Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
Published by Wizards of the Coast
Get it here http://www.amazon.com/dp/0786965800/?tag= throgamegogg-20
Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide is 160 pages of material that can be broken down into three sections: the history and geography of Forgotten Realms, a tour of Sword Coast, and descriptions of what characters are like in the Realms with some game mechanics. As a whole the book is not up to par with its price tag, but that doesn’t mean it’s worthless – I have found more than a few morsels in this book, but the “morsels” are the exception in this book. I feel it struggles with being an adventurer’s guide while trying to become a campaign book.
The first twenty pages or so are like a town crier giving you a quick history of Forgotten Realms, which is necessary especially for the new players that 5th ed. has invited into the role-playing industry. Without giving you too much meat the book covers all of the Realms. Seemingly, the focus is on Waterdeep; the closer you are to the fabled city, the more content there is. In some ways that is rightfully so, as wizards should capitalize on the iconic city and and its surroundings. It is a fairly well written overview of the Realms, which have a complicated history. There is enough description that experienced or new GMs can easily ad lib stories off of the material. At the very least it gives anyone a solid foundation for more research into Forgotten Realms.
The next eighty pages move into Sword Coast, giving you a tour of select cities and kingdoms. Many of the descriptions yield a high level of detail describing societies, classes, and some of the descriptions are in the first person to pull you into the Realms. Aside from some of the enjoyable recounts of adventures, some of my favorite highlights are the two new Barbarian paths in chapter 4, Bardic Colleges, and the new cleric domain (it’s literally Divine).
The new Barbarian paths are Primal. The first is the Battlerager and the second is the Totem Warrior. Battleragers or “axe idiots” are a Dwarves-only club, and they rush recklessly into combat. Every time I think of these idiots I picture a dozen Dwarven Berserkers from Games Workshop rushing down a snow-covered hill into a battalion of Orcs. The Totem Warriors aren’t new but the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide opens some new options for you at third level. Tiger lets you add a ten foot jump distance while raging!
Bardic Colleges give your Bard a sense of belonging, or a home to perfect their craft. Really it’s just another way to help your players and NPC’s better define who they are. What it doesn’t do is offer great over-the-top game mechanics for Bards. But the idea is all you need for good role-playing.
The Divine Domain is introduced and allows clerics to become familiar with the secrets of magic. A divine cleric gains the Arcana skill at first level and two cantrips from the wizard spell list. At first I thought why not just play a wizard? But I quickly realized there are several reasons you may want to go this route, many of which come down to the personality of the character. The Divine spells are truly an awesome selection though.
The rest of the player sections, in my opinion, are abbreviated and should have been expanded. For example, most of the class and race descriptions are not much more than names and places that help further the supplemental fluff found throughout the book.
Arguably the best part of the book is the backgrounds. These options give new possibilities to players when generating characters, but I feel they don’t belong in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. I would say that they are not exclusive to Sword Coast and therefore are filler, even though they are truly the best game mechanics between the covers.
I think that while the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide offers a lot of new content, it falls short of its price tag. It could really use another sixty to eighty pages that expand on some of the material it has introduced, but more importantly some of that space could have used some new game mechanics that are unique to Sword Coast. For me, this book felt too much like a bunch of reassembled lore that has been present in role-playing games for years. To be fair, yes 5th ed. is a rebirth of D&D and some of it is needed, but this just didn’t have enough new content introduced into the Realms.