What books do I need? A guide to D&D 5e for new players and DMs

Welcome to Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition.

When you head to your friendly local game shop, it can be intimidating to stare at that massive shelf of hardcovers, adventures, guides, pamphlets, DM screens and tons more.

Sometimes there’s conveniently a “core” book, but often there’s just a bunch of stuff and you don’t know where to start.

D&D 5e is the same.

But don’t fret. It’s actually really easy to get into, and we created a guide to help you do just that.

START HERE…

Basic Rules. Not sure you want to spend $50 just to try the game? D&D offers the basic rules (the game’s basic classes, races, equipment and combat/role-playing rules) for free online. Even if you’re playing in a friend’s game, you can create a character using just the free rules. You don’t need anything else. Get them here.

The Starter Set. If the game has you interested and you just wanna try it out with some friends without going whole hog, get this box. It has a complete adventure that will take a few sessions to finish, complete character sheets for every player and a book detailing rules for both players and the Dungeon Master. It also has dice. Even if you’ve played D&D before, this will give you a good taste of how the new edition works. It’s also cheap. Get it.

Player’s Handbook. Decided to jump into the game? Then you need this. This is the game’s core rulebook, even if it says “player” on it. Even DM’s need this because the book lays out the game’s core mechanics. It features the game’s races, classes, equipment, the entire basic spell list, gods, creatures and the game’s rules for adventuring and combat. Get it.

THEN MAYBE CHECK OUT…

Player’s Companion. If you’re not satisfied with the race options in the Player’s Handbook, go get this. (It’s also free.) It has four extra races and a bunch more spells with an elemental flavor. Get it here.

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. This is an update to all things D&D. In the years since the game’s initial release, there have been new ideas and editions to the game, and they’re all collected here. If you want more class options, spells or DM ideas, you need this book. There are loads of new character options in the form of new character class options, a host of tools for Dungeon Masters and a giant load of new spells. Get it.

AND IF YOU REALLY WANT SOME EXTRA OPTIONS…

Volo’s Guide to Monsters. This is primarily book for Dungeon Masters. But it does have some player content, too, including options to play as monster classes such as goblins, orcs and others. This will give you some crazy options, but check with your DM first to be sure she’s cool with an orc joining the party. Get it.

Midgard Heroes & Southlands Heroes. Kobold Press is a third-party publisher that has its own campaign setting, Midgard. Together, these books outline more than a dozen new races including minotaurs and kobolds as well as new backgrounds and other info. Get Midgard Heroes and Southlands Heroes.

Pick up some miniatures. At this point, you’ll be aware of whether your gaming group plays with maps and miniatures or not. (5e can be played with or without.) If you want a mini for your own character, there are tons of options. First, check out the starter set, which features some of the base character class/race options. If you want something specific, sites such as Reaper, Miniature Market or CoolMiniOrNot will help you out.

BUT IF YOU’RE GOING TO BE THE DUNGEON MASTER…

Dungeon Master’s Guide. This is the one you need if you’re a DM. While the Player’s Handbook is really the core book, this is the book DMs need if they’re going to run a game. It really drills into the mechanics and little stuff of the game. It describes what players can do between adventures, lays out a host of treasure options and lets you create your own adventures. But even if you’re running published adventures, I’d still recommend this book. Get it.

Monster Manual. To run almost any adventure, even the official published ones, you’re going to need the monster stats from this book. It’s non-negotiable. It will also get you tons of ideas. Get it.

Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. Though presented as a book for DMs and players, ti’s really more for DMs looking to take adventurers through the Forgotten Realms. Well, specifically the Sword Coast. The book is full of info about the area of the Forgotten Realms where most of the current D&D products take place. It is by no means a necessary book, but it does have some good info if you’re going to be creating your own adventure in the Realms. For players, it also gives extra backgrounds, a few spells and a few extra class options. Get it.

AND WHEN IT’S TIME FOR AN ADVENTURE…

There are currently several official hardcover adventure books with more on the way. You’re mileage may vary on everything, but this is what I recommend…

Hoard of the Dragon Queen. The first official 5e adventure is the kind of quintessential D&D adventure. A dragon cult is trying to bring the five-headed dragon goddess Tiamat to the world. This is a great intro adventure that starts at Level 1. Get it.

Curse of Strahd. You like horror? This is the adventure you want. The vampire Strahd has kept his kingdom, Barovia, in a perpetual state of terror. This adventure is a blast and super creepy. Get it.

Storm King’s Thunder. Looking for a more dungeon-crashing, ass-kicking adventure? The giants are messing with the world and they need to be stopped. This is also a fun one. (Let’s be honest, they’re all fun.) Get it.

Tales From the Yawning Portal. Not sure what you want to do? Old-time D&D player that wants the classics? Pick up this book. It collects Against the Giants, Dead in Thay, Forge of Fury, Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, Sunless Citadel, Tomb of Horrors and White Plume Mountain, all older adventures that have been updated to 5th edition. This gives a lot of options, some longer adventures and some smaller dungeons. Get it.

Book of Lairs. If you need some one-off adventure options, pick up the Book of Lairs. The book from Kobold Press presents two dozen monster lairs with maps, short adventures, treasure and a ton more. They’re perfect to place in your own campaign or for when you need a quick adventure for game night. Get it.

AND THEN SOME MORE OPTIONS FOR DMS…

Volo’s Guide to Monsters. Remember this one? We talked about it from a player’s perspective, but it’s a great book for DMs. It provides a bunch of new monster stats to supplement the Monster Manual. It also gets in-depth about specific monster types, so you can once again make your own dungeons and adventures. This thing is deep. Get it.

Tome of Beasts. If you think there aren’t enough monsters in Volo’s Guide or the Monster Manual, this is what you need. It details more than 400 new monsters for 5th edition. Get it.

Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting. If you’re a fan of Critical Role, then you’ll dig this. The fine folks on the show wrote a great hardcover book about the world in which their adventuring takes place. It’s great if you just wnat a few new monsters, backgrounds or magic items or if you just don’t want to play in the Forgotten Realms. Get it.

 

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