Dungeons & Dragons rulebooks

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Three books are required for the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. The current Dungeons & Dragons requires the Player's Handbook, the Dungeon Master's Guide, and the Monster Manual. Variations of these three books have formed core manuals since the first edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, however many and varied different optional manuals have existed for all versions of Dungeons & Dragons. Core may also refer to the material presented in the books not being part of a specific fictional world setting, like Forgotten Realms or Dragonlance; but of a generic fictional world.

Because of the d20 System and Open Gaming License, with 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons there are many other optional manuals which are not officially "Dungeons & Dragons" but are fully compatible with Dungeons & Dragons. These can vary the game a lot or a little. Some of these options rather than being optional extra manuals can be used to replace some or all of the standard manuals. One most popular of these alternate manuals is Arcana Unearthed which is an alternative Player's Handbook. Castles & Crusades has alternatives for all the core manuals, producing a simpler D&D type game.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1st edition)[edit]

The popularity of the first three core rulebooks the Monster Manual (1977), the Players Handbook(1978), and the Dungeon Master's Guide (1979), encouraged TSR to publish more and more books. Before the second edition of the game was released, there were over a dozen hardbound sourcebooks. Many were sourcebooks and optional rules, however Unearthed Arcana (1985) represented a significant supplement for both the Players Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide.

The first edition manuals, though no longer official play items, are highly prized by collectors, particularly early printings. Examples in good condition (which is rare since these books got a lot of use from players) can fetch prices many times their cover value.

2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons[edit]

The 1989 2nd edition saw a complete revision of the Players Handbook and the Dungeon Master Guide. The Monster Manual was replaced by the Monstrous Compedium loose leaf binder which was in turn replaced by the Monstrous Manual (1993)

The second edition expanded the number of books, most notably with the "Complete Handbook" or "Complete Book of" series, which featured handbooks for almost every race and class; gnomes and halflings shared one handbook, and the only specialist wizard to receive his own handbook was the necromancer. Several other archetypes, such as the barbarian, and campaign-specific concepts, such as the gladiator of Dark Sun, were also given their own handbooks. The handbooks introduced the concept of "kits", which were essentially specialized versions of character classes. Many of these, such as the Bladesinger (an elven fighter/wizard who could fight and cast spells at the same time), were considered to be grossly unbalanced, both in comparison to other kits and in particular to characters who did not use kits.

Several sourcebooks, such as the Book of Artifacts and Monstrous Compendium Appendices, provided new versions of rules, items, spells, or creatures that had been present in previous editions of the game but had been removed, for whatever reason, from the second edition of the game. While some of these conversions were direct adaptations of existing statistics into the slightly modified second edition rules, others, like the optional psionics system, were completely reinvented from the ground up and had little in common with their previous incarnations.

The Player's Option series of rulebooks were released in the mid-1990s and introduced many optional rules into the game: combat and warfare rules in Player's Option: Combat & Tactics; a character customization system in Player's Option: Skills & Powers; new spells and spellcasting rules in Player's Option: Spells and Magic; and rules for advancement to what would later become known as epic character levels in Dungeon Master Option: High-Level Campaigns.

3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons[edit]

Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons clarified and streamlined the rules, and for the first time clearly labeled the Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide and Monster Manual as the three core rulebooks. The designers made a deliberate attempt to make the rules more internally consistent.[1]:255-262 For example, these editions provided constant and consistent rules for, effects such as invisibility and fatigue that were applied to all players and monsters. Prior to third edition, different game mechanics to describe the same idea were used in different sources. A second example is that in 3rd edition, rolling high on a d20 test is always the desired outcome, while in prior editions it was desirable to roll high on some d20 tests such as attack rolls, but it was desirable to roll low on others such as saving throws. More significant was the release of most of these rules as open source, in the form of a System Reference Document that could be used by third party game companies to create their own products compatible with Dungeons & Dragons.[1]:272-275

4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons[edit]

In the 4th edition, the three core rulebooks (the Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide and Monster Manual) remain, keeping the consistency of the past edition.