5e: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything Review

Today I’m going to go over the content of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, giving some of my thoughts along the way.

Xanathar’s Guide To Everything Cover


The book starts with an introduction offering guidance on its contents and how best to use it. This section also reiterates some rules DMs might easily misinterpret or forget. This is a useful list, and I found at least one of them cleared up a misunderstanding on my partm: the order in which you apply modifiers to damage.

(1) any relevant damage immunity, (2) any addition or subtraction to the damage, (3) one relevant damage resistance, and (4) one relevant damage vulnerability.  

I’d assumed that additions and subtractions such as the -3 bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing from Heavy Armor Master would be applied at the very end and have been running it that way at my table to date. Doing it last does make a minor difference: resistance is slightly better (by 1 hit point), and vulnerability is more dangerous (by 3 hit points).

Chapter 1: Character Options

The first chapter is broken down by class, and offers some advice on some ways you might use to bring a character of that class to life, including three or four example thematic elements per class. 
  • For the Barbarian, these are personal totems, tattoos, and superstitions. 
  • The Bard gets a defining work, an instrument, and an embarrassment.
  • A Cleric chooses their temple, keepsake, and a secret.
  • Druids select a treasured item, guiding aspect, and mentor.
  • A Fighter picks a heraldic sign, instructor, and signature style.
  • The Monk gets to decide their monastery, monastic icon, and master.
  • Paladins have a personal goal, symbol,  nemesis, and a temptation.
  • The Ranger has a view of the world, homeland, and sworn enemy. 
  • A Rogue chooses their guilty pleasure, an adversary, and a benefactor.
  • The Sorcerer has an arcane origin, a reaction (the way people responded to your sorcerous awakening), and a supernatural mark.
  • Warlocks define their patron’s attitude, special terms of their pact, and a binding mark.
  • The Wizard describes their spellbook, an ambition, and an eccentricity.
Each theme comes with a 1d6 random table of examples. On the whole, these are an excellent source of ideas although some are definitely more exciting than others. In some cases, a theme listed for one class could easily be used for members of other classes.
The Ranger Archetypes


Xanathar’s presents 32 archetypes, mostly new though some have been reprinted that first appeared in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. As a person who never purchased that book due to a lack of need for its setting lore, I appreciate the inclusion of some of its content in Xanathar’s. Obviously it’s less useful for people who already have them. It’s not even a case of gathering everything in one convenient place, as other archetypes weren’t ported over.

The other archetypes were first seen in the various Unearthed Arcana, but have been updated to reflect feedback.

Some stray observations:

