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by Mike on 23 January 2023
Over on the Lazy D&D Talk Show I spotlight 5e products — primarily third party products but also those published by Wizards of the Coast.
Looking back, here are the top ten 5e products that caught my attention over 2022. This is just my view, of course. There are many products I never got a chance to look at and many products you may love more than the ones I outline below. Like everything I produce, hang on to this list with a loose grip.
These are also listed in alphabetical order — not in order by quality or preference.
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.
Raging Swan puts out amazing books of inspirational tables and tools to help us fill out our fantasy RPGs. The GM's Miscellany: Dungeon Dressing for 5e is the 5e version of the more system-agnostic Dungeon Dressing book but includes pre-rolled 5e-compatible treasure parcels and other 5e focused material. It's an excellent book from an excellent publisher and well worth a DM's money to help fuel ideas for future adventures.
A drop-in replacement for the standard Monster Manual, the Monstrous Menagerie is one of the three core books of the Level Up Advanced 5e RPG system. Developed by Paul Hughes of the Blog of Holding, the mathematics behind the monsters in the Menagerie is top-notch — far better balanced than what you'll find in the Monster Manual. The monster design leans towards complexity, so if you prefer simpler monsters, this might not be for you. Advancements like epic monsters gives you true powerhouse boss monsters sure to put your heroes on their toes. This book is absolutely packed with awesome monsters and gets my personal award for best 5e product of 2022 even though it came out in late 2021.
Monte Cook Games's take on worlds like Planescape and, to a smaller degree, Spelljammer; Path of the Planebreaker gives us a high-fantasy sourcebook with dozens of worlds the characters can explore along the path of a multi-planar moon crashing through the cosmos. Monte Cook Games's products are always exceptionally produced with amazing high-fantasy artwork, an excellent physical design and layout, and a wonderful approach towards indexing and cross-referencing that I wish every book included. My only complaint is that 5e design, both for monsters and magic items isn't MCG's strength. Often monster design is head-scratchingly bad and requires a lot of work if you want to use it. Easier is taking their story concepts and wrapping them around monster stat blocks from other producers. Regardless, Path of the Planebreaker is an awesome book with an awesome theme and one I highly recommend.
A massive 380 page sourcebook set in the stone age, Planegea shows us how far we can take 5e's design into campaigns and worlds beyond those published by Wizards of the Coast alone. Another "for GMs by GMs" sourcebook, Planegea includes awesome reskins of existing classes and races, a wonderful awe-inspiring setting, and tremendous artwork and design. If you're looking for a very different setting in which to run your 5e games, definitely give Planegea a look.
Set in the south of Kobold Press's massive Midgard setting, the 300+ page Southlands Worldbook includes ancient tombs, powerful villains, old gods, detailed cities of intrigue, and vast histories. With a clear inspiration from our real-world middle east and Africa, three cultural consultants helped steer the Southlands Worldbook from potentially problematic topics such as racism and colonialism. The book's descriptions of slavery, however, warrant a solid discussion during a session zero. The Southlands Worldbook is an awesome spotlight and deep dive into a major region of Midgard — one that can lead to years of campaigns and adventures.
The latest refresh of the Tal-Dorei setting popularized by Critical Role, Tal-Dorei Reborn is an amazing and beautiful sourcebook of Matt Mercer's fantastic setting. The nearly 300 page sourcebook is packed with incredible artwork and a modern world design ripe for adventures. Clearly this book appeals more towards fans of Critical Role. It's a wonderful gift for a Critter whether or not they play D&D but for DMs it offers a wealth of ideas to either harvest into your own world or a whole world you yourself can set your adventures.
Probably my favorite monster book to date, Tome of Beasts 3 is packed with fantastic monsters using the latest 5e design style of Monsters of the Multiverse. Unlike Multiverse, high challenge monsters in Tome of Beasts 3 have real teeth to challenge high level characters. A new set of NPC stat blocks offers tremendous reskinning potential and the rest of the 418 page book is packed with more than 400 monsters to drop into your 5e game and scare even the most grizzled veterans who can describe every feature of a shambling mound.
Written by Celeste Conowich and developed for the Venture Maidens liveplay game, the Venture Maidens campaign guide builds a high fantasy world of epic quests in a land where the borders of the world grow thin. The Venture Maidens Campaign Sourcebook includes all new character creation and mechanics for following the epic quests held in the hearts of our heroic characters. The book expands out into some excellent gamemaster suggestions sure to improve any game. It's a beautiful book encapsulating a wonderful realm of high fantasy and the heroes who walk within it.
Looking over these ten books I'm amazed by the amount of material we have for this game we love. Though we sit less than two years away from a new version of the game, we still have tons of settings, campaigns, and monsters to fill out our 5e games as long as we want them to run. Because may of these books focus on settings and campaigns, we can be sure to find value in them regardless of which system we choose to run.
Pick up one of these books, sit back, and fall into another world.
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