Tomb of Annihilation.

Tomb of Annihilation is an adventure set in the world of Forgotten Realms. It takes place in tropical region of Chult. This is an area that could be best be compared to the jungles of South America. Chult is also popular as a location populated with Dinosaurs! Yes, we finally have some official dinosaur action in fifth edition D&D. The adventure is designed for players of level 1 and will take them to level 11 or even higher.

The storyline to this adventure is an interesting one and it actually ties-in to the classic D&D adventure Tomb of Horrors (which can be found in the 5E book, Tales from the Yawning Portal). The focus of this adventure revolves around something called The Death Curse. This mysterious event is causing anyone who has been raised from the dead by magical means to begin rotting away into nothing. The source of this curse has been identified as coming from a strange tomb hidden in the depths of the jungle. Players must brave this deadly dungeon and eliminate the cause of the curse.

This seems to be a very well put together adventure. The book contains more than enough information and resources to give the DM everything he needs to referee the game. There’s also plenty of content here. This will not be a short adventure at all. So expect this to provide weeks or even months of entertainment. The biggest challenge to this adventure seems to be the sheer difficulty level of the dungeon itself. This is certainly not a storyline to present to rookie players. It’s also not one that should be attempted by an inexperienced DM. The traps and encounters in this book are downright brutal and punishing. This is made more so due to the fact that the Death Curse prevents any normal means of resurrection. It’s also worthy of mentioning that this book also contains two new background options for players. But this alone does not make it a worthy purchase for players, in my opinion.

I’m looking forward to diving into this book once I have managed to get my DM skills up to snuff. But I don’t expect that to be any time soon. Regardless, Tomb of Annihilation appears to make a fine addition to the growing selection of adventures for 5E.

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation

Dungeons & Dragons: Tales from the Yawning Portal

We’re almost caught up with our look at Dungeons & Dragons products. Today, I’m going to talk about a book that I’m super-excited about; Tales from the Yawning Portal. This book is a collection of classic dungeons that span all ages of D&D. Here they have been archived, polished, and given the official 5th edition treatment. Let me be clear and state that this book is not an adventure module. It’s also not a cover-to-cover campaign. But rather what we have here is a Greatest Hits collection of classic D&D dungeons and scenarios.

So, with that in mind, what does this book actually contain? Well, here’s a breakdown of the dungeons included in this product:

The Sunless Citadel – Originally published for 3rd Edition, The Sunless Citadel was an instant classic. It’s often been said that the original adventure is what brought D&D back into the mainstream in the early 2000’s. This is an adventure designed to take players from Level 1-3.

The Forge of Fury – A sequel to The Sunless Citadel. This adventure piggybacks off the previous classic. The contents of this module will take players from level 3-5.

The Hidden Shrine of Tamochan – This is an old one, dating back to 1979! First edition D&D at its origin. Originally a Greyhawk adventure, this dungeon has a very Mayan feel to it and focuses on traps and out-of-the box thinking. This is a classic, tricky dungeon crawl designed for 5th level characters.

White Plume Mountain – Another classic 1e dungeon filled with traps, monsters, and old school tropes. This one is a long time favorite of grognards like myself. In fact, this was the first D&D experience I ever had as a player back when I was about twelve years old. This version of the dungeon has been tweaked for 8th level players.

Dead in Thay – This module was originally invented during the 5th edition playtest as part of the D&D Encounters series. It has been modified for home play and slightly redesigned for 9th level characters.

Against the Giants – This adventure is actually a combination of three classic pre-1st edition modules. They have been refined and linked into one full-scale adventure. Again, this is CLASSIC retro D&D. I can’t stress how excited I am to see this in modern print. This adventure is designed for players of 11th level.

Tomb of Horrors – THIS IS IT! The one that started it all. Tomb of Horrors is one of the most revered and celebrated dungeons of all time. Finally, it has been officially modernized and brought to print for 5e players. This dungeon focuses more on role playing and tactics than simple hack and slash. It’s a brutal, unforgiving deathtrap that is designed to be undertaken by high level characters.

