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D&D General Essential supplements for each edition

JEB

Legend
Out of curiosity, what would you consider the essential non-core sourcebooks for each edition of D&D? The general rules expansions, books of races and classes, and so forth that were considered key additions to the core game. This can be either general observations, or just for your own group.

Ones that seem like pretty obvious general choices off the top of my head:
  • Original D&D: All four supplements, but especially Greyhawk.
  • Moldvay Basic: Expert Rulebook (the only option).
  • BECMI: Expert, Companion, and Master Rules. (Less sure if folks considered the Immortals Rules essential.)
  • 1E: Unearthed Arcana (though I gather some considered it pretty broken, I've seen people call the game D&D 1.5 from then onward). Maybe Fiend Folio and Monster Manual II?
  • 2E: Not sure here, as there were so many. Maybe the Player's Option books (which I've seen described as part of a D&D 2.5)? Tome of Magic?
  • 3.0: Epic Level Handbook, since it wound up in the SRD. Probably also Psionics Handbook and Savage Species.
  • 3.5: Expanded Psionics Handbook, since it also wound up in the SRD. PHB II and DMG II. Maybe the 3.5 version of UA?
  • 4E: All the additional "core" books (PHB 2/3, MM 2/3, DMG 2).
  • 5E: Xanathar's, and Tasha's (which is definitely shaping up to be 5E's analogue to 1E's UA). Probably VGTM and MTOF, until they were supplanted by MOTM.
 

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billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him) 🇺🇦🇵🇸🏳️‍⚧️
2e had a ton of Complete X Handbooks. I thought the most useful of them were the Complete Fighter's Handbook and the Complete Bard's Handbook.

Of 1e's non-core supplements, the one I got the most use out of was Oriental Adventures. We started using the monk along with their martial arts in non-OA games because the original 1e monk was so terrible.
 

Shiroiken

Legend
OD&D: never played, so no idea

BECMI: Creature Catalogue, but the core rules were really solid by themselves

1E: Unearthed Arcana was problematic in some ways, but overall a positive IME

2E: ugh, so many of them... I'd probably go with either Arms & Equipment Guide, but that's personal preference not biased to any class/race (which had good "complete guides)

3E: as with 2E so many... but most of them not nearly as good, so I'll duplicate Arms & Equipment Guide for similar reasons. A lot of the later books were not used by my group as DMs limited games to PHB only

4E: honestly, none of them really stood out to me, but the Adventurer's Vault probably got the most use

5E: Xanthar's, no question. Tasha's had better player facing content, but the DM side was almost useless to me.
 

Jack Daniel

dice-universe.blogspot.com
OD&D1: This game is sparse enough that all of the supplements feel core, but The Strategic Review contains vital clarifications on combat and magic as well as three whole classes (rangers, bards, illusionists). I also consider the blue-cover Basic Set to be the indispensable introduction to this edition, since it plugs even more holes than the newsletter.

AD&D1: Deities & Demigods really is the fourth core rulebook; it contains at least one piece of vital information lacking in the PHB (what happens if you have an ability score of 19, which is entirely possible for a 1st level elf, dwarf, halfling, or half-orc PC?). While I hold the Monster Manual II and Fiend Folio in higher esteem than all the later hardcovers, I don't think I can call them "essential."

OD&D2: If we consider the Basic through Immortals Sets and the Rules Cyclopedia to all be "core," there are really only a handful of candidates for "essential" supplements — the AC (Accessory), GAZ (Gazetteer), and PC (Creature Crucible) lines. Of these, it's really only PC1–4 that have semi-core status at my table. (Although the Creature Catalog — AC9/DMR2 — also sees frequent use in my campaigns, it's once again just an extra monster book, not something I can call truly vital to running a game.) The Gazetteers that expand on demihumans (GAZ5, GAZ6, GAZ8, GAZ10) are useful but probably not essential.

AD&D2: So many candidates here. Books I personally wouldn't run a game without: the Complete Psionics Handbook, Complete Ninja's Handbook, and Complete Barbarian's Handbook, plus Player's Option: Combat & Tactics and DM's Option: High-Level Campaigns. Oh, yeah, and The Scarlet Brotherhood — gotta have the official 2e monk!

D&D3: Once again, so many books to choose from. If I were ever to run a 3e campaign again, I'd probably need the Psionics Handbook and Oriental Adventures at the very least. Maybe Savage Species and Unearthed Arcana. Quite possibly The Book of Nine Swords (or as it's sometimes affectionately called, The Book of Weeaboo Fightan Magic) would prove essential to combatting caster supremacy.
 
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payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
I really liked PHB II for 3.5E. Libris Mortis, DMG II are pretty great too.