  • It seems that generally, the archetypes I found most problematic in Unearthed Arcana either didn’t make the cut or have had some necessary updates.
  • The Path of the Ancestral Guardian has great mechanics, but they don’t fit well with the theme. What use are powerful protective ancestral spirits that happily protect your allies, random people with no connection to your tribe, but won’t lift a single spectral finger to protect you, their beloved descendant? Guardian spirits is a cool concept that should be in the game, and a barbarian defender is also well worth including, but I don’t think they go together. At least not how they’ve been expressed here. 
  • The Grave Domain is not at all what you’d think! The domain is a decent alternative to the Life Domain if you want to play a healer, while being more fun and flavourful (at least in my opinion). You definitely won’t out-heal a Life Cleric, but you’re respectable: 
    • The 1st level feature Circle of Mortality gives you the ability to  maximise any dice rolled when you cast a healing spell on a creature with 0 hit points, with the interesting implication that you might be better off letting your allies fall down and picking them back up again (this is often a tactically sound choice even without this archetype, but it’s really reinforced here). This feature relies on you having at least one healing spell (eg. Cure Wounds or Healing Word), but by a strange quirk no such spells appear on the Domain’s bonus spells list. The onus is on you to select the spells which you need to function properly in this archetype, otherwise Circle of Mortality is completely wasted. It’s not a huge deal as it’s a fairly obvious and easily avoided trap, just a little odd. Particularly since Bane doesn’t feel like a great fit, and Cure Wounds or Healing Word could have easily occupied that slot.
    • At 2nd level, Path to the Grave lets you give enemies vulnerability to the next attack that hits them before your next turn. It’s not healing, but you’ll be helping win the fight more quickly, which means you and your friends get hit less and take less damage. That’s better than healing! This is a particularly potent ability if you have someone in your party who can deal high damage on a single attack, such as a Paladin or Rogue. 
    • The 6th level ability Sentinel at Death’s Door lets you turn critical hits against allies into regular hits—again, not technically healing, but reducing damage in the first place is always better! Especially when it only costs a reaction, saving you the action cost of a Cure Wounds spell. 
    • The 17th level ability Keeper of Soul lets you transfer life essence from a dying creature nearby to one of your allies, healing them a number of hit points equal to the creature’s Hit Dice. 
  • The Circle of Dreams is misleadingly named, as the first time you get an ability that’s even vaguely dream-like is at 14th level when you acquire Walker in Dreams. This feature lets you finally cast dream, along with scrying, and teleportation circle. A little late in my opinion. Given these are all 5th-level spells, which are normally available to those classes available to cast them at ninth level, Walker in Dreams really could have been the archetype’s 10th level feature. Circle of Dreams is really a fey-themed archetype, and it’s pretty good at that. But if you wanted something that was all about manipulating dreams and create waking delusions and nightmares, you won’t really find it here.    
  • The Cavalier’s Unwavering Mark is interesting: it looks like you can mark multiple creatures at once, potentially up to as many as you have attacks during your turn. Considering all such creatures have disadvantage if they attack anyone other than you.  There’s a built-in limit on the amount of special attacks you can make against your marked targets, but even when you use those up you can keep marking enemies to cause them to suffer that disadvantage. This all makes you an unparalleled defender, and that’s before you get the ability to increase the AC of adjacent allies as a reaction at 7th level.
  • The Samurai’s Rapid Strike effectively gives the Fighter one additional extra attack every time they have advantage to trade (to a maximum of once per turn). They can combine this with the advantage they get on all attack rolls while using their Fighting Spirit (making one of those attacks without advantage but gaining the extra attack which, technically, is made with advantage due your Fighting Spirit meaning it’s really no sacrifice at all—the net result of the way these abilities interact effectively just means you get one more attack than usual and one of them has no advantage). A Samurai will really stand out when in a party with one or more other characters that can help him or her get advantage on other turns. If they can keep making that extra attack over an entire combat, they’ll really add up. They’ll be particularly potent if you’re using the optional flanking rule from the Dungeon Master’s Guide.
  • The Way of the Drunken Master’s Redirect Attack is pretty crazy. For 1 ki, the monk turns a missed attack against them into an automatic hit against another adjacent creature. Granted, that ki could have been spent on two attack rolls of the monk’s own, but (1) both of those attacks can miss, and (2) the average damage of an unarmed strike is probably a lot lower than the sort of damage many monsters are throwing around. It feels a bit wrong that there’s not an attack roll or saving throw involved here. 
  • You might find the good-aligned Celestial warlock wierd and off-theme. So did I at first, but then I thought about it more deeply and wrote a recent article refuting that point of view
  • The Hexblade in Unearthed Arcana had a very weird, off-theme ability called Shadow Hound. This was replaced, but unfortunately the new feature is an equally strange fit. Accursed Spirit summons a specter to fight for you. I don’t know about you, but I don’t pick an archetype about a pact with a powerful and dangerous sentient weapon to gain the ability to summon minions.  

Learning Beast Shapes

This subsection for the Druid class offers some useful guidance on which animals a 1st-level druid might already know, based on the natural environment they grew up in: arctic, coast, desert, forest, grassland, hill, mountain, swamp, underdark, and underwater. The animals are arranged in tables, listing their CRs and their special movement modes. Unfortunately, the tables make it clear that there’s a massive disparity between some of the environments’ access to animal forms and others.

Learned Beast Shapes of a Coastal Druid

Eldritch Invocations

14 mostly interesting new warlock invocations are offered. My favourites are probably Cloak of the Moon (you no longer need to sleep), Cloak of Flies (an aura that grants advantage on Intimidation but disadvantage on Persuasion, and also deals poison damage to creatures in the aura), and Relentless Hex (lets you teleport to a target you’ve cursed, great for bladelocks). Gift of the Ever-Living Ones is interesting, though I don’t really understand the logic behind it—while your familiar is within 100 feet, any dice rolled to cure your wounds are maximised.

