There are many D&D 5e Books that were officially published by the Wizards of the Coast and they have different purposes. You don’t need all of them but you could need all or most of them depending on how invested you are and what it is that you wish to accomplish.
You definitely don’t want to spend your money on a book that will not be useful for you. You can collect dust with something else.
In this dnd 5e book guide you are going to learn which books are for what use and which you should buy for your purposes.
First of all, there are many Dungeons and Dragons 5e books that were published. In this article, we are talking about the source books, the core books or supplemental books. If you wish to learn more about the D&D 5e Adventures follow the link.
In a nutshell, the books presented below are meant to provide the players and Dungeon masters with the tools and knowledge needed to play already created adventures, modify adventures, set them up or create them from scratch.
Table of Contents
- D&D 5e Books List and Guide
D&D 5e Books List and Guide
I will first start with the main D&D 5e Core Rule Books and gradually move away from them to the supplemental books that serve similar purpose to the core ones. They are meant to expand the rules, add new stuff and overall enrich the 5th edition of the Dungeon and Dragons.
1. The Player’s Handbook
The player’s handbook is probably the most essential book as it is important first and foremost for the players but also to dungeon masters. Nobody can fully experience the D&D without this one. The most essential player rules are available online for free but without this book no real D&D game is possible.
This book outlines pretty much everything you need to know in order to play Dungeons and Dragons. Inside you will find rules and guides for character creation, races, classes, personalities, equipment and weapons, using abilities and spells, combat, adventuring and more.
The tome has fantastic illustrations spanning across its 320 pages. That’s right. It’s huge. That is why it is so important. It has everything needed for the players.
Basically as a player, you want this book in order to learn to play D&D, create characters and learn everything about them. And as a DM you need this in order to do everything character related with your setting and more.
2. The Dungeon Master’s Guide
This book is needed for DMs only. But not in all cases. Even the DMs may possibly skip this one.
This is the core toolset for the advanced Dungeon Masters. It has everything you need to create your own worlds, campaigns and adventures. It is filled with tons and tons of optional rules and information that is not going to be used at all times, for an example how to run a sea themed adventure or how to play with the weather and so on.
The Dungeon Master’s Guide is meant to teach you how to run and modify adventures, storyline, encounters with NPCs, how to enrich the campaign and so on. I would not advise you to purchase this as your first d&d 5e handbook. Even if you want to be a DM, get the player’s handbook first and later when you are ready get this one too and only if you wish to do advanced DM stuff.
Most of the already published adventures by the Wizards of the Coast can be run without this book BUT not up to their maximum potential. If you bought a starter adventure like Lost Mine of Phandelver from the Starter Set, you wouldn’t need the Dungeon Master’s Guide to run it however you could benefit from it. I am just saying that you wouldn’t necessarily need it.
However, when we are talking about more complex adventures like The Storm King’s Thunder or Tomb of Annihilation then you would need the Dungeon Master’s Guide to help you maximize the potential of these adventures.
Generally speaking, this is the book to get when you are ready to do serious DM stuff and to fulfill the maximum potential the adventures offer. Not something that you should get as a complete newbie.
3. The Monster Manual
This book is also meant for Dungeon Masters and in my opinion it is more important than the book above. As a DM you should get the player’s handbook first and then also the monster manual. In the end when you are ready for more DM stuff get the Dungeon master’s guide.
The monster manual is an amazing D&D 5e core book. You can’t really do much about the monster foes without it, other than in the starter set adventures. Whatever you need regarding the creatures of the D&D, this book has it.
This book has more than 150 monsters with beautiful illustrations and detailed information for each of them. It also provides you with over 400 tables with rules for all of the monsters and it goes further than that. This book is not just about names and descriptions of the monsters but it also contains their history and lore so that you can seamlessly integrate them in your adventures.
Using this book you will learn how to populate your D&D world with various creatures properly so that it all fits with the storyline and the technical side too like monster stats and rules. This is not something that you can do without it. That is why it is so crucial to have this core book.
This is a non-negotiable. To run pretty much any adventure you will need the monster stats from this book. However, considering how artwork is beautiful and how well each creature is described this book is more than just something you “need”. You will love the book for sure.
