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The best Dungeons and Dragons books - these need to be on your shelf

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What are the best Dungeons and Dragons books? There's an almost-overwhelming level of choice out there, and the game's library is enormous. That's why we've put together some recommendations on what you should prioritise, regardless of whether you're a veteran adventurer or a newcomer to the world of D&D.

Because the best Dungeons and Dragons books can be expensive, we've also been sure to include the lowest prices below. Our bargain-hunting software is always rooting out discounts, so keep an eye out for any price cuts as you browse the best D&D books.

Let's get to it, shall we? Here are the most essential D&D books if you want to play one of the best tabletop RPGs there is.

Best Dungeons and Dragons books - top 7

Dungeons and Dragons books

(Image credit: Wizards of the Coast)

1. Player's Handbook

The best Dungeons and Dragons book for beginners

Specifications

For: All players
Features: Core rules and character creation

Reasons to buy

+
Everything beginners need
+
Extensive character creation options
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A one-stop shop for all things D&D

Reasons to avoid

-
Traits can be limiting

Of all the D&D books out there right now, this one is arguably the most important. A detailed guide on gameplay, rules, how to create a character, and more, it's a one-stop-shop for everything you need in order to begin your tabletop adventure. That's true no matter how experienced a player you are; it's crammed with the intricacies of combat and advanced mechanics for your character's life between quests, so everyone can get something from it.

Although it doesn't include every playable species or class in the game, the Player's Handbook has more than enough to get you started as a result. With nine races to choose from, numerous backgrounds you can use, and mechanics for (almost) every playable class, it's the place to start when making an adventurer for your next campaign. It's everything that a budding adventurer could want.

This is one the best Dungeons and Dragons books for Dungeon Masters, too. Besides info on everything from gods of the multiverse to equipment stats, it provides a few ideas of what the party can do on the side. Do they have a job? Hobbies? The Player's Handbook gives you plenty to chew on.

In essence, this is the Dungeons and Dragons bible. It's beyond useful to players of every stripe, and it's always handy to have a copy close by.

Dungeons and Dragons books

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2. Dungeon Master's Guide

The best Dungeons and Dragons book for DMs

Specifications

For: Creating adventures
Features: Campaign and world-building tools

Reasons to buy

+
Inspiring tips
+
Extensive creation tools
+
Pages of advice on world-building

Reasons to avoid

-
Left wanting more

If you've ever thought about creating or running adventures for your group, the Dungeon Master's Guide is essential reading. Besides arming you with all the tools you need for overseeing a game, it covers everything from making an awesome quest to forging a world of your own. 

It's not overwhelming, either. Regardless of what you want to do (be it crafting loot-filled ruins or getting tips on how to use miniatures in-game), the book's advice is straightforward and easy to understand. Because there are so many helpful prompts, it's practical as well.

The section on creating non-playable characters is particularly handy. It provides a wealth of traits, mannerisms, and quirks to choose from that can result in a really memorable individual who's also easier to roleplay. In addition, the fact that you can end up with countless permutations based on its suggestions is useful for time-strapped DMs.

Naturally, this isn't the be-all and end-all of adventure creation either; it's merely the starting line. Thanks to that inspirational nature, it makes a good case for being one of the best Dungeons and Dragons books on shelves right now.

Dungeons and Dragons books

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3. Monster Manual

The best Dungeons and Dragons bestiary

Specifications

For: Creating encounters
Features: Rules for almost every monster

Reasons to buy

+
Hundreds of entries
+
Fantastic artwork
+
Backstory and lore

Reasons to avoid

-
Almost TOO much choice

The Monster Manual is a must-have if you're running your own game; it helps Dungeon Masters call upon a host of nasty creatures to use in battle. Featuring classic foes like Demogorgon and the many-eyed beholder, it's full of surprises with which to challenge players. There's even an (incredibly retro) gelatinous cube on offer. Basically? This is the ultimate compendium of baddies. 

It's one of the biggest Dungeons and Dragons books, too. There are over 350 pages to enjoy with lavish illustrations throughout, making this one of the most comprehensive fantasy bestiaries out there. Even if you don't play D&D, it's an enjoyable and inspiring read from start to finish. It's like being a kid in a candy store.

However, it's more than a curiosity for Dungeon Masters. For them, it's borderline-essential. With stats, abilities, and flavor text for hundreds of creatures, there's something within the Monster Manual to suit every campaign you can think of. Want to shake things up with doppelgangers or a cabal of mind-flayers pulling the strings? No problem.

There's useful context for where these enemies will be encountered too, not to mention why. That helps DMs weave monsters into the story naturally, making for a more immersive experience overall.

Dungeons and Dragons books

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4. Tasha's Cauldron of Everything

The best Dungeons and Dragons supplement

Specifications

For: Players and DMs
Features: New subclasses, DM tools, and inclusive traits

Reasons to buy

+
Inventive new subclasses
+
Playful, whimsical tone
+
Very accommodating

Reasons to avoid

-
Origins section is too short

Few D&D sourcebooks make bigger promises than Tasha's Cauldron of Everything. In fact, it sets out to fundamentally change the game. And you know what? It works. 