This Is Your Life

This section is one of the best things about Xanathar’s Guide. Over a series of stages and using a series of random tables full of inspiration-fueling ideas, it presents a method of randomly determining the key points of your character’s backstory.

Although I normally like to have complete control over my own characters, so many of the ideas on these tables resonated with me I think I’d actually enjoy letting the dice fall where they may and figuring out how to piece the results together into a fascinating story.

These tables don’t dictate what your character’s class or background need to be, but they will certainly suggest a logical direction if you were so inclined to create your character wholly at random. And if you already picked but the results seem to lack compatibility, that may not actually be a problem—figuring out how a seemingly unrelated sequence of events could lead into joining a class could result in a far more fascinating story than you would otherwise have told.

A few of the results can lead to minor mechanical boons such as extra starting gold, a potion, or a common magic item. But there’s nothing here that will have a significant positive or negative impact on your character’s build.

Racial Feats

I’m not really a fan of racial feats. I feel that if an ability is important enough to be conceptually tied to a race it should be part of the race to begin with, not an optional resource the player must buy into. It’s especially odd a concept in 5e where every race other than humans fails to get a feat until 4th level. Particularly when the feat changes physical traits.

This time round they’re not too bad, though. Most actually offer abilities that you could justifiably see a member of that race learning to control only later on in their career.

There’s really only two that represent physical qualities, suggesting a sudden physical transformation:

The dragonborn’s Dragon Hide, which grants a Strength, Constitution, or Charisma bonus, a base AC of 13 and 1d4 damage claws.  I’m guessing this feat is meant for sorcerers and wizards, because it certainly doesn’t seem to be for anyone else. Monks and Barbarians already have equivalent AC-boosting abilities which won’t stack, warlocks can wear studded leather armour which is almost as good or take the Armor of Shadows invocation, and 1d4 damage natural weapons are practically a null gain for any character. But sorcerers and wizards can get essentially the same effect, albeit not “always on”, from casting mage armor. Effectively, you’re spending a feat to save yourself a 1st level spell known and spell slot. I’m not convinced that’s a good trade.

The tiefling’s Infernal Constitution increases their Constitution, grants cold and poison resistance, and advantage you from the poisoned condition.

Some of the racial feats are questionable in that I don’t see why they aren’t available to everyone. Surely any sufficiently practiced archer could gain the benefits of Elven Accuracy? Are we so married to the idea that only humans along with half-elves and half-orcs, are creative and flexible enough to become a Prodigy?

Chapter 2: Dungeon Master’s Tools

This part of Xanathar’s is a random grab bag of new and expanded rules. At first it may not seem that exciting, but look closely and you’ll find some of the best content in the book lies within this chapter. For my money, that includes the guidance for combining skill and tool proficiencies, the alternative encounter building guidelines, revisited traps, revisited downtime rules, and the lists of new common magic items.

Simultaneous Effects

The first part of this chapter is a simple paragraph describing how to adjudicate when multiple things happen exactly at the same time. The rule is simple: whoever’s turn it is picks the order in which those things are resolved. 


The next section revisits falling, and gives a rate of falling (500 feet per turn—clearly someone at Wizards of the Coast did the same research and came to the same conclusions about compromising reality and game balance that I did when I looked at falling.) so we finally have a RAW answer for how long it takes to hit the ground if you fall a great distance. How to handle a flying creature that falls is also discussed.

This section is not as detailed as I would have liked to see. As far as I can tell, the main sticking point in the falling rules is really how to resolve what happens when someone is pushed, and this remains conspicuously absent from any official ruling. RAW, the victim of the push doesn’t get any kind of saving throw, but I tend to rule it that way in my games. It only seems fair to not let a push power to be an instant win button for players or monsters. Even with that houserule in place, I’m still warier than I would like to be of running encounters in high places or above lava lakes because it’s just so easy for a carefully crafted encounter to go to ruin in such a location. Especially if you have a Warlock with the Repelling Blast invocation (and it’s one of the no-brainers on the list—show me a warlock that doesn’t have this, and I’ll frankly be surprised).

