View Full Version : [3.5] Must Have Books

Geiger Counter
2010-03-09, 06:46 AM
What are the best books from 3.5 edition for Players? For DMs?

2010-03-09, 06:50 AM
Spell Compendium and Expanded Psionics Handbook would be first on my list. Though generally no one book is completely full of good stuff - It'll be worth looking through the splats to see what you like about them and don't like.

While I wouldn't nessicerily say "must have", but I reckon alot will say anyway, so I'll mention the Book of Nine Swords as well.

2010-03-09, 06:58 AM
Outside the obvious, assuming you have access to SRD, as a player I'd say 3.5 goes something like:
- Tome of Battle
- Spell Compendium
- Magic Item Compendium
- Complete Scoundrel
- Player's Handbook II

I really like that setup. After that, you can add Dungeonscape, the other Completes, Races of, Hyperconscious, Stormwrack & co., Heroes of Horror, Tome of Binding (aka. Magic), Heroes of Battle, Drow of the Underdark and then wade into settings. If you don't have access to SRD, you really want Unearthed Arcana and Expanded Psionics Handbook.

For DM:
All the player-books have lots of tools for DMs, particularly for classed caster and melee monsters, but as a DM I'd probably want something different to expand the repertoire:
- Cityscape (& Dungeonscape)
- Stormwrack (separately 'cause it's by far the most important environment with virtually no attention in Core)
- Fiend Folio
- Underdark
- Lords of Madness
- Draconomicon
- Book of Vile Darkness
- Fiendish Codexes

about in that order, and go from there. That should give you plenty of tools though. Elder Evils has some nice stuff too, but they're mostly campaign stubs and who needs those, right? And Exemplars of Evil could be relatively high on that list.

First two are mostly to expand your game; you can easily pull off desert and glacier-areas with just core stuff, but sea? Not much for that; the ship selection in Core is sad, there's really no mention of naval hazards and such. And there's just so much in cities not covered by the base rules. It's worth noting that if you haven't played 2e and intend on playing something akin to the default cosmology, Manual of the Planes should probably be somewhere quite high up there.

2010-03-09, 07:04 AM
DMs should definitely get DMG2. Too much good stuff in there.

XPH is an excellent book, but I wouldn't put it at the top of my list - most of it is freely available in the SRD.

2010-03-09, 07:39 AM
DMs should definitely get DMG2. Too much good stuff in there.

As a DM I found far more good enviromentals (Frostburn, Stormwrack and Sandstorm in this order, for the kind of campaign).

2010-03-09, 10:05 AM
DMs should definitely get DMG2. Too much good stuff in there.

Unless you're a newbie DM, DMG 2 is probably the worst splatbook out there.

The only decent thing I found there is the mob template, and even that needed lots of tweaking to become usefull.

Besides that, the book is mostly filled with advice, wich altough in the decent-good range, is nothing you will not quickly learn with experience. All the crunch in there is rather unimaginative. Pretty much every other splatbook offers you more crunch options and creative plot/campaign ideas.

Irreverent Fool
2010-03-09, 10:20 AM
I have to agree with Oslecamo's assessment of the DMG2. I didn't find much use for it.

These are the books in my "core", not counting SRD material:
Magic Item Compendium
Spell Compendium
Tome of Battle

I consider the "Completes" very important but if you're trying to put a core together, the "Compendiums" are a must-have. Tome of Battle is important, of course, if you like melee to have nice things and you don't have a group that is vehemently opposed to it to the point of refusing to have a rational discussion about what may or may not be wrong with it.

So, those three first and then dig into the Completes, starting with whatever class you happen to be most interested in. The Adventurer, Warrior, Divine, and Arcane are the most important in my opinion, followed by the Scoundrel. Complete Mage is nice to have but there's never been a situation in which I felt like I absolutely needed it.


2010-03-09, 10:23 AM
I'd say Tome of Battle and then the Completes are the biggest ones for a player. Of the Complets, get Divine before Champion and Arcane before Mage, but other than that it's probably mostly preference, excepting Complete Psionic, which is notably worse than the others (but does have some gems; the Ardent's pretty cool, Practiced Manifester is excellent, and there's always the Soulbow, though that's also available online). Complete Scoundrel might be the most fun of the set, but that could just be my opinion (but considering how much I prefer mages over everything else, to choose Scoundrel over Arcane should say something). But Tome of Battle should be item #1 on every player's list, IMO.

The "Outsides" (Frostburn, Sandstorm, Stormwrack, Cityscape, and Dungeonscape, aka. "It's Cold Outside", "It's Hot and Dry Outside", "It's Wet Outside", and "It's Not Outside" vols I and II) are very solid for DMs, and the first three are for players too (the "Not Outsides" are pretty DM-centric, though Dungeonscape's Factotum is worth the price of the book alone for players).

Tome of Magic and Magic of Incarnum are very interesting books, though both have their problems - about half of Tome of Magic's material is poorly balanced (Shadowcasters being weaker than they ought to be, and Truenamers being nigh unplayable, but Binders are awesome enough to be worth it), and Magic of Incarnum can be very difficult to understand and keep track of (rules are not organized as neatly as they might be, which can make learning the system complicated), but is absolutely awesome.

