The Saving Throw
Dungeons and Dragons, 4th Edition ~ Manual of the Planes 11.27.2009
Saving Throw's review of the Manual of the Planes

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Manual of the Planes
published by Wizards of the Coast reviewed by Martin Drury
160 pages, 2008, $29.95
Content 3
Organization 4
Consistency 4
Intelligibility 3.5
Review Scoring

   At its core Dungeons & Dragons is about fantasy roleplaying, and it's hard to have the "fantasy" part of that without planes of existence aside from the mortal world. With the 4th Edition of the game, Wizards of the Coast has made wholesale changes to the organization of the Planes. Thankfully these changes do not really affect how the different Planes are used in gaming sessions.

The book is divided into seven chapters. Four chapters cover the basics of the four main Planes, the Feywild, Shadowfell, Elemental Chaos and the Astral Sea. The remaining three chapterscover the basics of exploring the planes, typical monsters of the Planes, and planar characters options.

The Astral Sea will be familiar to gamers of previous editions, as will the Feywild. The Shadowfell is very similar to the Plane of Shadow from previous editions, with a bit of the Negative Energy Plane thrown in. It is where the souls of the dead who are not claimed by deities or other forces wind up once their time on the Mortal Plane is over. Life exists on the Shadowfell, but it is a muted, darker reflection of the Mortal Plane, like the Feywild is a more vibrant reflection. The Elemental Chaos is a conglomerate of the Elemental Planes from previous editions. This plane is not inherently dangerous, but hazards do still exist.

The chapter on monsters of the planes provides over twenty new ones, most of them devils or demons. For a Game Master this number might be a bit short of optimal. One of the monsters, the Bladeling, is also available as a player race and a separate chapter provides eight new paragon paths, twelve new rituals, and several new magic items, ranging from weapons and armor to even vehicles.

The Manual of the Planes does a good job of providing an overview of planar travel and exploration in Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, but more information could have been provided, and would have been greatly appreciated by players and Game Masters. The final verdict: The Manual of the Planes comes up a bit short on content, but what it does provide is organized well.

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