As mentioned in the aside above the falling rules is an area of the game I looked at myself, ultimately suggesting a houserule that introduced two new conditions: teetering (a state that put you on the brink of falling but allowed a window to save yourself at the end of the round), and falling. If you’d like a little more clarity in these suggestions, go take a look!


Next is a section on adjudicating matters surrounding sleep:

  • Rules for waking someone (hint—a loud noise, such as a combat happening right next to you because a monster caught your lookout by surprise, automatically wakes you up) 
  • The effects of sleeping in armour. These are punitive enough that you’ll rarely want to do it, but players who often get ambushed in their sleep will have a difficult choice to make.
  • Rules for going without a long rest. Essentially, each day you go without rest you make a DC 10 Constitution save with the DC increasing by +5 each subsequent day, earning a level of exhaustion on a failure. This seems about right to me: I used to suffer from insomnia and regularly ended up staying awake for up to 3 days. I wouldn’t usually find my abilities were significantly impaired on the second day, but inevitably I would become exhausted and conk out toward the end of the third. A DC 10 save is fairly easy to get so that maps pretty well, though had I written the rule and based it on my own experiences I might have said you’re effectively fine on the second day (any tiredness should just be roleplayed but doesn’t need to be mechanical) and start the DCs off at 15 on the day three. All in all though, it does the job. 

Adamantine Weapons

Finally! This was a pretty major oversight in the core rules: creatures in the Monster Manual whose damage resistance could be overcome using adamantine weapons (golems and elementals—eg, creatures made of earth, stone, and metal), but no rules for those weapons were to be found. Only adamantine armour appeared in the magic items section. This really should have been in the DMG, but at least we have it now.

In addition to their occasional ability to overcome monster resistance, adamantine weapons are also especially good at breaking objects, dealing critical damage on a hit to those objects. Make sure to bring your adamantine battering ram along next time you plan a siege!

It’s not spelled out here, but since this question recently came up in my own game let me clarify an isssue here: a construct is not an object, it’s considered a creature. You won’t be automatically critting that iron golem with your adamantine sword. But if you think about it, by overcoming its damage immunity your weapon’s ability to smash inanimate objects is already factored in. Now we see why it only overcomes the resistance of constructs and elements!

Tying Knots

This was a slightly surprising addition to me at least, but I like that it’s included. The rule defines tying and escaping knots as Intelligence (Sleight of Hand) checks, though you can also use Dexterity (Acrobatics) to escape. This seems good, combining your smarts and the nimbleness of your fingers into a single combined ability/skill check.

They clearly state in this section that this is intended to be an example of applying the Skills with Different Abilities variant, I suppose to push people toward using it. For the life of me I don’t know why they didn’t make that rule official in the first place.

Tool Proficiencies

This next section acknowledges the disparity between tool proficiencies and skill proficiencies, and seeks to address that by giving you reasons to want to pick tool proficiencies. They’ve approached this by coming up with new rules that give you perks if you combine both a skill and a tool. Firstly, if both a tool and a skill seem to apply to a check, you have advantage on the check if you have both proficiencies. The DM is also encouraged to grant the character with both an additional benefit of some kind when that character succeeds on the check, such as additional information or by simulating the benefits of another type of check. What does that even mean? I’ll quote the example of this they give:

For example, a character proficient with mason’s tools makes a successful Wisdom (Perception) check to find a secret door in a stone wall. Not only does the character notice the door’s presence, but you decide that the tool proficiency entitles the character to an automatic success on an Intelligence (Investigation) check to determine how to open the door.

It’s all good on paper. I don’t know about you though, but I was concerned that Rogue players might start arguing they have advantage on benefits every time they pick locks due to their Sleight of Hand and Thieves’ Tools proficiencies. Happily, the definition of Sleight of Hand in the Player’s Handbook, makes this an impossible combo:

Whenever you attempt an act of legerdemain or manual trickery, such as planting something on someone else or concealing an object on your person, make a Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check. The DM might also call for a Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check to determine whether you can lift a coin purse off another person or slip something out of another person’s pocket.

