Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide In Review

Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide In Review

The Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide is a new rule supplement for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, giving players and Dungeon Masters a foundation to run games set in the Forgotten Realms Sword Coast region. If you’re new to Dungeons & Dragons please have a look at my previous D&D article How 5th Edition Saved Dungeons & Dragons.

The Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, a 159 page hard cover D&D 5e rule supplement with a $39.95 cover price, opens players to the world of Forgotten Realms for the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition game system. A 5 chapter 159 page rule supplement might feel a little expensive at this price point, fortunately it’s available for much less at Amazon and other retailers. Production quality, printing and binding is on par with the rest of the recent D&D 5e source books and it’s overall presentation is what you’d expect. I’d say it’s priced fairly at the discounted prices you’ll typically find online.

As previously noted this is a five-chapter rule book. An outline of each chapter is as follows.

The Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide

The Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide


Chapter 1: Welcome to the Realms gives the uninitiated a brief history and tour of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, updates those who may already be familiar with the setting with the most recent timeline, and expands on the magic, religion and Gods of Faerun (the world in which this setting exists).

While this book is titled and focuses on the Sword Coast, Chapter 1 does a good job of introducing the lands outside of the Sword Coast region to players and DM’s. Although not nearly as robust as campaign setting boxed sets from AD&D 2nd edition or the 3/3.5 edition hard cover books, it’s nice that it does give players unfamiliar with the setting a sense of what exists in other areas of Faerun.


Chapter 2: The Sword Coast and the North delves into the history and background of the region for which the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide is named. This section gives a much more in depth description of the locales and points of interest within the Sword Coast then were given for the neighboring regions in chapter 1.

Familiar locations like Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter and Waterdeep all feature maps and multi-page profiles that will provide Dungeon Masters with background info and story queues to fuel one shot game sessions or ongoing campaigns. The less familiar are also outlined in this chapter including the “Dwarfholds of the North” and the “Island Kingdoms,” giving players the opportunity to explore new and interesting areas of Faerun that have been less prominently featured in other forms of media.

Finally Chapter 2 of the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide concludes with a look at the Sword Coast undersection; the Underdark. Menzoberranzan and Blingdenstone, fan favourite locations from the Dark Elf series of books, are profiled here, along with a few other lesser known areas.


Chapter 3: Races of the Realms is where I expected the background information, profiles, and “fluff” to end and to start seeing the sort of content that was more common in rule supplement books from previous editions of Dungeons & Dragons. That is to say, I was expecting to see things like new options and alternate rules with ways to change our characters, their stats, and how they play within the world of Forgotten Realms. That said, as it turns out there isn’t much of that in this book.

Chapter 3 explains all the races as you would find in the players handbook, but in Forgotten Realms terms. It does very little to add or vary the way you actually build or play those races however.

This chapter explains for example that Faerun has Shield Dwarves, Gold Dwarves and Gray Dwarves (Duergar), but with the exception of the Gray Dwarf it’s just background information about the specific sub-race and how it directly relates to the dwarven sub-races as laid out in the Players handbook. In the case of the Duergar the authors do outline a few variant racial traits, but this is one of only two exceptions where they do this. For the most part you just get background history and “fluff” along with an explanation like “Sun Elves have the racial traits of high elves in the Player’s Handbook.”


Chapter 4: Classes looks at each of the 12 playable classes and their place within the realms. This chapter does offer some new playable rule changes to each class, but none of them were especially outstanding. While that is probably for the best for the sake of game balance, in the end I didn’t see anything that got me really excited.

Most classes are given a new class feature and there are a couple new spells introduced in chapter 4. In fact what they have done, in most cases, is extend the options for each classes level 3 class feature. For example with Barbarian you have modifications to the Primal Paths level 3 class feature as previously outlined in the Players Handbook. In the case of Clerics a new Divine Domain is available, the Arcana Domain. The fighter class has a new Martial Archetype, the Purple Dragon Knight, that you can choose at level 3 in lieu of the three preexisting choices already found in the PHB.

Each class gets some very small new feature like this, with the exception of Bard and Ranger. Bard gets new Bardic College background info and some new instruments to choose from, but this doesn’t offer any numerical, statistical or playable changes to the class. Rangers get nothing at all. The chapter features roughly one page of “fluff” content about the Ranger class as it pertains to the Forgotten Realms.

Finally the chapter rounds out with 3 new Cantrip spells for Sorcerers, Warlocks and Wizards. Overall the very limited updates, options, and changes to the playability of the classes is a bit of a let down.


Chapter 5: Backgrounds offers 12 additional character background choices to the inventory of backgrounds already found in the D&D Players Handbook. Like the rest of the backgrounds in the PHB, these new backgrounds provide you with ideas to use in the process of fleshing out your character’s history. They also offer you a couple skills and/or tool proficiency, equipment, languages and a feature that generally offers some non-combat benefit to your character that is meant to add flavor to your role playing experience.

Most of the new backgrounds don’t offer any characteristics choices and instead suggest you to choose traits, ideals, bonds and flaws from other backgrounds set in the Players Handbook. This felt a little lazy to me but I’m sure most people tend to make up their own characteristics and perhaps even their entire backgrounds anyway.


And Finally, there’s an appendix at the end of the book that gives you “Class Options in Other Worlds.” This outlines what things you might change or how you might fit each class into other game worlds such as Dragonlance, Eberron, Greyhawk and Homemade Game Worlds. For example the new Fighter class feature Purple Dragon Knight could directly relate to the Knights of Solamnia in the Dragonlance game setting.

Instead I would have preferred an appendix that expanded on the bestiary from the Monsters Manual and introduced some Forgotten Realms specific creatures and monsters or perhaps some new weapon choices; but that was left out of this book entirely.


In conclusion, if you’re new to the Forgotten Realms campaign setting the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide does give you a lot of background history and outlines the Sword Coast region fairly nicely. You will get a lot of good location information if you’re a DM trying to flesh out your campaign’s setting. Also, if you find that you tend to play RP heavy games that rely on a deep knowledge of the game world, and do plenty of adventuring in the Sword Coast region of the Forgotten Realms this book will come in handy as well.

On the other hand if you’re looking for a book that’s a little more similar to supplements from previous editions of Dungeons & Dragons; offering things like numerous and new class features, feats, skills, spells, weapons and other options that will enhance and expand on the combat and tactics of the game, this book probably is not be for you. Those types of things are in very short supply and you might be a little disappointed.


Guy Wozniak is the webmaster and a content contributor for NerdGoblin.com. Thank you for reading his article and visiting the site. Please join us on our social media sites Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

1 Comment

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    Leo February 06, 2016

    how in-depth does it delve into waterdeep and the cities? lots of maps or just general overviews?

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