Fizban's Treasury of Dragons 1

Preface review

gm settings rpg 5e dnd

I picked up Fizban's Treasury of Dragon and have been reading it cover to cover. This is my review of the book, chapter by chapter.

In true Dragonlance tradition, the first section of this book is a poem. The poem is called Elegy for the first world, and it's the vehicle the book uses to push its theory of a Grand Unification of the Multiverse. It's very much an explicit theme throughout the volume that each dragon in one D&D setting has a version of itself in all (or most, at least) other D&D settings. Because that's the assertion of the book, there are sometimes "glitches" in the text where Paladine and Takhisis, for instance, are referred to as Bahamut and Tiamat. I mean, literally they're sometimes called Bahamut and Tiamat. For instance, on page 44 (which is well into Chapter 3, but it illustrates the point I'm making):

Famously, Bahamut traveled the world of Krynn in the guise of a human wizard named Fizban, guiding the peoples of that world as they prepared for war against the evil forces of Tiamat.

Zoinks, but that reads wrong to a longtime fan of Krynn. Anyone who's read (and re-read, and re-read) Dragonlance knows that it's Paladine who walked among the mortals of Krynn. But according to this new Grand Unified Multiverse theory, of course, Paladine is Bahamut and Bahamut is Paladine, and Takhisis is Tiamat and Tiamat is Takhisis.

Grand unified dragons

On page 80 of AD&D Dragonlance Adventures, Takhisis is described this way:

her favorite form is that of the five-headed chromatic dragon [...] Each head has a different color (white, green, blue, red, and black)

So despite my initial discomfort at seeing the names of Forgotten Realms gods in a paragraph about Dragonlance, I really like this new view of the multiverse. And I love that it's framed through the mythos of Dragons. I love that it takes the "first world" concept, which I think is borrowed from the idea of the Fae in either Celtic mythology or else Tolkien mythology (or maybe both?). As much of a fan as I am of mythology, I'm no expert, but I do know that I've heard the idea of previous iterations of a universe that get replaced as either experiments fail or gods get restless or magic gets abused. Shadowrun, for instance, is the "Sixth World", in the same general tradition.

I like that D&D is bequeathing its most iconic species, the Dragons, with the honour of existing before all else. It's a unique and unexpected way of making Dragons inately godlike, without granting all Dragons godlike abilities. It boosts the mythology around them, and places them on a particularly noble pedastal within the game world. And they deserve it, because the game is half-named for them.

Unreliable narrator

Each of the Player Handbook and Dungeon Master Guide expansions are ostensibly annotated by an in-world author. The margin notes in Xanathar's Guide were entirely useless. I believe they were meant to be jokes, because they never contained useful information. After that, I basically stopped reading the margin notes. I skip over them in Volo's Guide (are they even there in that one?), Mordenkainen's Tome. I did venture to read them in Tasha's Cauldron, but they read exactly like Xanathar's Guide, as if though they were written by the exact same real-world author (and they may have been) who changed their costume but failed to change character.

The notes in Fizban's Treasury are hit-and-miss at best. I heard an interview with the author of the margin notes, so I know it was a different author than the other books. The very first one in this book, though, sounds like an off-cut from Volo's Guide got combined with an off-cut from Xanathar' Guide:

This book insists on sorting dragons into little, understandable boxes as if the readers had only 100 years or so to live and their tiny baby-brains could hold only so much knowledge.

"Tiny baby-brains"? I've read lots of Dragonlance, and that is not the Fizban I know. Here's another one:

My favourite Ascendant Dragon monks all narrate their bodily attacks aloud with fun onomatopoeias. Swish ka-pow, indeed.

It's sort of like MST3k got brought in to markup my book, only I didn't ask anybody to come in to my D&D quiet time and make fun of my fantasy world.

Some quotes feel like the author was trying to capture attributes of Fizban. In a note about a spell that bears his name:

Honestly, I've created so many things, I can't really keep track of them all.

Well, that's spot-on for Fizban! Or at least, the sentiment is. It reads awfully lucid, to me, though. I acknowledge, however, that a modern take on Fizban could express itself that way, so that quote at least rang true. It is, unfortunately, a minority.

The annotations are easy enough to ignore. I'm very tempted to go through with a marker and strike them all out, but that's a lot of book-defacing over something so trivial, so I've refrained so far. Of all the characters annotating source books, I'm easily most familiar with Fizban, but I don't find these notes any worse than the other books. I do lament a little for the readers whose initial introduction to Fizban are these annotations. They don't represent him accurately. I don't mind an update to his voice, but it would have been nice if his character came through.

First world

The first world mythology is discussed for just 2 pages, and possibly at a lower word count than I've written about it. It's an important part of the book though, because it strongly influences the rest of the volume. It's a very strong start, though, and whomever decided to open with a poem is a genius.

Next up, character creation.

Previous Post Next Post