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In-Depth Review of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

by Jae
Xanathar's Guide to Everything review

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything is a significant expansion for the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons. It serves as a comprehensive supplement, offering a wealth of new rules, subclasses, spells, and tools for both players and Dungeon Masters (DMs). Known for its broad applicability, the book enhances the gameplay experience across various aspects of D&D.

Quick Review of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything is one of our most beloved Dungeons & Dragons rule books. If you don’t care about anything else, we’d consider this a must buy book for anyone looking to expand their game beyond the core rules. You can buy it for around $28 on Amazon from Wizards of the Coast. If you’re looking for more about the book before you buy it, enjoy our in-depth breakdown below.

Content Overview

Subclasses for Every Class

  • Diverse Options: The book introduces over 25 new subclasses, one for each class in the Player’s Handbook, significantly expanding character customization.
  • Highlighted Subclasses: Notable additions include the Hexblade Warlock, the Divine Soul Sorcerer, and the Samurai Fighter, each offering unique mechanics and flavor.

Rules and Tools for DMs

  • Expanded Dungeon Master Tools: Includes guidelines on traps, downtime activities, and more.
  • Random Encounter Tables: Provides detailed tables for different environments, enhancing the spontaneity of adventures.

New Spells and Magic Items

  • Additional Spells: Introduces a range of new spells, adding depth to spellcasters’ repertoires.
  • Magical Items and Artifacts: Offers a variety of new magical items, expanding the options for both players and DMs.

Quality of Life Improvements

  • Streamlined Rules: Clarifies and streamlines certain aspects of the 5th Edition ruleset.
  • Shared Storytelling Tools: Emphasizes collaborative storytelling, with tools for fleshing out character backstories and motivations.

A Detailed Look at New Subclasses in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything introduces a range of new subclasses for each of the classes featured in the Player’s Handbook. Here’s an overview of these subclasses:

  1. Barbarian
    • Path of the Ancestral Guardian: Focuses on calling upon ancestral spirits to protect themselves and allies.
    • Path of the Storm Herald: Allows the barbarian to channel elemental fury, manifesting in different environmental auras.
    • Path of the Zealot: Combines barbarian rage with divine zeal, offering powerful damage bonuses.
  2. Bard
    • College of Glamour: Grants abilities to charm and inspire others, focusing on performance and enchantment.
    • College of Swords: Blends artistry with swordplay, making the bard a more combat-focused performer.
    • College of Whispers: Uses the power of secrets and fear, specializing in psychological manipulation.
  3. Cleric
    • Forge Domain: Focuses on creation and crafting, providing bonuses for working with metal and fire.
    • Grave Domain: Concerned with the balance of life and death, excelling at thwarting death and undead.
  4. Druid
    • Circle of Dreams: Enhances healing and offers abilities connected to the Feywild.
    • Circle of the Shepherd: Specializes in summoning and communicating with spirits, boosting summoning spells and abilities.
  5. Fighter
    • Arcane Archer: Combines archery skills with arcane magic, infusing arrows with magical effects.
    • Cavalier: A mounted combat specialist with abilities focused on mounted charges and protecting others.
    • Samurai: Offers enhanced combat prowess and resilience, along with social interaction bonuses.
  6. Monk
    • Way of the Drunken Master: Uses deceptive, erratic movements to confuse enemies.
    • Way of the Kensei: Allows monks to specialize in specific weapons, becoming masters of certain arms.
    • Way of the Sun Soul: Grants the ability to channel ki into radiant energy blasts, similar to a ranged spellcaster.
  7. Paladin
    • Oath of Conquest: Focuses on domination and subjugation of enemies, combining martial might with fear tactics.
    • Oath of Redemption: Dedicated to nonviolence and diplomacy, with abilities centered on healing and protection.
  8. Ranger
    • Gloom Stalker: Specializes in darkness and stealth, with bonuses in darkness and surprise attacks.
    • Horizon Walker: Geared towards protecting the world from extraplanar threats, with abilities to move and attack across different planes.
    • Monster Slayer: Focused on hunting and defeating supernatural and monstrous creatures.
  9. Rogue
    • Inquisitive: Excels in uncovering secrets, lies, and deducing clues, with a focus on perception and insight.
    • Mastermind: Specializes in manipulation, deceit, and tactical analysis.
    • Scout: Combines rogue abilities with wilderness survival skills.
    • Swashbuckler: A charismatic and daring rogue, emphasizing mobility and single-combat prowess.
  10. Sorcerer
    • Divine Soul: Gains access to cleric spells and divine magic abilities.
    • Shadow Magic: Draws power from the Shadowfell, with abilities related to darkness and the undead.
    • Storm Sorcery: Harnesses the power of elemental air and storms.
  11. Warlock
    • The Celestial: Gains abilities linked to celestial beings, focusing on radiant damage and healing.
    • The Hexblade: Fuses the warlock with martial prowess, focusing on melee combat and weapon enhancements.
  12. Wizard
    • War Magic: Combines elements of evocation and abjuration, focusing on magical defense and offense.

Each subclass adds unique thematic elements and mechanical twists to their respective classes, offering new playstyles and character concepts for players to explore.