4. Xanathar’s Guide to Everything
Now we are entering the sphere of the supplemental D&D 5e books. Prior to purchasing any of these books you should have the books above except maybe for the dungeon master book.
First of such books is the Xanathar’s guide to everything. This is a major update to the D&D 5e rules and it is one of the essential supplemental sourcebooks. I really love it and prefer to use it whenever I play as a player or run an adventure as a DM.
This book is meant for players and DMs. Both can own it and use it.
Xanathar’s guide contains tons of character options. Using this book you can create much more diverse characters with additional subclasses like the Samurai or the Hexblade warlock.
When it comes to the character goodies you also get new racial feats and this book also has a great section meant to help players create much better character backgrounds to fit the lore. This helps you greatly in defining and justifying why and how your character does what it does.
It also comes loaded with the new spells. These are very good and properly balanced in my opinion.
Now for the Dungeon Masters this book is also very beneficial. It brings tons of new content starting from new magical items, innovative ways to use traps, ways to encourage different player behavior, sleep mechanics, propping new encounter building and tons of others.
Xanathar’s guide to everything is really a high quality supplemental book that will improve your DnD experience by far regardless if you are a player or a DM. If you can get this book you really should.
5. Volo’s Guide to Monsters
Volo’s guide to Monsters brings a ton of fresh content that revolves around the DnD monsters and creatures. This 5e book is highly beneficial to DMs but also quite interesting for players but we will get to player benefits in a second.
This is mostly a supplemental book to the Monster Manual because it expands it but not just by adding tons of new monsters. It takes the iconic D&D monsters and expands them by providing you with much more detail about them like going in depth on their lore and adding a wider variety of them.
The book goes into nitty gritty and covers things like the historical background, the psychology of the creatures, their lairs with maps, their habits and etc. You will really love the result of hard work that went into this guide.
Now for the players.
You get 7 new player character races like Tabaxi, Kenku, Triton and others. This dnd 5e book also includes the details of these new races along with the help on how to role play them. I love the new player races and how they add to the beauty of Dungeons and dragons experience in total.
But here we have something far more interesting or at least to me. It brings 6 new Monstrously player character races. These are the monsters that are described in the monster section of the book. You can also play as a character as their race. However, this is not something that can be added just like that in an adventure. It needs work on the behalf of DM as well. But it is a very welcome addition to the player’s side of the game.
6. Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes
This is one of my favorite supplemental D&D 5e sourcebooks. Probably because I like discovering lore and this one is all about it but it also offers so much more.
As the previous tome, this one is beneficial to DMs and players alike. But it is more tailored for DMs.
This book focuses on extraplanar creatures and the lore behind the eternal struggles that exist in the Dungeons and Dragons between various sides. I particularly love the depth of this book when it comes to the background, the origins, the mythology, the way of life and etc. You really get to know how they live and breathe.
I am talking about the elves, halflings and gnomes, the devils and daemons, the dwarves and duergar…
I love the most the part that explains everything about the Devils and the Daemons but every lore element of the book is well thought out and presented. If you love basing your adventures on the deeply rooted history and mythology this 5e book will be highly beneficial.
You also get to learn about places like Nine Hells and a lot of new races and subraces that are playable as characters.
Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes holds a description of a metric ton of high CR monsters of which most are not from the material plane. These monsters are best presented in this book and if you are a DM that is considering anything with non material planes then this book is a must have.
Book details over 150 monsters along with their statistics, rules, varieties and lore elements for seamless integration in your campaigns.
7. Guild Master’s Guide to Ravnica
Of all the dnd 5e sourcebooks this one is probably the strangest. It is based on the well known Magic: The Gathering card game that so many players love worldwide. This brings the MTG world in the Dungeons and Dragons fifth edition setting.
If you are a fan of MTG too, then there is no question in mind if you should get this book to spice up your DnD play. Now let’s see what goodies it brings to the table.
This 5e expansion gives you everything you need to run adventures and make your own characters in Ravnica. That is one of those cities that span across the entire planet and represents the home to diverse racial communities. Ravnica has 10 powerful guilds and they are in various conflicts because each of them have their own agendas and identities.
