It has been a long time since I have posted a Resources post including rules and supplement books that could benefit you through a number of campaigns. This was the original point of the series, but it expanded to include so much more. While books, movies, games, and all the other things that can inspire you or give you new RPG experiences are great, I wanted to get back to the article’s roots. Today I have three of my favorite resources from Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons. All of these can be found on eBay, I’m sure, and I am almost positive they are all on the D&D Classics site as PDFs for those looking (of course don’t quote me on that). Each of these includes something that I loves to see in supplements because of my studies and love of biology.
Draconomicon: The Book of Dragons
Chapter one of this book is amazing, especially with all the art. Anatomical diagrams abound here as you can learn everything you wanted to know about the biology and behavior of dragons. From the workings of the eyeball to the special organ that dragons use to breathe their deadly fire, acid, or lightning. If anatomy and physiology doesn’t do it for you, the book includes natural history as well, describing the life of a dragon from egg to death and what drives the dragon’s behavior during these periods in life. If this still isn’t enough you can look at psychology, society, or religion. Chapter one has it all.
The rest of the book is, unsurprisingly, steeped in third edition mechanics. This doesn’t stop it from being useful. Dragon prestige classes and the monster section can help you create new or unique creatures and villains for your game. The items in the player’s portion can be used as interesting templates for items in your game. The last chapter provides many examples of dragons, pre-built for you. While all those numbers and stats may not be helpful, everything else is included to create the entire personality, profile, and lair for a dragon in your game. This includes maps, which are universally useful! When it comes down to it, if dragons play an important part in your game, regardless if they are classic D&D types, this book belongs on your self as a resource.
Libris Mortis: The Book of Undead
This book is, in many respects, the same thing as the Draconomicon. This should be unsurprising as they come from the same era of D&D and are meant to be thematic books providing information of all kinds. That is precisely why I am including this book though. I don’t know about you guys, but I have seen very few resources that try to reveal the anatomy and physiology of undead creatures. With Libris Mortis, that is exactly something we get. We have information on their supernatural metabolisms, various diets that undead tend to have, and how they may heal. There is also something that I feel people tend to forget when dealing with undead: personality. They are immortal and, usually, evil. But what is it like to be immortal? Chapter one also gets into compassion, society, and religion; all very useful subjects if your campaign is significantly undead themed.
Like other all-encompassing source books, there are plenty of magic spell, items, and monsters to use for inspiration. Where the Draconomicon has example dragons, this book provides some variety when it comes to undead. There are some specific characters developed for undead like liches and vampires, but for something like skeletons there are a number of alternate versions. While this is most useful in 3.X campaigns they can provide some ideas. For example, the hound archon zombie. Usually when you think of zombies you have humanoids or maybe animals. Occasionally you get the crazy weird ones like a beholder. But what if a realm of outsiders, perhaps even angels, somehow succumbed to undeath? Finally this book gives some examples of cults of undeath and who doesn’t like a nice cult?
Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss
This book is lacking in my favorite areas, compared to the other books. It does cover physiology of demons, even including a dissection of a dretch. One of the more helpful sections might be demonic life cycles and a random table of spectacular demonic deaths. Other helpful bits of information for any game include how demons get to our world, demonic possession, and demonic archetypes. Different types of demons and a variety of demon lords are also included, being very specific to the D&D mythos. Nevertheless, these can be very helpful in developing your own major demons, the slightly less chaotic puppeteers behind the curtain.
Where the other books provide items, this book has artifacts. In many stories involving demons, some dark artifact generally is involved. This book supplies you with some artifacts like this, giving you a good basis for your own and examples on the dark materials such things are made out of. I would say the most useful thing about Hordes of the Abyss would be the last chapter. In it there are many examples of the various planes of the abyss. Each one includes themes, denizens, and other descriptive information. Digging through this chapter can give you hundreds of ideas for your own campaign, whether its an event, a corrupted region, or a demonic demiplane.