Only Ten – Ameron’s List

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on July 25, 2012

“If you could only keep ten of your printed RPG books, which would you pick?”

This is the question Brendan from the gaming blog Untimately asked on Monday. He then proceeded to share his ten. Many of his readers shared their list in the comments section of the original post and I’ve seen more than a few bloggers post their essential ten list around the blogosphere. Today it’s my turn to join in this show and tell exercise and share my list.

Yesterday I looked around my gaming room to try to narrow it down to just ten books. After giving it some consideration I finally narrowed it down to just ten (which was a lot harder than I thought it would be). I’ve actually cheated in a few instances and grouped a few books together as one entry, but the reasons will be apparent as you read through my list.

You’ll notice the absence of any PHB, DMG and MM from my list. This was a deliberate choice. In my opinion some iteration of these books should be on everyone’s list; after all they’re called core books for a reason. I approached this task with the assumption that the core books were a given and these were the next ten I’d choose after those.

Rather than struggle with ranking, I decided instead to list the books alphabetically. I want you to see my list as a collection. Theses all made my list and that’s all that should matter, not which one is more important or useful that the next.

The Art of Dungeons & Dragons
The Art of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
The Art of Dragon Magazine

Some of the most influential and creative ideas I’ve ever had were inspired by great fantasy art. These books collect the “Renascence” of D&D art from the 80s and continue to send my imagination into overload every time I flip through the pages.

DC Adventures Hero’s Handbook

As a huge comic book nerd I get giddy at the prospect of quantifying my favourite characters in a the context of RPG mechanics. This isn’t the first RPG based on DC comics but it is certainly the best.


I’m always looking for great locations to set my adventures. These books provide a wealth of information for any adventure or campaign set in cities or dungeons. It also has great resources for designing either from scratch.

Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide
Wilderness Survival Guide

These classics are very mechanics-heavy and read more like encyclopedias than gaming source books. Yet I keep going back to them when I need details to make my adventures set in the wilderness or underground more realistic and exciting.

Eberron Campaign Setting

This is the book that started it all, my love affair with Eberron. My home campaigns have been set here ever since I pick this up. This is D&D all grown up. It’s a world filled with political intrigue and adventure. Whether you’re just starting out with D&D or you’re an experienced veteran there’s something in Eberron to meet everyone’s tastes.

Encyclopedia Magica

When these came out they contained every magic item ever published in a D&D book. Literally thousands of entries. When ever I need a random item or a plot hook I can open any volume to a random page and find something that will work. They also serve as fantastic inspiration if you’re going to create unique magic items for your home games. There are even a few funny items that are obviously intended to be more funny than functional.

Greyhawk Ruins

Three towers and 26 dungeon sub-levels. This super-adventure took my home group from level 1-20. There was so much going on that it never got boring. The maps are full colour (a rarity for the time) and still hold up to this day. Whether I need a mega-dungeon or just a few rooms, I’m always “borrowing” from this adventure.

Grimtooth’s Traps
Grimtooth’s Traps Too
Grimtooth’s Traps Fore

What’s a dungeon without traps? These books provide some of the most deadly and inspired traps I’ve ever seen. No matter what edition of D&D you’re playing this book will have a trap that you can throw at the party (especially if you’re just trying to kill them).

Lankhmar: City of Adventure

Before Waterdeep there was Lankhmar. Every time we needed a city map we defaulted to Lankhmar. The white squares were easily filled with geomorphs making the districts different each time. Seeing Fritz Leiber’s characters statted out was just a bonus.

Realms of Horror

Tomb of Horrors, White Plume Mountain, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, and The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth all collected in this one adventure. This was Gary Gygax at his best. These classic adventures are a must-have for every serious D&D gamer. I love reading Gygax’s adventures. The way he structures his adventures are inspirational and his descriptions are as good as any novel. If you’re lucky enough to actually play any of these adventurers you’ll never forget the experience.

It was really difficult to narrow this down to just ten. Which items on my list do you agree or disagree with? What printed books in your personal collection would make your list? Let the discussion and debating begin.

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1 Joe July 25, 2012 at 11:16 am

That’s a fantastic list. In this world of ever-more digital tools, we sometimes forget how much fun it is to get a new book and pore through the pages, making notes in the margins and oohing at the content. Here are a few that’d make my list:

(oWoD) CORAX… From the old (2nd ed) World of Darknes Werewolf: The Apocalypse breed books of other shifting races. In a world of horrific violence where the planet itself was dying, the Corax book decided to laugh at it all. However, unlike some of the “crazy” species in WoD (Malkavians, Marauders, etc), the Corax were light-hearted in an eyes-wide-open kind of way that looked at the world practically and told it like it was.

(D&D4e) INTO THE UNKNOWN: THE DUNGEON SURVIVAL HANDBOOK… This recently released book was everything I’d been wanting in a 4e book since the beginning. If all the 4e books had this level of thought put into every aspect, we wouldn’t be talking about D&DNext right now.

(D&D4e) UNDERDARK… This book was so jam-packed full of stories, hooks, locations, and societies that I didn’t at all mind that there were no mechanics. Probably the best D&D story book I’ve ever owned.

(D&D2e) DROW OF THE UNDERDARK… Sure, it’s a 2nd ed product that is full of mathematical system flaws. But it’s got a drow dictionary in it! Also, it was great to finally get all the info on Drow set down in one place, so we didn’t have to reread our Drizz’t books to figure out how some drowish thing might work.

(independent) VIOLENCE: THE RPG… this wasn’t so much an actual RPG book, but a commentary on the mindset of adventurers. It took a D&D party and put them in the modern day. So instead of kicking in dungeon doors to kill goblins and take their loot, you were breaking into apartments to murder the inhabitants and steal their stuff. Really put a lot of perspective on things, and I sometimes still have power-gamer/munchkin-type players read it so that they realize the sort of people they might be if they invade and kill indiscriminately.

(SJG) ROBIN’S LAWS OF GOOD GAMEMASTERING… An older text, but absolutely necessary for anyone who wants to run a really engaging session with the variety of people who are drawn to the gaming table.

2 froth July 25, 2012 at 11:25 am

some really good picks! i mean, how underrated is lankhmar? greyhawk ruins is so good you can almost just throw it open with your eyes closed, point anywhere, then look at where youre pointing and be instantly inspired. the 1e wilderness and dungeoneer’s survival guides are so fun to read; classics to be sure. though i own realms of horror, i am not a real fan of how the adventures were revised. take the lost caverns of tjocanth for example. i much prefer the original. still it is nice to have all of those adventures together so i dont regret the purchase.

i would have to think for a while about a top ten but certainly the 6th edition of call of cthulhu would make the list, and i dont see how i could get away from the 1e core books, the birthright box, world of greyhawk, or the hollow world box. i dont know if naming box sets is cheating!

3 froth July 25, 2012 at 11:33 am

gads, i forgot the rules cyclopedia! that one should be obvious

4 Philo Pharynx July 25, 2012 at 11:55 am

Obviously this Brendan is a unbelievably cruel person for suggesting this. I’d have trouble limiting myself to ten systems, let alone ten books. Then again, I don’t think I’d have a problem getting rid of my books so long as I can keep the PDF’s. (yes, some products may not have official PDF’s, but when I’ve bought the book, the PDF is simply an archival copy.)

5 Michael July 25, 2012 at 7:53 pm

I would have questioned your credentials if you had not mentioned Dungeonscape and Cityscape. That being said, good on ya!

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