As you can see, the adventures found in this book are not presented as part of an arching storyline, but rather they are intended as standalone encounters that can be cherry-picked and inserted into any ongoing campaign. After several full 5e campaigns, I’m glad to see WotC has decided to step back and provide a collection of classic time-tested adventures that DMs and players can enjoy however they see fit.

This book also contains a small appendix of magical items and monsters, making it even more valuable for any DM’s collection. I personally look forward to running a number of these dungeons in the future once my home campaign gets started. In my personal opinion, this book is a MUST HAVE for any serious 5th edition DM.

 

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation

Dungeons & Dragons: Storm King’s Thunder

 

Still working through my backlog of 5th edition D&D products, I am proud to share my thoughts on another official adventure: Storm King’s Thunder.

This adventure returns to the familiar setting of the Sword Coast in the world of the Forgotten Realms. This adventure is designed to take players from level 5-11. However, if needed, the book also presents a small lead-in adventure to get new players up to the level 5 cap. Another interesting feature of this adventure is that the storyline itself piggybacks off of the events in the previous Tyranny of Dragons campaign. In fact, Wizards of the Coast even took the initiative to provide some potential story hooks to link the events of this book to all of the other adventures they’ve published for 5E thus far.  It’s nice to see the lore being tied together between all the products.

As with the other adventures published thus far, I’ve not actually ran this module at the table. But just by reading and flipping through the pages, it’s very obvious that Wizards of the Coast is upping their quality control. Of all the modules they’ve put for 5E to date, Storm King’s Thunder may be the cleanest and most sensibly structured. For this reason, running this book should be manageable for even a rookie DM as long as they are willing to spend a little time reading the adventure and learning the material. That said, this is no “on-rails” module. Storm King’s Thunder is actually a very open-ended adventure. But one so well written, that it makes the life of the DM easy.

The biggest drawback might simply be with the content itself. The story focuses on the Giants, which are very Nordic by nature. For many players, this may not feel like a very “swords and sorcery” adventure. But personally, I praise WotC for being unique and a providing a variety of settings for their official publications. If anything, I feel that the storyline in this book actually helps the Sword Coast thrive and grow as a campaign world.

The book also offers a few perks that have become standard with officially published adventure modules. It contains a handful of new monsters and magical items that can easily be adapted for other campaigns.

On a personal note, this would not be my first choice for a 5E game. I think I would prefer something a little more traditional. But Storm King’s Thunder would certainly make for a good change of pace further down the road. It’s variety like this that allows Fifth Edition D&D to claim the tabletop crown.

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation

Dungeons & Dragons: Curse of Strahd

My first Dungeons & Dragons post of the new year is a look at the long awaited adventure: Curse of Strahd. For those of you who might not know, “Strahd” is a popular villain. Count Strahd von Zarovich is an infamous vampire. Essentially, he’s D&D’s version of Count Dracula. He rules over the mysterious country of Barovia (which is actually not a country, but its own demi-plane), from his castle Ravenloft. This adventure is actually a 5E remake of the original “Ravenloft” module that was released back in the days of 1E. When I learned that Wizards of the Coast were modernizing Raventloft for fifth edition, I was elated. This is an adventure that I had read about countless times, but never had the opportunity to play or host.

Curse of Strahd is the first 5E product that doesn’t take place exclusively in the world of Forgotten Realms. Instead, players find themselves mysteriously trapped in the plane of Barovia. Their goal is to escape and return to their homeworld. The book does include a few mini “hook adventures” to help DMs get the players to Barovia. One of these is a Forgotten Realms specific hook, (so we still haven’t broken those Forgotten Realms chains completely). The adventure is designed for players of level 1-10.

Curse of Strahd is a very open-ended adventure. The entire story takes place in a relatively small area, but players are not railroaded down a particular path. The flow of the adventure is unlike anything published for 5E thus far.  This can make the adventure a bit of a challenge for rookie DMs, so be warned.

With that being said, it is the mood and setting of this module is what really sets it apart from other adventures published so far.  This is a classic horror campaign and it’s done very well.  Instead of a medieval swords & sorcery, this adventure has a very “Transylvanian Gothic” feel to it. Personally, that is a something that I find very appealing. And I’m not alone in that assessment. Barovia was so popular at one time, that back in the 2E days, it was even given its own campaign setting: Ravenloft.

