What's the best and worst D&D book you own from any edition?

Olaf the Stout

Adventurer
I was looking at my bookshelf of D&D books (2E, 3.xE and Pathfinder) and thinking about how "good" or "bad" some of the books I owned were. Heck, several of them I'm not sure I've even done more than flicked through the pages once.

So I'm interested in seeing what everyone regards as their "best" and "worst" D&D book in their collection. The book(s) can be made by TSR, WotC or Paizo or they can be a 3rd-party product. It can also be from any edition. It just has to be one you own.

Best and worst are entirely subjective. You may decide your best book is the one that you got the most value for money from (i.e. your PHB that you've used to get over 1000 hours of gaming out of) or it may be the book you enjoy looking at the most, even if you don't use it much.

Similarly, your worst book may be one that you found all the rules within it to be horribly broken, a book that you horribly overpaid for, or a book that had fluff that ruined for a particular setting or character for you.

For me, the best D&D book I own is the Shackled City Adventure Path by Paizo (3.5E). It's my best D&D book because with it I ran a campaign for over 3 years and about 100 sessions, starting at 1st level and ending at about 18th-19th level. It was the longest campaign I've ever DM'd and the only one that reached the end point I'd hoped for at the start of the campaign. Yeah, I changed and added many things in the adventure (including a full re-write of the final adventure), but I definitely couldn't have come up with a campaign half as cool by myself.

Normally I'm complete bibliophile with my books. I hate to write in them at all or get them damaged. Almost all my RPG books are in pristine condition. By the end of the campaign, my SCAP hardcover was completely trashed. The front and back covers the book spine were all damaged. That wasn't because the book was poorly made. It was simply due to how much time the book spent in my bag as I took it to and from work to read on the train or on my lunch break. The book earned it's keep and then some.

The worst D&D book I own would be the Epic Level Handbook by WotC (3.0E). This is because of a couple of reasons.

Firstly, I paid around $80-$90 AUD (about $75-$80 USD on current exchange rates) for the book. A combination of no knowing about buying books online and a very low AUD exchange rate meant I paid a lot more for the book than I should have.

Secondly, I've never had a PC reach 20th level, or ran a campaign where the PC's have. So I've never used anything from the book in-game. I read through the book a little when I bought it, but haven't cracked the cover in 5+ years.

Thirdly, having now run quite a bit of D&D 3.5E at Level 15+, I've discovered that it's not anywhere near as fun to run as it seems. There are that many spells, magic items, abilities and effects in play that it's not much fun to keep track of as a DM. So I don't think I'd enjoy running an epic level campaign. So the book just won't be of any use to me in the future.

So that's my best and worst D&D book that I own. What's yours?
 

Ahnehnois

Villager
Best:
Probably Unearthed Arcana (3e). This is really what D&D is about: taking the published game and making it yours. Taking the variations and sharing them through the OGL. Every book should have looked more like UA.

Worst:
Probably Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil. I'm cheating a bit since this is an adventure and not a rulebook (OP didn't specify) and I'd likely say the same about any other adventure, but I received it as a gift and it just seems like some sort of cruel joke that as a DM I would be expected to use this instead of my own ideas.

There are some mediocre ones and some with very mixed ideas or poor editing, but I can't think of any rulebooks I have that disgust me on the same level.
 

Olaf the Stout

Adventurer
Ahnehnois, there's no restrictions on the type of book. It could be a core rulebook, a splatbook, a monster book, adventure, whatever. I chose an adventure as my best book so RttToEE is a perfectly fine choice as a worst book.
 

Stormonu

Hero
Best: <EDIT - oops, D&D> D&D Moldvay Red Box set. It's the D&D I started with. I still love to play it to this day.

Worst (that I still own): Cardmaster (for AD&D 2E). It was a product that came out during the era of the likes of Heroquest and Warhammer Quest and computer games like Dungeon Hack (those three were good, Cardmaster is not). It's a boxed set full of thin, cheesy dungeon cards and a "monster" deck. Mostly designed for solo random dungeon play. Utterly boring, thrown-together ruleset. I'm not sure why I haven't purged it from my bookshelf.

P.S.: Epic handbook is pretty up there for worthless for me for the same reasons. It's a shame I was a completionist back then; I bought the autographed version (mainly for the Olidamara dice).
 
Best is probably the "Campaign Sourcebook and Catacomb Guide" for 2nd Edition. That book probably taught me more about DMing than any other source.

