Books of the Past, Books of the Future

Many of us here on these boards have been around a while. We've seen at least 2 different editions, and some of us have been around since this whole crazy hobby took off. In this thread, I want us all to think back throughout the different editions we've played and focus on the various books that have caught our attention.

Maybe they're PC-based books that offered up wonderful new options. Maybe they're DM-based books that gave tips and advice on campaign creation. Maybe they're fluff-based books that just made for good reading. What are some of your favorite ones? Which ones would you like to see brought into the present day of D&D?

I'll start:

Favorite Books of Past Editions:

Manual of the Planes (1E): I can't count the number of times I've just sat and read through this book. As the primary DM, it just sparked imagination on every page. I still consider this one of the best books made for D&D to date.

Van Richten's Guides (2E): Entertaining as well as informative. Wonderful reads, as well as good info for DMs to make their monsters a little more in-depth than they were before.

Rules Cyclopedia (BECMI): An entire edition of D&D in one book. What's not to like?

Of Ships and the Sea (2E): A much-needed, well-presented book that took water-based adventuring to levels not previously seen in D&D. Dozens of types of ships are outlined, as well as naval battle and undersea adventuring. A good book for all editions.

Campaign Sourcebook and Catacomb Guide (2E): Great tips for DMs, to include mapping dungeons, creating memorable encounters, taking advantage of unusual locations, and much more. This is another book that is basically edition-neutral.

Complete Book of Villains (2E): A wonderful book chock full of tips and advice on making memorable recurring villains. It makes it easy for new and experienced DMs alike to breathe life into their antagonists and make them so much more than the BBEG at the end of the dungeon. Again, this is a wonderful book that is just as valid today as it was in 2E.

DMG (4E): Quite frankly one of the best DMGs produced to date, in my opinion. So many of the previous edition DMGs were copy/paste jobs from PHBs with a few added tables and a bunch of magic items. 4E's DMG was full of good advice and...not to be forgotten...the infamous page 42.

As far as which ones I'd like to see remade for DDN, aside from the Rules Cyclopedia and DMG, ALL of them. Not only do they all make for good reads in and of themselves, but most of the info in them is viable for use in all editions of the game, and will suit most every playstyle.

What about you?
"The world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind." - H.P. Lovecraft

Encyclopedia Magica vol I-IV (2nd Ed):  These were the first D&D books I ever owned, given to me one Christmas by an aunt who knew I played Magic the Gathering and assumed that these were, somehow, involved in the process.  Reading through them is what made me want to give D&D a try.

Also, really any 4th Ed book.  I own most of them at this point and love their layout, artwork, and information.  I have a particular fondness for the Shadowfell.

@mikemearls The office is basically empty this week, which opens up all sorts of possibilities for low shenanigans

@mikemearls In essence, all those arguments I lost are being unlost. Won, if you will. We're doing it MY way, baby.

@biotech66 aren't you the boss anyway? isn't "DO IT OR I FIRE YOU!" still an option?

@mikemearls I think Perkins would throat punch me if I ever tried that. And I'd give him a glowing quarterly review for it.

I'm going to actually take some liberties with your concept of "books"

Unearthed Arcana [1e] --when I was a kid reading D&D books for the first time, this book defined cool.

Curse of the Azure Bonds [1E/2E SSI video game] --I've played this game end to end more times than I can count, and have beaten it as recently as last year. This game sort of defines AD&D for me.

Complete Bard's Handbook [2E] --The shame was that all of the Handbooks weren't like this one

Eberron Campaign Setting [3E] --I don't really like Eberron, and would never run a game in it, but man did it set the standard of what a well crafted setting should be.

Tome of Battle: Book of Nine Swords [3E] --I would have given up on 3E in disgust years earlier if it hadn't been for this book.

Players Handbook [4E] --D&D finally starts getting it right.

Players Handbook 2 [4E] --This is where 4E started hitting its stride and started feeling truly complete.

The original offline Character Builder [4E] --so good it became indispensable, and its loss helped ruin 4E.
Monster Manual [1e, 2e, 3e, all suppliments]: This is my entry for 1e, but most monster manuals in the past have been books opf pure joy, containing such weird and interesting information... I have fun reading them all the time, and one of the biggest turnoffs about the playtest packets so far has been that after the brilliant and flavorful monster file in packet 1, all the monsters have been totally without their entertaining fluff.

Dungeon Master's Guide [2e]: This seems like a weird one, but hear me out: 4e fans often tout their DMG and the fact that it gives real advice about how to run the game.  3e's DMG was terrible about this (though to be fair, it was passable enough that I didn't know that until I experienced better), but 2e's DMG gave the same volume of advice that I hear people touting from 4e... but with a different gaming philosophy.  And book-writing philosophy.  When I cracked this open, trying to learn second as a break from 3rd, I was expecting it to be little help because the layout was not promising, but the information occulted within has been priceless: If I'm having a tough time resolving things, the 2e DMG is what I end up consulting for advice.  It could really, really do with an updated format, but the text is good.