It’s pretty clear that Sleight of Hand is for illusions, pickpocketing, and chicanery only. Manual dexterity is implied in all those tasks of course, but that’s why they are tied to Dexterity, and also why Thieves’ Tools is normally tied with Dexterity. The overlap is already factored in.

This chapter then goes onto list each type of tools, broken down into the following sections:

Components. Lists the items that actually make up the tools. This is a really useful inclusion.
Skills. Lists the skills that might combine with these tools to grant advantage on certain checks. Skipping ahead to the Thieves’ Tools, I note that Wizards of the Coast are way ahead of me here. They don’t think Thieves’ Tools combines with Sleight of Hand either! The skills that do combine are History (“Your knowledge of traps grants you insight when answering questions about locations that are renowned for their traps”) as well as Investigation and Perception (“You gain additional insight when looking for traps, because you have learned a variety of common signs that betray their presence.”).
Special Use.  Each tool now grants its own special feature. In the case of Thieves’ Tools, you set your own trap with whatever you have to hand during a short rest. Tinker’s Tools let you repair hit point damage to a damaged object. Mason’s Tools let you deal double damage to brick walls. These abilities are not made equally, many are purely fluff such as the Painter’s Supplies ability to draw a quick work of art (eg. a decent quality diagram or map). The value of these sorts of abilities lies in how often they come up in the campaign and whether any other character would have been allowed to do them anyway.
Sample DCs.  The final section provides a table with example tasks you might attempt using the tools and typical DCs for those tasks.

All in all, this is a very welcome inclusion, though as I’ve said the tool proficiencies still aren’t in any way equal, with the tools that were most likely to be picked anyway (you know the ones) generally being the most functional ones in the new system, too.

Cook’s Utensils


This section addresses some common issues with the spellcasting system:

  • Can you perceive a caster casting their spell when the effect isn’t obviously from them? The answer is yes: you can perceive a spell being cast if it has a verbal, material, or somatic component. But if a special ability like Subtle Spell removes the need for those components, the action of casting a spell is hidden. 
  • Can you identify a spell as it’s being cast? Yes, but it costs a reaction to make an Intelligence (Arcana) check.
Now, you might already have spotted that this means you can’t both identify a spell and cast counterspell to stop it. According to Jeremy Crawford this is intentional:
In Xanathar’s, Identifying a spell requires an action or a reaction because it involves focused deduction; it’s not automatic. Moreover, I didn’t want combat to devolve into people identifying every spell. #DnD https://t.co/Vj5kD3tjTp

— Jeremy Crawford (@JeremyECrawford) November 9, 2017

But since Counterspell is also a reaction, that means you can never actually know the spell you’re countering before you counter it? Seems like there should be an exception there.

— Johnny (WTF is with all these Nazis?) Toothpix (@JohnnyToothpix) November 9, 2017

But since Counterspell is also a reaction, that means you can never actually know the spell you’re countering before you counter it? Seems like there should be an exception there.

— Johnny (WTF is with all these Nazis?) Toothpix (@JohnnyToothpix) November 9, 2017

Would you know that spell’s level for the purposes of picking which spell slot to expend? Or do you have to guess?

— David Stark (@dhmstark) November 9, 2017

You have to guess. Counterspell is extremely potent. Gambling on the outcome is an intended part of the spell’s design.

— Jeremy Crawford (@JeremyECrawford) November 9, 2017

If you don’t have the stomach for the risk posed by counterspell, I do recommend avoiding it.

— Jeremy Crawford (@JeremyECrawford) November 9, 2017

If you don’t have the stomach for the risk posed by counterspell, I do recommend avoiding it.

— Jeremy Crawford (@JeremyECrawford) November 9, 2017

You are correct. Counterspell has never worked liked shield. Xanathar’s Guide doesn’t change that fact.

