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

eyeheartawk

Explorer
Best

OD&D/Basic: Rules Cyclopedia 100%. Everything you would ever need in one book.

1E: Gotta go DMG here like everybody else. Damned difficult to read at times, but so many great nugs.

2E: This is a three way tie between Priest's Spell Compendium, Encylcopedia Magica and Wizard's Spell Compendium. Such a great reference and so convenient to have everything collected in one place with background notes and even telling you which setting it is from. Beautiful, to boot. Really hope 5E does something like this in the future, as I don't relish the thought of carrying 20 books in my backpack five years from now.

3E: Not really a FR guy at all, but the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting is pretty great. I consider this and its following books in the line the high point for Forgotten Realms.

4E: Didn't play a ton of 4E, but for sheer convenience probably gotta go with the Rules Compendium.

5E: No 5E product has really blown me away to such a degree to be a clear favorite over another but if I had to pick I would say Xanathar's Guide to Everything. Just because it has a little bit for everything and everybody and some neat new options.

Worst

OD&D/Basic: Probably Swords & Spells. It was a backwards looking supplement to turn D&D back into a wargame, and nobody I have ever met or heard of ever used this.

1E: The Dungeoneer's Survival Guide and Wilderness Survival Guide were probably the low point in 1E hardbacks. Filled full of useless junk nobody used.


2E: So many bad books in this edition, if for no other reason, the amount of books published. But I gotta go with WG7 Castle Greyhawk. People waited so long to see what Gary's Castle Greyhawk looked like. Eventually, we got this and lo, it was bad.

3E: The Slayer's Guide to Female Gamers. This exemplifies the worst of the 3E era: third party splatbook glut and terrible gamer stereotypes. Of course it's written by James Desborough, what a surprise.

4E: I mean, it's gotta be the Monster Manual, right? Errata and math updates made this book worthless.

5E: Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide. Not at all surprising. Mechanically, only offers a few things of value. Lore wise it's as deep as a puddle.
 
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Retreater

Adventurer
Best

2e:
The 2nd edition AD&D Monster Manual (not Compendium) is the largest, fullest, most complete collection of monsters I've ever owned. The art can be lousy (or non-existent) for many entries, but as a one-stop-shop for critters, it's unrivaled. (Runner-Up: the PHB for complete nostalgic reasons.)

3e: The Maure Castle issues of Dungeon magazines. Especially the first issue. I love the setting, art, and high level challenges.

Worst

2e: Skills and Powers and the reprinted core books. The art is bad. The power creep makes the game nearly unplayable.

4e: I am different than many posters here in that I actually enjoyed the edition, but none of the books stand out as anything I'd like to go back to. Well organized references for the game, but nothing to treasure.
 

Imaculata

Adventurer
3E: The Slayer's Guide to Female Gamers. This exemplifies the worst of the 3E era: third party splatbook glut and terrible gamer stereotypes. Of course it's written by James Desborough, what a surprise.
Oh my god, this exists?! I'm changing my vote right now. This is the worst book!

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Also, what lovely cover art(!)
And it gets better:

1570205011632.png


Hahahaha. There is just so much to take in here... I don't know where to start. And people willingly attached their names to this?! Or were they threatened at clumpsily-drawn-swordpoint?

Oh, and if this list of contents seems offensive... the book is a hundred times more offensive than what you would expect. I mean, seriously... what were they thinking?!
 

eyeheartawk

Explorer
Oh my god, this exists?! I'm changing my vote right now. This is the worst book!

View attachment 114517

Also, what lovely cover art(!)
And it gets better:

View attachment 114518

Hahahaha. There is just so much to take in here... I don't know where to start. And people willingly attached their names to this?! Or were they threatened at clumpsily-drawn-swordpoint?
Either that, or somebody read page 30 and cast Feminine Magic on them to compel them to do so.
 

Imaculata

Adventurer
Yeah, fun fact, would you believe me if I told you that the guy who wrote this also wrote the Gor RPG?
That is mind blowing.

Also, I have got to stop reading this book any further, before I start punching the screen. Anyone that voted for any other book as 'The Worst D&D Book', including 'The book of Erotic Fantasy', is now officially wrong. Even the book of erotic fantasy is a masterpiece compared to the 'Slayer's Guide to Female Gamers'.
 