Planescape Campaign Setting [2e]: Technically, this is a boxed set and not a single book, but 2e's distrobution method was... a little weird.  In my opinion, Planescape is what a fully realized campaign setting should be like: Unlike Greyhawk, Eberron, or the Forgotten Realms, which amount to "Our DM did work so yours doesn't have to", Planescape actually largley presents a different way to engage with the D&D game.  The tropes it calls up and the cannon of "What fits here" are so radically different from vanilla that it's practically tangental game... like a lovingly detailed mod of some computer games, it runs on the same framework but has its own heart, not just its own skin.  Spelljammer also does this really well and Dark Sun does it at least competantly, but I like Planescape better.

Arms & Equipment Guide + Stronghold Builder's Guide [3e]: These two books have been between "nice" and "indespensible" in my time playing 3rd edition.  The Arms and Equipment Guide is mostly known for the cheese that is the Mercurial Fullblade, and the Stronghold Builder's Guide mostly isn't known (because really, how many PCs in the modern era decide to own dirt and manage household?), but they're both very worthwhile for a DM.  The A&EG's sections on modes of transport and exotic mounts/pets were more use for worldbuilding than pretty much anything in the 3e DMG, and the Stronghold Builder's Guide is basically the bible of logical dungeon design.  Want to enhance your belivability in one easy step?  The next time you build a site that had or has a purpose to sentient creatures, pull down the Stronghold Builder's Guide and actually include what they need in a layout that at least kind of makes sense.  It really is a massive improvement over purposeless rooms full of combat.

Frostburn [3.5e]: The environment series (Sandstorm, Stormwrack, and finally Dungeonscape and Cityscape which I consider to be part of the same line) went down hill decently quickly from here.  They had some good bits, but Frostburn is a beautiful, beautiful book.  It does a lot of the work that a good, Planescape or Dark Sun like campaign setting needs to do (including changing what rules you care about if you adventure here) while remaining applicable in small doses.  Maybe it's just because I'm enchanted with wintery environs, but I know I look for excuses to pull this book off the shelf.  In fact, it's hard to believe that it's mid 3.5 and not late 3.0, because Frostburn just packs so much stuff that's useful, fun, or both into its pages while many later 3.5 books (like Cityscape) were Wafer Thin, Information Sparse, or both.

Tome of Magic [3.5e]: This is what a module book in 5th should be like.  Tome of Magic presents 3 self-contained magic systems, but it doesn't just give you the class and their assets... no, it gives you the class and their assets, monsters, magic items, campaign hooks (orginizations), variants (prestige classes)... everythign you need to go anywhere between "rare and special" to "Integrated", to "Campaign central" with any of the three magic types.  Not all the classes were well thought through or playtested (Truenamers are the only class NOT on the grant 3.5 tier list, because their mechanics are too broken -- not overpowered-broken, "It doesn't work" broken -- to rank) but the format is worthy of applause.

Manual of the Planes [4e]: It should be apparent by my praise of Planescape that I love the Great Wheel cosmology.  I could probably string together a Great Wheel boom-de-yada.  So why does the 4e MotP rate?  Because I don't think that there should be only one cosmology.  I love variant cosmologies.  I almost listed the 3e MotP for the back of the book that introduced the far realms, variant cosmologies, and a few other neat oddities (I didn't because most of the book is watered-down Planescape  I still love it, and it stareted me on that path, but the material is done better elsewhere).    The 4e MotP details the "Points of Light" cosmology, which is a really neat alternative to the wheel.  I just really, really wish  that 4e hadn't gone with the "Everything must fit everywhere!" approach that saw Points of Light shoved into Forgotten Realms.  I want to see a Next/5e MotP that presents Great Wheel, Points of Light, and at least one other, new cosmology to play with... maybe a realized take on the Winding Road cosmology mentioned in the back of the 3e MotP, or a generic eberron-esque "Orrey" cosmology.  Hell, there's probably room for multiple Manuals of the Planes, and I'd go out and get them.

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Last Edited by Ralph on blank, 1920

Love these sorts of threads.  :D

1st Edition - Monster Manual & Monster Manual II.  I never played 1E but I owned both of these books and used them for inspiration in BECMI and 2nd Edition campaigns.  The various archdevils and demon lords always fascinated me as interesting antagonists and characters in their right.

