Ask the Hive Mind: Which Dungeons and Dragons Books are Essential?

If you’re looking to start a game collection, you probably have questions. GameRT is here to help!

In this blog series, once a month we’ll take a commonly asked “nut-and-bolts” question and share our different perspectives on it!

Dungeons and Dragons is one of the best sellingTabletop Role Playing Game Systems sold, and it has had a huge surge in popularity in the last five years! While it is certainly not the only excellent Role Playing Game out there, and there are many other options that can enrich your library collection, Dungeons and Dragons is a great place to start if you’re just beginning to develop a new circulating collection of RPG material. D&D has been around since the 70’s, and is currently in its 5th edition. If you are buying new D&D books, you will likely be purchasing books from the 5th edition. 

The essentials of what a person needs to play are sold in three rule books, or core books. These are the Player’s Manual, the Monster Manual, and the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Buying these three is the best place to start, but there are currently dozens more books to choose from! This brings us to today’s question.

Today’s Question: If you could only add 3 Dungeons and Dragons books to your collection (after purchasing the core books), which would you add? 

Emma: Small Public Library

If you circulate a Library of Things or a Game Collection, I would recommend one of the official starter sets! These are kits in boxes that have everything inside for players to learn how to play: dice, rules, adventures, characters, and more! There are two different starter sets sold currently, and either would be a great option. 

As far as books to add into your circulation collection goes, my suggestions would be:

Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons

Why I recommend it: Everyone loves dragons! If someone is browsing the shelves, whether they’re currently playing D&D or not, this book has something for them. The illustrations are beautiful, it has lots of interesting information, and you don’t have to know a lot about the game to appreciate this book.

Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

Why I recommend it: Many of the books and games set in Dungeons and Dragons take place on a continent called Faerun, and this book gives you maps of one of the most popular areas in that world. The cities and maps are perfect for patrons that are looking to create their own game, and are a great reference to players looking to learn more about the world.

Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel

Why I recommend it: This book has a collection of short adventures, each set in different locations written by and illustrated by creators from a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds. Longer adventure books are difficult to check out because you may need them for months at a time. The anthology collection style of this book, however, allows patrons to get more out of the item across a shorter lending period.

Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel, Published by Wizards of the Coast

Liz: Midsize Public Library

I have always been in favor of playing games as cheaply as possible, preferably for free. As such, my recommendations won’t be from Wizards of the Coast at all but open-access, downloadable material. If you’re building a collection for programming, I would recommend printing out the following material and laminating or collecting them in a folder or binder. 

The Wealthy Merchant, by Joel Tannas, free to download from DriveThruRPG 

“The Wealthy Merchant” is the shortest D&D campaign I’ve seen to date. It was written to be an introduction to the game for new players and it is a great crash course to the world of TTRPGs- giving just enough mechanics and atmosphere to immerse audiences without overwhelming them. All of the game information fits onto one page and the campaign beats are succinctly explained for new DMs- “to introduce players to… skill checks and non-combat ways of dealing with situations”, “to introduce players to role playing and social interaction”, “to introduce the players to combat.” Included in the bundle are 8 level zero characters, with character sheets that are annotated and stripped down to the bare essentials, as well as a blank character template. We recently used this campaign in a “Dungeons & Dragons 101” program that was developed to train new game masters. All of our attendees were given copies of the campaign summary and their choice of the pre-generated characters and one of the attendees, a tween-ager with no previous ttrpg experience, was our impromptu DM. They were able to navigate the entire quest in about an hour and a half and were very happy with their first step into the world of role playing. 

TTRPG Safety Toolkit

The use of safety tools is gradually becoming a more standard practice in the TTRPG scene but in case readers are not aware of them, I’d like to highlight them here. Safety tools are a way for GMs to structure a conversation with their players to ensure that everyone is having fun. This is especially important to do with RPGs because anything players imagine is possible, but that open-world mechanic comes at the risk of creating an environment that can be exclusionary and potentially harmful, especially to those who have marginalized identities. This downloadable toolkit offers numerous tools to use before a game begins, in the middle of play, and for reflecting after a session or campaign has ended. If you are familiar with pedagogical practices, they might actually seem pretty similar! In my experience taking the time to use these tools, especially in Session 0, always makes the game more fun because it gives all players a chance to collaborate, refine their backstory, and validates their role in shaping the game world. Included in this toolkit are Lines & Veils by Ron Edwards, X Card by John Stavropoulos, O Card by Kira Magrann, Script Change by Brie Beau Sheldon, the Luxton Technique by P H Lee, and the Open Door by Eirik Fatland.

If you have a circulating board game collection, comment with your answer below! If you have a question you’d like to ask, comment and let us know, or send us a message at

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