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


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Olaf the Stout

Adventurer
For the best I'm going to go with 2e's Encyclopedia Magica. Awesome book set.

For the worst it's a toss up between 1e's Dungeoneers Survival Guide and 3e's The Magic of Incarnum.
The Encyclopedia Magica books would be up there for me too. I didn’t use them much during an actual campaign, but teenaged me just loved reading through all the different magic items. I spent hours just imagining all the different possibilities.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
What THAC0 reference are you referring to?
Check THAC0 in the PHB index. It's there, I promise. At least it is in my 1st printing copy of the book.

It directs us to "attack roll." It's a dumb joke that somehow I feel inspired the whole scavenger-hunt nature of the index.

That's just my opinion; I don't have any input from anyone who actually assembled that index. But it's an opinion/observation that fits the facts as far as I can tell.
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
Yea. You're right in that very loose, making it up as you go along play is really common in the OSR, but I do think more detailed simulation is also a pretty common strand.
I think the key is that most of the simulation is for campaign management. There aren't that many charts during the adventure. If you are trying to run a domain then yes there are some charts to manage that. So it's very much like 1e in that sense and what is an OSR but harkening back to older editions in style.
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
The sheer multiplicity of D&D products put out across almost fifty years and several editions makes this a very hard question to answer. I'll tentatively nominate the following:

Best: Return to the Tomb of Horrors (AD&D 2E). This is an epic campaign, starting out with a simple mission to root out some giants, which leads you to infiltrating a college of necromancers, only to then brave the Tomb of Horrors itself, and that's just the beginning! It really contributed a lot to the legend of the original S1 Tomb of Horrors, and has become a classic in its own right ever since.

Worst: WG7 Castle Greyhawk (AD&D 1E). I honestly can't get past how mean-spirited this product is, being one big put-down of Gary Gygax's legendary castle/dungeon.

Please note my use of affiliate links in this post.
Tomb of Horrors was a legend long before 2e. And that is not taking away from Return to ToH.

Agree on WG7. We never really got Castle Greyhawk and now never will sadly.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The Encyclopedia Magica books would be up there for me too. I didn’t use them much during an actual campaign, but teenaged me just loved reading through all the different magic items. I spent hours just imagining all the different possibilities.
I used them then and I still use them. It's pretty easy to adapt the incredibly diverse items to whatever edition you are playing. :)
 

DaveMage

Slumbering in Tsar
Beware of Dawizard!

My faves:
1E - DMG, MM2
2E - Planescape Box Set, Return to the Tomb of Horrors, Ruins of Undermountain Box Set, Faiths & Avatars, Encyclopedia Magica Books
3xE - Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, Oathbound Campaign Setting (Bastion Press), Ptolus (Malhavoc Press)
Pathfinder 1E - Slumbering Tsar (Frog God Games)

My Worst:
2E - Randal Morn Trilogy of Adventures (Sword of the Dales/Secret of Spiderhaunt/Return of Randal Morn). Railroad hell.
 


Pauper

That guy, who does that thing.
The thread that would not die, indeed. May as well put in my $0.02US...

The list of best books I own for any edition of D&D is a pretty short list. Nominees would include the AD&D era Deities and Demigods (though the 'divinity construction kit' of the 3E version was pretty useful when building my own pantheon), the 3PP supplement Hollowfaust, City of Necromancers by Sword and Sorcery Studios, and the Neverwinter Campaign Setting. All of those were both good reads and gave me ideas that I worked into my own games. The winner, though, has to be Van Richten's Guide to the Vistani, a supplement that I discovered in PDF form years after it went out of print and found so good that I tracked down an old print copy just to put it in my collection of Ravenloft books.

The worst books I own are not necessarily the worst books I thought existed in each edition; check my nickname, and realize that it came from a real place -- I couldn't afford to buy books that I had zero interest in just to be a 'completist', at least prior to roughly 15 years ago. With that said, I do have a few books that I've found myself disappointed in: the d20 adaptation of Call of Cthulhu, the 3PP supplement Requiem for a God, and Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil. Probably not a coincidence that these are all Monte Cook jams -- I just don't find Cook's 'games are meant to be broken' approach to design to be all that entertaining or inspirational. I also don't own the Slayer's Guide to Female Gamers (mentioned earlier in the thread), or that one would certainly be on the list. The winner, though, without any doubt, has to be the Book of Erotic Fantasy. I got it because of all the hype surrounding its publication, but ended up being disappointed at the time by the 'artwork' that was largely poorly-edited photographs, and the game material that was somehow both too mature for folks who wanted to just play and have a good time, and yet too silly for folks who wanted to take their games more seriously and explore stories in greater depth. Not to mention that the particular brand of sexuality espoused in the book (very cishet male focused, which while good for the expected demographic leaves a lot out when it comes to the cornucopia of human sexuality) turned out to be very much of its time, and honestly has not aged well since.

I also had a very different experience of some books listed by others on their lists than they did, which honestly is to be expected, as I suspect they have different ideas of what they enjoy and find interesting in a game than I do. Some examples:

  • Stronghold Builder's Guidebook (3E): I liked this, not least because it was a stepping-stone into realizing that well-designed strongholds in a D&D universe would likely look nothing like well-designed strongholds in our universe, because both magic and the existence of monsters who can easily fly, burrow, and teleport would make real-world design principles effectively obsolete.
  • Curse of Strahd (5E): I liked the stand-alone Death House adventure, but Chris Perkins's take on the classic Ravenloft adventure left me cold (and not in a fun way), and dreading what WotC might end up doing with the Ravenloft campaign setting as a whole, which is why I'm awaiting the new Ravenloft book with trepidation.
  • Weapons of Legacy (3E): Liked it, but didn't get as much use out of it as I'd hoped, because the idea of legacy weapons that grow with PCs, while it sounds good on paper, actually ends up going against a fair number of traditional D&D tropes, not the least of which is the Christmas Day feeling you get when looting a dragon horde and finding a great weapon.
  • Book of Exalted Deeds (3E): Loved this one -- the Vow of Poverty was utterly broken, but with some work, it was still usable in games. One of my favorite PCs had a cohort (via the Leadership feat) who was a gold dragon monk with a Vow of Poverty. Not everything in the book was top-shelf, but I feel you could say that about most of the hardcover books that came out after the 'big three' and the various campaign setting guides.
  • Pathfinder 1E in general: Left, and still leaves, me cold. I own just six PF 1E books (and zero 2E books) and at least half the books I do own I got for free at GenCon as part of different swag packages. I know people who love this game, but it's just not my speed, for much the same reasons that Monte Cook's work doesn't move me.

Them's my thoughts!

--
Pauper
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
The worst books I own are not necessarily the worst books I thought existed in each edition; check my nickname, and realize that it came from a real place -- I couldn't afford to buy books that I had zero interest in just to be a 'completist', at least prior to roughly 15 years ago. With that said, I do have a few books that I've found myself disappointed in: the d20 adaptation of Call of Cthulhu, the 3PP supplement Requiem for a God, and Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil. Probably not a coincidence that these are all Monte Cook jams -- I just don't find Cook's 'games are meant to be broken' approach to design to be all that entertaining or inspirational. I also don't own the Slayer's Guide to Female Gamers (mentioned earlier in the

--
Pauper

I don't know that I am a good judge on any of those games you mentioned. I have no interest in Cthulhu and don't own the others. I do think Ptolus is one of the best ever made though. And while 3e is a bit too busy for me, I still think for it's time it was a great design. I do not like Monte's new system as it brings in the metagame far too much for my preferences.

So I guess my short answer is: don't pass Ptolus by even if you generally don't care for Monte's work.
 

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