While D&D-inspired video games have grown in popularity over the years, books still reign supreme when it comes to dynamic gameplay. And the best D&D books still are the preferred method, despite a drive for digital ways to play the game.
While books are still a primary source of gameplay for D&D fans, digital tracking for D&D has been floated as a new way to play. With digital tracking, players would be able to ditch the scrap sheets for modern tracking for character progression.
Of course, software for D&D is by no means no. D&D has enjoyed video games and classes for the dedicated fan base. So in many ways, a push towards digital products makes sense. But while these tracking systems may appeal to some players, others are pushing back.
Digital trackers and software, at least for now, don’t replace for many players the experience of using books. Books help guide and enhance D&D gameplay for new and experienced players. And while software courses may have promise, there’s no denying the following of D&D books even into 2021.
But do you really need D&D books to play? And what books are best for your D&D gameplay?
Consider this your guide to D&D books. I’ll tell you what you need to know, where to buy, and my recommendation for the best books.
What do you need to play D&D?
One amazing thing about D&D is that, in theory, it requires very little to start playing. Despite that, D&D is an incredibly dynamic game, with excellent replay value and room for innovation. But if you’re just getting started playing D&D, you’ll need a few materials.
Almost everyone will need D&D dice and scrap paper or a digital tracker. While you can play D&D alone, the game is at its best when played with a small group of players. If you play alone, you’ll have to role play for everyone, and it’s honestly not the same experience.
Last but not least are D&D books- but whether you need them or not depends on your specific preferences and situation.
Do you need the D&D books?
D&D books– or at least one– are essential for the bulk of first-time players. There are different types of D&D books, for different purposes. Manuals and handbooks are in the category of essential books for new players because they allow you to get started.
Other books give you ideas, ad campaigns, and provide more insight into the game. For experienced players, you technically do not require D&D books. However, the best D&D books are well worth the purchase and will greatly enhance your gameplay experience.
For those reasons, I would recommend considering buying at least one to two D&D books as an essential part of getting your game started.
Just keep in mind that you by no means need all D&D books. Having a full collection of current edition D&D books may appeal to some players, but it’s by no means an absolute necessity to enjoy a game of D&D.
How many D&D books are there?
While there are countless D&D books, there are just under 30 for the 5th edition. These books continue to be published and range from helpful to simply fun add ons. Not all D&D books are created equal. Each D&D book can be categorized into one of the following classifications.
Handbooks are, so to speak, the most basic type of D&D book– but also the most essential for new players. A handbook explains some of the basic D&D rules and helps guide basic gameplay. Not only is a D&D handbook a great book to learn the ropes of the game, but it also is good to have on hand. Handbooks won’t add much to your gameplay, a handbook is quite helpful for understanding D&D. Think of a handbook as an essential must-have.
Manuals & Guides
Manuals are not too unlike handbooks in that they are meant to teach different rules. Compared to handbooks, however, D&D manuals tend to touch on more specific aspects of gameplay. While handbooks act as a D&D overview, manuals and guides cover a topic or area of gameplay in more detail. These types of D&D books are a good purchase if you’re looking for more clarity or details on a specific theme or topic.
These D&D books are the least essential. Not meant to provide instructions or go over the basics, think of these as add ons. By no means does this mean that D&D adventures aren’t worth buying. Rather, think about buying some of these after you have all the essentials you need. Each D&D adventure book supplies unique campaigns and storyline inspiration.
What books should I get for D&D?
The best D&D books will depend on where you are as a player and what books you already have. For this reason, I’ll be providing my selections for the best D&D handbooks, guides or manuals, and adventures.
All of the books on my list are helpful in some way or another. Some help lay out the rules of D&D and allow you to become acquainted with the game. Other books help you experience D&D in a new way.
For selecting D&D books, I focused on 5th edition D&D books. Under each category, I’ve provided suggestions as to what I feel are strong representations of those D&D book types. Not every book is essential, but every book can be a great way to enhance your D&D gameplay experience.
Start with a D&D handbook if you’ve never played before– or if you’re just starting the 5th edition. I consider a handbook essential. If you don’t get any other book on this list, get this one. While you can tweak rules and experiment with your own gameplay, a handbook is an excellent resource to have. And while it’s true you may be able to find other guidance elsewhere, it’s great to have an official handbook at your disposal while you’re playing.
Dungeon & Dragons Player’s Handbook
The essential D&D book on this list, the player handbook for the 5th edition is an excellent buy. It’s also well-loved, with an average of five out of five stars based upon over 33,000 ratings on Amazon. It even has made the Publisher’s Weekly and the Wallstreet Journal’s list for #1 Best Seller in Hardcover Nonfiction.
This handbook is a reference for character creation, skills, lore, combat, exploring worlds, equipment, and spells. This overview of the 5th edition manages to be both comprehensive and easy to read, with sections for different character types and combat, but even basics like how to use D&D dice.
This D&D book will get your game started. Create your characters, learn about D&D spells and weapons, and begin exploring. Buy Here.
Guides and Manuals
After you’ve purchased a handbook, you’ll need to decide whether a guide or manual makes sense for you. I recommend guides and manuals for fairly new but not brand new players who want to go into more detail for a type of gameplay. Guides and manuals are also the best D&D books for someone who doesn’t quite want a full adventure but wants to brainstorm ways to delve deeper into their gameplay. In fact, you could argue that D&D guides and manuals may even be helpful for creating your own D&D maps.
Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide
The bestselling and loved D&D book is my second best pick for all D&D players. Earning acclaim from Polygon, The New Yorker, and others, it’s a great book to guide you past the basics.
