The 5th Edition book for the Dragonlance setting has turned out to be less a setting book and more an adventure with some setting data. In an attempt to make up the difference, I recently purchased two Dragonlance books written by fans from DMs Guild. In this post, I'm reviewing Tasslehoff's Pouches of Everything. You can also watch this review on Youtube.
This book, tragically available only as a PDF at the time of my review (it requires "gold status" for DMs Guild to offer it as a hardcover), is by the Dragonlance Nexus community. The Dragonlance Nexus website has been an invaluable source of Dragonlance news since forever (it has origins in websites started in the late 1990s). I like to think that I'm familiar with Dragonlance, having read all the Dragonlance books I've stumbled upon over the years, but these community members are experts. And they wrote this book. I hate to spoil the review for you, but in short, it's unthinkable that this book isn't already a "gold status" seller, and I suspect its greatest weakness is that it hasn't got the word "Dragonlance" in its title.
So the book sacrifices discoverability to play into the "of Everything" template, which is pleasantly cohesive with other 5e books. However, it easily out-does Xanathar's and Tasha's and Fizban's books "of Everything," and makes up for much of the missing content from the official Dragonlance release.
It also suffers from the same design annoyances. This book has "annotations" from Tasslehoff, in the style of the other 5e "Everything" books. The tone of these quips in the official releases have mostly missed the mark, for me, but in this one the notes from "Tasslehoff" are mostly just bland. Whether you enjoy or dismiss the annotations, I consider the fictional annotations in these books to be unfriendly design. Elements that are specially highlighted on every other page offer no substance, and often times take you out of the fiction. I don't get it, I find it distracting, I wish the "Everything" books would do away with that design element.
Shadow of the Dragon Queen acknowledges basically just two races of Krynn: Kender and Draconians. There's a paragraph or two confirming that gnomes and elves exist, and then another paragraph about how all the other races could find their ways to Krynn, too. Anybody who's read even just the Chronicles knows that there's a lot more to Krynn than that, and this book is the solution.
There are only about 20 pages for Krynn races in this book, but for each race there's an overview of lore and sub-races. The dwarf section doesn't just mention that dwarves exist on Krynn. It talks about Calnar, Hylar, Daergar, Daewar, Klar, Neidar, Theiwar, Zhakar, and, yes, Aghar (gully dwarves!) The book includes lore and options for humans, elves, gnomes, tarmak, minotaurs, irda, phaethon, and more.
Starting way back with Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, 5e source books have consistently been reductionist, boiling down established settings into just the generally important parts. I can see that this racial section would be too much for an official 5e release. It doesn't make sense, arguably, to give players who don't care about Dragonlance beyond how Krynn is different from Toril, 10 varieties of dwarves. In the end, most of them can be summarized as "short sturdy people who live under mountains." But as a book for fans of the setting, this is blatantly the correct racial section for a 5e Dragonlance setting.
Most importantly, I think, is this book's version of the kender. I understand the arguments for reducing Dragonlance down to something simple for casual players, but the kender is, aside from Draconian, the defining race of the setting. To an outside observer, a kender probably looks like just another halfling. But in the same way that an apparently generic halfling race called "hobbits" define a setting by its tiniest details, so do the kender. The official 5e kender has no mechanic for pouches, and its one special ability is a combat taunt. It's the strangest misstep in design in the entire official book (remind me I've said that once I start talking about Lunar Magic, later), and luckily this book rectifies it.
Despite its title, chapter 2 is full of subclass options (not classes), and they're all pretty great. Well, they all look great. I haven't playtested them at the time of this writing, but what I love most about this section is the context the authors provide. These aren't just flavourfully named subclasses, these are subclasses with foundations in lore. The authors describe why the subclass exists, when in Krynn's history it was common and, in some cases, what it becomes after the cataclysm changes everything.
But the classes pale in comparison, in my opinion, to the other component of the chapter: factions.
Factions are funny things, being very very optional. I've used factions before as a Dungeon Master, but whether they actually become a driving force of the campaign always depends on player buy-in. One of the reasons I enjoy Ravnica so much is the focus it places on factions ("guilds" in Ravnican terminology). I find factions to be an easy "hook" into world building and lore, and while their upkeep can mean additional work for the DM, the added political aspect can be fun.
In Dragonlance, like Ravnica, there are hugely important factions built into the setting. That may be an understatement. Dragonlance is largely defined by Ansalon's factions. The most obvious two are the Knights of Solamnia and the Wizards of High Sorcery, but also clerics of various gods, kingpriest loyalists, Dark Knights, the Legion of Steel. The factions section of chapter 2 covers all the most important groups, and goes a step further than just listing them by also providing ranks within each faction so you can use the optional Renown rules from the DMG.
One of the factions is the Wizards of High Sorcery, and this book casually implements a simple Lunar Magic system (similar to my Lunar Magic system, which isn't surprising as they both just re-implement the original AD&D one.) It doesn't make the lunar system over-complex, and provides a moon tracking chart to help you keep track of the phases of each moon.
The only lunar magic in the official book is a spell list swap mechanic. It's called "lunar magic" and it's inexplicably limited to the sorcerer class. It's the strangest misstep in design in the entire official book (I feel like I've already used that line), and luckily this book rectifies it.
There are magic items in chapter 7. Items include the blue crystal staff, the staff of magus, the brightblade, glasses of arcanist, and an assortment of dragon lances. It's not all the iconic items from the Dragonlance books, but it's a bunch of the major ones.
I haven't even mentioned the backgrounds, feats (including "Kit's grin"), bestiary, the discussion of Krynn's timeline, or the overview of the geography and key regions of Ansalon (including a map). There's so much in this book, and it's all right.
Some of the content from the official source book is re-implemented here and there. In some cases, this book's implementation is superiour to the official one, and in other cases this book builds upon the official content. For instance, all races are better here than in the official book. However, the draconians here are basically the same as the official ones, except at a higher CR, so it looks like you're getting the same thing, but you're actually getting a stronger version of it.
Oh, and there's also a 10 page 1st level adventure included in the back of the book. The value just doesn't end.
There's no question. If you're a fan of Dragonlance, then this is the 5e Dragonlance setting book you're looking for. Get it now as a PDF and then get it again once it's gone "gold" on DMs Guild as a hardcover.
Dragon art by David Revoy. Creative Commons BY.