Five (or so) favorite RPG books for lore/reading pleasure


Any game, any genre, any type of book. What are favorites for lore and reading pleasure? Meaning, which books could you pick up and get lost in for hours upon hours and either enjoy for considering gaming possibilities, or just the ideas themselves? While such books will trend towards settings, it doesn't have to be.

I said "five" because placing some limitations is helpful to think about it (and not list dozens), but of course feel free to exceed that (I'm including some honorable mentions).

I'll post mine a bit later...

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Good question! These are the first 5 that came to mind, in some cases because I've just been reading them again recently, but I'm sure that in a few hours I'll think about something obvious that should be on this list...

1. Unknown Armies, 1st or 2nd edition, almost any book in the line (3rd edition with a few caveats).
2. Wraith the Oblivion
3. 13th Age Bestiary 2 (actually I could fill this list with 13th age books, but I'll stick to just one)
4. 2nd edition Paranoia corebook or Paranoia XP corebook
5. Runequest or the Guide to Glorantha


In no particular order...

1. Living Greyhawk Gazetteer
2. Midnight 3.5 Core rulebook/setting (and most of the setting sourcebooks/gazs)
3. Dark Heresy
4. I suspect some of the Symbaroum sourcebooks (NOT the core book), if I got around to actually reading them


What comes to mind for me (in no particular order)...

  • Talislanta Worldbook (Talislanta - Bard Games, 1990): This is the only Talislanta book that touches upon the whole world. Just a terrifically imagined setting.
  • Midgard Worldbook (Kobold Press, various years): The most recent is probably the best, even though I'm partial to the older watercolor maps. Midgard is a nice combination of thematically constructed and kitchen sink. Meaning, it makes more sense than some of the D&D kitchen sink settings, but still has a diversity of cultures and stuff going on.
  • Deities & Demigods (AD&D - TSR, 1980): A nostalgia pick. This was my favorite RPG book growing up - I think I even brought it to school in my back-pack for awhile. And of course the version with Melnibonean and Cthulhu mythos.
  • Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (D&D 3E - WotC, 2001): While the Gray Box has more Greenwoodian atmosphere, this remains--imo--the best setting book ever made. So densely packed, with a bit of everything. The whole FR "white book" series was great.
  • Spherewalker Sourcebook (Everway - Rubicon, 1996): I haven't checked out the new "silver anniversary" of Everway, so maybe that would replace this. But this is just densely packed with quasi-mystical and mythological ideas.
I might re-think it later, and swap something out. Other stuff that came to mind...

Honorable Mentions:
DMG 1E -
I don't know if this qualifies as lore-packed, but it is filled with Gygaxian idiosyncrasies and fun to pick up and get lost in every once in awhile; Symbaroum - any book really, but if they had a dedicated setting book, it would jump to the top of the list, but alas, no such book exists (ditto Forbidden Lands); Glorantha Sourcebook - or other Glorantha setting books, but that's the one I currently own; Wilderlands of High Fantasy - maybe not the deepest lore, but so many fun seeds that it is a fun browse; Hyperborea 2E - Does old school right, imo; Swords & Glory, Vol 1: Tekumel Sourcebook - for a wacky, rambling, and deeply detailed setting. Coriolis - Fria Ligan, after all.

So many others, especially setting books, but that's what came to mind.


The EN World kitten
Narrowing it down to just five is hard, but here we go:
  1. Eclipse: The Codex Persona has no lore or setting information whatsoever. Rather, it's a point-buy character-builder for d20 System Games. It's more flexible than any such sourcebook (there were a few), and every time I open it, I find something inspiration; for me, this is the book that makes the "options, not restrictions" credo of D&D 3rd Edition come true.
  2. The Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3E was the book that made me a fan of the Realms. I'd picked up plenty of supplements for the setting before (though not the 1E or 2E boxed sets), but this was something else again. Jam-packed full of lore galore and quite a few new developments such as the return of Bane, the appearance of the Shade Enclave, or the rise of Deep Imaskar, which made it really seem like the world needed heroes beyond Elminster and the Seven Sisters. This remains an impressive presentation of what's arguably the most famous tabletop RPG setting.
  3. HârnManor is a product I'm picking to represent the entire Hârn line from Columbia Games. That's because, while their native RPG system is HârnMaster, a lot of their supplements are system-neutral, and provide great overviews of various aspects of running a medieval fantasy world, such as Heraldry or managing Real Estate. In the case of HârnManor, it covers an aspect of medieval life that's all too often misunderstood or overlooked completely, and makes for some great reading. This setting always makes me so hârny.
  4. An even split here between the AD&D 2E Domains of Dread and Ravenloft 3rd Edition. This setting has always been, for me, the most evocative of the classic D&D settings, and while I'm not sure which take impressed me more, the collective whole is one that I don't think has ever been surpassed (including by its 5E counterpart).
  5. For my last entry I'm going to cheat, and put this one down to a three-way tie between Dragonstar, Dawnforge, and Midnight. I don't know what Fantasy Flight Games had going on back in the early days of 3rd Edition era, but they consistently cranked out imaginative setting after imaginative setting. A dragon empire that ruled the galaxy, and had just found your campaign world? A young world where the legends that would echo throughout history were just now happening? A world where Sauron the god of evil won? Each and every one of these still has a fan community today, and it's not hard to see why!
Please note my use of affiliate links in this post.


This setting always makes me so hârny.
Ha! This deserves to be singled out.