— Jeremy Crawford (@JeremyECrawford) November 10, 2017

When you actually read the wording of counterspell, it’s clear that this is all quite correct. “You attempt to interrupt a creature in the process of casting a spell.” does suggest that the spell is not fully cast, and therefore not known, at the time of the counterspell. If our players have counterspell., we need to get into the habit of saying “the monster is casting a spell”, not “the monster casts fireball“, and wait to see if that player wants to respond.

I for one like the rule this way but my players had a massive grumble when I told them about this. I doubt any of them will be picking it! 

  • The section also addresses identifying a spell after it has already been cast (it costs your action).
  • There’s some guidance on exactly what happens if a spell gets cast on an invalid target (hint—it boils down to you wasting the spell). The most useful line of this paragraph is the description of what happens if your spell normally fails on a saving throw: you perceive it as though the invalid target succeeded their saving throw, therefore you don’t learn that they are an invalid target.
  • The section rounds out with guidance on using templates and tokens to adjudicate spell area effects when playing on a grid. This section is no use to me, but I imagine very welcome to new DMs. That said, I think the tokens idea is a complete waste of page space and ink. Mapping out a spell’s area using a bunch of d6s (or other tokens), placing one in each affected square, sounds like a terrible way to handle it. It would take so long to do each time. Making some templates in advance of the game is so much superior an idea, it should have been the only one suggested. 
Adjudicating Spell Areas

Encounter Building

The next part of the book makes official the new, simpler encounter building guidelines first presented in Unearthed Arcana. I haven’t gone over the tables with a fine tooth comb but I think they’re unchanged.

A welcome new addition is the Quick Matchups table. This table gives you a very quick, very dirty way of deciding what CR of monster is equivalent to a single character of your party’s level. The table has columns for 1 monster, 2 monsters, 4 monsters.

So say my party are level 13, and I have 5 players. I can see that a CR 6 monster is equivalent to 1 level 13 character, as are 2 CR 4 monsters or 4 CR 2 monsters. I could combine monsters of those CRs together in whichever combinations to get a roughly balanced encounter for my party. I might choose 5 CR 6 monsters, 20 CR 2 monsters, or any of the combinations in between.

This table is well-suited for when you have to plan your next game in a hurry, or when your characters go off-track and you’re caught off guard. It doesn’t say so here (probably because it’s so rough even the designers can’t always be sure), but I’d assume that the encounters you build using the rules generally count as “medium” encounters. You could bump the CRs of a few of the creatures in the fight up if you want to increase it to “hard”.

Random Encounters

This is definitely a case of your mileage may vary. For those who like random encounters, the 44 d100 tables in this chapter will be a dream come true. For others, far less so. But even if you don’t generally use random encounters, be aware that not all the encounters on the tables are combat encounters. Some describe random points of interest, like “The corpse of an adventurer that carries an intact explorer’s pack and lies atop a longsword” or “Stairs chiseled into the side of the mountain that climb 3d20 + 40 feet before ending abruptly.” It’s worth looking at these tables for ideas on how to add that little extra spark to the description of a journey in your game.

Now that I think about it, it would have been nice had Xanathar’s included additional tables which solely included points of interest and random NPC meetings. without any combat. Even those of us who don’t find randomly generated combats a fun and worthwhile inclusion could have benefited from an easy way to spice up our journeys.

At any rate, these tables are really exhaustive and really good, particularly if your group happen to like combats with random creatures. Each of 11 environments (Arctic, Coastal, Desert, Forest, Grassland, Hill, Mountain, Swamp, Underdark, Underwater, and Urban) are broken up into four tiers based on the party level (1-4, 5-10, 11-16, and 17-20, mapping to the tiers of play set out in the DMG) and each tier gets its own d100 table. When monsters are encountered the number of them is randomly generated, which can mean encounters which are too dangerous for the party. The section is prefaced with a paragraph titled “Flight, or Fight, or … ?” which points out that the party have the option to avoid the combat, flee it, or try to negotiate, while the DM may if they wish fudge the numbers.

Traps Revisited

Comparing this with the Unearthed Arcana version side by side, the rules  first blush seems mostly unchanged, but wording has been modified in just a few places for clarity and brevity. A couple of traps are adjusted in small ways, such as the AC and resistance of statues now being listed in the Poisoned Tempest trap. But essentially, what we saw in UA has gotten through unscathed.

