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by Mike on 28 February 2022
While we tend to focus on the new D&D material coming out of Wizards of the Coast, many third-party publishers put out tremendous products to expand our games. We're going to take a look at some of my favorite DM-focused third-party products for D&D. This isn't an inclusive list at all, there are many more products than I can possibly spotlight.
I've talked about many of these products on the Lazy D&D Talk Show before and linked to various video spotlights in the article below.
As a disclaimer, take note that I've written little bits of content for some of the products below including the Kobold Press monster books and the Vault of Magic.
Without further fanfare, let's look at some of my favorite third party products.
Tome of Beasts, Creature Codex, Tome of Beasts 2, and Tome of Beasts 3 by Kobold Press. Kobold Press, spearheaded by the longtime D&D veteran Wolfgang Baur, produces some of the best material you can find for 5th edition. Kobold Press products are fantastic and equally strong to the material coming from Wizards of the Coast. Adventures, worldbooks, monster books, character options, magic items, spells; the list goes on and on. Kobold Press's four monster books; the Tome of Beasts, Creature Codex, Tome of Beasts 2, and Tome of Beasts 3; offer almost 1,500 monsters you can drop into your game to scare the hell out of your players. They're extremely popular books and for great reason. If you're looking for new monsters, this is your first stop.
Dungeon Dressing, Thingonomicon, and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands by Raging Swan Press. With design that harkens back to the D&D modules of old, Raging Swan focuses heavily on random tables and classic-style adventures. The Thingonomicon offers dozens of random tables for a variety of situations as Dungeon Dressing helps you fill out all the nooks and crannies of your favorite dungeon. Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands takes heavy inspiration from the classsic adventures Village of Hommlet and Keep on the Borderlands with a clean and well-playtested package. The work of Raging Swan is excellent and well worth the look. Check out the Raging Swan Patreon for weekly supplements for your 5e game.
Deep Magic and Vault of Magic by Kobold Press. Here are two more Kobold Press products to put on your shelf. Deep Magic offers more than 700 new spells for 5e put together from numerous sources at Kobold Press. They span a vast range of spell types far beyond what we're used to including blood magic, apocalypse magic, void magic, rune magic, and more. Two great ways to use this book without dumping 700 new spells on your characters is to add individual spells as loot, either as scrolls or single-use relics anyone can use. You can also arm monsters with these strange spells and freak out players who think they know it all. The Vault of Magic includes hundreds of new magic items you can drop into your game and includes random loot tables that include traditional D&D magic items so you can replace the standard random tables with these new ones.
Epic Legacy, Tome of Titans, and Total Party Kill Volume 1 and Volume 2 by 2C Gaming. The folks at 2C Gaming have a clear drive to bring higher-level content to our 5e games. The Epic Legacy book includes ten new levels of play above 20th level from a number of epic prestige classes in the book. The Tome of Titans includes the most powerful 5e monsters I've ever seen including new takes on the Dark Dragonqueen, the Mother of Spiders, Orcus the demon prince of Undeath, and more. Total Party Kill Volume 1 and 2 offers more down-to-earth monsters with 2C's meticulous design. If you're looking for more crunch to your monsters, look no further.
Esper Genesis by Alligator Alley. Rich Lescouflair and Brian Dalrymple put together this fantastic 5e-based complete science fiction RPG. While it's a complete 5e system in its own right, it's also fully compatible with your existing 5e monsters and classes and other stuff. It's beautifully put together and laid out in three separate core books: the Core Manual, the Master Technician's Guide, and the Threats Database. There's also a free Basic Rules and a free adventure, Fall of the Eos Keldor.
Arcana of the Ancients, Beasts of Flesh and Steel, and Where the Machines Wait by Monte Cook Games. Monte Cook Games built a fantastic far-future science fantasy world for their excellent stand-alone RPG Numenera. Arcana of the Ancients brings this science fantasy to our D&D games including a tremendous trove of single-use and permanent magic items, unique monsters, GM advice, and short adventures. Beasts of Flesh and Steel focuses on even more weird techno-horrors to drop into our game while Where the Machines Wait gives us an awesome adventure delving into a lost world of fantastic technology written by D&D veteran designer Bruce Cordell. The physical production of Monte Cook Games's products is second to none.
Scarlet Citadel, Empire of the Ghouls, and City of Cats by Kobold Press. I know, I know. More Kobold Press. With all of the attention paid to the hardcover adventures of Wizards of the Coast, one might accidentally pass by these excellent adventures. Scarlet Citadel is a classic take on a Greyhawk-style adventure written by Steve Winter, a legendary D&D designer. Empire of the Ghouls is an adventure path taking characters from the streets of the city of Zobek in the center of Midgard down into the depths of an empire run by ghouls and their ravenous hunger for flesh. City of Cats is a city sourcebook and set of adventures set in Midgard's Southlands (also an excellent sourcebook).
Ptolus by Monte Cook Games. No other D&D sourcebook has come close to the weight and volume of Monte Cook's Ptolus. This 670 phonebook-sized city sourcebook is like buying an entire deluxe boxed set in a single product. The physical book is costly but amazing and worth it if you seek the largest city sourcebook (probably largest sourcebook period) written for D&D. Detailing a vast city suitable for a full campaign's worth of play under the shadows of a towering spire filled with ancient evil, Ptolus is an amazing product to hold in your hands.
Level Up Advanced 5e by EN World Publishing. A complete drop-in replacement for 5e with an advanced flavor to it, the Level Up Advanced 5e books offer numerous new options and my favorite monster book for 5th edition, the Level Up 5e: Monsterous Menagerie. A full replacement for the core D&D Monster Manual, the Monstrous Menagerie takes a new look at just about every one of the core D&D monsters. Designed by Paul Hughes of Blog of Holding, the book takes much of the mathematical deconstruction Paul did in his series of analyses on D&D monster design and puts them into practice. Monsters in the Menagerie* are tactically rich, hit at their weight class, and include excellent descriptions and encounter advice. This is one of the three books EnWorld put out as part of their full Level Up 5e system and yet we can drop these monsters right into our vanilla 5e games without needing the other two.
Elderbrain, the publisher of Crown of the Oathbreaker used a survey of over 2,000 respondents to guide the construction of this massive 917 page hardcover and PDF adventure book. Both versions include extra digital books with player options, location gazetteers, maps, and more. It's a dark fantasy adventure with a focus on twisted histories of former noble families, fallen celestials, and other grim figures. The art is fantastic and the layout is excellent. A steal at $25 digitally and $75 for a digital and physical version.
A collaboration between the Dungeon Dudes and Ghostfire Gaming, Dungeons of Drakkenheim is an excellent campaign adventure for dungeon masters by dungeon masters. It's built by DMs who know what DMs need to run the campaign. The story is a mixture of dark political intrigue and horror-themed dungeon delving — definitely a dark fantasty focused adventure. The quality of the book is excellent with grim artwork, a solid design, and lots of accessories should you choose to buy them and run it.
These are just a few outstanding third-party books for D&D. One article can't do justice to the huge stack of fantastic supplements for this game of ours. Enjoy the books mentioned above but keep your eyes open for more. Opening up your library to third party books lets you expand this game indefinitely.
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