The 10 Best Dungeons & Dragons Books

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Greetings, adventurers! Welcome to your new Dungeons & Dragons campaign!

Thanks to several streams and popular shows like Critical Role, Dungeons & Dragons is becoming increasingly popular since its fifth edition arrived in 2014. Whether you’re new to the game or a veteran player or a complete newbie, the game can be a bit confusing. You may be wondering about how to get into the game. We’ve put together this handy list of the best ten D & D books to help you get a game going today. So, get your character sheet ready, pull out your dice and warm up your imagination as we dive into the ten best Dungeons & Dragons books.

10. Player’s Handbook (fifth edition)

The essential guide to  D & D

What it’s about: Sharpen your axe and get ready for battle! Sneak around the city, stealing everything in sight! Sling spells with the best of them! Meticulously craft your player character with the Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook. The Player’s Handbook is the single most important book for any player of the game to have. The book walks you through the creation of a character from race (human, dwarf, elf, dragonborn, tiefling, etc.), class (fighter, wizard, cleric, rogue and more) and ability scores to introducing the basics of combat. It’s an invaluable tool for playing the game.

What’s great about it: A handy equipment guide, and information on how to develop the role-playing aspect of your character round out the usefulness of the book. The final third of the book contains a massive spell index, from which your character can select the appropriate spells for their level. The book is an invaluable asset to any player and will be constantly referenced throughout any game of Dungeons & Dragons.

9. Dungeon Master's Guide (fifth edition)

A step-by-step resource for running the game!

What it’s about: The Dungeon Master’s Guide gives the dungeon master—the person running the adventure—a wonderful set of tools for use in the game. Suitable for both beginning and advanced DMs, this book is the first place any dungeon master should go before, during and after a game. The book guides you on how to run the game, handle time, handle difficult players and more. Learn what the magic items do and successfully run a campaign with the fifth edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. As part of the Core Rules, the DMG is an absolute necessity.

What’s great about it: The DMG contains item crafting, monster creating and world-building guides that remove much of the guesswork of creating a campaign. Unlike previous editions of the book, this version has unique content that isn’t a straight copy of the PHB. The book also demonstrates different styles of play—using hex maps and miniatures or theater of the mind. Just don’t let your players peek inside!

8. Monster Manual (fifth edition)

Dragons, Beholders and Bugbears, oh my!

What it’s about: Every dungeon master needs a menagerie of beasts to throw at the unwitting adventurers in his game. This book provides hundreds of iconic and new monsters for use in any campaign. Each entry contains high-quality artwork, stats and background information on the monsters to use in any D & D game. Marvel at the insane abilities of the dragons and revel in the vicious nature of the beholder. Pick from a variety of monsters and have a blast throwing them at your players!

What’s great about it: The book provides ideas for how to role-play the monsters and use them in non-combat scenarios. For combat itself, the stat blocks are simple, laid out in an easy to read format and give the option to roll dice or simply use average stats. It makes running a combat or encounter simple and fun. The glossary and alphabetical listing make any monster easy to find and the artwork is superb.

7. Volo's Guide to Monsters (fifth edition)

The infamous Volo meeting a giant

What it’s about: The great master of lore, Volo, makes his fifth edition debut in this book. His travels through the Forgotten Realms have yielded spectacular fruit and he presents them in an amusing way here. This book is chock full of monstery goodness for DMs and players alike. The book covers a great many additional monsters for use in the D & D game and introduces several new abilities the players can use when they create characters.

What’s great about it: Volo and Elminster (the sage of the Forgotten Realms) have verbal battles of wit throughout the book. It’s hilarious and breaks up the monster manual format. The narrative surrounding the new monsters is a great addition to the game and some monsters from older editions—fan favorites—return here. The artwork is phenomenal, and the layout is even easier to use than the original Monster Manual.

6. Monstrous Manual (second edition)

Even more monsters with ecological info to boot!

What it’s about: Not to be confused with the current editions Monster Manual, the second edition Monstrous Manual is a hefty tome worth its weight in information. Combing all the old Monstrous Compendium loose-leaf sheets into one book, this over 300-page book covers the entire spectrum of established D & D lore. You get dragons, minotaurs, beholders, kobolds and traditional monsters, along with some weirder creatures from across the multiverse. It’s a lore book that’s fun both within and outside of the game itself.

What’s great about it: Though the stats are out-of-date for the current edition, the ecology and extensive lore contained in this book can help move the story forward in your current games. You can learn all about the different types of Beholders, for instance, or experience the flora and fauna of other D &D worlds like Dragonlance and Dark Sun. It’s easy to convert these creatures to the fifth edition and fun to read about the motivations of certain creatures. It’s also perfect for nostalgic value, if you’re into such things.

5. Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes (fifth edition)

Who is this mysterious wizard and why does he keep threatening me?

