Dungeon and Dragons – Xanathar’s Guide to Everything review

Dungeon and Dragons

If you have been specifically following my reviews and are likewise an avid Dungeons & Dragons fan, you will immediately notice that I have skipped over reviewing Tomb of Annihilation and went straight to this glory of a book! Alas, this is partly negligence, but mostly because I have been testing and playing Tomb of Annihilation to see how it sizes up against players’ feedback. But for this book, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, it’s easy to scan and understand the value it presents to the community and the D&D franchise overall!

A limited-edition cover that was only available in game stores on November 10, and was illustrated by Hydro74.

Let’s Clear Some Things First…

For lore fans, the Xanathar is a title given to the Beholder who rules the Xanathar’s Thieves Guild in Skullport. Skullport is an infamous black market town in the depths by Waterdeep, a key city in the world of The Forgotten Realms. Many Beholders have taken on the mantle of Xanathar, so it isn’t clear who is the current one. The book touches on the Xanathar and how its organization generally operates, but it does not provide enough material to make it a part of an adventure (of course many experienced Dungeon Masters won’t find this an issue and cobble together some house-rule material).

Compared to its prior supplement, Volo’s Guide to Everything, which effectively expanded on the 5th Edition’s Monster Manual, this book is partly an expansion for the Player’s Handbook and provides a number of options that can be classified as an expansion to the Dungeon Master’s Guide. There are over 25 new subclasses (some a repeats from Princes of the Apocalypse, this was done to qualify the subclasses for the Adventurer’s Guild organized play), to mention one significant aspect of the book. Much of the content in this book was compiled and finalized through several public playtests on Wizards of the Coast’s Unearthed Arcana section, so you will notice shifts and changes to these details as it went from draft to final form! No Raven Queen patron, as it was combined with the Hexblade (I actively play a Warlock, so I will notice this).

Over the course of the next several screenshots, I’ll touch on some cool aspects about its other features.

Showcasing subclasses with a set of illustrations hearkens back to prior editions where you can see the visual flavor birthed from the minds of their developers.

Two things: Class icons, class background flavor options, and comments from the Xanathar. Great options and additions!

This page is important! WotC is very aware of the type of discussions the community has and laid out Ten Rules to Remember. And it settles a variety of arguments currently raging through the gameplay culture.

Options and ideas for usage with Tools. Often times, unless a DM was creative and informed, these Tools that were acquired early on as characters were left underutilized or forgotten. This brings them forward to inspire players and Dungeon Masters alike on how they can be used effectively.

If you don’t already have an Encounter Table prepared for varying situations, there is a section in the book that goes into tables that accommodate encounter levels and associated terrain! So good!

A number of these spells were seen in the Unearthed Arcana playtests and they are welcome additions to the official list of spells. For me as a Pact of the Blade Warlock, I found the Cantrips very useful.

Found earlier in the Subclass section, the new Racial Feats are interesting. For those who use D&D Beyond and have pre-ordered the book, there is an inclusion for Monster Race Feats!

There are some pretentious fans who did not care for this page. But if you are Dungeon Mastering, this is a quick resource to generate NPC names. Even for players who can’t figure out a name but want to stay within flavor, this is helpful in getting an idea of what to name your characters.

What It’s Not…

  • An adventure. Like Volo’s Guide, this is an options and rules supplement. There are a lot of “quality of life” options, creative things that try to anchor the story element for the game. Sure the Encounter Table lends itself towards the combat element, but overall these are all ideas and options that both players and DMs can choose to keep or let go. But there is no story to be had! Unless you, for some reason, are hooked on the Xanathar itself… there isn’t a lot going on.
  • Complex. The book is broken down into sections that are easy to understand. There are little to no rules that you have to reference actively, as much of those aspects exist for the Core Rulebooks (PHB, DMG, MM). It is an important resource for those wanting more options and doesn’t have the time to House-Rule a bunch of material. I’ve seen both newcomers and veterans share their love and hate for this book, but it is overall helpful.
  • PHB/DMG/MM 2.0. Piggybacking on the previous point, this is more of a 1.5 to the Core Rulebooks. It doesn’t help that there is no clear delineation in the title as to how to interpret what book means what. Pathfinder adopted a numerical classification as to what each of their release represents (example: Bestiary, Bestiary 2, Bestiary 3, etc).

What It Does Well…

  • Settle disputes. The Ten Rules to Remember are a favorite of mine, as the page clarifies certain technicalities that have been debated at game tables quite often. Multiple stacks of Advantage and Disadvantages? All the technicalities concerning Proficiency Bonuses? Trying to do multiple Concentration actions? It settles those disputes. Plus, the important point it makes on that very same page? The DM adjudicates the rules! Take that, Rules Lawyers!
  • Provide more subclass options. There are exactly 31 subclasses available in this book! Some were carried over from Princes of the Apocalypse, but c’mon! That is a lot of subclasses. The playstyles and options available differ greatly, almost feeling like unique classes of their own.
  • DM Toolkit. Thematically I have noticed that much of the adventure paths can work for veteran players, but these supplements are geared more to help people on a level of casual that 4th Edition failed to do. The philosophy is in the design, 4th Edition tried to reinvent the D&D sandbox by deriving a tabletop version of Everquest/WorldOfWarcraft, but 5th Edition simplified the system and aims to provide options for more people to play with. Now, more than ever, we are seeing a surge of people jumping onto D&D, so this book is a welcome sight. This is especially for those who need some ideas, not having access to a support group who already have these tools from their history of playing D&D.

The holiday season is now. Most likely you or your loved one who is into D&D already has this book, but if not— this is a welcome addition, especially if you are not big into developing your own data tables (which is a common activity throughout tabletop gaming history).

Rating: 5/5 Atoms

Dimensions – 8.5 x 0.6 x 11.1 inches
Hardcover, 192 pages
Full color

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything is published by Wizards of the Coast. Check out this link for more information: http://dnd.wizards.com/products/tabletop-games/rpg-products/xanathars-guide-everything
You can purchase now at your local retailer, or Amazon.

The book was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

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Jaynesis Ong
Jaynesis Ong 162 posts

He is currently a graphics designer by trade, illustrator for indie games, fashionisto, film production assistant, socialite, sampler of fine music, and taster of various new MMO games. JB likes destructive walks on the beach, visceral plot points, maniacal villains, and collapsing galactic empires.