I collect D&D manuals. I’ve only played in 4e and 5e, but I have a large swath of books that I can look over. And even though the rules within don’t do me any good, I still find useful things inside of them.
I don’t remember when I started acquiring these books. I know it wasn’t in the 4e days, as I didn’t even have the basic books. Or maybe it was in 4e, on the tail end, with Heroes of Shadow, Elements, and the Feywild. I’m not sure exactly what the titles of those books are. I have them somewhere and I could go and look, but that’s beyond the scope of this ramble. That’s a planned article concept, right there. Anyway, at the end of 4e, they made this loose trilogy of books. They where fairly generic D&D splat books, each one dedicated to one of the planes, each with a slew of feats, background, paragon paths and epic destinies. But they also all had a solid dollop of lore. The Feywild book, especially, had almost, but not quite, enough lore and the like to be a setting guide.
And although I didn’t start my fervor of acquisition right then, I slowly began to find the rest of the 4e set on Amazon and related sites. I also kept my eye out at used book stores and the reselling corner of gamestores. My up coming trip to Colorado contains 2 such stores, with the express idea of making a bee line for that sweet, sweet RPG section. (Which reminds me, I ought to at least try to make a decent list of what I have, so I don’t double buy. These things do have a hefty price tag, even used…)
What do I use these for, I hear you ask. Well, other than the joy of having, with is much joyful, I like to take one down randomly and flip through it, to see if any ideas hop out at me. I love looking at older Monster Manuals. Some of the foes have slipped through the cracks and are absent in 5e. Others have changed across the years and looking at how they used to be can explain a lot of how to use them and how they see the world. (Gnolls have changed a lot over the editions. They’re demon based, sorta, now, when they used to be more natural)
I’ve also been buying books that give very conflicting ways to run ship battles. (For TSI!) I have 3 and I’m looking for a specific fourth that I’ll snag while in CO. (Either used or just buy it online and have it shipped to my folk’s place, where I can continue thinking too much about D&D…) I’ve learned a lot of interesting things from these ship books and I have a lot of interesting numbers, all of which I think I might throw out in favor of combining two or three systems I found online.
It’s a touchy subject.
Out of all of the books I have, all of them have something to offer (Okay, except for Mystic Races. I regret that one) But if I had to pick one of these source books to recommend to DMs, it would be Gary Gygax’s World Builder. Which, upon finding that link, I just learned is second in a series of volumes that is at least 6 deep. So that’ll be expensive. This book is nothing more than a large series of lists and definitions. Some of them are rollable, but most are just alphabetical. And the lists are very random. Types of birds, colors by association, weapons and armor, rooms in a house is one I use a lot. And a lot of these lists aren’t new, but they’re collected. When I was scrounging for a room or two for my game last Saturday, I reached for this book, hit up the index, then scanned down a list of fifty random rooms, until I decided a cold room was nessicary. That’s the power of this book. If I need to think of an example of something, I have a list that can help. That’s why I recommend it.
There are a lot of other good books on my shelves. The more I stop dancing around TSI’s races, the sooner I’ll pull out the Advanced Race Guide and see about balancing them, for example. I have a lot of resources available to me and I constantly under utilize them. Maybe I can do a synopsis or a review or something for future rambles? That seems plausible.
But that’s it for this one!