5e: Faiths of the Forgotten Realms – a Review.

Some months ago, I won a copy of Faiths of the Forgotten Realms, DMsGuild platinum bestseller, in a giveaway run by one of its authors @aclippinger. I had previously purchased this book as a PDF, but winning the giveaway meant I received a free print copy. I’ve been purchasing my D&D content electronically for a while now, and while electronic content is often more convenient I’d forgotten how nice it feels to actually have a book in hand.

Pleased as I was to win this book, I thought the least I could do would be to carefully read and review it. To be absolutely clear, that doesn’t necessarily mean a glowing review. I’m giving a fair one based on the product’s actual quality, the same as I would if I’d received a review copy. Just in case it wasn’t already clear, this review was not requested nor paid for.

Since I got the book as a prize, I found myself wanting to review the product in more exhaustive detail than normal. I wanted to be able to provide feedback that would be as helpful as possible to the authors. Thus while reading I made an exhaustive set of notes which includes both editorial feedback and comments. This list is too long to include in the review proper so has been made available as a google doc. These notes are really intended for the design team behind Faiths of the Forgotten Realms to do with as they will, but may be of value to a reader who has a copy of the book to follow along. Please don’t let the volume of my notes give you the impression there is more bad than good in this book. Nothing could be further than the truth: the problems I note are very much in the minority when compared with the masses of content filling the book’s considerable page count (199 pages).

Faiths of the Forgotten Realms
The Faiths of the Forgotten Realms Cover

Faiths of the Forgotten Realms (hereafter referred to as FotFF) describes a considerable number, though not all, of the many canonical deities of the Forgotten Realms. It includes information on their religious observances, their holy texts, and new archetypes and spells for each religion. There is also a short section of magic items and artifacts. As noted above the book is 199 pages long (192 pages excluding its contents, very serviceable index, and credits, and introduction).

FotFF is $14.95 as a pdf, $29.95 as a standard hardcover book, $39.95 as a premium hardcover book, or $24.95 as a Fantasy Grounds module. You can also get either book bundled with the PDF. It’s worth noting that there are discounts on these prices right now in DMsGuild’s Massive D&D Sale, so now’s a great time to pick it up!

Production Values

This is the first book I’ve ever received from DMsGuild so I’m unsure of the difference between standard heavyweight and premium heavyweight. My assumption would be that premium may use glossier paper with higher image definition and a stronger binding. What I can tell you for certain is that the copy I won is a “standard” and honestly it looks good to me! It has a solid glossy cover and what appears to be a decent binding.

A lot of the art appears to be from the DMsGuild creator packs as well as open content. That’s no bad thing, to be clear: the art chosen is of decent to high quality, and suits the content it’s illustrating. Just temper your expectations before buying this (or any other DMsGuild product) – you’re not going to be seeing completely original art every other page. Some of the interior art seems a little blurry, like it’s intended to be a smaller image but has been scaled up too far to fill an empty space. Because this appears to be an issue of scaling, I would imagine this would not be any better in the premium version of the book. To be clear, this is not a critical problem and the art is still serviceable. Besides, art is nice but it’s not really what we’re here for!

There is a minor fault on the cover: the DMsGuild logo is off-centre. It’s cosmetic and ultimately trivial, but it’s a shame.

Page design is simple but attractive and most importantly, clear.

The book isn’t free of editorial errors, though they are relatively few. Some areas of the text could be written more clearly and could do with some clarification. I’ve collected my feedback on editorial issues in a google doc, which I hope will be of some use to the design team next time they do an editorial pass.


I’ve summarised what’s in the book already, but let’s break down exactly what that content entails so you can see its value.

