'Xanathar's Guide to Everything' Offers Many Choices for Players, DMs

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If the 5th edition core rules are the cake, “Xanathar’s Guide to Everything” is the creamy frosting on top to accentuate any “Dungeons & Dragons” campaign with sweetness for players and dungeon masters alike.

The guide is the first major rules expansion for 5th edition D&D and draws some of its information from “Princes of the Apocalypse” adventure and the “Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide.” However, there are plenty of new options, tools and spells to add some additional flavor to any adventure.

The book is neatly broken up into three major segments for characters, DM tools, and new spell lists and descriptions. Sprinkled throughout are the words of Xanathar himself, a beholder who acts as a crime lord in Waterdeep and the keeper of knowledge. Be prepared for some gallows humor, but what else would you expect from a beholder?

Each of the character classes gets some new subclasses for players to further specialize their heroes. These extras also help provide background flavor to characters, making them stand out from the ordinary heroes of the realm, while also providing additional powers and abilities to help them be the best they can.

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They also reintroduce some specialties that were a part of previous D&D campaigns in years gone by. But these are upgraded and updated for the 5th edition, and players will enjoy the different varieties and options they can have for their characters.

A section called “This Is Your Life” helps provide some ideas and guidance about developing the backstory of characters. In addition to granting some interesting tidbits, these origins, heritage, and life events can be spun into adventure hooks or full-fledged campaigns.

For example, a character who never knew their parents could receive a strange missive from a foreign land, asking them to “return home” to battle some unseen threat. But could it be a plot to eliminate a potential rival from the line to the throne?

The section for dungeon masters focuses on refining some of the tools already available to DMs. Guidance about falling damage, spellcasting, and other conditions are outlined to clear up any ambiguity and help campaigns run smoother.

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A section about random encounters breaks down the myriad of possibilities by environments, helping them to make more sense when players are hoping to get some rest but are disturbed by bumps in the night. It adds some “realism” to campaign encounters and makes it more believable when the party bumps into an environmentally-correct character.

For long-standing campaigns, downtime between plot points is usually glossed over, but what if characters could put that time to good use, adding to the role playing possibilities? Whether it is learning new skills or just carousing at bars, there are tools to help DMs flesh out character desires when they are hanging around, waiting for the next quest.

While “Dungeons & Dragons” is filled with magic and monsters, the judicious use of magic items is key to keep the balance of power intact and to keep those items feeling special when they are obtained. If everyone has a magic sword, does anyone really gain an advantage?

The guide delves into how magic items are awarded, which items are appropriate for characters, and lists out some magic items that are quite different. Who doesn’t want a cloak of billowing that can flap about dramatically as a bonus action?

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Spellcasters can also get some help with new spells, but DMs are warned to introduce them gently, so players don’t get overwhelmed with choices. Nearly every magic-user, from bards to wizards, will get some new additions to their spell lists, and the possibilities range from the whimsical to the powerful.

There are two appendix that can help DMs create spontaneous character names and how to deal with shared campaigns. Additionally, the guide looks at the 10 core rules that can trip up players and DMs alike. Experienced players can use them to refresh themselves and possibly discover they have been doing bonus action spells wrong all along.

“Xanathar’s Guide to Everything” comes in two different covers, but both feature the many eyes of the beholder crime lord and his beloved goldfish, Sylgar. The alternate cover is only available in hobby stores, and both variations are available now.

As always, players should check with their DMs to see how much of the new information can and will be incorporated into existing campaigns.

A word of warning: Never attempt to argue with Xanathar, and never make any motions toward Sylgar. This is a beholder who has his many eyes in secret places.

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For those who play digitally, Fantasy Grounds has the new guide ready to incorporate into any campaign. It is filled with all the same information found in the book, and it is easily searchable for any detail needed during action.

There are two items bundled in the package. The full book with all the DM stuff included is joined by a version that has just the players information, so no cheating allowed.