Xanathar’s Guide to Everything: Review!

Tabletop Roleplaying games have made quite a comeback in recent years. As to why, I can’t be certain. If I were to hazard a guess, however, I would stake it on increased popularity from sites like YouTube. Channels, such as Critical Role, have sort of “mainstreamed” these games to audiences who would have otherwise written them off.

Not that the game companies themselves haven’t been busy.

Pathfinder is the late stages of releasing a second edition to their game, the Fair Go Casino has an all-new Fair Go Casino Bonus, Fromsoftware released a board game version of their popular Dark Souls title, a group on Kickstarter crowdfunded a Bloodborne board game, and the iconic Dungeons & Dragons Tabletop Role Playing Game has been churning out content on a more or less regular basis.

Speaking of which, here is my review for the D&D supplement, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything!

Prose

On a technical level, the book is great. It’s well written, with lots of interesting flavor and tidbits of lore for those who are interested in that sort of thing.

It’s one-hundred and ninety-six pages long and filled with incredible artwork and detailed footnotes. There are loads of tables that you can pour hours over and lots of small details that might fly over your head during the first read-through.

For the first major rules expansion of fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything is really well put together and contains lots of information.

Premise

The premise of the book is that a Beholder named Xanathar, who lives beneath the bustling city of Waterdeep, keeps tabs on anything and everyone he finds interesting. The book is a compilation of Xanathar’s research, which has either been stolen or looted from Xanathar’s lair in order to get into our hands. Xanathar himself has various footnotes and comments scattered throughout the book, which usually reflect the Beholders scatterbrained and narcissistic state of mind.

“Music is stupid. Wait. I changed my mind. Music is fun. Play more music. No, I was right the first time. But I won’t maim you after all, in case I change my mind again.” -Xanathar.

What is a Beholder, by the way?

If you have gotten this far and don’t know what a Beholder is, you should probably be reading through the monster manual instead of getting this one. Beholders are unique to Dungeons and Dragons monsters which came to one of Gary Gygax’s friends in a dream.

Imagine a beachball, with one giant eyeball. Add a mouth filled with shark teeth. Then add lots of tentacles with eyeballs on the end of them. Each of these eyeballs can shoot magic spells and death rays.

These Lovecraftian beachballs are also terrified of everything that isn’t themselves, and so live their days in labyrinthine-like underground lairs filled with traps and lesser monsters to protect themselves, hoarding treasures, magical artifacts, shiny things, and anything else that might be of use to them.

That’s Beholders for you.

Gameplay Content

In terms of gameplay content that the book adds, there is both too much and too little contained in Xanathars Guide of Everything.

As I mentioned above, there are lots and lots of tables. Tables for backstories, treasure, secrets, temples, dreams, and more. There is even a table titled “Weird Stuff”, which contains weird events that can be thrown into a character’s backstory.

For player characters, there is plenty of additions for them play around with, such as a bunch of new subclasses, like the dreaded Gloom Stalker and the honorable Samurai. There are new spells, equipment, traps, tools, and about seventeen pages of just names. Yes, seventeen pages of names to help you name your character.

What’s Missing?

What I mean is that the information about Waterdeep and Xanathar is kind of… lacking. Aside from the personality of Xanathar that can be gleaned from the footnotes, there’s nothing in particular about him in the book.

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything feels more like someone created a bunch of content and then slapped it together into a book, rather than a collection of information a giant Beachball of death would store in his lair. If you want just more Dungeons and Dragons content, then this is definitely the book for you.

However, the lore that is used to justify the book’s existence feels more like trappings rather than a continuous theme. It hardly ruins the book, that’s for sure, I just would have preferred to have seen more of Xanathar’s perspective on things throughout.

8 / 10, would recommend.

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