Getting into the 3rd party world of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) can be daunting. Sifting through the near limitless number of sourcebooks can take hours, and even then, you aren’t guaranteed to find what you’re after. To make things a little easier for you, I’ve complied a finite selectin of supplements which I have personally used throughout my D&D tenure.
To keep things in line with my previous article, I won’t be going too in depth with these. Instead, I’ll merely offer a summary of what each book has to offer. New to D&D? You can learn how to play the game for free by heading over to D&DBeyond.com. If you’re curious about which official products you might want to start out with, then you can check out my beginner’s buyer guide here.
Tome of Heroes
As we all know, D&D players love having additional character options to play around with. Whether it be new races, subclasses, backgrounds, or feats, enough is never truly enough. Enter Kobold Press’s Tome of Heroes to give the players exactly what they want. Bee druids? Check. Gigantic mushroom races? Check. Using plants to cast magic as a way to get closer to nature? Check and check.
Admittedly, DMs don’t get the short end of the stick when it comes to this book. However, the new downtime activities and party group options are a nice inclusion, and can certainly be added to a DMs toolkit.
In total, you get:
- 70+ subclasses
- 20+ races and subraces
- 19 backgrounds
- 15 feats
- 50+ spells
- New magical disciplines called Hedge Magic and Draconic Rune Casting
- New weapons, including rules on gunpowder
- New tools and gear
- And, of course, new magic items
For my money, the Tome of Heroes is the best D&D player expansion on the market, and rivals the likes of Tasha’s Cauldron and Xanathar’s Guide. It works perfectly alongside the Player’s Handbook, and, for the most part, the content is balanced to boot.
The Ultimate Guide to Alchemy, Crafting & Enchanting
I’ve always found it strange that 5e omitted professions from its ruleset. Yes, the Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide do mention things like potion and poison crafting, but it always came across as tacked on and incomplete. I wanted something methodically thought out that would allow my players to get fully invested into every facet of their character. As it turns out, the Ultimate Guide to Alchemy, Crafting & Enchanting from Nord Games is exactly what I was looking for.
This book provides players with the opportunity to join professional/criminal bodies known as associations. Once they became a member of an association, they can learn a trade skill of their choice (alchemy, crafting, or enchanting). From there, they rank up by completing various tasks and quests which reward them with superior recipes and blueprints. Naturally, these allows players to create better items.
The items players can expect to create include pre-established D&D equipment, as well as new custom-made gear, and, of course, an abundance of magical items. It also has rules and tables for collecting, harvesting and foraging the ingredients players need for their creations.
I cannot state how much I love this book enough. It brings such a fresh outlook to the character progression process, and it does so in such a seamless and innate manner. Seriously, go out of your way to get this if you want a fleshed-out crafting system for your games.
Tome of Beasts
3rd party bestiaries are a dime a dozen. Narrowing down the good from the bad? Now that’s the real challenge. This is where our reliable friends over at Kobold Press come in. Their Tome of Beasts contains a whopping 400+ creatures for you to include in your campaigns.
A few examples are:
- A meerkat-esque creature called a Burrowling.
- Flaming undead dogs named Lich Hound’s.
- A reanimated unicorn called Shadhavar.
- And, a Venus fly trap crossed with an oasis named Vesiculosa.
As with all of the official sourcebooks, each creature in the Tome of Beasts comes with its own unique stat block and blurb. For those that don’t know, this makes running your encounters incredibly simplistic, as all the necessary details are condensed down into absorbable chunks. Some special creatures have even been provided with their own lair descriptions to amplify their presence.
Additionally, the illustrations depicting the creatures are gorgeous, horrifying, and awe-inspiring, often all at the same time. Honestly, if you’re a DM hoping to find something as all-encompassing as the Monster Manual, then I wholeheartedly recommend Tome of Beasts.
Total Party Kill Bestiary
If you’re a DM looking for something that packs a little more punch, then perhaps you should check out 2CGaming’s TPK Bestiary. Inside this sinister book is a wide array of creatures aimed at challenging even the most veteran of D&D players.
