D&D: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, by edited by Jeremy Crawford & Kim Mohan
If you read this book, it is pretty likely that you are interested in the geography and culture of the imaginary Forgotten Realms area of the role playing game Dungeons & Dragons. It should be noted that this particular book discusses the area that is used as the starting area, which my particular party is engaged in at present. This book, like many others , is designed to help players more effectively deal with the imagined reality of role playing games. This is likely to be an area familiar with many people, although Phandalin is not talked about in the pages of this book, and its general location must be guessed at based on the landmarks that are included. I myself found this book to be of use in helping me craft the background of my sahaugin-speaking half-orc barbarian, by giving him a background as a diplomatic emissary of a former orc tribe from the pirate isles of Nelanther, where his high degree of intellect and charisma made him a natural choice to deal with diplomacy given how much such matters were in need among his rather non-intelligent and not very charismatic people. Your purposes will likely differ from mine.
This book contains contents that, in the main, will closely resemble many other books, with its own focus and charm. The first chapter introduces the reader to the Sword Coast, the northern inhabited areas of the Forgotten Realms, discussing matters such as time, history, magic, and religion in these heathen lands. The second chapter discusses the regions of the Sword Coast and the North, namely the Lord’s Alliance, the Dwarfholds of the North, the Island Kingdoms, various smaller independent realms, and the Underdark. These regional studies are told through the perspectives of various imaginary travel guides experienced in these areas, and are full of maps and humorous commentary and sidebars that are worthy of reader interest as well and that take up more than a third of the book’s 160 or so pages. The third chapter discusses the common races of the realms: dwarves, elves, halflings, humans, dragonborn, gnomes, half-elves, half-orcs, and tieflings, which ought to be familiar to most gamers. The fourth chapter gives an introduction to various class options for barbarians, bards (including a discussion of the Harpers), clerics, druids, fighters, monks, paladins, rangers, rogues, sorcerers, warlocks, and wizards. The fifth chapter discusses various regional backgrounds that are possible for characters in this area, including city watch, clan crafter, cloistered scholar, courtier, faction agent, far traveler, inheritor, knight of the order, mercenary veteran, urban bounty hunter (collecting those student loans I suppose), Uthgardt tribe member, and Waterdhavian noble. There is a short appendix on how to adapt this area for related worlds like Dragonlance, Eberron, and Greyhawk.
Although this book is largely of interest to a certain niche audience of gamers of a particular type, this book offers insight into characteristic human tendencies that are far more generally applicable than this book’s specific contents. The fact that the authors of this book seek to ground an imaginary world in the conventions that are common to people, such as travelogues and ethnologies, all aspects of common writing for people. It is easy for people who play games to be considered as marginal geeky sort of people. Yet this book is one of many that reminds us that those who play role playing games do not lose any aspects of their humanity, including their desire to be rooted to culture and history, even when they are imagining. Our humanity shines through in whatever activities we are doing, whether that is a good thing or not being something I do not consider myself fully qualified to judge as a flawed and fallible human being myself.
 See, for example: