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

eyeheartawk

Explorer
Well, all it is is an index / price list. Admittedly, that's what it says on the back cover so I only have to blame myself buying it. It would have been a great book if the two thin volumes would have been combined into a thick hardcover, with descriptions of different variations. For example, a Death Rattle is worth 500 GP and described in AC04-059, but the book doesn't tell me what it does, what the difference is between a death rattle and a summoning rattle etcetera. And how is a violin / wine bottle rack magical in any way?

In other words, it's not an encyclopedia, it's an index. So yeah, as an index it's useful. As an encyclopedia? Not so.

(Heh. Coming to think of it, I can think of other bad products, it's just that this particular one was such a personal disappointment that it immediately came to mind, probably related to wrong expectations :cool:)
I'm at work right now so my copies aren't handy. But that's not how I remember it. I remember them having an XP value and gold value, followed by the description of its effect and various notes. This can be seen here
 
Last edited:

uzirath

Explorer
I'm at work right now so my copies aren't handy. But that's not how I remember it. I remember them having an XP value and gold value, followed by the description of its effect and various notes. This can be seen here
I think that's a different product. @blueznl was referring to the Magic Encylopedia (as opposed to Encylopedia Magica).

Encylopedia Magica is a true encyclopedia. I have used it for just about every fantasy game I've ever run for any game system since it was published. I often just open it to random pages to get ideas for magical goodies.
 

blueznl

Villager
No problem, and yeah, those two products are completely different! I wouldn't mind having the Encyclopedia Magica on my shelf...
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Best : Heroes of the Fey Wild... with the DMG2 as a close second.

1570661335794.png


Worst is Hard for me to pick ... I am going with the
monster manual 1 and only because its out of date
 

Tom B1

Explorer
Best Adventure Module - One of T1:Village of Hommlet, U1:Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, or B2: Keep on the Borderlands - the three best campaign starter environments one could want.

Worst Adventure Module - Castle Greyhawk.... we all waited for awesome... and it was a mish mash of stupid. Sad, just sad. And Undermountain I and II were more of the same although without the overt comedy. Dungeonland was a bit ludicrous too.

Best Hardcover - The Player's Option variant of 2E (Skills and Powers, Spells and Magic) which let you build very different styles of casters with different sources, with magic that exhausted you, with fatigue for fighters and all the gods in my world had custom build cleric classes and spell lists. It felt like a whole new game and worked really well with miniatures and a grid (better than latter attempts like 3E Miniatures Handbook).

Worst Hardcover - Take your pick from the 3E splatbooks... argh.

Worst Hardcover II - Legends and Lore.... which was totally Dieties and Demigods with a new cover. I gained nothing but an emptier wallet. What a bloody rip off.

The AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide could have been my other Best Hardcover -> Great tables, lots of atmosphere, good gaming advice here and there, good art, and an amazing cover.

Ravensgate, the Living City also was idiotic. A teen-level MU using his millions of XP worth of levelling to fly kids around at the circus.... I guess we know what really happened to Gandalf...
 

Hussar

Legend
Heh, it's funny the amount of poo being flung at 4e, but, for the money, the 4e DMG is by FAR the best DMG in D&D. Hands down. It remains the best guide to actually running games that has ever been published for D&D.

While I get the love for the 1e DMG, it really is a terrible guide to running a game.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
But but DMG 2 has gooderest SC rules
Heh, it's funny the amount of poo being flung at 4e, but, for the money, the 4e DMG is by FAR the best DMG in D&D. Hands down. It remains the best guide to actually running games that has ever been published for D&D.

While I get the love for the 1e DMG, it really is a terrible guide to running a game.
 

aramis erak

Explorer
Heh, it's funny the amount of poo being flung at 4e, but, for the money, the 4e DMG is by FAR the best DMG in D&D. Hands down. It remains the best guide to actually running games that has ever been published for D&D.