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Greg K

Adventurer
I don't have a single best (keeping this to physical books to keep it short)
2e: Complete Thief's Handbook

3e: Unearthed Arcana (WOTC), Psychic's Handbook (Green Ronin), Shaman's Handbook (Green Ronin), Witch's Handbook (Green Ronin), Experts 3.5 (Skirmisher Publishing), Noble Steeds (Avalanche Press), Book of Templates (Silverthorne/Green Ronin). I use these these physical book (along with the 2e Complete Thief's Handbook) for reference and ideas for any fantasy campaign regardless of system.

Worst:
I like it as DM reference, but Book of Vile Darkness.
 
Thanks to @eyeheartawk for the formatting and edition-by-edition precedent. ;)

(I'll bet I've posted before, and given different answers, too, but whatever, this version looks like fun.)

Best

OD&D/Basic: Men & Magic, for reasons that'll become evident.

1E: Gotta go DMG here like everybody else. You've got the definitive explanation of what hps really represent and how they really work, that has never been questioned since. ;)

2E: Complete Priest's Handbook, easily the best thing ever written for 2e, expanded the Priest into a highly customizeable class, a great resource for DMs and players who could get their ear, and a level of design openness we'd not see again until 3e. It was written by the late great Aaron Alston, who also did a lot of writing for Hero Games, and published a few novels that are worth a read.

3E: I'm going to go with the 3.0 PH because, well, I don't own a huge number of 3e books (the group I was in at the time shared books a lot, and I didn't end up holding many of them), but I really did like some of the things that 3.5 ended up changing.

4E: Like Retreater said, 4e books were better references than memorable reads. Suppose we'll have to go with the PH1, again, for introducing the revolutionary (even if the revolution has been successfully suppressed) take on martial characters, especially the Warlord. I really don't much go in for setting/cosmology books, but Plane Above/Below and HotFw deserve mention, too.

5E: Nothing about the 5e rules much stands out, as befits a well-crafted compromise, but Curse of Strahd seems like the best adventure so far.

Worst

OD&D/Basic: Greyhawk Supplement I, for introducing the Thief and thus ruining the game forever. ;P (Oh, and it also introduced the Paladin.)

1E: A close contest between the "flaming dumpster fire" (c)Lowkey13 of Unearthed Arcana and the flaming gomi-xiang (which is exactly like a western dumpster, but superior in every way, and has Ki powers) fire of Oriental Adventures. Really, nothing to salvage from 1e after those fiascos.


2E: My regret here is that I don't own the notorious most broken complete books of the line, like the Complete Book of Elves - well, regret only in the context of this post, since I really, really don't regret not spending money 'em. I guess I'll have to go with the giant multi-volume compendium of magic items that included the hilarious search-and-replace editing error that changed every instance of "damage" to "dawizard." Though, for format alone, that nice idea that didn't work out so well, the loose-leaf Monstrous Compendium also deserves a nod.

3E: Again, don't own a lotta 3e for logistical reasons, but, I did end up holding the execrable Sword & Fist, which featured both what was perhaps the worst cover art in D&D history, and truly pathetic content, so I'm golden.

4E: I ended up not owning KotSf, or HoS or HotFL/K nor much of Essentials at all beyond the RC, so...
...oh, y'know: all the adventure tools after monster builder: for being vaporware. (But, you don't own them! ... no, but it was a subscription service, so I paid for them. But I'm not bitter, no, not me.)

5E: Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide. Not at all surprising. Mechanically, only offers a few things of value. Lore wise it's as deep as a puddle. (No I didn't stop, I just had to agree - and I don't actually own HotDQ, or that would obviously win.)
 
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eyeheartawk

Explorer
2E: My regret here is that I don't own the notorious most broken complete books of the line, like the Complete Book of Elves - well, regret only in the context of this post, since I really, really don't regret not spending money 'em. I guess I'll have to go with the giant multi-volume compendium of magic items that included the hilarious search-and-replace editing error that changed every instance of "damage" to "dawizard." Though, for format alone, that nice idea that didn't work out so well, the loose-leaf Monstrous Compendium also deserves a nod.
Never forget.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Funny... but then I opened page 30 out of foolish curiosity, and now I regret laying eyes on this so much!
How in the world....

Seriously, what was anyone involved in this project thinking?

There has been a ton of useless poorly written crap written for D&D over the years, but this goes straight to the bottom of that stack for being not only useless and poorly written but tasteless and offensive.

I can't even... I have no words. People's ability to imagine and create evil continually leaves me astounded.
 