A Detailed Look at New Rules and Mechanics Added in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything introduces several new rules and mechanics to Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, broadening the scope of gameplay and offering more options for customization and narrative development. Here’s a detailed overview of these additions:

  1. Tool Proficiencies: The guide expands on the use of tools, providing more detailed rules and suggestions on how different tool proficiencies can be used in the game. This includes new uses for existing tools and how they can interact with skills.
  2. New Spells and Magic: A significant addition of new spells is provided for spellcasters, offering a wider array of magical options for various classes. These spells range from utility spells to powerful combat options.
  3. Expanded Downtime Activities: The book introduces more detailed rules for what characters can do between adventures, such as buying a magic item, carousing, crafting an item, gambling, and more. These activities provide more depth to character development and narrative.
  4. Revised Trap Rules: New guidelines and mechanics for traps are included, making them more dynamic and integrated into gameplay. This includes simple traps for quick play and complex traps for more intricate encounters.
  5. Additional Encounter Building Tools: DMs are provided with more refined tools for creating balanced and engaging encounters, including guidelines on encounter difficulty and mixing different types of enemies.
  6. Shared Storytelling: The guide emphasizes shared storytelling, offering rules and ideas for fleshing out character backstories and integrating them into the campaign. This includes tables for character origins, personal decisions, and life events.
  7. Sleep and Exhaustion: New rules for sleep and exhaustion are introduced, adding more realism and challenge to adventures, especially in harsh environments or during long expeditions.
  8. Sidekicks: For smaller parties or solo players, rules are introduced for sidekicks – NPCs that can accompany the main characters and assist in adventures.
  9. Spellcasting Perks and Quirks: For players and DMs looking to add flavor to their spellcasters, the book offers suggestions for personalizing spells, including visual and sensory elements that make each caster’s magic unique.
  10. Racial Feats: New feats are provided that are specific to certain races, allowing for further customization of characters based on their racial backgrounds.

These new rules and mechanics enrich the gameplay experience, allowing for more nuanced character development, more varied and dynamic encounters, and a deeper level of storytelling. They reflect the evolving nature of D&D as a game that balances structured rules with creative freedom.

A Detailed Look at New Spells and Magical Items

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything adds a significant number of new spells and magic items to Dungeons & Dragons 5e, enriching the magical aspect of the game. Here’s a broad overview of these additions:

New Spells

The spells introduced in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything cover a wide range of effects and cater to various classes, including wizards, sorcerers, clerics, druids, and others. These spells add both utility and combat options, expanding the choices available to spellcasters.

  1. Elemental Spells: A set of spells that allow for manipulation and control of various elements, useful in combat and environmental interaction.
  2. Healing and Restoration: New options for healing and curing ailments, adding depth to support roles within parties.
  3. Utility Spells: Spells that offer creative solutions for non-combat scenarios, such as exploration, stealth, and information gathering.
  4. Combat-Focused Spells: A variety of offensive spells that range from direct damage-dealing to more strategic options like area control and enemy debilitation.

The introduction of these spells allows players and DMs to explore new strategies and character concepts, enhancing the dynamism of spellcasting in the game.

New Magic Items

The magic items introduced bring additional variety and flavor to the game. They range from simple enchanted objects to powerful artifacts, with each item designed to add both utility and narrative intrigue.

  1. Utility Items: Items that offer practical solutions for adventurers, such as tools for exploration, communication, or overcoming obstacles.
  2. Combat Items: Enchanted weapons and armor that provide advantages in battle, from enhanced damage to protective properties.
  3. Wondrous Items: Unique and often quirky items that can have a variety of unexpected effects, adding an element of surprise and creativity to the gameplay.
  4. Artifacts and Legendary Items: Extremely powerful and rare items that can significantly impact the course of a campaign, often with intricate backstories and capabilities.

These new items not only provide functional benefits but also serve as potential focal points for storytelling, with their histories and properties sparking quests or adventures.

The spells and magic items added in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything significantly expand the magical landscape of D&D 5e. They offer new tactical options, enhance storytelling, and provide diverse ways for characters to interact with the magical elements of their world.

Pros & Cons of Xanathar’s Guide

Pros: 

  • Versatility and Variety
    • Broad Appeal: The book caters to all classes and playstyles, making it a versatile addition to any D&D collection.
    • Enhanced Role-Playing: The new subclasses and tools encourage deeper role-playing and character development.
  • Utility for Dungeon Masters
    • DM Empowerment: Provides DMs with more resources to create engaging and dynamic campaigns.
    • Enhanced Encounters: The random encounter tables and trap guidelines add complexity and unpredictability to adventures.

Cons:

  • Overwhelming Options
    • Choice Paralysis: The sheer number of options can be overwhelming, especially for new players or DMs.
    • Balance Concerns: Some subclasses and spells have raised balance concerns within the community.
  • Integration Challenges
    • Compatibility with Existing Campaigns: Integrating new rules and subclasses into ongoing campaigns can be challenging.

Who Xanathar’s Guide to Everything is For

Ideal for:

  • Experienced Players and DMs: Offers depth and complexity that seasoned D&D enthusiasts will appreciate.
  • Players Seeking Character Customization: The new subclasses and spells provide extensive options for character customization.

Less Suitable for:

  • Beginners: The wealth of options might be daunting for new players.
  • Purists: Players and DMs who prefer the core mechanics without additional complexities might find it less appealing.

Final Thoughts

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything stands out as a comprehensive and valuable addition to Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Its wide array of subclasses, enhanced DM tools, and new spells make it a must-have for players and DMs seeking to enrich their game. While its extensive content might be overwhelming for some, its contribution to character development, campaign planning, and gameplay variety is undeniable. This guide is highly recommended for those looking to expand and deepen their D&D experience.

We at Master the Dungeon consider this a must buy for anyone looking to expand beyond the core rule books. You can purchase Xanathar’s Guide to Everything on Amazon for around $28.

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