While I get the love for the 1e DMG, it really is a terrible guide to running a game.
For a rulebook, shouldn't being useful be the #1 criterion?

I didn't like 4E as D&D, but it was set up for utility in both the PHB and DMG. It was beautiful, and it was well laid out for use.
 

Hussar

Legend
For a rulebook, shouldn't being useful be the #1 criterion?

I didn't like 4E as D&D, but it was set up for utility in both the PHB and DMG. It was beautiful, and it was well laid out for use.
Yeah, I gotta agree with this. Like I said, the 1e DMG is chock a block with all sorts of interesting tidbits, but, good god it's an organizational mess. The 4e DMG, for a book about teaching or guiding someone to being a DM, is a fantastic book. Great advice, easy layout, and actually fairly easy to read.

Even if you don't like the advice being given (which is perfectly fair, the 4e DMG suffers from having a too strong "voice" IMO ), it does remain the gold standard for what a DMG should look like.
 

pemerton

Legend
the 4e DMG suffers from having a too strong "voice" IMO
I have quite a different view on this. The 4e DMG's voice is too weak, in that it equivcoates and wobbles back and forth in its vision of what play is meant to look like (eg it advocates skipping the guards and cutting to the fun, and puts forward a skill challenge non-combat resolution framework, but at the same time seems to advocate classic D&D style dungeon design with its minutiae of doors and room contents and the like which is the opposite of skipping the guards and is an obstacle to successfully running skill challenges). Contrast the Moldvay Basic advice in this respect, which is clear with a a firm voice and never loses sight of (what is taken to be) the goal of play.

The best guide I had for GMing 4e was not a WotC publication at all, but Luke Crane's Adventure Burner - intended for Burning Wheel, but excellent for 4e. In part because of its clear voice.
 

aramis erak

Explorer
The 4e DMG's voice is too weak, in that it equivcoates and wobbles back and forth in its vision of what play is meant to look like (eg it advocates skipping the guards and cutting to the fun, and puts forward a skill challenge non-combat resolution framework, but at the same time seems to advocate classic D&D style dungeon design with its minutiae of doors and room contents and the like which is the opposite of skipping the guards and is an obstacle to successfully running skill challenges).
That advice really isn't dichotomous...

The D&D style dungeoneering isn't incompatible with story-forward play. (If it were, Tochebearer would not work. And it works fine for its fans. - for others who don't know: Torchbearer is a variant of Mouse Guard, which is itself a variant of Burning Wheel, and the design team is the same, but in different roles, than for BW or MG.)

But also, 4E doesn't say, "Run traditional adventures differently" - it just says here are the tools, here are the setting standards, here are the typical activities and how to run them; next up we have how to balance encounters...
 

blueznl

Villager
... the 4e DMG is by FAR the best DMG in D&D. Hands down. It remains the best guide to actually running games that has ever been published for D&D.
Okay, I didn't like the 4e rules, or the overly focus on miniatures / tokens, but your words made me grab my 4e DMG and check it out. (Almost mint, I bought PHB, DMG and MM for 4E, but couldn't stomach it after working my way through the 4e PHB.)

Well, yes. Disregarding the rules it's actually pretty good, and gives some good instructions / tips for DM's, stuff that's not mentioned at all in the 5e DMG.

Hmmm. I'll add it to my 'interesting for new DM's' stack. Again, 4e (rules) didn't do much for me, but yeah, the 4e DMG isn't that bad at all.

As for the 'DM stack'... Two other books that might prove to be very interesting reads, especially for DM's planning longer, more complex / higher level games, are the old 2e The Complete Book of Villains, and the Penumbra's newer Dynasties & Demagogues. Don't spend all your pocket money on those two, they're not that good, but still... Why not give the players an antagonist with some depth? They deserve it :devilish:
 

Stormonu

Hero
Coming back to this after several years is interesting. I'm revising my original answer, as others have, by edition. Limiting to "official" books, and what I'm familiar with.

