D&D Ideas — Favorite Books
Get your goblin on for the week that was and discover new ways to incorporate these classic monsters into your games, transform into mechanical beasts, put the kibosh on enemy spellcasters and more plus new live chats with creative folks and industry pros and a gonzo live play campaign set in a pulpy post apocalyptic Earth round out this week’s Nerdy News. Check it out here.
Delving Dave’s Dungeon
This is a broad topic that could mean a couple things. It’s intentional so we’ve got some room to explore the topic. On the live chat we discussed our favorite D&D books and some of the novels that have inspired us in creating our own stories.
I think I want to go in another direction here. What about favorite books that appear within our own games? In our Gamma World game Nerdarchist Ted played a character who was a priest of Gary Gygax. He found an old game store with the original AD&D books. Ted’s character took them as holy texts and would carry them around preaching the gospel of the Gygax.
Look at Critical Role’s campaign 2 and Tusk Love. It’s a romance novel that appeared in one of the episodes and clocked over 13 minutes in the campaign so far. It has nothing to do with the story, just a fun thing some of the players latched onto and continue to have fun with.
There are other ways to incorporate books into your game directly. Magic items like the Book of Exalted Deeds and Book of Vile Darkness have been staples of the D&D multiverse for a long time. There isn’t any reason to create other magic books or even mundane books to enrich your D&D games.
In one of our earliest experiences with AD&D we had a magic book our Dungeon Master introduced into the game. Our party wizard ended up with a nondescript white leather bound book. Every time the player chose to have their character read from the book dice rolls would be made. At this point the table would break out into a chant of DEATH ROLLS, DEATH ROLLS, DEATH ROLLS! If the player rolled poorly bad things would happen. Several mishaps and the character ended up looking like a mutated doppelganger without the cool doppelganger powers. But when the rolls were good the character would begin to unlock powers from the book. Every time there was a bout of rolls the book would acquire more adjectives to add to its name. I wish at this point we had the full name. It was the vile, evil, white book of Satan or some such thing.
We have also introduced nonmagical books into our games that just grant bonus or advantage to specific checks based on the knowledge contained within the books. Most recently we did this in Dark Paths: The Chained One. Books also make great plot hooks in your D&D games. Need to stop or perform a ritual to save the world? The how to will probably be found in some musty tome somewhere. Books are also super valuable in a D&D setting. There are no mass printings of books. Each one has to be penned by hand or magic.
You could even elevate religious text that pilgrims travel from all the world to just behold and be in their presence, not even read or touch. There are a lot of ways to be inspired by books in D&D.
D&D Adventure Plots
- Escort a caravan from one library to another. There are sought after forbidden texts hidden amongst the books cultists are after.
- A doomsday magical device is set to activate. The characters must find the book containing the secret to deactivating it.
- The characters come across a secret ledger containing information about important political figures in the kingdom. They will stop at nothing to get it back, including sending assassins after the party.
- The campaign starts with a book of prophecies. Either the characters must stop or fulfill these prophecies.
- Characters discover a mysterious tome containing their secrets. They have no idea who penned the book or who acquired their secrets. Who is the hidden author? Are they friend or foe?
From Ted’s Head
I am sure when Dave came up with this topic he was thinking D&D gaming books but I have to share. If you are a fan of Nerdarchy I bet you are tired of hearing Dave and I talk about Jim Butcher. He is my favorite author for sure and I am very much looking forward to meeting him at a convention at some point.
Codex Alera is Butcher’s take on a fantasy world where most people have access to magic of some sort, all except for Tavi. I would say the world is a combination of Avatar: the Last Airbender and Pokemon but very much has an adult theme and situations. This six book series has rich lore and varied cultures and I would roleplay in this world in a heartbeat if I could get the chance.
Butcher’s other ongoing series is The Dresden Files. Book 17 should be launching soon to continue the story of a magical private investigator in Chicago. The magical world always hidden and covered up in modern society. While Codex Alera is a series written from multiple perspectives, Dresden Files is only the titular character’s point of view and makes reading the series a smoother process for me. Both series are excellent.
If you are looking more for D&D books used at the table there are many I have found to be incredibly helpful. If you are running D&D games in a particular setting any book with lore can be very helpful regardless of edition. You can use the lore, NPC names, maps and locations and only need to make the mechanical choices fit the edition you are playing. Speaking of lore and locations, even though I have never been a Ravenloft fan the Van Richten’s Guides are full of great things if you are looking to enhance your game. I have the guide to werebeasts, the created, the lich and ghosts. I think I am missing some but if you want a play a campaign heavily using these I can’t recommend the books enough.
I am sure I could go on about great artwork throughout the editions of D&D but I will just mention one. The cover of the second edition adventure Swamplight is of a very cool lizardman. The cover is done by Jennell Jaquays. I first found the artwork in my favorite 2E D&D The Complete Book of Humanoids. To this day I love playing monstrous races and this book is full of them. I considered this book essential and it stayed in my gaming bag for all of my 2E D&D play.
Nerdarchy has made some friends among publishers and we have always stated we trust things put out by Frog God, Kobold Press and Nord Games. It is our opinion you can enjoy the books they put out. Some notables I enjoy using from Kobold Press are Tome of Beasts, a massive book with over 400 pages of new monsters to add to your 5E D&D game and I very much enjoy the art and monsters included inside.
Nord Games’ Treacherous Traps gives me a leg up and shores one of my weaknesses as a Dungeon Master with detailed and fun traps I can use against adventurers. I am a creative person. I love when players pull details out of me while we play but sometimes my brain does not work as fast as I would like it. So to this list I am adding two recent acquisitions. LoreSmyth’s Remarkable Inns and Remarkable Shops gives you things you can add to your game as the name implies. Whether you read it in advance and add the shop or inn right out of the book or you pick and choose what you want it gives charts and features to make those locations become remarkable and memorable to your players. Those players will enjoy it and keep them in business. You can find LoreSmyth products alongside Nord’s over at Nord Games’ website here.
And I could not forgive myself if I did not do a shameless plug. I am incredibly proud of the Nerdarchy team and our Out of the Box: Encounters for Fifth Edition. I used it just a handful of days ago and it was met with success. If your gaming bag has room as a DM, or if you are running digitally you should grab a copy of Out of the Box. It is great stuff! Check it out here.
From the Nerditor’s desk
We’re all tabletop roleplaying game enthusiasts so it’s only natural books became a big part of our lives. Books contain the rules and associated material for all these games we play. Books appearing in the games themselves to guide characters, reveal information and illuminate deeper aspects of a setting or campaign.
During the live chat I shared a great number of D&D books important to me throughout the years along with reasons why and how they might become staples on your own game book shelves. And over at Nerdarchy the Website I’ve written quite a few times about non-game books and how they’re useful and inspiring for games.
So today this newsletter is a terrific opportunity to mention a couple of books I’ve been meaning to do something with and I can cross it off the task list too. I came across Knights of Gartania through a Kickstarter recommendation and immediately fell in love with the quirky characters and art of creator Nathan Hill.
Knights of Gartania and Knights of Gartania 2: Lords and Ladies explores an imaginative world of unusual characters first created as a comic strip. The books detail all of the characters and their family trees. Nathan also put together D&D stat blocks for all the characters as a way to broaden appeal to D&D players.
“The story follows the knights who live in the kingdom of Gartania and their adventures therein. Each of the knights’ appearance is modelled after an object, for example Kettle Knight has a kettle for helmet and wields a overly sized spoon as their weapon.”
The comic version is fun and Nathan sent me a link to the archives so you can check out all the comics here. I contacted him after receiving the two books and having an absolute blast reading through them and absorbing the art. I’d love to run a D&D game set in Gartania with players taking on the roles of the various knights, lords and ladies of the land. This brings me to the next point.
In mechanical terms the Knights of Gartania are ridiculous. I say this with love though because they’re a wonderful illustration of what makes D&D fun for me — exploring what it means to be a particular individual living in a fantastic setting. Take a look at Kettle Knight below. Terrible ability scores, weird movement rate, super high AC and a Long Spoon for a weapon look pretty outrageous right? And Kettle Knight is one of the more normal and balanced ones!
These characters are not even close to optimized and don’t inspire much confidence in terms of mechanical viability. On the other hand a campaign featuring a party of characters like Bread Knight, Night Knight, Puddle Witch, Lady Pie or any other combination of Gartanians sounds amazing.
Big shout out to Nathan Hill and Knights of Gartania for being amazingly fun books that are not just fun to read and look at but can inspire Dungeon Masters and players alike to explore this quirky kingdom.