The focus of this D&D book is how to create and run games of your own. You’ll learn the ins and out of creating monsters, interesting characters, and constructing mysteries. The book also touches upon dynamic world-building.
Even better, the book provides tidbits and answers to frequently asked questions, such as what a demon lord’s greatest weakness is. Guiding you through strategy, ways to enhance your creativity, and more, it’s a robust guide. But it isn’t all dense reading: visuals, including tables, allow you to find the information you need. Buy Here.
Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual
The manual provides an in depth look at all the incredible monsters within the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Like others on this list, this book has an average of five out of five stars based upon over 16,000 reviews. It also earned acclaim from The New Yorker.
This manual will teach you about over 150 monster types, from goblins to dragons. You’ll learn about their characteristics, unique abilities, and how they populate. Creature descriptions are accompanied by illustrations and tips for battling, outwitting, or running away from these monsters.
With vivid descriptions and detailed information, you’ll not only learn about these monsters but help bring them to life. Buy Here.
Dungeons and Dragons Mordenkainen’s Tomb of Foes
While a bit lesser-known, this D&D guide easily makes my list of best books. Highly rated, this manual provides a more detailed look at the lore and unique monsters in Dungeons and Dragons.
You’ll unearth the story behind major conflicts, and learn about monsters in great detail. The book follows the writings of a wizard residing in Greyhawk. You’ll learn about his story, but also where he traveled, and the friends and foes he encountered.
Intriguing as his story is, however, where this book shines in its level of insights. You’ll learn about elves, duergar, demons, devils, and countless others. The book also supplies helpful statistics for each monster. Buy Here.
Adventure books are your best option if you feel you already have a handle on the basics of D&D gameplay. They’re also great for anyone who doesn’t want to create their own adventures or just needs a change of pace. More detail than you’d get from downloading even the best D&D maps, adventure books are not essential– but they certainly can be excellent purchases.
Dungeons and Dragons Curse of Strahd
The most popular adventure book for D&D, the Curse of Strahd is also among the best. This illustrated adventure is exciting, imaginative, and full of life.
You’ll follow Count Strahd von Zarovich, an iconic vampire residing in the ancient Castle Ravenloft. With the atmospheric backdrop of rumbling thunder, the scene is set for intense conflict. Below the castle lies the modest village of Barovia. Though a party is mounting against him, the vampire has other plans– and is already ahead in his strategy. Buy Here.
Dungeons and Dragons Waterdeep Dragon Heist
Praised by reviewers and outlets by Newsweek and The New Yorker, this D&D adventure book follows an urban treasure hunt.
Waterdeep fondly named the City of Splendors, makes for a fantastic backdrop. You’ll explore the Sword Coast after being called upon by a Geddham, a well-known explorer. What begins as a simple quest sees you navigating a world not only of treasure but obstacles and hard justice.
This book packs in five unique storylines for multiple campaigns and plenty of inspiration for an exciting treasure hunt. Buy Here.
Dungeons and Dragons Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus
Danger at every turn makes it more an action-packed adventure– and one of the best D&D books. Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus has earned player praise and is a great pick for anyone wanting an exciting adventure for D&D.
You’ll be situated in the ever-changing world of Baldur. While you’re looking to begin work as an adventure, others have plans. You’ll be forced to try to survive amidst a plane-driven Blood War. The war is even direr than you’d imagine, with the archdevil Zariel and their faithful followers to contend with.
The intense adventure includes infernal war machines, loot, and has you traveling to other classic locations, like Sword Coast. Buy Here.
Dungeons and Dragons Tales From the Yawning Portal
Combining seven adventures in one, all with exciting twists and turns, it’s easy to see why Yawning Portal is one of the best D&D books.
Seven dungeons are explored, harkening back from classic D&D games to the present day. You’ll explore Waterdeep, Forgotten Realms, the Yawning Portal and many more. This multivolume book is an excellent value and meant to be used with the Player’s Handbook and the Dungeon Manual. Buy Here.
By no means are these the only great books for D&D. In fact, I wanted to give some honorable mentions. For adventures, the Tomb of Annihilation is also an excellent choice. This book will have you exploring temples, necromancers, and magic. Buy Here.
Another honorable mention for adventures goes to Ghosts of Saltmarsh. This D&D book takes place at sea and has you exploring classic D&D locations, including Dunwater, Isle of the Abbey, The Styes, and more. Buy Here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Where should I start in DND books?
Answer: I recommend starting with a Player’s Handbook. After that, you can venture into additional guides if you need them. Another option is to purchase a D&D starter kit. This D&D Essential Kit comes with a rulebook, map, items, and adventure to get you started. Buy Here.
Question: How much is a D&D book?
Answer: D&D books range in price but generally cost $30 to $60. You can save money by buying them used on Amazon or another used book outlet, such as Half Price Books
Question: What is the next D&D book coming out?
Answer: For now, there is no word on the next D&D book. The most recent D&D book was published in May 2021. Van Ritcher’s Guide to Ravenloft is a new adventure situated in a misty land filled with vampires and dark lords. You’ll also encounter zombies, cosmic horrors, and forbidden powers. Learn More Here.
Question: What is a D&D Sourcebook?
Answer: A D&D sourcebook is simply a D&D book in digital format. These can be helpful for learning D&D on the go, or for anyone who has trouble following information in a traditional book format. Sourcebooks are available for both the 5th edition of the Player’s Handbook and also some adventures.
While you do not have to have D&D books to play, they can be helpful and even enhance how you’re currently playing. Whether you love playing with D&D spells or are just looking for a handbook to get started, there are some great options for the 5th edition.