BECMI/Basic

Best: Rules compendium - an entire D&D game in one book. I don't think that's a feat we'll ever see again
Worst: Immortal Rules Set. I've never been much for high level play and the whole Immortal line just made me wonder "why?" every time I read through it. The adventures for it didn't help, as the first two stripped your characters of their magical abilities for the majority of the adventure...

Honorable Mention:
Moldvay Basic Ruleset - this was what I cut my teeth on. I did have the Holmes book first, but I didn't understand it. This set got me actually playing the game for real.
Dishonorable Mention: B9 - Journey to the Rock. An insipid adventure, railroady and plain bad.

AD&D 1E

Best:
I7 - Ravenloft. Just so good. Doesn't hurt I played Dracula himself back in our 8th grade play. I've used Ravenloft in every version of D&D I've played
Worst: Greyhawk Adventures. As much as I like the World of Greyhawk, I've never used anything from this book nor felt there was really anything of value in it worth using.

Honorable Mention:
DL1 - Dragons of Despair. Really, the whole Dragonlance series kept me from moving away from D&D to other pursuits. The module itself isn't the best, but it was my introduction into the greater Dragonlance world
Dishonorable Mention: S1 - Tomb of Horrors. I used to love reading through this adventure, until I actually used it in play.

AD&D 2E

Best:
Aurora's Whole Realms Catalog. I'm a sucker for shopping lists, and this just was shopping madness at its best.
Worst:
Oy, there's a lot of bottom-feeders for 2E; practically all of the adventures for 2E were either too mundane, too railroady or both. Probably the worst was GA2 - Swamplight. It was like a bad attempt at retelling U2 - Danger At Dunwater.

Honorable Mention:
Dark Sun boxed set (the 1st one). Really got to give TSR a hand for this one. It was one of their few non-traditional fantasy worlds that actually resonated as cool and fun to play in. It's still the only one where psionics feel right at home.
Dishonorable Mention: Complete Book of Elves. Banned the damn book from my game at one point.

D&D 3E

Best:
Ghostwalk. A fun and interesting campaign setting with an equally intriguing look at life after death.
Worst:
Epic Level Handbook. The worst and most useless book out of the original 3E books. It came to truly cement why I hate high-level play.

Honorable Mention:
Forge of Fury. I probably would have put Sunless Citadel here too, but I never ran that one.
Dishonorable Mention:
Stronghold Builder's guide. A worse version of 2E's castle guide and completely useless to boot. Hero Builder's Guide goes here too.

D&D 3.5E
Best:
Dungeon Master's Guide. This was the last DMG I could stomach reading cover to cover (5+ editions and countless other rule systems will do that to you).
Worst: Book of Nine Swords. Worst. Book. Ever.

Honorable Mention: Frostburn & Stormwrack. These got me out of my mundane mindset instilled by the old Wilderness Survival Guide and made me think about how "natural" phenomenon would be affected by a magical world.
Dishonorable Mention: The entire 2nd round of "Complete" books and "Core Rulebook II" books at the tail end of the edition. Looking back it was clear they were all attempts to "3E" the incoming 4E rules, and they ported extremely poorly.

D&D 4E
Best:
Hammerfast. The only 4E book I kept
Worst: Keep on the Shadowfell - This module epitomized my hate of 4E. I tried my best to get through it and make it fun for everyone involved, and I just couldn't. Irontooth didn't help one bit.

d&D 5E
Best:
Curse of Strahd - A much better return to the original and revision than awful 3.5E Expedition version.
Worst:
Yet to find it, as I have been very picky about what I buy so far.

Honorable Mention: Xanathar's Guide to Everything. Some really great additions to the game for everyone.
Dishonorable Mention: Dragon Heist. I don't own it, but it gets mentioned here for the misleading title. It should have featured a heist - from a dragon, and that's the main reason I never picked it up.
 

Advertisement

Top