Xanathar’s Lost Notes to Everything Else is a release from the DM Guild’s Adepts that contains a wealth of additional options for your D&D campaign. In a previous post, I had a quick look at the new class options. It’s very hard to evaluate class options without testing them in play, but my initial impressions were mixed.
As with the Wizards official release, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, XLTtEE provides several new options for the Dungeon Master.
Critical Failures and Successes. This section provides more variety to critical failures and successes; this is good for players who dislike the standard options. The notes advise care when using them; you don’t have to use them all the time. Two tables with numerous entries give additional or replacement effects for critical hits and failures; some examples for critical hits include pushing the creature back, allowing your allies to make an extra attack, or stopping the target from making opportunity attacks. Some effects are very potent, much more so than a regular critical hit, so the use of these tables will make the results of combat more unpredictable. Likewise, the critical failure table can punish someone severely. Losing your grasp on your weapon and hurling it 15 feet away? Ouch! I’m not a fan of these tables myself, but I can see there will be groups who will embrace them.
Death and Returning. In AD&D, you were limited in the number of times you could return to life by your original Constitution score. XLNtEE provides an even less kind option: You can only ever be raised from the dead twice. The third time, you’re permanently dead. Alternatively, you could use “The Soul is Fragile” variant, where there is a chance the spell fails and destroys the soul! These options are interesting, but not for the faint-hearted.
Expanded Lingering Injuries. A new table of permanent injuries to inflict on your players, or for the players to inflict on NPCs they dislike. There are also variants of when to inflict or avoid lingering injuries, which are well thought-out.
Sanity and Corruption. This section expands the Sanity rules with the idea of Corrupted areas that make resisting insanity more difficult. I like this; it’s simple but flavourful.
Story Items. A table of 100 items that provide flavour to an otherwise empty area is useful, but this goes further and uses them to help build the story of your world. I like this very much, as it helps DMs who are looking for inspiration.
Suspicion. The intention is that you use this system when the adventurers are undercover or otherwise working covertly. In theory, it allows the DM to impose penalties as the party’s actions make the inhabitants more suspicious of them. It’s a nice idea, but very badly described, and I don’t understand how it’s meant to work. The wording is often vague and imprecise. Consider this text: “However, in some cases the adventure might dictate, this meter might reset as the characters move from encounter to encounter or at the DM’s discretion.” Pruning it down to the core ideas would do wonders!
New Magic Items. The book presents 26 new magic items. Several are inspired or unsettling, sometimes both. I like the idea of the Longbow of Lost Souls, which traps the souls of those it kills until you release them as an infusion of necrotic energy to your attack. The Belt of the Monkey allows you to grow a prehensile tail. The Traitor’s Tabard is a common magic item that can change its colour and design – useful for the potential traitor on the battlefield – although it’s odd to see that it requires attunement! Overall, I quite like these items, although a few have confusing wordings or are too baroque for even my sensibilities.
Overall, most of the options in this section are not particularly helpful for my campaigns, but I tend to run “by the book” with a minimum of house rules. The section that potentially could be most useful, that of “Suspicion”, is hampered by poor writing. In fact, this is a topic that could have a significant word count devoted to it, with a look at how the rules apply to different situations. That’s not the case here. It’s brief and poorly described.
I like best the options are the new magic items and the story items, which I can see including in my games.