Arnwolf666

Adventurer
I think domains of dread for 2nd edition ravenloft is the best setting book ever made. Followed by the al-qadim sourcebook. And that is purely for the fluff and the way they presented the material. I have not seen as good of a presentation for a setting since those two books. Although there are several others i still love.

The worst was skills and powers and that entire line of books.
 

Ath-kethin

Explorer
I recently bought the Conan 2e rules book, and it is amazing. I don't know when we'll find time to actually run a Conan adventure, but I'm now intrigued by the books that you've mentioned. Could you share more details on what's great about them?
I don't want to derail this thread, but shortly:

1. The incredibly simple class progressions, as befits a retroclones, coupled with the incredibly evocative subclasses. Different wizard specialities have different spell selections; you can tell a necromancer from a cryomancer just by what they cast.

2. The book is, indeed, compleat. At 700 or so pages, it covers everything you need. Think Rules Cyclopedia complete.

3. The art is incredible, and incredibly evocative in and of itself. A nice mix of colors plates and them atic black-and-whites.

I could go on.

My only real gripe is that classes top out at 12th level; it's probably just 30 years of D&D talking, but a class-based system that doesn't go to 20+ just feels wrong to me.
 

uzirath

Explorer
For best I'd have to go with the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide. As others have said, many problems, but I pored over those pages for years. The appendices alone were worth the price of the book.

For adventures, from the old days, I loved the Desert of Desolation series. I've run portions of it in three versions of D&D and two editions of GURPS.

Worst... hmm. It's been long enough since I've played much D&D that I don't remember the worsts very clearly. Someone upthread mentioned Castle Greyhawk, though, and I clearly remember my disappointment when that came out.
 

Arnwolf666

Adventurer
For best I'd have to go with the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide. As others have said, many problems, but I pored over those pages for years. The appendices alone were worth the price of the book.

For adventures, from the old days, I loved the Desert of Desolation series. I've run portions of it in three versions of D&D and two editions of GURPS.

Worst... hmm. It's been long enough since I've played much D&D that I don't remember the worsts very clearly. Someone upthread mentioned Castle Greyhawk, though, and I clearly remember my disappointment when that came out.
Everyone should read the 1E dmg Just to read Gygaxian prose. It was so different and really still is. I just liked his style.
 

aramis erak

Explorer
What's yours?
Best: D&D Cyclopedia. A thick all-in-one, excellently presented and run to run.

Worst: AD&D 1E DMG. This pile of steaming excrement is almost unusuable, with rules buried in bad places, some of the worst GM advice ever written. Not to mention unpleasantly bad line art in the older editions. (I totally freaking hate the gygaxian spew.) Even BoVD is better. It's right on par with FATAL for "needlessly bad ideas"...
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
That is mind blowing.

Also, I have got to stop reading this book any further, before I start punching the screen. Anyone that voted for any other book as 'The Worst D&D Book', including 'The book of Erotic Fantasy', is now officially wrong. Even the book of erotic fantasy is a masterpiece compared to the 'Slayer's Guide to Female Gamers'.
I don't consider third party books to be "D&D books." :p I'm going to keep my votes for best and worst confined to official D&D books.
 
@Imaculata so I'd never even heard of the book "slayers guide to female gamers". Curious to see just how bad it was i looked it up and read some of it. I didnt really get the impression of it being close to "worst". Boy was it weird though. Real weird...
 
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Arnwolf666

Adventurer
Best: D&D Cyclopedia. A thick all-in-one, excellently presented and run to run.

Worst: AD&D 1E DMG. This pile of steaming excrement is almost unusuable, with rules buried in bad places, some of the worst GM advice ever written. Not to mention unpleasantly bad line art in the older editions. (I totally freaking hate the gygaxian spew.) Even BoVD is better. It's right on par with FATAL for "needlessly bad ideas"...
I love this list just to see what people are saying. I so agree with the d&d rules cyclopedia. Your assessment of the 1E DMG shocks me. But to each his own. Love this thread.
 

Arnwolf666

Adventurer
Best? That's easy, my 1e DMG

Worst? Also an easy pick. Anything 4e I own. Since 4e is not a single book, the PHB will represent them all.
I dislike 4e so much that these books don't even rate shelf space or the effort to give them away/sell them. Since 2010 theyve resided in a cardboard box in the attic & the last time I checked even the mice had rejected them.
Eh. I see where u r coming from. I didn’t like the rules. But I did like some of the setting stuff and thought the nentir vale was great.
 

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