If I could add just one book to Core, it would probably be Tome of Battle, though. Playing melee without it is entirely unfun in my opinion.

2010-03-09, 10:35 AM
It just goes to show that different DMs will have different styles of play when you look at lists like these. For instance, as I have the two Fiendish Codices, I see no reason to purchase Book of Vile Darkness, but that's just me... My collection has come to this:

Monster Manual, Fiendish Codex I, Fiendish Codex II, Book of Exalted Deeds, Magic Item Compendium, Magic of Incarnum, Dungeon Master's Guide, Player's Handbook, Player's Handbook II, Dungeon Master's Guide II, Expanded Psionics Handbook, Tome of Magic, Tome of Battle, Epic Level Handbook, Book of Abberations, Libris Mortis, Heroes of Horror, Heroes of Battle.

But that doesn't mean you'll get all the use I do out of all those books, or that you don't want more.

Still, if you're just starting your collection, here's my reccomendation.


--Player's Handbook II
--Expanded Psionics Handbook

Dungeon Master:
--Fiendish Codices I & II
--Book of Aberrations

--Player's Handbook
--Player's Handbook II

Honestly, you should just look around and see which ones you want. Wikipedia has a good list...

The Vorpal Tribble
2010-03-09, 10:40 AM
Expanded Psionics Handbook, always.

Even though you can get the majority online I found the artistry and feel of the book fascinating and less tacky than most.

2010-03-09, 10:42 AM
Tome of Battle
Magic Item Compendium
Spell Compendium
Those three alone improve the game noticeably. I'd include Expanded Psionics if it wasn't already in the SRD.

After that, the Completes (the newer ones are the better ones imo - Mage/Champion/Scoundrel, but they're all good). Tome of Magic and Magic of Incarnum if you're interested in alternative magic systems; they're both complex but they're also both incredibly good (well, ToM has binders, the others two are so-so at best, but the binders alone are worth it).

As others have said, the Themed books are pretty good, but noticeably more for the DM than the players. There's a small handful of things the players will really find useful, though some of those handful they players will really like. The Fiendish Codices as well, provided you're doing demon/devil-themed things. The Race books are similar, but the players will probably find them a lot more useful.

The DM will probably like MM3/4/5, probably in that order. Heroes of Horror is great for horror or dark fantasy settings, and quite a bit for players as well.

2010-03-09, 11:33 AM
The Complete Series

2010-03-09, 11:51 AM
PHBII, Completes, XPH, Tome of Battle, Tome of Magic, Tome of Incarnum. :smallwink:

2010-03-09, 11:58 AM
The Complete series is very good, if you like using lots of Prestige Classes.
If you prefer low level campaigns or don't use much PrCs, they are completely useless.

The tomes and the XPH are very good, if you're into characters that use different mechanics than the PHB classes. As they all offer new things characters can be capable of, they can even be good additions if your capaign doesn't focus much on character builds but is more havy on roleplay and fluff.

The Enviroment Books are all good books, but recommended only if you want to make campaigns that are set in the according environment. Frostburn has very few things to offer for both players and gms in a dessert or jungle campaign.

Heroes of Horror, Lords of Madness, and Manual of the Planes are incredible scources of inspirations for your campaign, if the campaign centeres around horror adventures, ancients aberrations, or planewalking.

2010-03-09, 12:17 PM
<speaks truth and exhales win>

Tome of Battle

Expand with
Manual of the Planes
It's Hot/Cold/Wet/Crowded/Not Outside (the environment books)
Races of Short/Treehugging/Density/Eberron
Fiend Folio
Lords of Madness

Don't bother with the Completes, they just break class selection even harder.

Sinfire Titan
2010-03-09, 12:24 PM
Don't bother with the Completes, they just break class selection even harder.

IF you mean by adding poorly designed classes, yes. But some of the feats are must-haves for some classes (Shock Trooper, for example).

Of the Completes, Scoundrel, Mage, and Adventurer are the more balanced. Champion is poorly edited in some places (though the Devotion feats are very good), Warrior is full of crap, Psionics is one of the most notorious books ever printed, and Arcane isn't that well-off due to the spell section being reprinted in the SC.

2010-03-09, 12:33 PM
[LIST]Don't bother with the Completes, they just break class selection even harder.

Actually, I find some of the later Complete better than most of the rest of 3.5e. Complete Champion, Scoundrel, and Mage have tons of fluffy stuff for those that want ideas, but still offer plenty of mechanics in terms of PrC's, feats, and other/new mechanics. Except in the most low-powered of campaigns, there's really nothing obviously broken.

PHB2, which I forgot to mention earlier, is much like the later Completes too: lots of stuff for everyone. I include that in my Core.

The earlier Completes are a bit worse, imo. They have a TON of PrC's, but most of them aren't very good, so good chunks of the books will go unused, and of the 12 new base classes (3 per book), more than half are solidly 'meh.' They offer a lot of feats, though. They're much more heavily mechanic-oriented than the later completes, but the later completes have better mechanics (alternate class features, devotion feats, skill tricks). I'd still definitely recommend them, though: things like scouts and Shock Trooper are definitely worth it.