As for Harn, the only product I've owned is the Harnworld folio from 1983 - that's one of few dozen RPG products that I've owned since the 80s. I'm generally not into that level of Medievalism but it is a very impressive product, and really years ahead of its time. The maps were considered unsurpassed in the industry back then, if I remember correctly. The Lythia continent shape is one of my all-time favorites. Your mention makes me want to scan over those maps.


Jewel of the North
In no particular order:

  • Veins of the Earth for OSR rules set
  • World of Darkness books (big fan of Vampires: the Masquerade or Requiem, Promethean: the Created and Hunter: the Vigil)
  • Mutant: Year Zero
  • Tales from the Loop/Flood
  • special mention to the upcoming Old Gods of the Appalachia from Monte Cook, I cant stand the Cypher System, but those settings are full of awesomeness.


  • Weapons of the Gods - the Lores (lore sheets) are a great read.
  • Spire The City Must Fall - I just enjoyed reading about the city (setting), its quite different to traditional fantasy.
  • Mage The Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition - I just like the modern urban setting of this game.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4E - I just enjoy reading the new rules and familiarising myself with the setting once again. This is probably a bit of a cheat because I'm including the entire line because the setting is spread out among many books.

Strangely here are the few books that I read and re read times and times again.
Beyond the Supernatural
Temple of Elemental Evil
Vampire The Masquerade
World of Greyhawk: From the Ashes Box set.
Honorable Mentions: Ivid the Undying, Queen of Spiders, The Lost city and The Savage Frontier by Paul Jaquays.

aramis erak

Any game, any genre, any type of book. What are favorites for lore and reading pleasure? Meaning, which books could you pick up and get lost in for hours upon hours and either enjoy for considering gaming possibilities, or just the ideas themselves? While such books will trend towards settings, it doesn't have to be.
I've found myself rereading Palladium's Mechanoids trilogy and The Mechanoids... a lot of setting in odd ways...
Likewise, I find myself rereading Palladium Fantasy RPG,

Awesome setting work, mediocre system.

I also find myself rereading Gideon's Justifiers RPG... which, save for the enslavement angle, is an awesome gaming setting, and a good Sci-Fi premise.

Everything by Modiphius seems rereadable. I've a backlog of stuff to read where I bought the bundle of holding for the core, and haven't gotten through the supplements. Only current on STA...


Front Range Warlock
For lore specifically:

Black Pudding: Heavy Helping Volume I (Random Order Creations)
GURPS Madness Dossier (Steve Jackson Games)
GURPS Reign of Steel (Steve Jackson Games)
Maelstrom Storytelling (Hubris Games/Precis Intermedia)
Monster Care Squad (Sandy Pug Games)


Coriolis The Third Horizon - it's just so beautiful
Stars Without Number 2e - my intro to scifi ttrpgs and still inspires me while most others have fallen to the wayside
Old School Hack by Kirin Robinson - a reminder that simplicity is not my enemy


Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I can think of a couple at least.

The One Ring 1st Edition. The whole thing, but especially the core books. The art is gorgeous, the lore is juicy, and the game itself filled me with ideas and made me very eager to play.

Heroes of The Feywild from late 4e. Probably my favorite D&D book to read, ever. Full of legends and folklore, fantastical locations, really makes the Feywild into a place you can be from and adventure in.

Galaxy Guide Nine by West End Games for their Star Wars RPG. It’s the one with popular musicians and cocktails. The whole series is fantastic, but the above makes it my favorite.

Races of Stone from 3.5. Goliaths, gnomes, so much cool ideas for cultural elements and stuff. Love it.


  1. Interface Zero 2.0 for Savage Worlds. The Deus Ex series of video games are my all time favorites. This gorgeous hardcover is pen and paper Deus Ex and it is amazing.
  2. Star Wars Edge of the Empire. It really hits all the right notes in terms of the setting. The background information on the Imperial Security Bureau makes me want to play James Bond in space.
  3. Ironsworn + Ironsworn: Delve. There's just something about the way Ironsworn presents it's exploration of the unknown that sets my imagination running.
  4. Inner Sea World Guide. Yes it's a kitchen sink. But there's still so many easily graspable adventure hooks just waiting to be taken. Anything involving the Andoran Eagle Knights makes me happy.
  5. D&D Rules Cyclopedia. There will always be a warm spot in my heart for the Known World.


Paizo's Golarion setting Inner Sea Guide, Ultimate Campaign, and Game mastery Guide from PF1.

Fantasy Flight's World of Android RPG setting.

No book in particular, but I love Battletech setting lore when I can find it (RPG, Video Games, Novels).


Star Wars Gamemaster Guide for 2nd edition by WEG. The only gamemaster book I know that isn't a collection of tables and stat blocks and extended rules, but actually teaches how you run adventures. Single best RPG book ever, with advice that is always worth going back to.

Expert Rules for D&D. This little blue thing has all the knowledge and wisdom of how classic dungeon crawl adventures work.

Manual of the Planes for D&D 3rd edition. This one always provides me with endless idea for supernatural realms in any campaign setting I make.

Monsters of Faerûn for D&D 3rd edition. My favorite monster book ever. Lots of really cool monsters that are largely forgotten by the actual Monster Manuals. A few of them made it into the 5th ed. MM, but many other great ones are only in this or some obscure 2nd edition book. Every time I read it again, I remember monsters that I really need to try out in whatever campaign I'm just running.

Red Tide. Great resource on running sandbox games. Similar stuff as in Worlds Without Number, but I actually like this much more compact version a lot better.

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