D&D 5E Favourite Dnd 5e books

Weiley31

Legend
I find nothing wrong with 5e Monster books, and quite enjoy ones like Volo's. But 13th Age's Bestiary and Bestiary 2 were simply the best monster books I've read for any fantasy RPG. Let me give an example using the White Dragon entry.

In the setting "The White" (the progenitor? of white dragons) has been killed and made into a dracolich of incredible power in an earlier Age, unlike The Red, The Blue, The Black, etc. Myth said that in order to do it, the moon was literally pulled down on-top of them, but who knows the truth.

The lore description about white dragons (and everything else) is succinct while dripping with flavor and potential plot hooks. It can talk about motivations and otherwise give ideas where and why to use each of the monsters. For White Dragons we get information about how they are Evil but Desperate without The White and how it affects their relations with other dragons, how they have taken upon themselves to be keepers of the dead (and how if the proper rituals are not said over graveyards and battlefields by priests, white dragons, or someone, we could get lots of undead). Right here we're already getting ideas like players allied with a White Dragon against undead and the forces of the Lich King, even though normally they would be on opposite sides. And that some whites are Given to the Moon and believe a new The White could ascend through that.

13th Age is a d20 and the monsters in the core book are reminiscent of D&D counterparts - enough that there is a level of familiarity. But the Bestiaries do not hold themself to that limitation. So while we have some familiar starts to white dragons in the core book, the White Dragon entry in the Bestiary has Cenotaph Dragons, Mausoleum Dragons, Moon Dragons, as well as more expected ones like Hatchlings and Blizzard Dragons. Not just dragons but every monster entry has several variations in role, power, or focus. And it contains monsters that are not derivative of D&D at all, yet gives enough to be familiar with them and how to use them.

There's a dedicated section on building encounters for each, including who else would be found in their company. But even here it's adventure ideas. "Blizzard dragons sometimes hire themselves out to Frost Giant jarls..." or "During harvest moons, Moon Dragons become infused with power and are more aggressive. During lunar eclipses, their either hide away in agony, or are overcome by short-term insanity..."

13th Age has an Icon system that all PCs are connected to in positive, negative or "it's complicated" sort of ways, and all of the entries also list ways that they can interact with various related icons, positively or negatively. As the machinations of the Icons are the big movers and shakers, many an adventure can find strange bedfellows in service for or against a particular Icon.

And finally, in case that wasn't enough, a dedicated section of adventure hooks for each entry type.

In my opinion, these books are made first and foremost to support a game about adventuring. Yes the ecology and such will hang together as well as every other monster book, but this really goes out of it's way to be upfront and explicit with things for the DM to make adventures starring these monsters. It knows it's role is not to solely present monster information but to provide monsters in a workable and logical way to support an adventuring RPG. And it covers that focus very well.

In addition, because the writing is so thick with "that's awesome" and juicy hooks, I am entertained just reading through the book. It's not going to give me the detail of a whole chapter on the Hags like Volo's, it's painted with a broader brush that hits the same highlights in a page and a half and leaves the details for a particular table. Which, to be fair is also a description of how they detail their campaign setting. And with that comes that instead of just a couple of chapters of depth, each and every entry gets those highlights.

To sum up, for me it has the right balance of all of the pertinent details without filler, with a focus on parts that are germane and useful to a game about adventuring, and provides more explicit DM tools than any other fantasy monster catalog I've read.

So I'm quite happy with Volo's and Mordy's and the like. Good books. But the bar for the best monster manual is set very high for me from my experience with the 13th Age Bestiaries.

Disclosure: I kickstarted 13th Age Core book and both Bestiaries, so I am self-selected as their target audience.
I'm still kicking myself hard for missing out on the Humble Bundle 13th Age bundle.
 

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While I am still following 5E in general, I am have not done much with it or spent much money on it for a while. Rather, I am more into the games that are 5E OGL systems. Adventures in Middle-Earth and Esper Genesis, among others, are both great and I am impatiently waiting for the 5E OGL version of Victoriana.
 

Lycurgon

Adventurer
I like and use Xanathar's and Tasha's the most outside of Core books. I love having more Subclass Options so these are essential books for me. I also like race options so Volo's is great too.

I also like Like Wildemont because it explores a cool setting with options for character like a nation of non-evil Drow with lots of monstrous races. Also love Echo Knights, although they need some errata.

I also like Fizban's because it has a lot of interesting lore for dragons that is quite inspiring.
EDIT: I will also include A5E, and 5.5E to make it a more varied choice.
I am not sure what you mean by 5.5E? There aren't any 5.5e books published yet.
 

For me XGtE, MToF and VGtM are the three best books of 5ed. They complement perfectly the three core books and if all other books would have been adventures and world settings, I would have been quite happy.
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
Rules: PHB, MM, Xanathar's

Most underrated: Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide - I get a surprising amount of use out of this. Also, Mordenkainen's Tomb of Foes has underrated character race options.

