Wizards of the Coast’s newest D&D sourcebook (in conjunction with Green Ronin Publishing) is the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, or SCAG as I am beginning to affectionately call.
Officially releasing November 3, 2015, some game stores in WotC’s premiere network (including my own friendly local game store) received advance copies October 23rd so I’m able to give this first look and help placate the ravening hordes until the general release.
So after spending a couple of days with the SCAG, what’s it all about? Do I like it? Would Drizzt Do’Urden salute or slash all involved? Does Ed Greenwood burst through the pages dressed like Elminster into your bedroom and puff smoke in your eyes? Read on and find out (or, alternately, watch the optional video version below)!
The SCAG‘s back cover exclaims “this book provides the setting, story, and character options needed to participate in a D&D game anywhere along the Sword Coast of Faerûn.”
The Sword Coast lies along the Northwestern portion of Faerûn, which is itself a continent on the world of Toril. All of them are part of Ed Greenwood’s famous Forgotten Realms D&D setting. Although the SCAG does cover some lore of the Realms in general, the majority of it is, as the title suggests, all about the Sword Coast.
This book isn’t just a campaign setting. It’s also not just full of rules for new ways to customize characters. Instead it’s a blend: part campaign setting and part player’s resource. Although written with the D&D tabletop game in mind, folks that love the Forgotten Realms world in books and games would probably find a lot of things to be interested in with the SCAG.
“Campaign setting”-wise here’s what you’ll find:
- History of the Realms
- Magic in the Realms
- Religion of the Realms
- Gods of Faerûn
All of the above sections are very descriptive and rich in atmosphere. You can get comfy on your couch and dig in.
The major cities and areas of the Sword Coast are covered, including of course Waterdeep, Neverwinter, Luskan, the Dwarfholds, and the Underdark (although readers interested in in-depth coverage of the Underdark should refer to the recently released Out of the Abyss campaign sourcebook). The locations in the SCAG breakdown along these lines:
- The Lord’s Alliance
- Dwarfholds of the North
- Island Kingdoms
- Independent Realms
- The Underdark
The locations are described in both third person like an encyclopedia entry and in some cases in a first person “travelogue” style. The Underdark, for example, is a first person account of an escaped slave who manages to gain aid from the svirfneblin.
“Player’s Resource”-wise, the SCAG offers:
All Races from the Player’s Handbook are represented in the SCAG, and each race is provided with plenty of background on how they fit in within the Forgotten Realms. Many of the differences have PH analogs, however some races have sub-races or variants that are unique to the Realms:
- Dwarves: Duergar
- Halflings: Ghostwise
- Gnome: Svirfneblin (Deep Gnome)
- Half-Elf: 4 variants
- Tieflings: 5 variants
As with the races, all classes from the Player’s Handbook are present and all classes come with a nice helping of Realms-specific descriptive information. In addition, several receive some new rules love:
- Barbarians: 2 new Primal Paths
- Bards: 3 new Colleges that have PH equivalents; 12 new musical instruments
- Clerics: 1 new Domain
- Druids: 3 new Circles that have PH equivalents; rules for moonwells
- Fighters: 1 new Martial Archetype
- Monks: 6 new Monastic Orders, 3 of which have PH equivalents; 2 new Monastic Traditions
- Paladins: 3 new Orders; 1 new Oath
- Rangers: Some flavor and race notes, but rules-wise the SCAG gives Rangers bupkis (which to me is interesting because one of the most famous Forgotten Realms characters is a ranger)
- Rogues: 2 new Archetypes
- Sorcerers: 1 new Origin
- Warlocks: Realms-specific patron notes for existing PH Patron options; 1 new Patron option
- Wizards: 2 new Wizardly Groups; 1 new Arcane Tradition; notes on Mage Sigils
This was probably the only really disappointing part of the SCAG for me at only 4 new spells, with all of them being cantrips on the sorcerer, warlock, and wizard spell lists.
- Booming Blade
- Green-Flame Blade
- Lightning Lure
- Sword Burst
12 new backgrounds:
- City Watch
- Clan Crafter
- Cloistered Scholar
- Faction Agent
- Far Traveler
- Knight of the Order
- Mercenary Veteran
- Urban Bounty Hunter
- Uthgardt Tribe Member
- Waterdhavian Noble
Other thoughts & impressions of the SCAG:
- The excellent art direction and overall quality of D&D 5E books continues with the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. Another great looking book with excellent art.
- I immediately noticed it felt lighter and was thinner than the other books, but that’s OK… it has a lighter price tag at $39.95 as opposed to the $49.95 for the majority of the other 5E books.
- Sword Coast would seem to be a somewhat limited region for its own sourcebook (as opposed to the continent of Faerûn or the overall world of Toril), but given the amount of game supplements, novels and computer games over the years set in the just the Sword Coast area (including the Underdark, which basically doubles the size of the region) the Sword Coast has earned its place as rich, varied setting of its own that entire campaigns and even campaigns of campaigns can be run in without running out of space. It’s easy to get lost in the campaign setting portion of the SCAG such as the history, locations, and deities.
- I like the fact that they included notes for using the new player options in other settings such as Dragonlance, Greyhawk, Eberron and even homebrew settings. Nice touch.
Should you buy it?
This is always a subjective answer, but I’ll do my best.
If you’re a D&D and/or Forgotten Realms completist, absolutely. It’s another quality product for the 5E line.
If you are a regular D&D player (either a DM or player) and spend any time in the Realms or are hungry for more player options, then yes I would recommend picking up the SCAG.
If you aren’t a big Forgotten Realms person or feel you have quite enough sourcebooks and player options at the moment thank you very much, then I would give it a pass (just don’t tell Bruenor I said that). This sourcebook is definitely targeted at a specific audience.
Thanks for reading and make sure to check out the photo gallery below. Happy Sword Coasting!