The tome brings you tons of new content. New classes and races, a lot of new magic items and a lot of new rules and mechanics needed to bring the way of the MTG in a DnD adventure. It provides you with absolute detail of the world of Ravnica. If you love this world then getting the book is worthy just for the lore of it. You will learn everything about its races, guilds and areas.
Building your character now also includes the choice of guild. Since every guild has its own identity this greatly improves the character origins and lore around it.
It has beautiful art which goes a long way in realizing the scope of the planet, the creatures and races that live there.
I feel like this book gives much more to the DMs looking to incorporate MTG with the DnD but it could bring so much joy to anyone who wants to read all the lore there is in it.
8. Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
This D&D guide book is a phenomenal supplement if you get it for the right reasons. Not everything from the tome will be beneficial to you if you don’t like to stick to the canon of the 5e Forgotten Realms and its lore. Furthermore, if you are not going to run your campaigns in the realms then it’s safe to skip this one.
Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide will provide you with an abundance of information about what is going on in the Realms since the Second Sundering. The knowledge provided here will keep you hooked if you love the Realms and the Sword Coast.
You will learn about the Deities of the Realms like the Brandobaris, Moradin and others. Multiple towns and cities across the Sword Coast are detailed in this tome and of course the major cities like Neverwinter, Waterdeep, Baldur’s Gate and the Luskan are covered in great detail. There are also short overviews of the areas that go beyond the borders of the Sword Coast which is good because you can use that sort of information when building character background or some foe’s origins.
This book is perfect for the DMs who are running adventures in the Forgotten Realms and especially the Sword Coast area. But only if you intend to stay on the canon timeline and lore or if your changes are not overwhelming. However, if you plan to modify the adventures themselves that are placed in the Sword Coast then this book will be of huge help.
This guide is also perfect for anyone, player or DM, if they want to learn the lore presented in one place. Players will benefit from knowing the lore because they will be able to fit their character in any adventure set in the Realms without making it seem out of place.
9. Eberron: Rising from the Last War
This book is like a campaign setting but it feels more like a sourcebook. It is a description of the world of Eberron and everything that lives, crawls and happens there. In a sense it is a sourcebook because it provides you with a ton of information about this world and you can then do whatever you want with it.
Ebberon is a world with a rich history based on the magic, heroism and an eternal devastating war. Most of the Ebberon is ruled by the wealthy and powerful and it is up to you to choose how to fit in. This world is torn by war and its inhabitants are trying to survive in various ways and in contrasting locations.
This 5e supplemental book is so filled with content that I am doubtful that anything more could fit. But it had to be that way because it describes the world, its history and lore in great detail. On top of all that the rules and mechanics are well presented.
It offers new racial options like Orcs, Lycanthropic Shifters and others, Dragonmarks, new patrons system, bunch of new options for types and sub types of humanoids for players, monsters from Ebberon, detailed guides, beautiful and detailed maps (artwork in general is perfect), tons of new magic items and much more.
This is a great addition for DMs but players could also benefit from it for all the player’s character related stuff.
10. Tome of Beasts
Tome of Beasts is not published by the Wizards of The Coasts. So it is not an official release like all other dnd 5e official books listed above.
Authored by Wolfgang Baur and Chris Harris this tome brings more than 400 new monsters to the 5th edition of DnD spanning across its enormous 400+ pages. Make no mistake about it, this is a huge book filled with content.
The monsters can be used with any of the classic DnD realms. DMs just have to integrate them which is not difficult considering how well the monsters are described.
It contains monsters from well known myths and legends adapted for use with 5e. There are Fey creatures, Slavic monsters, creatures from the desert, dragons, new demon lords but also fantastic clockwork creatures and many others. Monsters are often challenging and terrifying but most importantly they are unique.
This is a great supplemental D&D book with excellent production quality. The artwork and print are amazing.
Only DMs should get this one if they are interested in tons of new monsters they can use.
These were the best dnd books that you could buy to either learn and play or improve your Dungeons and Dragons 5e experience. If you are a total beginner you should start with the Dungeons and Dragons players handbook. After you are ready for more, then depending on if you are a player or a DM you should see which other books spark your interest and which are useful for your purpose.
I will update this guide as more 5e D&D books are released. I expect the Tasha’s cauldron of everything to drop soon and once I go through it and research it well it will be added here.