Book Review: Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide

Dungeons And Dragons:  Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide, by Rob Heinsoo, Logan Bonner, and Robert J. Schwalb

I must admit I was disappointed by this book.  That isn’t to say that this is a bad book, exactly, because it is not a bad book, but more that the book is one that tends to take away more from gameplay (like having good towns for player characters to spend time in and use as a homebase) than it adds in terms of new races/classes/focuses.  The fact that the book is part of the overly complicated fourth edition rules also makes this book a bit of a drag when it is compared to other editions of D&D (like 5e) or related games like Pathfinder.  I’m not sure exactly what the authors of this guide were going with in creasing a Forgotten Realms area where a great many areas were completely lost to civilized peoples and where numerous races (like the dwarves) were greatly harmed by changes to the map and the destruction of large parts of their homeland, and where areas that were formerly thriving cities are now being overrun by various beastly peoples or just holding on to a bare and pitiful existence under threat of global climate change, which reminds one of bad leftist apocalyptic scenarios of our own world.  No thanks.

This particular volume is a short one at just over 150 pages, but as might be imagined it takes longer to read than one would assume from a book of the size simply because of the nature of the text.  After a short introduction the authors begin with a look at various races (1), beginning with a look at the Drow and Genasi, which are being added to playable races in this realm, before looking at some of the changes and brief summaries of other races like the Dragonborn, Dwarves, Elves and Eladrin, and so on.  There is even a look at various supporting races that are likely viewed as NPC characters.  The authors then shift to character classes (2), discussing the swordmage and warlock (dark pact) as well as the spellscarred multiclass option with its own powers, along with a variety of paragon paths for higher level players.  The authors then spend a large section of the book looking at various regional backgrounds, showing a world that has suffered some pretty terrible times and that has not recovered and is still in a state of decline from its former place (3).  After that there is a brief discussion of various feats (4) before the author talks about rituals (5) as well as closing with a discussion of various deities and lore in what the book calls an almanac (6).

I can see aspects of this book as having been picked up by other players, since it is always fun to add new races with various powers to provide for intriguing gameplay options as well as new classes and specializations within classes.  That said, it is hard for me to imagine this particular setting being very popular for players.  As someone who has GM’d various Forgotten Realms quests, I must say that I find this particular setting to be a bit of a letdown, especially because the ability to travel widely and enjoy a variety of rich and thriving cultures is far more appealing than dealing with a seemingly post-apocalyptic world where various civilized tribes are finding their prospects dimmed by the spread of evil undead, the attacks of murderous drow, the depredations of beastly tribes, or the increase in freezing winds, all of which conspire to make less space playable and fewer places full of people and money and rewards, all of which makes for a less rewarding and enjoyable playing experience.  That’s just my opinion, of course, but it does mean I enjoyed this book a lot less than other guides that I have read.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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