The Faiths

The book provides details for 48 deities and their religions (the very same ones mentioned in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide)! The deities included in this book are as follows:

Akadi*, Aumanator*, Asmodeus*, Auril, Azuth, Bane, Beshaba, Bhaal, Chauntea, Corellon Larethian, Cyric, Eldath, Gond, Grumbar*, Gwaeron Windstrom*, Helm, Hoar*, Ilmater, Istishia*, Jergal*, Kelemvor, Kossuth*, Lathander, Leira, Lliira, Loviatar, Malar, Mask, Mielikki, Milil, Moradin, Myrkul, Oghma, Red Knight*, Savras, Selûnene, Shar, Silvanus, Sune, Talona, Talos, Tempus, Torm, Tymora, Tyr, Umberlee, Valkur*, Waukeen

Deities marked with an asterisk (*) are not among those that appear in Appendix B appendix of the Player’s Handbook.

Other than Corellon Larethian and Moradin, this book includes only human deities. It doesn’t include:

  • Nonhuman deities other than the aforementioned dwarf and elf pantheon leaders (eg. Bahamut, Tiamat, Gruumsh, Llolth, and many others).
  • Primordials (eg. Ubtao).
  • Many lesser deities/demideities (eg. Deneir, Finder Wyvernspur, Gargauth Lurue, Shaundakul, and others).
  • Alternative pantheons such as the Mulhorandi gods or deities from other regions than Faerûn (eg. Kara-Turan, Zakharan, etc).

Perhaps we can hope these other deities are the subject of a sequel?

In any case, this book may very well still be useful for a character of the excluded deities. After all many Realms deities have overlapping portfolios (especially when they belong to different pantheons but are thematically similar). It’s therefore very possible to use game content for the deities that were included, reskinning the lore around the archetypes to suit.

Chapter 1: Deeper Faith

The book opens with a brief explanation of the Calendar of Harptos. It may not seem necessary to discuss the calendar in a book of faiths, but if you think about it a little more it becomes clear this is absolutely essential content! That’s because every religion has its holy days, so we need to understand the calendar to know where they fall. Accordingly, the rest of the chapter gives the holy days for the 48 religions included in the book, in addition to information about important religious sites.

There is also a d4 table of potential background ideas for any PC worshipper of all 48 religions. It’s a welcome touch, particularly if you like using tables to help generate character ideas or even generating entire characters.

Chapter 2: Archetypes of the Faiths

This is the meat of the book. For each of the 48 included religions, we are given the god’s titles, a description of their portfolio, an illustration of their holy symbol, and at least two archetypes: one for clerics, and one for paladins. The descriptions of these archetypes briefly indicate the character’s function in their faith and the world around them. In addition to one cleric and one paladin archetype each, there are two druid circles (for Auril and Talos) and one ranger archetype (for Kossuth).

All of the archetypes in this book look playable and none seems particularly overpowered. Some features seem weak or potentially problematic, but there’s nothing here that I would expect to break a game. I’d probably accept any of the archetypes into my game, though there’s a small handful I might want to tweak first or keep an eye on during play. My comments on archetypes and their features are included in the aforementioned google doc.

This is a book full of divine archetypes, so  naturally all the archetypes include bonus spell lists. These lists do make use of spells that appear in the Elemental Evil Player’s Guide/Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, but clearly denote such spells. This is helpful. Unfortunately, new spells appearing in FotFF aren’t given the same attention, which is mildly unhelpful. It’s not a big deal by any means – those spells are rarely more than a page away. But it’s theoretically possible you’ll start thumbing through your Player’s Handbook before you realise the spell you’re looking for was in the book you just put down. I’d like to see this changed in any future errata.

Finally, new spells are provided for each god, accessible via the deity’s archetypes. Most of these spells are interesting, fun, and flavourful. However, while I like the spells in this book a lot they are also associated with what I consider the book’s only major oversight.

None of the included spells are added to any class spell lists. Now, this may be by design. Perhaps the authors wanted to increase the appeal of the book’s archetypes with access to truly exclusive spells, only available through their archetype’s bonus spell list? I get it, in theory. In practice, I think it’s a massive shame and the designers have done themselves a disservice by not enabling us to use a large portion of the content they’ve created as much as we possibly can. The authors have crafted a lot of fun and well-balanced spells here that deserve to become staples of your adventures. But as things stand, most of them will never see the light of day because you haven’t been given the information you need to easily incorporate them.

Does your campaign even include a single cleric or paladin? And of those that do, each character can only have one god and one archetype, meaning the PCs simply have no access to the vast majority of awesome spells in the book. They’ll ony get to have a mere handful (assuming they pick one of the archetypes in FotFF at all). This makes a not insignificant portion of the book’s content functionally useless on a per campaign basis. And really,  there’s no good reason for it: none of these spells are so conceptually niche that they couldn’t fit perfectly well on one or more class spell list. To take just three examples from the many spells in the book: breathless would suit a Druid or Sorcerer, jinx makes a great spell for Bards and Warlocks, and resilient arrows fits a Ranger.

DMs can go through the whole spell list and make their own decisions about who else should be able to use each spell, of course. But we really shouldn’t have to – this is a straightforward job which ought to have been done in the first place and would immensely improve the value of the content.

Fortunately for you guys, you don’t have to go over the list for yourselves if you don’t want to: I’ve already done the work. This table includes every spell that appears in the pages of FotFF and assigns them to class lists that I think are best fits.

The designers have informed me that although not explicitly stated in the book, their intent was that any character of any spellcasting class can take a spell as long as they worship the deity the spell belongs to. This opens up some new possibilities to be sure, but isn’t a solution to the problem of most of the spells being unavailable for player selection. The odds of any specific spell seeing actual use is still extremely low under these conditions.

Chapter 3: Holy Texts

This short chapter includes descriptions and background on the holy books of 27 of the 48 religions. There’s not really much to say about it in terms of this review, other than it’s a shame there isn’t an entry for the remaining 21, but the information that is here is immensely useful and might help spark some adventure ideas.

Chapter 4: Magic Items

This brief but useful chapter closes out the book. It lists some religion-themed magic items: It contains 18 magic items, 13 artifacts, and rules for a useful new artifact property: overwhelming.

The magic items and artifacts are thematic and interesting. Most of the magic items are general purpose religious items that could be wielded by faithful of any faith, though a handful (such as the Claws of Malar) are more specific. The artifacts are of course all associated with one deity or another.

An overwhelming artifact is one not designed for mere mortal hands. They are so powerful that they can drain the vitality of their wielders, causing them to recover less Hit Dice on a long rest and potentially gain levels of exhaustion.

This chapter is short but is full of great content. In an ideal world, a magic item or artifact for each of the 48 deities in the book might have been a nice touch, but it’s not such a big deal: the book’s focus is primarily character options, and DMs should be glad for that. It’s generally far easier to homebrew a magic item than an archetype! 

My Rating and Summary 

16 out of 20! A superb hit.

Faiths of the Forgotten Realms exceeds expectations with 99 new archetypes, 179 spells, 31 magic items, and supplementary lore on 48 faiths. Of this glut of content, the vast majority seems balanced well enough not to break your game (if anything, a small number of features are too conservative), and I would allow most things from the book without reservation.

The content isn’t without its imperfections. There’s a small number of editorial errors (but to be clear, there’s honestly far fewer than I’d expect given the size of the book and the fact it’s a DMsGuild product). There are also a number of features that I’m not sure about in their current form for one reason or another. If you’re interested in exploring them in more detail, all the comments I have can be found in this google doc. Even with these factored in, there is still a massive amount of content that I consider would add a great deal of value to my game.

The design team’s decision not to assign the 179 new spells to class lists is in my opinion the only major misstep, but I come armed with a solution: Here’s how I think each spell should be assigned!

Faiths of the Forgotten Realms is available in PDF and print as well as in the form of a Fantasy Grounds module. I believe it’s excellent value in any format you choose considering the amount of useful content within its pages. Whichever your preferred format, it’s on sale at the time of this review’s publication: if you’ve decided to pick up a copy based on my review then there’s no better time than now!