Downtime Revisited

The downtime rules are also similar to what we’ve seen before, but there are more notable changes. Foils are now called Rivals (an easier word to remember, for sure), and the way they work has been tightened up slightly. The example NPCs have had a few cosmetic changes: Myron Rodemus has become Marina, and the Temple of Pholtus is now personified in the person of its High Priest, a man named Cheldar.

In general, changes made to the downtime activities boil down to slashed costs, reduced crafting times, and clarifications of intent. There are now new modifiers on the Buying Magic Items table for low magic and high magic campaigns, and the rules for whether a specific magic item is available when the characters actively seek it have been changed slightly. The carousing rules now make an allowance for a lower class character to carouse with nobles using a disguise. The rolls involved in Pit Fighting have changed slightly, and you can now use Dexterity (Acrobatics) to work. As an acrobat, presumably.  At the DM’s option a favour you earn from Religious Service can now represent divine intervention from your deity. A pretty nice addition.

Interestingly a few of the complications tables have been slashed either from d10s to d8s or from d8s to d6s. Perhaps those complications were deemed too problematic?

I noticed what I think is a discrepancy between the magic item crafting by rarity table and the wording of this downtime activity. You’re meant to divide the cost of the item by 50 to determine the amount of workweeks required to craft the item, but the numbers on the table are far lower than that would actually imply. They are far more reasonable numbers, however, so for now I’m assuming that the table is correct and the text hasn’t been properly updated to reflect the new ruling. Or maybe I’ve missed something. I reached out to Mike Mearls and Jeremy Crawford via twitter. If either of them sees my tweet and has the time to reply, I’ll update this article to reflect that.

EDIT: I did indeed miss something.

@JeremyECrawford @mikemearls Xanathar's – great work, thanks! Question, though: The workweeks by rarity in the table for magic item creation downtime don't seem to correspond to the cost divided by 50 rule given earlier in the text. Have I missed something or is this in error?

— Spilled Ale Studios (@spilledale) November 14, 2017

See the paragraph right before that table.

— Jeremy Crawford (@JeremyECrawford) November 14, 2017


Awarding Magic Items

This is an alternative system for handing out magic items. Instead of rolling on random tables, you basically have a budget of items from each tier and rarity which you then spend as you select items.  This variant uses the same underlying math, and the explanations offer an interesting peek behind the hood.

If you enjoy the randomness of a hoard this isn’t for you, but if you want greater control over the items your characters receive (which can be a good thing for them too, given you’ll generally be picking items they can use) then this is a nice option.

Common Magic Items

The final part of this chapter is also my favourite. The Dungeon Master’s Guide included very few magic items that were considered common rarity: it literally only offers the Potion of Climbing and the weakest Potion of Healing. That’s finally rectified here, and even better these items aren’t expendable potions! They have permanent effects, albeit those effects seldom have a significant mechanical purpose. They’re great flavour though, and some certainly could be useful. Most of the items are excellent for ideas, sparking thoughts in my mind immediately as I read them. I can’t wait to put the Cloak of Billowing (make it billow dramatically as a bonus action!) into the hands of my party’s vain barbarian chieftainess, for instance. As a player, I’m pretty confident I could wreak all sorts of havoc with access to Heward’s Handy Spice Pouch. There’s plenty of others I’d love to get hold of too. To name just a few: I could have a lot fun with the Charlatan’s Die, which rolls any result you will it to; And I can see a lot of benefit in owning a Pole of Collapsing, a 10-foot pole which collapses down to only 1-foot on command.

Magic Item Tables

Also included are magic item tables that group items from the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything by rarity and whether they are considered minor or major items (terms used by the Awarding Magic Items system).

There are also useful sidebars in this chapter about what happens when there is no dawn for magic items to recharge, such as on a plane of energy, and whether a game even needs magic items.

Chapter 3: Spells

This chapter brings together many spells already printed in the Elemental Evil Player’s Guide with a collection of new inclusions.

The chapter opens with some advice on adding new spells to a campaign, and makes a good point about handling this with care for divine characters who have access to their entire class spell list, as it can be overwhelming for a player.