Worst is a bit trickier... The "Epic Level Handbook" is pretty bad, as is "Deities & Demigods" (3e version). Indeed, the two together are shockingly bad - in order to really use the deity stats you need epic level PCs, but the ELH uses a largely-incompatible system for such powerful characters! "The Book of Exalted Deeds" is also remarkably poor.

But I think the worst is probably "Scourge of the Howling Horde". It's an incredibly dull, railroady adventure, pretty much every stat-block is wrong (including several monsters drawn unchanged from the "Monster Manual"). But worst of all, it was clearly typeset assuming full colour, and then printed in greyscale, with the net result that several of the sidebars are nigh-unreadable.
 
Best: Aurora's Whole Realms Catalog. 2E-era but really setting and edition independent; it's just a really fun flavorful book.

Worst: Toss up between Epic Level Handbook and Book of Vile Darkness.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
Best: Realm of Terror, ravenloft boxed set

worst: the 3.5 Expidition to Castle Ravenloft Adventure. The original Ravenloft module was amazing, this new version was awful, basically caused me to stop buying WOTc products for the remainder of the 3.5 run. Just reduced a cool setting and adventure to something that felt more like a video game.
 

Greg K

Adventurer
Best Book? It depends.
Rules: Unearthed Arcana
Class (3e): Psychic's Handbook (Green Ronin), Shaman's Handbook(Green Ronin), or Witch's Handbook(Green Ronin)
Class (2e): Complete Thief's Handbook
Class (1e): Witches (Mayfair Games)
Setting: Dark Sun or Al Quadim: Land of Fate
Monster related: Advanced Bestiary (Green Ronin) or Book of Templates (Silverthorne/Goodman Games)

Worst Book? I am not sure. I pared down my pre-3e books, avoided most 3e WOTC supplement like the plague, and was selective about third party supplements that I purchased. My worst supplement is probably, one of the free pdfs that I picked up on RPGNow or, maybe, B2: Keep on the Borderlands (not a fan of the caves themselves)
 

Crothian

Villager
The best is Rules Cyclopedia. It has everything one needs in one book and the rules and game work great.

Worst if I'm including 3rd party books then some of the FFE and Mongoose books were just terrible in the age of d20 bloat. For actual D&D books I have to go with WG7 Castle Greyhawk. After waiting for it and hoping it would be some awesome epic module we get a very bad parody comical thing that failed to be funny.
 
Best; The 3rd Edition Forgotten Realms Source book, which i argue is the gold standard for setting source books.

Worst; Well, Forest Oracle is comedy bad, redeeming it somewhat. So I will second the votes for Book of Vile Darkness.
 

Jan van Leyden

Adventurer
Best: 3e Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting. Enjoying to read and extremely motivating to start a campign in the world.

Worst: 3e Hero Builders Guid Book. Utterly useless, layout-wise a big disappointment after the core books.

Notabene: I don't sell my books...
 
A

amerigoV

Guest
Best - a tie for a few
  • I agree third the 3e FR book. I was (and still am not) a FR fanboy, but I wanted to get it to see what the designers did to interweave the new rules into a setting. That part itself was meh, but the layout of the book was extremely good. I loved the 3 or 4 plot hooks at the end of each area/country write-up.
  • 3e PHB - it got be me back into D&D
  • 1e DMG - still a lot of nice nuggets in there

Worst - a tie for a few
  • 4e PHB - it was not the rules (the system itself is pretty good the times I played it), it was the layout and writing. It unfortunately was in competition with the Savage Worlds core book for what direction I was going to go. SW just screams "play me" - the 4e PHB is just a paperweight as it just is not a compelling book
  • FR Faiths and Pantheons - it cut/paste from the FRCS, maybe added a paragraph to each entry, then added a huge stat block. I thought I was getting a book on the FR religions, not an Epic NPC/monster manual. A counterpart that almost made the above list was Eberron's version of that book - exactly what I was looking for.
  • There is a number of late 3e books that I picked up that I really have never read in detail (Complete Scoundrel, Dragon Magic, etc)
 

Meatboy

Villager
Best is probably the 3e PHB it was the first dnd product I got that I really grokked and it hot me and my pals playing for years.

worst was the sword and fist supplement. That was overpriced and just generally an aweful book.
 

Scrivener of Doom

Adventurer
Best: Strictly speaking I have to go with Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting for 3E but my heart has a special place for Faiths & Avatars which not only launched a huge number of campaigns but brought me back to D&D.

