Review: Wizards of the Coast – The Practically Complete Guide to Dragons (Dungeons & Dragons)

The Practically Complete Guide to Dragons
The Practically Complete Guide to Dragons is a systemless sourcebook based in Dungeons & Dragons lore, written by Susan J. Morris, Lise Trutkoff Trumbauer, and James Wyatt and published by Wizards of the Coast.
By Aaron T. Huss

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The Practically Complete Guide to Dragons is a mechanics-less, all fluff sourcebook delving deep into the lore of dragons as found in Dungeons & Dragons. Written in a narrative style from the words of Sindri Suncatch, a Kender Wizard, it brings together three previous releases (A Practical Guide to Dragons, A Practical Guide to Dragon Riding, and A Practical Guide to Dragon Magic) and explores the subjects further. And although it is written in the Dungeons & Dragons lore style, it is 100% systemless and can be used anywhere.

The Practically Complete Guide to Dragons goes incredibly deep into all manner of material related to dragons – anatomy, society, lairs, hoards, combat, magic, and kinfolk. It is written a very straightforward source material way, meaning it’s not trying to persuade the reader to use these dragons in a standard mechanical way. In fact, you can use the material within to make not only your dragons come alive (adversaries, allies, or companions), but also the backgrounds of anyone associated with dragons (and their kinfolk). Going a step further is incredibly detailed material about how to seamlessly meld these dragons into your setting. Sometimes a dragon is nothing more than an adversary; this book gives them a purpose, a story, a motivation, and what it means to be that type of dragon.

Dungeons & Dragons is filled with dragons of different types. Most of them are presented as little more than a stat block with a guide for the GM and a reason for them to be in the adventure. The Practically Complete Guide to Dragons is the ultimate source for understanding what makes each dragon unique, how that translates to their personality, and how that correlates to their home. This provides value to GMs for making dragon encounters feel natural, value to players for how they could possibly turn a dragon into a companion, and breathe excitement into characters associated dragons (such as dragonborn and dragon magic users). Additionally, anyone seeking the fantastical lore of Dungeons & Dragons will have a great time with this book.

This is a cool book. The artwork is absolutely amazing and I love the narrative style. Due to the way the content is presented and the desire to keep it sounding like lore and not mechanics, the narrative style becomes a true enhancement. If it wasn’t presented this way, it would probably  get a little dry quickly. That type of presentation works great for bestiaries and adventures, but it would break the flow of the content and how you can quickly get absorbed into what you’re learning.

As a side note, each dragon does include a box of “Facts” covering some mechanical items such as height, weight, wingspan, habitats, enemies, and more. This will help paint that picture in your head and how to make that encounter come to life!

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