This isn’t a review. I’ve got way too much on my plate to read this thing cover to cover, but I have skimmed it a few times and read a few bits more thoroughly so I think I can provide some observations at least.
- It doesn’t turn back the clock, but the Realms of SCAG is much more like the one I love. A lot of effort has been made to undo most of the random, crazy changes 4e introduced. Mulhorand, Faerun’s goofy-ass Egypt analogue, is back. Waterdeep is once again the shining star of the Sword Coast. The stars are in the sky, the water is in the Sea of Fallen Stars, etc.
- If anything, the combination of 5e changes and 4e changes moves the Realms back to what it was like in 2e. The Silver Marches (AKA Luruar), a nation of allied city-states based around Silverymoon, has been disbanded and the far north of Faerun is once again a dangerous frontier. I’m not exactly upset about this, even if I would like to see Alustriel reinstated as ruler of Silverymoon.
- Players worried about their characters being bossed around and eclipsed by NPCs can breathe a sigh of relief. Few of the classic Realms NPCs are back in any significant way, and no one is given any stats. Even I didn’t like the days when Khelben Arunsun was always 10 levels higher than any PCs, just so he could smack them down if they got too uppity.
- Laeral is the new Alustriel.
- Is Silverymoon even more Rivendellish than it used to be?
- I like how the Serpent Hills and Lizard Marshes are now a reptilian kingdom. I know that 3e had reptile-folk kingdoms way down in the south of the Realms, but who wants to leave the comforts of Waterdeep so far behind just to punch snake-people?
- The High Forest is definitely more Arcadian, more fairy tale-ish than it used to be. Too bad the 5e Monster Manual has so few fey.
- The 4e changes to the Moonshaes are still pretty much in place. I have to admit that I find this wilder, fey-ridden version of the Moonshaes pretty interesting. Again, it’s too bad the 5e Monster Manual has so few fey.
- (To be honest, every time I think about fantasy settings these days, I find myself attracted to a more mythical or fairy tale approach. I probably want to buy Beasts of Legend: Coldwood Codex for my own amusement.)
- The Sun Soul monk is the Ryu/Ken build you thought you were getting from the Way of the Four Elements. I’m going to try talking my monk player into rebuilding her character with this path instead.
- The Long Death monk makes me really wish WotC would publish a Monster Manual 2 with expanded NPC stats. Or a Sword Coast DM’s Guide with the same.
- I am not retroactively giving my Uthgardt GM PC the Uthgardt Barbaian background. He's a criminal through and through.