Wizards of the Coast release a lot of pre-written D&D adventures- Which I covered last week, however, they also a release a number of other supplements, books that don’t contain specific adventure information as such, but other important information. In this article, I’ll be discussing these books
Every week, Wizards of the Coast release free playtest material— It’s not a lot, usually a few new subclasses for a specific class, an entirely new class, or expanded rules regarding features such as traps, mass combat, and underwater combat. As they are released as playtest material, they aren’t legal in official D&D Adventurers League games, however, I, and several other DMs I know, allow these in home games, on a case by case basis. Not all Unearthed Arcana materials suit all games, for instance, I don’t allow the “Modern Magic” UA material in my home games, though I allow almost all the others, except for 2 or 3 subclasses that I feel don’t work well. Unearthed Arcana does present one more issue, in that it’s only available online As DM, I download every article, and print it out for myself, however it becomes difficult for players to have to look up, and go through a number of articles, potentially, in character creation, I think a printed book containing all the Unearthed Arcana materials would be a great expansion to the ever-growing 5E booklist. All that said, Unearthed Arcana is genuinely a great way of getting new content on a regular basis, and helps to provide a bit more info regarding areas that, as of yet, have been pretty bare.
Elemental Evil- Player’s Companion
Initially planned for release with the Princes of the Apocalypse Adventure, the Elemental Evil Player’s Companion was made as a supplement containing a few more options for players, specifically tailored for use with PotA, however I find many of these options work well in most games. The Player’s companion is 25 pages long, about 10 of which detail new races for players- The Aarakocra, Deep Gnomes, Genasi, and Goliaths; The rest of the book contains a number of new spells. It would help to note that the Genasi and all the new spells also appear in the Princes of the Apocalypse book. The races included are pretty decent, my personal favourite being the Goliath, it provides a race build almost perfectly to be a Champion fighter, or a Barbarian, however as a DM, I see an issue in allowing players use of the Aarakocra, in that they have a flight speed of 50 from level one, I personally don’t allow them in my home games below level 5 (At which point some magic users gain the “fly” spell). Otherwise, I don’t have anything bad to say about it- I quite like the idea of giving players a small companion book with all the spells, and a few new player options, with every major adventure- I’ve taken to emailing players lists of spells, races, backgrounds, etc. that feature in adventurers for them to use themselves- I’d like it if Wizards of the coast released stuff like this more often, however, since Unearthed Arcana has come back as a weekly expansion, I don’t mind as much
The Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
With the exception of Curse of Strahd, pretty much all 5E adventures take place in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, specifically, the Sword Coast region. Therefore, it makes sense for Wizards of the Coast to release an official Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. Helpful to both players and DMs, the book lists all the major races, classes and backgrounds of the forgotten realms, effectively taking the races, classes and backgrounds from the Player’s Handbook, and adding relevant lore information, to help tie them in more specifically to the game, it also introduces a number of new subclasses, such as the Purple Dragon Knight for Fighters, and the Mastermind and Swashbuckler for Rogues, as well as a number of new backgrounds, many of which are more specific versions of PHB backgrounds, but also introduces the Far Traveller. It has a brief section at the back regarding the use of these class options in other settings such as Eberron and Greyhawk, as well as adapting them to Homebrew worlds. The best section, I find, is the large section at the front, discussing the Sword Coast itself. It goes into detail around the gods worshipped, the factions of the Sword Coast, and brief descriptions of many significant locations. All in all, the Sword Coast Adventurer’s guide helps immensely in creating your own campaign set in the Forgotten Realms, however beyond the new player options, it proves to be of little use to those who play in their own worlds.
Volo’s Guide to Monsters
The most recent 5th Edition Supplement, and probably my favourite, Volo’s Guide to Monsters is a trove of information for players and DMs alike. The first section of the book contains information regarding the lore and societies of some of D&D’s most iconic monsters, as well as information regarding making unique monsters, and roleplaying them, from Beholders to Giants to Orcs to Yuan Ti. I use this section a lot in planning out big villains for my games, and even more trivial things, such as the kinds of beasts that may accompany Kobolds into battle, or the loot that a party may encounter in a Mind Flayer Colony. The second part of the book is a great resource for players, in that it contains a number of new races, such as Aasimar, Lizardfolk and Firbolg, as well as information regarding playing more monstrous races, such as Goblins, Kobolds, Orcs an Yuan Ti. Finally, the last section of the book is a bestiary, much like the Monster Manual, however many of the creatures are darker, and more suited to horror based campaigns, such as Deep Scion and Sea Spawn, a few more obscure monsters from D&D history, like the Flail Snail, and more variants on the races discussed in section 1. Overall, Volo’s guide is the most useful book for Dungeon Masters aiming to create their own campaign, especially darker, more horror based games, as many of the new monsters lend themselves well to the genre