BECMI - Rules Cyclopdia.  As someone else mentioned, its a complete version of D&D in one book and it managed to cram so much stuff into that one book.  

2nd Edition - Council of Wyrms.  A boxed set providing not only rules to play dragons but an entire setting for them.  What was awesome about the Io's Blood Islands is that it presented a non-human world where humans were the monsters and the other humanoid races were strictly second-class citizens to dragons. 

3rd Edition/3.5 - Savage Species.  I've always loved playing and DMing for oddball characters and this book was full of rules for oddball characters. 

4th Edition - Heroes of Shadow.  I know this book gets some criticism on the rules end, but the flavor of the Shadow power source intrigued me.         

All around helpful simian

Deities and Demigods (1E): A very entertaining read, especially the version that had the Cthulhu mythos in it (even though they mechanically did horrible things to the mythos creatures).
"The world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind." - H.P. Lovecraft
i realy prefered the series that included sandstorm and shipracked option books based on one theme.
1e: DMG pure genius

2e: Oh boy, where do I start? Complete Ninja's handbook had everything to create a oriental adventure game in a small package: martial arts, samurai, wu-jen, wacky weapons, I remember reading it over and over as a kid

2e: honorable mention to the planescape monster manual, Dark sun boxed set, skills and powers and council of wyrms boxed set

3e: Arcana unhearted: so much diversity, options, variant rules etc. It extended the life of 3e by years for us

4e: Dark sun campaign setting. Even though I know the setting like the back of my hand from playing it a bunch in 2e, I think the 4e version is actualy better written: you get a really good feel of the seting and details that had escaped my notice for years suddenly made sense and were much more flavorful. (If I ever plan on playing in Dark sun again, i'll use the 2e rules, but I'll refer to the 4e fluff)
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Arms & Equipment Guide - 2E or 3E.  Both were amazing books just filled with brilliant plays and solutions to problems that most people don't even think exist yet.

Complete Book of Humanoids - 2E - It's like Savage Species, but for 2E, so it's less abusable.  (Not to say that there was nothing broken in it.  Avariel's flight for almost no penalty was pretty broken.  But it was a finite list of broken things.)

DMG - 2E - I agree with Tevish_Szat that this book is extremely overlooked.  From what I hear the 1E DMG is just as good (or better), but I've never read it.  3E was the only edition with a DMG that was really just a collection of rules and tables without good advice on how to DM.  The 1E/2E DMGs simply gave advice for a different style of game than the 4E DMG; that doesn't make either of them wrong.

Birthright Campaign Setting - 2E - My favorite campaign setting, not just for the actual setting, but because it tackled head-on the problems of kingdom management and massive armies.  I've been using the realm and army rules from this setting ever since it came out for any campaign in which the PCs rule anything of any size or have an army of 200 men or more; it doesn't come up in every campaign, but it's not exactly a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.

Stronghold Builder's Guidebook - 3E - Same as BRCS.  I just love books and rules that are basically system-agnostic, I can use them everywhere in any game or edition.
The difference between madness and genius is determined only by degrees of success.
i realy prefered the series that included sandstorm and shipracked option books based on one theme.

I think Stormwrack/Sandstorm/Frostburn are some of the most underrated books in the edition. They do do one thing that I hate, which is be split pretty evenly between player content and DM content, but they're both inspired and inspiring.
Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.
Of these wonderful books we've been listing, which ones do you think could make the jump to 5E? I know that many of the ones I listed are mostly edition-neutral (so, in that right, I could just keep using them, but I'd love to see them updated).
"The world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind." - H.P. Lovecraft
Van Richten's Guides (2e & 3e): The 3e ones were good (I particularly liked the way they passed it down through the family instead of just saying here's the same old Van Richten), but the 2e ones were better written.

There are a great many problems that can be circumvented by players and DMs having a mature discussion about what the game is going to be like before they ever sit down together to play.


The answer really does lie in more options, not in confining and segregating certain options.


You really shouldn't speak for others.  You can't hear what someone else is saying when you try to put your words in their mouth.


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I really like the 3.0 class splat books!

Sword and Fist
Blood and Faith
Song and Silence

They were filled with really neat, lore filled prestige classes that felt cool. Some of them were rereleased in 3.5, but they were scattered around.

They also came with a good amount of optional rules, and the books were only like 15 bucks a piece. Good times. 
My two copper.

The books in question were...

Sword and Fist (Fighters and Monks)
Defenders of the Faith (Clerics and Paladins)
Tome and Blood (Wizards and Sorcerers)
Song and Silence (Bards and Rogues)
Masters of the Wild (Barbarians, Rangers, and Druids)       

All around helpful simian

There is something pleasing about finding a crayon next to your rulebook when you open up the box.  Can't really explain it...

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