Adventures: I have gotten hundreds and hundreds of hours out of Lost Mine of Phandelver, Curse of Strahd, Tomb of Annihilation, Rime of the Frostmaiden, and Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage.

Honorable mention to Out of the Abyss as a flawed adventure but great Underdark sourcebook to cannibalize.
 


Nebulous

Legend
Lost Mines box set (LMoP) and the Essentials box set. They have everything you need to start and play. I have the core books, but hardly look at the MM and more and the DMG is just mostly for magic items- which I now tend to look at online. We use the PHB the most I guess when leveling and making characters, as well as for spells.

The 2 box sets though can get you started for cheap and have so many additional adventures and supplements created for them at DMsGuild and other places like special minis and such. I have managed to spiral 4 campaigns out of these box sets so far.
Yes, we were discussing that in another thread the other day. Blending LMoP and Essentials AND the 4e Neverwinter supplement easily gives you a campaign's worth of material on the Sword Coast. I saw LMoP for free on Roll20 yesterday and grabbed it, even though I have no intention of running it again, but the maps are all great and can easily be reskinned for any adventure. Wave Echo Cave is wonderful.
 

Nebulous

Legend
As a Kobold Press fan, I have been using their books the past two years to run a Midgard Campaign. Their three monster manuals are my favorites of the 5e offerings. The city guide to Zobeck was also excellent and had so many plot hooks and interesting details that you could spin multiple campaigns off from it.
 


Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
As a Kobold Press fan, I have been using their books the past two years to run a Midgard Campaign. Their three monster manuals are my favorites of the 5e offerings. The city guide to Zobeck was also excellent and had so many plot hooks and interesting details that you could spin multiple campaigns off from it.
I have to second this. Tome of Beast I & II and Creature Codex are quite nice. I'm sad I missed the recent kickstarter for Tome of Beasts III.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I also have to give props to Curse of Strahd for being such a brilliantly written and conceived adventure in every way.
I know CoS gets a lot of props, but for us the killer was the lack of information about how deadly various places were. We attempted to get information about places the cards could be leading us, but several times ended up in areas that were just way beyond us in terms of threat without a single bit of foreshadowing or telegraphing. In one case we had a fully rested party start to investigate a stump-house and one of the characters was instant killed by massive damage before they even had a chance to go by CR 11 vines. Another was an impossible damaging explosion from a trapped wagon.

We went through CoS in a combination of character death due to lack of information, paralyzation on what to do next because we were frightened and couldn't get information about how deadly anything was, and the DM coddling us to prevent additional deaths. Not a one of those was fun.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
Uncaged: Faces of Sigil - my favourite D&D book of any edition, with I6: Ravenloft close behind. At the same time, the Level Up books are a revelation. I know they’re compatible, but I’m now much more interested in A5E than 5E itself.
The Level Up books are my vote, bar none. I use a lot of 05e stuff, of course, but none of their books have really blown my socks off like Level Up.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
I did expand the OP to include A5E too.

Bit surprised that Valda's Spire has not been mentioned yet.

With the mention of 13th Age, which is a rather interesting comment, @Blue what do you feel is more interesting about those bestiaries over 5e? Not disagreeing, totally curious to be honest.
Valda's Spire of Secrets is also very good. I'm playing a necromancer right now in a friend's game, and Mage Hand Press forms a significant portion of my massive house rules document.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
I find nothing wrong with 5e Monster books, and quite enjoy ones like Volo's. But 13th Age's Bestiary and Bestiary 2 were simply the best monster books I've read for any fantasy RPG. Let me give an example using the White Dragon entry.

In the setting "The White" (the progenitor? of white dragons) has been killed and made into a dracolich of incredible power in an earlier Age, unlike The Red, The Blue, The Black, etc. Myth said that in order to do it, the moon was literally pulled down on-top of them, but who knows the truth.

The lore description about white dragons (and everything else) is succinct while dripping with flavor and potential plot hooks. It can talk about motivations and otherwise give ideas where and why to use each of the monsters. For White Dragons we get information about how they are Evil but Desperate without The White and how it affects their relations with other dragons, how they have taken upon themselves to be keepers of the dead (and how if the proper rituals are not said over graveyards and battlefields by priests, white dragons, or someone, we could get lots of undead). Right here we're already getting ideas like players allied with a White Dragon against undead and the forces of the Lich King, even though normally they would be on opposite sides. And that some whites are Given to the Moon and believe a new The White could ascend through that.

13th Age is a d20 and the monsters in the core book are reminiscent of D&D counterparts - enough that there is a level of familiarity. But the Bestiaries do not hold themself to that limitation. So while we have some familiar starts to white dragons in the core book, the White Dragon entry in the Bestiary has Cenotaph Dragons, Mausoleum Dragons, Moon Dragons, as well as more expected ones like Hatchlings and Blizzard Dragons. Not just dragons but every monster entry has several variations in role, power, or focus. And it contains monsters that are not derivative of D&D at all, yet gives enough to be familiar with them and how to use them.