A spell list divided by class and spell level follows.

They’ve tried to include new spells for everyone, but with mixed success. By far and away the most spells are for arcane casters (although perhaps, given the advice mentioned above, this was a deliberate choice). Druids do well, but that’s not surprising considering a good chunk of the spells here came from the Elemental Evil Player’s Guide and are therefore pretty nature-themed.

I won’t go through the spells in detail, but I will say I think the new ones are generally good and fun additions. Some highlights include a handful of what you might call “shelter” spells—spells designed to give you a safe place to rest. There are three of these spells:

  • the 7th-level cleric spells temple of the gods creates a physically temple that can protect those within it from outsiders and scrying, and boosts any healing they receive while inside. The temple lasts for a day, but if it’s recast in the same location every day for a year it becomes permanent, which is a nice touch.
  • the 6th-level druid spell druid grove creates a temporary sacred haven that lasts for a day. You can cast it outdoors or undergroufd, but as buildings and structures are excluded from the affected area that essentially prohibits you from using it inside the corridors of a typical dungeon. In a cavern system, however, you’re all good. You’ll get a lot of passive and active defenses for the grove which essentially amount to a bunch of other spells being rolled up into one: areas of solid fog, sections of grasping undergrowth (as the entangle spell), four awakened trees (provided there are four trees to animate) to act as guardians, and either: two castings of gust of wind, one instance of spike growth, or two wind walls.  I think this spell is awesome, but I do worry that it has a LOT going on considering the player has to decide what and how many defenses they want and where they want to place them, and then if the party are attacked in the night there’s a lot of detail in this spell description alone to refer to, let alone the many references to other spells. Expect things to slow down at your table.
  • the 8th-level wizard spell mighty fortress creates, well, a mighty fortress. This fort is a one tough cookie to crumble, with each 10-foot by 10-foot section of wall possessing an AC of 15 and 360 hit points. Supposing an enemy force breached the outer wall they’d contend with the walls of the inner keep which have the same AC and 180 hit points (being only half as thick as the outer walls). The keep can also feed a nine-course banquet to 100 people a day, and contains a staff of one hundred unseen servants. Furthermore, the keep lasts a week (which makes sense given it may need to withstand a siege), and if you cast it ever 7 days in the same place for a year it becomes permanent. 
A casting of Mighty Fortress

Other awesome spells include some that summon outsiders but don’t necessarily control them, encouraging you to pair such spells with magic circles, mimicking the sort of summoning we expect from Faustian bargains! Perfect for a fiend-pact warlock.

Appendix A: Shared Campaigns

I haven’t spent a lot of time looking at this appendix as it’s not relevant to me, but from what I can tell it basically reproduces the way the Adventurer’s League works in case you wanted to organise something similar with a group of DMs. I’m not really sure who this is aimed at, given players interested in this could just as easily start running Adventurer’s League games.

Appendix B: Character Names

This is both useful and yet not. I’m not denying the utility of random tables of NPC names organised by race and sex. But there are other similar books/PDFs etc already out there, not to mention online random generators. I’ll probably use this appendix if I need a name on the fly and I’m already on D&D Beyond (where I bought Xanathar’s). But most of the time, I already have access to other things doing the same job. I won’t knock its inclusion, though,especially since not all DMs use their laptop at the table and it’s undoubtedly easier for them than carrying another third party book or print-out.


All in all, my reactions to Xanathar’s Guide to Everything are very positive. Given that most of the content was already available via Unearthed Arcana, albeit in unfinished forms, I went into the purchase wary. Especially because most of the early versions of the archetypes had been in forms that I didn’t like, and I wasn’t confident that the revisions would have changed them substantially. I’ve been won over. Pretty much all of the archetypes look playable now (any negative feedback I made above notwithstanding), and a lot of the rest of the content is solid. Never-before-seen content such as This is Your Life and the Common Magic Items are stand outs for me, and I consider the purchase well worth it for them alone. Everything else is just a massive helping of gravy.

Your Thoughts

Have you purchased Xanathar’s Guide to Everything yet? What were your thoughts? Has this review helped you make up your mind? Let me know!