It achieves this by compiling 100 creatures with a rating of 8 or higher on the CR scale, then expands on the CR ideology by providing each creature with a tactics section. This further mitigates the pain of running an encounter, and ensures a healthy, yet competitive challenge for all players. On top of this, it develops the rules surrounding how to run titanic sized creature more appropriately. This includes everything from being able to target individual appendages, appendages having their own turn order/actions, and, because of their size, rules about climbing the creature.
However, if you really enjoy making your players suffer, then lookout for the monsters marked with a skull. Foes brandished with this are unironically made to wipe your entire party. To showcase how ridiculous this can get, one of the behemoths marked with this insignia is a literal living mage tower. Is this evil for the DMs to make players fight something like this? Yeah, sure. But it is badass nonetheless.
Altogether, your typical high-end fights in the Monster Manual feel distinctly different than the ones presented in this book. As such, I like to think of TPK Bestiary as the boss battle supplement. When I want an encounter to be tough, memorable, and, above all else, entertaining, then this is the book I reach for. Just a fair warning in advance, the content in this book can get a bit… gruesome, so make sure to convey that to your table before going ahead with it.
Creating a world is no easy task. You have to come up with concepts that are purposive and intriguing, as well as being digestible for your players. Speaking from experience, this can take days, weeks, and sometimes even months to conceptualise, let alone come to fruition. Or, instead, by using the sourcebooks created by Nord Games, it can be accomplished in a few hours.
Spectacular Settlements provides DMs with numerous step-by-step guides to assist them in creating their own towns, cities, capitals, and fortresses. It has a wide assortment of customisation options to ensure that each settlement is far from mundane. All DMs have to do on their end is roll on a few tables. It really is that simple.
Don’t have time for that? Then you can also take advantage of the 64 pre-generated settlements this comes packaged with. These contain beautiful graphic depictions and maps of the region which allow you to flawlessly integrate them into your games.
Dangerous Destinations is the sister supplement to Spectacular Settlements. It focuses on developing and inhabiting locales outside of towns and cities. You have things like lush forests, abandoned mines, lost labyrinths, and many other noteworthy landmarks. It even includes advisories and key personal for DMs to toy around with. And, yes, much like its brother, it also includes 60 pictorial premade environments.
I’ve spent hours upon hours creating environments and landmarks with these two books simply due to how fun it is. If you need an extra drop of creative help, or are looking for something totally different in your world, then I’d suggest getting these.
Now that you’ve created your world, you may want to include some finite aspects into it. The Remarkable series by Loresmyth is here to help you do just that.
Remarkable Shops & Their Wares
Starting off with Remarkable Shops, this sourcebook contains everything you need to create, manage, and operate a shop inside your own homebrew world. Want to know what sort of cliental your shop is geared towards? Maybe if the establishment is rich or poor? Or perhaps how a player may run their own shop? Well, all of this and more is detailed here.
On top of that, you also have 8 handmade shops which are full to the brim with personality and character. So much so that DMs could easily build entire questlines around them. I’ve done this in the past and it worked immensely well.
Remarkable Inns & Their Drinks
Next up is we have Remarkable Inns. Unsurprisingly, this is jam packed with information relating to running and maintaining taverns in a D&D setting. It does this by fostering RP and gameplay concepts that immerse the player into the game. Examples of this include bar fight scenarios, songs/tales, and, of course, gambling mini-games.
It also contains 8 individual inns that can be placed in your homebrew settings ad nauseum. These come with their own menu’s, rumour mills, and regular patrons that add an additional layer of authenticity to the establishments.
Remarkable Cults & Their Followers
Lastly, we have Remarkable Cults. As I’m sure you’ve all caught onto by now, this book documents a myriad of unlawful organisations to entice your players with. PCs will have the opportunity to gain access to services, information, followers, and other benefits, as they rank up through the criminal underbelly. They may even get the chance to become a cult founder themselves.
If you want something a little less evil may, then the upcoming Remarkable Guild’s sourcebook may be what you’re after. It follows the exact same concept as this supplement, albeit from a positive alignment standpoint. As of writing this, it is schedule to be released in early 2023.
And with that, we’re done! I really only scratched the surface of what’s possible in the world of 3rd party sourcebooks. However, I do believe these to be some of the best books that the market has to offer. As with the official D&D releases, you can purchase these either physically or digitally via their respective distributer’s website.