There's a dedicated section on building encounters for each, including who else would be found in their company. But even here it's adventure ideas. "Blizzard dragons sometimes hire themselves out to Frost Giant jarls..." or "During harvest moons, Moon Dragons become infused with power and are more aggressive. During lunar eclipses, their either hide away in agony, or are overcome by short-term insanity..."

13th Age has an Icon system that all PCs are connected to in positive, negative or "it's complicated" sort of ways, and all of the entries also list ways that they can interact with various related icons, positively or negatively. As the machinations of the Icons are the big movers and shakers, many an adventure can find strange bedfellows in service for or against a particular Icon.

And finally, in case that wasn't enough, a dedicated section of adventure hooks for each entry type.

In my opinion, these books are made first and foremost to support a game about adventuring. Yes the ecology and such will hang together as well as every other monster book, but this really goes out of it's way to be upfront and explicit with things for the DM to make adventures starring these monsters. It knows it's role is not to solely present monster information but to provide monsters in a workable and logical way to support an adventuring RPG. And it covers that focus very well.

In addition, because the writing is so thick with "that's awesome" and juicy hooks, I am entertained just reading through the book. It's not going to give me the detail of a whole chapter on the Hags like Volo's, it's painted with a broader brush that hits the same highlights in a page and a half and leaves the details for a particular table. Which, to be fair is also a description of how they detail their campaign setting. And with that comes that instead of just a couple of chapters of depth, each and every entry gets those highlights.

To sum up, for me it has the right balance of all of the pertinent details without filler, with a focus on parts that are germane and useful to a game about adventuring, and provides more explicit DM tools than any other fantasy monster catalog I've read.

So I'm quite happy with Volo's and Mordy's and the like. Good books. But the bar for the best monster manual is set very high for me from my experience with the 13th Age Bestiaries.

Disclosure: I kickstarted 13th Age Core book and both Bestiaries, so I am self-selected as their target audience.
That was a very evocative book, I remember being very impressed when I read it. My favorite bestiary is still 2e's Monstrous Manual, however. I adore worldbuilding (probably too much) and that book has it in spades.

For 5e, Level Up's Monster Menagerie is superior in every way to 5e's MM to me.
 

Nebulous

Legend
I know CoS gets a lot of props, but for us the killer was the lack of information about how deadly various places were. We attempted to get information about places the cards could be leading us, but several times ended up in areas that were just way beyond us in terms of threat without a single bit of foreshadowing or telegraphing. In one case we had a fully rested party start to investigate a stump-house and one of the characters was instant killed by massive damage before they even had a chance to go by CR 11 vines. Another was an impossible damaging explosion from a trapped wagon.

We went through CoS in a combination of character death due to lack of information, paralyzation on what to do next because we were frightened and couldn't get information about how deadly anything was, and the DM coddling us to prevent additional deaths. Not a one of those was fun.
I'm not sure if the massive damage and vines and exploding wagon are in the official adventure, doesn't sound familiar . Did your DM add stuff? But yeah, it is a hard adventure regardless with little telegraphing of how difficult parts are. I had to scale it back for my group. Two were newbies, and after two years of playing they're still strategically poor at D&D. The starter Death House is the most unfair thing I've seen in an official adventure, just a TPK waiting to happen. So, yeah, I made Strahd easier for group. No one has died yet! They're in Ravenloft now and scared to death. They have had to run from many encounters since Level 1 that were too tough, and this bothered some of them because they wanted a more classic D&D of kick in the door and stomp ass. Which they got to do some, yes, but not every fight. The revenants at Agrynvostholt left a permanent scar on them. The Amber Temple was horrifying. Their first pass at Old Bonegrinder ended in them all running across the hills while screaming. I don't think they truly understand how I made the campaign easier, but they have fear of dying each session, even though it never happened. I'm OK with that; it is gothic horror, and fear is supposed to be part of it, so long as it is not at the expense of fun. They're loving the campaign, but they want to survive it and beat Strahd and get the hell out of Barovia.

I will probably oblige them, even if it means I have Strahd make some suboptimal decisions. And I am ready for it to end too. Our session count is up into the 70s and we aren't playing as often, so this endgame is really dragging out.

Anyway, my point was that when my party got into areas over their heads, I always gave them out, they just didn't know it. That is not something I would do for every group, but these particular players, it was the right decision.
 




Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
I'm not sure if the massive damage and vines and exploding wagon are in the official adventure, doesn't sound familiar . Did your DM add stuff?

Exploding wagon is definitely in there and can definitely cause a TPK if run as written. "Vines from a stump house" sounds like a certain somebody's hut.
 

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