What it’s about: The newest book on this list, Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes features extensive information on the Blood War between the devils and demons. It also covers the differences between dark elves and dark dwarves and provides some background on mainstay monsters like the Gith. Rounding out the book are new monsters and stats for use in the game. The coolest thing about this book is that it teaches you how to create non-player characters out of both devils and demons, for use in your campaign, along with providing additional powers for tiefling characters.

What’s great about it: The narrative alone will keep you enthralled. Seriously, it’s like reading a novel or watching Babylon 5. The first part of the book—extensively covering the Blood War—is incredibly engaging. The re-introduction of bipedal, mercenary hippo’s, the Giff (originally from second edition) is fan service at its best. The creepy, somewhat disturbing additional monsters are a great way to spice up a current or future campaign. Add in some sweet artwork, and you’ve got a recipe for amazing.

4. Xanathar's Guide to Everything (fifth edition)

Meet Waterdeep's most famous Beholder

What it’s about: The Xanathar is a feared and reviled creature, who also happens to be a mob boss in the city of Waterdeep. As a voracious hoarder of information, he can be difficult to deal with at times and downright dangerous if not properly spoken with. This tome covers a great dael of his hoarded information and makes it available to both players and DMs. New class features, magic spells and more abound in this hilariously written tome for the D & D game. This beholder hates to share, but share he does in this fantastic book!

What’s great about it: The new spells are useful for many applications in the game and can decimate any foe. The new class features allow players to create the ultimate heroes and better develop their role-playing abilities. On top of that, there’s a handy name table and an appendix demonstrating how to keep the game running if—for some reason—your dungeon master is no longer available to run the game. These small details make a big difference.

3. Tales from the Yawning Portal (fifth edition)

 

It's anything but boring

What it’s about: Enter the Yawning Portal and tell your adventurous tale! The tavern is a hub for the most interesting and unique adventures across the worlds of D & D. Ostensibly used as a framing device, the Yawning Portal is a tavern in the City of Waterdeep acting as a hub or leaping point for any of seven updated D & D adventures for your game. It can be used as the start of a campaign or the group can pick and choose individual adventures to run.

The adventures contained herein are:

  1. Against the Giants
  2. Dead in Thay
  3. Forge of Fury
  4. Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
  5. Sunless Citadel
  6. Tomb of Horrors
  7. White Plume Mountain

What’s great about it: There are seven classic adventures, updated for use with the fifth edition of the game. Tomb of Horrors has lost none of its terrifying traps, White Plume Mountain is as adventurous as before and the other five adventures are perfect for any campaign or one-shot game. The best part? The adventures can be combined into a single campaign for your group. Starting at the lowest levels and progressing up to the ultimate high-level adventure (Tomb of Horrors), Tales from the Yawning Portal provides an immersive and detailed campaign experience, with fun for any player regardless of experience.

2. Curse of Strahd (fifth edition)

What a horrible night to have a curse...

What it’s about: Welcome to the strange and terrifying land of Barovia, adventurers! The Castle Ravenloft lies in the distance, home to the vile Count Strahd von Zaridovich. It’s up to you to infiltrate the town, seek out the information for your quest, find the magic items and slay the count. In this campaign, you’ll be scared to death if you don’t keep your wits about you. It’s like Castlevania on steroids!

What’s great about it: The book comes with a fold out map of Barovia that’s perfect for visualizing the campaign. The character arc of Strahd is not only full of intrigue, but it changes from game-to-game. So, you won’t have the same experience twice with this campaign. Along with the Castlevania style atmosphere, tarot readings in the form of the Tarokka Deck and the irresistible appeal of Strahd, this book is fun for the whole gaming group.

1. The Complete Psionics handbook (second edition)

Let's get psionic, baby

What it’s about: Behold the mighty powers of the mind! Control your enemies by sheer strength of will! The Complete Psionics handbook tells players everything they need to know about using psionics—magic-like abilities harnessing the powers of the mind, rather than magical energies. In some of the campaign worlds like Spelljammer, psionics are an invaluable asset to players. From telepathy to telekinesis and beyond, psionics are fun addition to any game!

What’s great about it: There are pages upon pages of unique psionic abilities. The abilities themselves can be taken from this book and easily converted to the fifth edition of the game, allowing for the use of psionics in fifth edition. Until we receive a new psionics book, this is the absolute best tome on the subject available from sites like Drive thru RPG and Dungeon Master’s Guild.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the ten best D & D games. Pick up a few of them, start a campaign and have fun! Until next time, keep rolling those dice!

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Born into the world of DOS gaming and raised in the Golden Age of Shareware. Avid PC gamer since the dawn of time. Steam, model building/painting and repairing old tech keeps me sane.
Gamer Since: 1987
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Currently Playing: Warhammer: Space Marine
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