This is an adventure that I can’t wait to experience firsthand. But, just like with the previous adventure “Out of the Abyss”, I’m certain I’ll need a little more experience before trying to DM something on this scale. But the day will come! I’m glad to see WOTC modernizing and reprinting some classic modules, I hope the trend continues

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation

Dungeons & Dragons: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

 

Next up on my list of 5th Edition D&D products is the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. This is a sourcebook that provides information on world of the Forgotten Realms, the official gameworld of 5E.

Old school fans might remember the original Forgotten Realms campaign setting boxed set from the days of 1E  and expect this to be the modern equivalent. Sadly, this is nothing of the sort. Instead, what we have here is a relatively short book that glosses over many of the famous NPCs and locations found in the Sword Coast. The lore and color-text is certainly interesting, but it does not provide much of the deep info that most Dungeon Masters may be looking for when planning to run a full campaign in the realms.

One thing that the book does very well is provide some new mechanics for various races and classes. Much of this is specific to the Realms, but can be easily adapted to any homebrew campaign. There’s options for some realms-specific subraces, game mechanics, and character backgrounds. All of this is very well done. Sadly, I had hoped to see a bestiary or some new spells to add to the game. None of that is included here.

The information included in the book is certainly useful and welcome, but I really would have liked to see a more complete “campaign setting” instead of this small sourcebook. The book is priced at $40.00, which I feel is a little steep. I feel a $20 pricepoint would be more acceptable.

All in all, I feel this book would be best enjoyed by DMs who really enjoy the world of Forgotten Realms or are looking for some worldbuilding ideas. But the majority of players can probably skip this by.

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation

Dungeons & Dragons: Out of the Abyss

Next up in D&D product lineup is another adventure/campaign: Out of the Abyss. This is adventure is part of the “Rage of Demons” campaign, and was designed to give modern players a heavy dose of 1st edition nostalgia. It pits players against classic fiends and monsters, straight out of the pages of early first-edition texts.

This module is set in the Forgotten Realms and designed for players level 1-15. However, despite starting at a low level, it’s not one that is recommended for beginners. The open-ended feel and campaign-specific ruleset would likely end up being too much of a challenge for rookie Dungeon Masters. Even the content of the adventure itself is best enjoyed by experienced players. Being an adventure that pits players against demons and other powerful creatures, it will be all to easy for inexperienced players to find their brand new character dead and gone after just a few sessions. This one will require some thought and discipline to complete.

That being said, what we have here is a very memorable adventure that takes place almost entirely in the Underdark. The book contains official 5e stats for a handful of classic Underdark monsters as well as official stats for some legendary demonic characters. So, it can also be quite a valuable resource for DMs who are looking to add to their fifth-edition library – even if they don’t plan on running the campaign itself.

As usual, I’m not giving a chapter-by-chapter review of the adventure, as I haven’t actually played through it. But after studying the product in detail, I’m excited to see that Wizards of the Coast is actually making good on their promise to make 5E a version of D&D that will appeal to players of all generations. Being a huge fan of 1E, this product really hits all the right nostalgia buttons for me, while managing to stay true to the modern ruleset. This is one that I cannot wait to experience in the future. But before I tackle an adventure of this magnitude, I feel like I will need a little bit more experience under my belt.

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation

Dungeons & Dragons: The Rise of Tiamat

My next D&D post is here! My last entry was an overview of the introductory adventure for Fifth Edition, Hoard of the Dragon Queen. This time, I’m taking a look at the sequel to that acclaimed adventure: The Rise of Tiamat.

As mentioned above, this adventure is actually the second (and final) part of the Tyranny of Dragons campaign. It is designed for characters level 8 and above and should end with them around level 14 or 15.

This chapter of the Tyranny of Dragons campaign is quite a bit different from the first half. First of all, the pacing of the adventure seems to be much more open. DMs will likely do a lot of flipping back and forth with this book. Being non-linear is a good thing, but it also means that rookie DMs will likely have a much tougher job than someone with a little more experience under their belt. Also, the scope of this adventure is epic. Regardless of the outcome, the consequences of this adventure will result in some MAJOR changes to the Forgotten Realms game world. So if you’re playing this with intentions of continuing your campaign beyond the 15th level, you’ll likely have to do some major customizing to whatever future adventure you’re likely to run.