Although there are the usual spells and magical items you'd expect from the best Dungeons and Dragons books, this one adds the Artificer class - tech whizzes that let you play as a medieval Iron Man - to shake things up. New subclasses have been thrown in for good measure, too. These are almost universally excellent, ranging from psionic warriors that battle with the power of their mind to fungi-based Druid circles that feel as if they've been pulled from The Last of Us.  

What's more, tweaked character traits are a revelation (even if they could do with more depth). Allowing players to escape rules that potentially force them toward one playstyle or another, it upends the table and lets you live your best fictional life. Want to be an academic orc? Now's your chance.

In much the same vein, DMs are given more ideas, tools, and quest hooks than they'll know what to do with. Tasha's Cauldron winds up being the best update in years as a result.

best Dungeons and Dragons books

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5. Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft

The best Dungeons and Dragons setting book

Specifications

For: DMs
Features: New horror settings and worldbuilding tools

Reasons to buy

+
Over 30 horror settings to play in
+
Inspiring tips on worldbuilding
+
Intriguing quest ideas

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks fun in-character notes

Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft is unsettling, but that's the point. A whistle-stop tour of horror tropes both old and new, it's crammed with tips on how to inject the genre into your games.

Like Candlekeep Mysteries, it's got creativity to spare. In spite of a brisk pace that rattles through over 30 realms, the worldbuilding in Van Richten's Guide is second to none. You get a real sense of each domain even though they're only given three to four pages each, and all of them contain numerous quest hooks to fuel your campaigns. Some of these are compelling enough to maintain adventures in their own right.

The same can be said about the book's suggestions for creating your own horror worlds and characters; it's insightful while also being laser-focused on what makes the genre tick. If you enjoy creating your own homebrew settings, it's hard not to come away inspired.

Sure, the genre isn't for everyone. But the tips in Van Richten's Guide are. This is comfortably one of the best Dungeons and Dragons books of fifth-edition D&D as a result.

Dungeons and Dragons books

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6. Xanathar's Guide to Everything

The best Dungeons and Dragons book for advanced players

Specifications

For: Advanced players
Features: New backgrounds, subclasses, and DM tools

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent subclasses
+
Fun character backstories
+
Numerous DM tools

Reasons to avoid

-
Some overpowered options

The title isn't an exaggeration; this supplement provides players and Dungeon Masters alike with new rules for almost every part of the game. No matter whether you're looking for fresh spells, unusual subclasses, or traps in which to catch unsuspecting adventurers, Xanathar's Guide has you covered. 

At its core, this is an extension of the Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide listed above. In addition to quirky twists like the unpredictable Drunken Master fighting style or downtime activities to keep your characters busy between adventures, there are plenty of embellishments for your background as well. That makes it a great choice if you want to enrich your hero's backstory with something a little different.

Similarly, DMs are able to give journeys a lot more flavor thanks to the many encounter ideas included here. There are tables full of potential foes to square off with, and these are accompanied by monster personalities to make them stand out from the crowd.

Best of all, asides from Xanathar - beholder crime lord whose most prized possession is a goldfish - add flavor to proceedings. Wry notes are scattered throughout, leaving us with a memorable read that's earned its place as one of the best Dungeons and Dragons books out there.

best Dungeons and Dragons books

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7. Volo's Guide to Monsters

The best Dungeons and Dragons book for new characters

Specifications

For: Alternative characters
Features: New player races, monster lore, and DM tools

Reasons to buy

+
New races to play
+
Intriguing lore
+
Loads of new monsters

Reasons to avoid

-
Some stereotypes

If you want to make your game's villains more complex and its world richer, Volo's Guide to Monsters should go straight onto your wishlist. It's essential if you're tired of standard characters, too; this one allows you to play as something more interesting than the usual array of elves, dwarves, and humans.

Punctuated with notes from waffling scholar Volo (alongside Elminster the wizard, a mainstay who stars in many of the best Dungeons and Dragons books), it's a deep-dive into D&D's wild side. Whole chapters are dedicated to beasts we often see as cannon-fodder, and you're given tools with which to mold them a personality. It's a fascinating read.

In fact, it's only matched by rules for playing as an unorthodox species. If traditional fantasy races don't interest you, the opportunity to control everything from bird-folk to deep-sea guardians will be much appreciated.

Naturally, Volo's Guide also finds space for plenty of new monster stats. These horrors can shake up your game or fill a niche (like NPC roles) that's been overlooked for too long.

More D&D

Want more D&D? Don't forget to check out our other guides. As well as taking you through the basics, they'll help you find a group to game with in person or online.

Keen to keep busy with other tabletop games, on the other hand? Be sure to take a look at these suggestions for the best board games or board games for 2 players.

As the site's Tabletop & Merch Editor, you'll find my grubby paws on everything from board game reviews to Lego buying guides. I have been writing about games in one form or another since 2012 and can normally be found cackling over some evil plan I've cooked up for my group's next Dungeons & Dragons campaign.