Worst: Underdark Adventure Guide by the grossly overrated Goodman Games and authored by Mike Mearls. For me this book defines the d20 glut and explains why I am not a Mike-Mearls-as-a-designer-fan. When you see 10 or more prestige classes each with their own unique saving throw progression for each of their saving throw categories, you are left wondering why some of the time inventing this little piece of pointless randomness wasn't spent actually making even one decent prestige class.
 

gweinel

Explorer
As best book(s) I would consider the Planescape box set(s). It was the RPG the marked me and our gaming group for the years.
Very close i would put the Birthright box set(s) for the humongous inspiration for my home brew world.
As a honorary mention I could not miss the Oriental book of 3e. A second PH and a game setting together.

Througout the years i am playing i stumbled and many times i bought many really bad books. From these that I bought the first that crosses my mind is the 4e Manual of the Planes. Being a Planescape fan, I found it really unispiring.
 

howandwhy99

Villager
Best is the 1e DMG I think. That and the players really help define the game for me. (Still haven't been able to afford an original game, but that should be changing very soon).

Worst - I own - is Penumbra's Splintered Peace, which isn't all that bad, but its political rules, the reason why I bought it, are not at all something I would use know. And the adventure isn't exactly exciting if you don't use the abstracted, sort of competitive politicking and dialogue systems. (Actually, that one I'm trying to give away, so maybe not much longer for it either)
 

evilbob

Villager
worst: the 3.5 Expidition to Castle Ravenloft Adventure.
Ha!

Best: Probably the 3.5 Expedition to Castle Ravenloft campaign (adventure). I've used this book a million times for many different games and I love the style and the detail they put into some of the encounters. Probably some of the best D&D games I've run. To be fair, the layout is a bit frustrating and the typos, editing mistakes, and unfinished ending of the book make it a little infuriating. It's also a straight-up murder machine against the PCs and you really have to be careful of a TPK at any moment (which can be good or bad).

(A close second for best is 4.0's Dungeon Delve. Not particularly well written or well designed, but a fun book that makes 4.0 1-shots soooo easy. The 3.5 Player's Guide is also an extremely well-made, well-written, and well-used book.)

Worst is probably the original 4.0 Player's Handbook, not because I disliked the system, but because 1) when it was printed it was FULL of so many typos and editing errors that I couldn't believe anyone would have signed their name to it, and 2) within months (weeks? hours?) the book was worthless because they changed all the rules. If it had been a PDF that got updated, that would have been one thing, but as a physical book that meant that it was crap. Eventually the game had so many changes the book was completely useless as reference material.


Edit: Actually, I thought of another "worst" book, although I never bought it personally (my GM did, though, and we played it): the first pre-made adventure released for 4.0, written by Bruce Cordell. (Can't remember the title.) That was one of the worst-written, dreary slog-fests I've ever experienced. Talk about showing off some of the worst aspects of 4.0! Our GM ended up scrapping a huge chunk of stuff just because it went on FOREVER with no real purpose. It also had a near-certain TPK written into one of the earlier encounters. Bleh. Terrible design.
 
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Manabarbs

Villager
I'm mostly thinking of player crunch books. Other books just don't leave as strong of an impression on me.

Best is probably Expanded Psionics Handbook (3.5). It's a hard call, but I feel like that book contains the most total overall awesome of any book I own with the least dubiousity. (And the one big smudge of dubiousity, the Soulknife, is still at least cool conceptually.)

Runner-ups are 4e PHB2, 4e Dark Sun Campaign Setting, 3.5 Tome of Battle, and PF Advanced Player's Guide. (This isn't meant as a slight to pre-3.5 editions, I just don't remember any of the books well enough to call them the best.) I also think that the 3.5 environmental books - Sandstorm, Frostburn and Stormwrack - are underrated, but this isn't the underrated books thread.

Worst is also tough, but I think the worst (of first-party releases; I'm not going to drag out some d20-bloat-era book of garbage monsters or something) is the 3rd Edition Epic Level Handbook. It starts with a pretty lousy premise (let's take the very worst part of the game, the high levels where the game doesn't work at all and nobody ever plays, and then add on TOP of that), and then follows up with an uninspiring execution that addresses none of the problems that high-level play has mechanically. It also drops the ball on satisfactorily addressing the big conceptual issue for high-level play, which is what the characters might even reasonably be doing at that level. It's not entirely ELH's fault, on the grounds that it's a high degree-of-difficulty book to do well, but that doesn't stop it from being super useless.

Runners up: 4e Heroes of Shadow (The wheels came off on 4e's generally solid design here, and its layout is annoying and bad); BoVD and BoED.
 

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