Despite being a bit tough on the Dungeon Master, the contents of this book are a treasure trove. There are several excellent “dungeons” to be played within these pages. As well as some really great opportunities for entertaining role playing. I can already see a hundred different ways that this adventure could end up being something that players will talk about for years to come.

All in all, the module is very well written and really gives players a good look at much of the mythology of the Realms. Many famous locations and NPCs are present in this adventure. It seems Wizards of the Coast really wanted to start 5E off with a bang. This adventure manages to do just that.  – Just come prepared. This is especially true if you’re the DM. You will have your work cut out for you.

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation

Update: Dungeons & Dragons Plans

As the new year quickly approaches, I wanted to share my plans regarding D&D. If you read my D&D posts, you’ll know that my son and I spent a large portion of this year attending D&D games at a local hobby store. However, a change in my work schedule put an end to those outings. So, instead, I’ve been in the planning stages of starting a home-based campaign. My current goal in regards to D&D is catch up on my book reviews before the end of the year. Then, when we start our home campaign in 2018, I’ll make regular posts and updates on our progress.

Despite have a little 5E experience under my belt at this point, I’m still very much a greenhorn. My decades away from the game really took their toll on me, so it’s like learning all over again. I’ll start making some D&D related posts next week. So if you’re a follower with an interest in this subject, stay tuned!

Dungeons & Dragons: Starter Set

As I promised a few months ago, I’m going to be making posts discussing each of the official Dungeons & Dragons supplements that are available. To date, I’ve only really discussed the core rule books and player supplements. But there’s a number of other products available. Today, I’ll be discussing the D&D Starter Set.

I want to start by discussing what this set actually is. If you’re someone who is interested in playing Dungeons & Dragons, most people will tell you that you’ll need to go out and buy a set of dice and a copy of the Player’s Handbook. That’s pretty accurate, but what if you’re still on the fence and you’re not sure if you want to sink a bunch of money into the hobby yet? Well, that’s where the Starter Set comes in.

The Starter Set is a great entry point into the world of Dungeons & Dragons. You can find it at most hobby shops or book stores. The set actually comes in a big cardboard box. It contains the following items:

  • Starter Set Rulebook  (softcover)
  • Lost Mind of Phandelver adventure (softcover)
  • a pack of pre-generated character sheets
  • a set of polyhedral dice

The Starter Set Rulebook is essentially a compact version of the D&D game rules. It’s enough to teach you the basics, but if you decide to get serious you will eventually want to purchase a copy of the Player’s Handbook. For existing players, there’s not really much of value here.

The next main object of interest in the box is the “Lost Mine of Phandelver” adventure. This is included in the box so that consumers will have a sample adventure to play. Aside from containing the adventure module itself, the booklet also contains a small bestiary of the monsters used in the adventure. (This eliminates the need for a copy of the Monster Manual). If you’re an existing player/dungeon master, this adventure is likely the main reason you purchased the Starter Set – as it is quite a good sized adventure that is designed for level 1 players. It is set in the Forgotten Realms game world.

As I mentioned above, the D&D Starter Set is really marketed towards brand spanking new players. For the price of only $20.00 they can get everything they need to take their first step into Dungeons & Dragons. That being said, if it’s a hobby that you enjoy and end up sticking with your next purchase will want to be the Player’s Handbook. I glossed over that book in an older post, but I think I’ll actually be making an updated post in the coming days that goes a little more in depth.

If you’re a Dungeon Master (game referee) or even a player who likes to read up on “behind the scenes info”, the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Monster Manual  are probably going to be your next purchase.  Another great book to pick up is Volo’s Guide to Monsters – this books serves as both an add-on to the Monster Manual as well as some in-depth information that bother players and Dungeon Masters will find helpful.

In the future, I’ll be discussing some of the adventure books that have been publish since the release of Dungeons & Dragons 5e. Once we’re all caught up, I’ll be discussing items as they are released.

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation