Getting started with Dungeons & Dragons 5E is no easy feat, and you’ll find that the deeper you get, the vaster your new fangled library becomes.
It turns out there are a lot of rules to playing make-believe in a structured way. Luckily, all of the information you need, whether you are the player or the Dungeon Master, is to be had in these fine tomes.
Every D&D guide sourcebook you'll ever need
This guide will take you from start to finish, with the most crucial books near the beginning, and more supplementary materials coming toward the end.
We’ve numbered them in terms of importance, with the core books listed at the start. If you're looking for a campaign setting (namely, an adventure) be sure to take a gander at our best Dungeons & Dragons 5E campaigns.
1. The Player’s Handbook
This is the player’s bible, and whether you’re DMing or playing, you won’t be going anywhere without this bad boy. Although you can get the basic rules online, this book takes that to the next level.
It outlines absolutely everything you need to play Dungeons & Dragons. The biggest chunk is devoted to character creation, with plentiful pages on the different classes, races and ways to imbue personality and backstory into your characters.
There’s so much lore to devour, not to mention spell lists, weapons and rules for downtime and combat alike. A satisfyingly weighty tome, it’s also beautifully illustrated.
Treasure this one, you’ll be using it a lot.
Buy The Player's Handbook at Amazon.
2. The Dungeon Master’s Guide
You can safely avoid this if you’re planning on just playing, but if the urge to command the table creeps in (as it often does), this is the book you absolutely need.
Essentially, it contains everything you’ll need to “weave legendary stories”. This includes loads of stuff on world-building, plus you can explore deities, the different parts of the multiverse.
Not to mention guidelines on which type of fantasy to angle toward, and how to construct adventures ranging from dungeons to full-blown epic campaigns.
Useful dice-based generation tables teach you how to create everything from backstories to events, and The DM’s Guide is packed full of tips on how to basically be the best Dungeon Master ever.
Buy The Dungeon Master's Guide at Amazon.
3. Xanathar’s Guide to Everything
An expansion of the overall Dungeons and Dragons ruleset, there are a wealth of curios to be had in Xanathar’s. Among these, are a range of super fun new character classes.
Including but not limited to, a Samurai, a shadow sorceror and the infamous Hexblade warlock. That’s the guy that can can cast dark woo-woo spells while also crushing your head with their bare hands.
This book especially contains tons of extra flavour for your characters, encouraging you to do things like mull over exactly why you made a deal with your patron as a warlock, or defining your ambitions as a wizard.
For example, chapter ‘This is your Life’ give ample inspiration for character backstories, whether that’s where you were born, or why you do what it is you do.
There’s plenty of additional inspiration for the Dungeon Master too, including new ways to use traps (fire blast pit anyone?), magic items, and suggestions to keep a campaign engaging: like encouraging characters to explore religion (or gambling) during downtime.
Buy Xanathar's Guide to Everything at Amazon.
4. The Monster Manual
Dragons, Giants, Mind Flayers and beholders all abound in this Dungeons and Dragons bestiary which can be applied to any campaign.
There are handy statistics for fighting each monster, and plentiful lore and gorgeous artwork to feed your hungry imagination.
t also accentuates how to do so in a way that’s exciting - while giving you plenty of fun tidbits on where the beasts come from and what they are like.
You won’t just learn how to throw goblins at your players either, there are a multitude of super big beefy boys to be had in the Monster Manual, sporting all sorts of gubbins like Legendary actions and Lair effects. All deadly moves to add your arsenal. Go be the monster.
Buy The Monster Manual at Amazon.
5. Volo’s Guide to Monsters
The next supplement the Monster Manual, it includes new playable races for monstrously inclined players, including Lizardfolk, Tabaxi (catfolk) Giants, and the angelic Aasimar, among others.
You can enjoy an extended section on monster lore, including how to build a lair for your hag, generate your own Beholder, or the anatomy of a Mind Flayer colony - among many other things.
In addition, Volo’s Guide to Monsters comes complete with comments from the scholar and wizard lite Volo - who dispels wise nuggets throughout such as “Kobolds are a lot less cute when they learn how to cast fireballs”.
Lastly, The book features an illustrated bestiary comprised of over 120 monsters, complete with in-depth mythology and story inspiration.
Buy Volo's Guide to Monsters at Amazon.
6. Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes
You might recognise the name Mordenkainen from the Dungeons and Dragons character canon. The ultra-powerful wizard been around since the days of Dungeons and Dragons designer Gygax.
This book, featuring notes from Mordy himself, follows the most epic conflicts in the Dungeons and Dragons world. If you’ve ever wondered why there are so many types of Elf, how the Blood War got its namesake, or the horrors of Gith, you’ll find out here.
It also features a ton of new monsters, with an emphasis on the especially horrifying and multidimensional. Plus, there are a few new sub-races to be had, like the seasonally themed Feywild elves known as Eladrin.
Buy Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes at Amazon.
7. Eberron: Rising from the Last War
The latest Dungeons and Dragons sourcebook defines the world of Eberron - where eternal war, airships and magic-fuelled robots reign. Less high fantasy, it’s inspired by pulp and is crammed full of wild technology and darkness.
Within this war-torn land, you’ll find everything from haunted battlefields to seedy streets. Aesthetically, Eberron is fantastically unique as a setting - and will likely appeal to those who veer toward the darker side of things.
Last but not least, it introduces the character of the artificer: a sort of inventor combined with a magic user who can make all the wildest things. You can enchant objects, and even make your own rare and bizarre creations. It also features a 1st level adventure set in the City of Towers.
Buy Eberron: Rising from the Last War at Amazon.
8. Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
So if Forgotten Realms is your bag (essentially a very traditional fantasy setting, most recognisable in video game Neverwinter Nights) this is the one for you. It’ll tell you loads about the land, its Gods and its people - helping you flesh out a setting in that area.
Learn the ways of the Kuldjargh Battle Rager (Dwarvish for ‘axe idiot’) and strange Bardic colleges, among many others.
Plus, you’ll learn the history of the region, with a detailed intro section of the areas rich and bloody history.
Last but not least, there are new character sub-races, such as the Undying Warlock and Swashbuckler Rogue. Warlocks take note, there are lots of grim patrons to be found in this book too.
Buy The Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide at Amazon.
9. Guild Master’s Guide to Ravnica
Based on the popular Magic: The Gathering setting, this sourcebook adds a cornucopia of new things to any campaign or player character. First, you get guides to all ten guilds of Ravnica, which work as factions within the new, absolutely enormous setting.
For example, you have the Azorius, the saturnine law markers, or the Rakdos guild, which is made up of fire breaking acrobats and general mayhem makers. Being linked to a particular guild is an excellent starting off point for any character.
It adds five new races: the centaur, loxodon (big old elephant people), minotaur, vedalken and simic hybrid. Lastly, first level adventure Krenko's Way provides an excellent jumping off point for any campaigns you might want to run in the setting. Not to mention there are some bonus monsters to enjoy.
Buy The Guildmaster's Guide to Ravnica at Amazon.