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The Ultimate Adventurer's Handbook $39.95
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Matias N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/14/2022 10:52:56

Warning: I served as a beta reader for the project, and although I didn’t have a review copy I did have a head start in getting in touch with the material, also I am a player at a Ross’s campaign, not only that, but he is my friend and while I try to not let personal feelings get in the middle of my review, I do believe it is at a reader’s discretion to choose to believe me on that front.

Short Summary:

UAH is an excellent piece of art. If what you are looking for evocative concepts to get in your D&D table, both for races and classes, mixed with top notch balance design and all new mechanics you haven’t seen before, this is the book for you. If you enjoy beautiful layout presentations and completely original illustrations with your third party D&D books, this book is for you. If you are tired of seeing at your tables every rogue become a Swashbuckler, every ranger a Gloom Stalker, and the like, this is the book for you. Even if you are hesitant to buy it due to having the previous books in the complete series in your library, in this book not only you will find it easier to reference by having them in one single tome, but also most of them have been updated through their contemporary design sensibilities, if you liked the previous versions, this is the book for you. There isn’t any aspect of this book where I find myself at a shortage of praises for it. In the echelons of D&D design, – not only third party but official as well – this book sits in a class second to none. I can fully see this book, for a group open to use it, to become as indispensable as a Player’s Handbook –a book that this matches in page count- or at least a Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.  

Longer Summary:

A review in letter format:

To whoever is thinking about buying this book. I wish I were you, and had the chance to open these pages and see each single option with a sense of awe and discovery. I wish I had the chance to look at the Kilnikin´s for the first time and wander through their incredible sub race option, to discover the Beastfolk’s versatility, and to meet new friends, some long wished for and some completely new, to be discovered.

In short I wish I were you. To find the narrative spaces the artificer could have gotten – and now has. To hear the thunderous march of the Path of the Stampede Barbarian’s. To haggle everything no matter how insignificant, all while casting through your money pouch with the Cleric’s Domain of Commerce. To light a fire next to your friends with the Circle of Community’s druid, which itself lights a fire inside of them.

Although I could I will not speak about every class and my favorite subclass of theirs, I will give my dues and say that I find in this brainchild between Benjamin and Ross a project that never stepped on anyone else’s toes. They crafted their place and even more so, they found a way in which not to replace any previously existing options, but find the narrative and mechanical offer those classes had left open, unanswered.

In this you will find not only that it is beautifully illustrated with a big amount of them being completely original pieces of art intended for their designed subclasses and all of the races, but every choice feels thoughtful and done so after long consideration. The layout and graphic design is also great, helping you keep on track all throughout the way with the sidebar, which after learning each symbol, makes it really easy to know which part of the book you are in. Other aspects of the layout also stand out, the structure is generous, such as in even in the busiest of parts, when the text could feel crumpled up it never gets overwhelming. Another valuable aspect is how it credits every artist, whenever possible, with a tasteful comment on the opposite side of the page from said sidebar, in such a way that it is never hidden in the background, but also isn’t obtrusive.

To speak of the design quality itself is to speak of both designers, Benjamin & Ross. Benjamin as many people have described untold times before me, is not only of the most accomplished third party designers in the hobby space, he is also one of the best at it. If you were to ask me where his strength lies I would say it probably comes out of his excellent observation of which archetype options are missing and having the absolute expertise of both crafting innovative solutions for them as well as having them set up in such a way that they never overshadow previous options.

As for Ross I will let the man describe the brand on his own words, when asked about why the monocles he said:

> “Because they're the perfect combination of silly, classy, useful, and just a little offbeat, which is basically my entire brand.”

If Benjamin is really good at creating options where one goes “ah, I wished this existed before when I was rolling my last character” or “I had a character idea for which this option would have been just perfect!” Ross’s excells bringing ideas completely out of the left field, which themselves are so flavorful, so interesting both mechanically as well as through their implications and themes, you just can’t help but want to play, all with top notch balance. From each one of them you will be receiving a refreshed, bettered version of one of their classes.

The Pugilist from Benjamin is a statement to his craft. Many thought an unarmed weapon fighter couldn’t be done with the monk occupying that slot almost by itself, but Benjamin showed with it that not only was it possible, but having seen both of them at my tables, as well as it has been told by many before me, they manage to differentiate each other entirely, even if they are to use similar means to an end. Needless to say, the revised version is the best there is, and I’m looking forward to roll a Dog & Hound in the near future.

The Accursed from Ross is succinctly my favorite class, ever. From the very first day I read about this class I knew Ross had managed to find a niche I haven’t ever seen before, not even from my 3.5E days, nor my 4E. Enough to say it has captured my creativity ever since, and in this new version, in which every single aspect of the class has been upgraded you will find an ever growing enigma, how is it that I never knew that these where the character I wanted to make?

Through filling both the spaces you knew you wanted to play but couldn’t find the options to nail them in the head, as well as these confronting options you never knew you wanted, there is surely something in this huge book that will get your attention.

That is without even mentioning anything about the many, many, writers and designers who helped make this come to fruition, people whose work on their own is absolutely fantastic and elevate this project even further as well as the editors whose fine tuning of the language made it really pop, or the myriad of feats, spells and magic items that are themselves completely aligned with the excellent evocative design as well as impeccable balance as with the rest of the book.

There isn’t enough to be said about this project, which in a way has been almost four years in the making with the first leg of the “complete” series starting in 2018.

As I’ve seen it been put in words, this has been over one and a half year in production and I’ll add it shows in every aspect. Not only that, but one can see the growth the “complete” series had through the past almost four years, and in this you will find the ripest of fruits, the one that will help feed your sessions for years to come.

A long time ago I heard that people never get their flowers while they can still smell them, I hope every member of this huge project get theirs out of this fantastic blooming tree.

In the end, for you reader, there isn’t anything else I can say except, this really is the Ultimate Adventurer’s Handbook. Matías N.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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The Ultimate Adventurer's Handbook
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