Imma put in for Pathfinder Advanced Players Guide for rulebook and Inner Sea Guide for one of the best setting books.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
  • Original D&D: The Strategic Review, Greyhawk and maybe Eldritch Wizardry. The others are far from essential.
  • Holmes Basic: N/A. Probably better treated as a supplement to OD&D.
  • Moldvay/Cook Basic/Expert: Nothing. The core books are all you need, although if you want to go third party, the B/X Companion by Jonathan Becker from 2010 is excellent.
  • BECM: Nothing. Masters is probably inessential. Maybe Companion as well, although it gives you the domain stuff that Moldvay/Cook is missing, and without that I guess what's the point of playing BECM rather than B/X? The Larry Elmore art, I suppose. And M-Us and Elves being allowed to learn more spells than just 1 per level, but I always house rule that in B/X.
  • 1E: Fiend Folio and MM2 for adding to the variety of monsters and the improved random encounter charts. Unearthed Arcana is pretty much trash.
  • 2E: I would say the Complete Handbooks for Fighter, Cleric, Wizard and Rogue. Tome of Magic is a contender. Certainly Forgotten Realms Adventures if you're playing in that setting.
  • 3.0: Sword & Fist, Tome & Blood, Song & Silence, Masters of the Wild, Defenders of the Faith
  • 3.5: Unearthed Arcana. PHB II probably. The Complete series got a lot of use at our tables too.
  • 4E: Adventurer's Vault, PHB 2, MM 2 & 3, DMG 2, Monster Vault & MV: Threats to the Nentir Vale. The Rules Compendium. Arcane Power, Divine Power, and Martial Power are all also great.
  • 5E: Xanathar's.
 
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Stormonu

Legend
Out of curiosity, what would you consider the essential non-core sourcebooks for each edition of D&D? The general rules expansions, books of races and classes, and so forth that were considered key additions to the core game. This can be either general observations, or just for your own group.

Ones that seem like pretty obvious general choices off the top of my head:
  • Original D&D: All four supplements, but especially Greyhawk.
  • Moldvay Basic: Expert Rulebook (the only option).
  • BECMI: Expert, Companion, and Master Rules. (Less sure if folks considered the Immortals Rules essential.)
  • 1E: Unearthed Arcana (though I gather some considered it pretty broken, I've seen people call the game D&D 1.5 from then onward). Maybe Fiend Folio and Monster Manual II?
  • 2E: Not sure here, as there were so many. Maybe the Player's Option books (which I've seen described as part of a D&D 2.5)? Tome of Magic?
  • 3.0: Epic Level Handbook, since it wound up in the SRD. Probably also Psionics Handbook and Savage Species.
  • 3.5: Expanded Psionics Handbook, since it also wound up in the SRD. PHB II and DMG II. Maybe the 3.5 version of UA?
  • 4E: All the additional "core" books (PHB 2/3, MM 2/3, DMG 2).
  • 5E: Xanathar's, and Tasha's (which is definitely shaping up to be 5E's analogue to 1E's UA). Probably VGTM and MTOF, until they were supplanted by MOTM.
Epic Level Handbook can die in a fire.

Moldvay: Expert, B4 (it had gear bundles that were handy, and a good mini-campaign).
BECMI: Rules Encyclopedia & Creature Catalog. Forget the Immortal rules. The various Gazetteers are generally really good too.
1E: Unearthed Arcana, Fiend Folio, MM2, World of Greyhawk and the DM's screen. Wilderness/Dungeoneer's Survival Guide is good too, especially for NWP's and the adventuring rules.
2E: Tome of Magic, The first four "Complete" books, Arms & Equipment, Encyclopedia Magicka, Wizard's Spell Compendium, Priest's Spell Compendium, Gray Box FR and Aurora's Whole Realms Guide
3.0: Sword & Fist, Tome & Blood, Defenders of the Faith, Masters of the Wild, Song & Silence, Savage Species, MM2
3.5: Complete ... series, Races of ... series, Frostburn, Stormwrack, Spell Compendium, Rules Compendium. Some will argue Tome of Battle, but I do not agree
5E: Xanathar's, Monsters of the Multiverse
 

delericho

Legend
Covering only the editions I know reasonably well...

BECMI: I don't know if they even count as supplements, but the Expert and Companion rules. We never got as far as Master, so obviously I don't consider that essential.

2nd Ed: You'll probably want some extra Monstrous Compendium volumes (or the Monstrous Manual). The "Campaign Sourcebook and Catacomb Guide" is essential for a DM who wants to do worldbuilding - and indeed is essentially edition agnostic.

3.0e: Nothing. Maybe some more 'monster' books, but third-party materials are probably a better bet than WotC's offerings.

3.5e: Nothing. Maybe some more 'monster' books, but third-party materials are probably a better bet than WotC's offerings.

5e: You'll probably want some more 'monster' books, but the third party might be a better source than WotC.

After long experience, I've come to the fairly painful realisation that most supplements actually make the game worse, not better.
 

  • 2E: I would say the Complete Handbooks for Fighter, Cleric, Wizard and Rogue. Tome of Magic is a contender. Certainly Forgotten Realms Adventures if you're playing in that setting.
  • 3.0: Sword & Fist, Tome & Blood, Song & Silence, Masters of the Wild, Defenders of the Faith

Seconded for 2e and 3.0. The four base class handbooks in 2nd edition were great and expanded the game without too much cheese or without adding too much complexity, keeping speed of play paramount. The kits were all flavorful and broad, and the various role-playing sections were fantastic. I also liked the references to literary sources in the line as a whole; I got a lot of good reading from some of those recommendations.

3.0's class floppy books were also solid and did the same. Personally, I loved Sword & Fist's prestige class that did offensive spells through weapon attacks, using potion guidelines; I thought that was really clever and flavorful.
 

OD&D and BECMI, the creature catalogue only.

1ed: FF, MM2, L&L and the DSG. Manual of the Planes is also quite good.

2ed: Arms and Equipment Guide, Aurora's whole realm catalogue.

3.xed: The epic level Handbook, all the classes books and the various MM.

4ed: Nothing save the MM 2 and 3.

5ed: MToF, VGtM. All the rest is fluff and non essential. Fun to have, but non essential.
 

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