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The best DnD books of 2023, ranked

We’ve read, reviewed, and ranked every Dungeons and Dragons book of the year – here’s which 5e books are worth a tabletop gamer’s time.

DnD books and Wizards of the Coast art of a floating skull

If you’ve been gifted some money during the Christmas holidays, you might be looking to pick up some shiny new DnD books. But with more Dungeons and Dragons titles arriving every year, how’s a tabletop gamer to choose where they spend their dough? Read the reviews, of course.

As it happens, I’ve reviewed every mainline DnD book that came out in 2023. I’ve got all sorts of opinions on these new sourcebooks and DnD campaigns, and I reckon I can help you choose the right title for your table. Behold, the sum of my year reviewing Dungeons and Dragons.

Before we begin, I want to make it clear that I’m just ranking first-party D&D books here. There have been some wonderful third-party titles released this year, and they’re simply too numerous for me to have thoroughly read and tested. I also haven’t included the awesome-looking Chains of Asmodeus sourcebook – which was published by Wizards of the Coast, but I’ve not had time to give my proper attention to.

From worst to best, here are the top Dungeons and Dragons books of the year:

The Book of Many Things and Deck of Many Things

5. The Book of Many Things

Released Unreleased
Review score 7/10

The Book of Many Things is a sourcebook themed around the iconic Deck of Many Things. It’s filled with various tools for a Dungeon Master to play around with – new encounters, monsters, magic items, lore, and more. The physical edition also comes with an expanded copy of the Deck of Many Things, which can be used for everything from fortune-telling to generating campaigns.

The Book of Many Things is in last place partly down to its production issues. Due to manufacturing mistakes with the deck, physical copies of the bundle won’t reach fans until January at least. Wizards of the Coast has promised to rectify all problems, but it’s hard to recommend a book that’s technically still not out yet.

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Plus, the quality of its content is hit-and-miss. There are plenty of hits, don’t get me wrong – I love the structure of this book, and I’d be keen to see more sourcebooks filled with themed content for Dungeon Masters to apply at their whim. Plus, the Deck of Many Things offers some innovative ways to generate characters, story beats, and worldbuilding. I’m very keen to use some of this book’s contents in my games.

The emphasis here is on some. For every interesting dungeon crawl and NPC generator, there’s a lackluster list of 5e magic items or DnD monsters. This book’s main issue is that it’s stretched the theme too thin, and things quickly get repetitive.

Read the full Deck of Many Things review here to learn more about this title.

DnD book Keys from the Golden Vaults

4. Keys from the Golden Vault

Released February 21
Review score 7/10

Keys from the Golden Vault is an anthology of DnD one shots based on the concept of heists. A mysterious organization (or perhaps simply your party’s greed) has driven you to commit grand acts of theft – which will take you everywhere from casinos to prisons to well-guarded treasure vaults.

Keys from the Golden Vaults is filled with creative ideas and unique details that help bring these adventures to life. And I’m a big fan of the anthology adventure format – Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel is one of my favorite D&D books of recent years. But Keys from the Golden Vault isn’t quite up to the standard of this 2022 anthology.

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My main issue is that D&D doesn’t have the mechanics to support an entertaining heist. Organized crime takes planning – something that can be difficult to make interesting in a tabletop RPG that encourages you to run into battle first and ask questions later. Plus, some adventures in Keys from the Golden Vault are incredibly stripped-back, with little support to help the DM run a complicated heist.

The writing has flair, but it’s not quite the sturdy foundation this book needs. Still, an experienced Dungeon Master who enjoys doing plenty of writing between the lines may find this an enjoyable source of inspiration.

Read more in my complete Keys from the Golden Vaults review.

Planescape DnD books

3. Planescape: Adventures in the Multiverse

Released October 17
Review score 7/10

Dungeons and Dragons brings the classic Planescape setting into the modern age with the three-book bundle, Planescape: Adventures in the Multiverse. Just like it did with Spelljammer in 2022, this expansive world has been crammed into a setting book, a bestiary, and campaign.

Fortunately, Planescape isn’t quite the paper-thin letdown that Spelljammer: Adventures in Space was. It manages to recapture some of the magic of this unique setting, and its campaign has some novel ideas that encourage dynamic play and interesting storytelling.

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It’s just a shame everything feels so squashed. I’m not a huge fan of the three-book format Wizards of the Coast has chosen for these nostalgia settings, as each book ends up feeling like a watered-down version of what it could have been. A fuller version of the Planescape campaign, or a setting book that dedicates more time to factions (one of the setting’s most defining features) are things I long for after reviewing this one.

Learn more in the full Planescape 5e review I penned this fall.

DnD book Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants

2. Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants

Released August 15
Review score 7/10

Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants is a sourcebook entirely dedicated to Giants. This means expanding on their lore, new stat blocks for Giant variants, and plenty of magic items, locations, and character options based on this theme.

While most of this will appeal to Dungeon Masters, there is a new Barbarian 5e subclass for players to try. The book is basically Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons but for Giants – though with less that’ll appeal to a player.

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I’m a fan of the Barbarian subclass introduced here in concept (and not just because it gives me an excuse to throw more things around the battlefield). The new approach to backgrounds and feats that precedes the release of One DnD also seems appealing, and there are more than a few monsters in this book I’m keen to test on my players.

The main thing that stopped this book from having a higher score was its scope. Most of the monsters come with a steep challenge rating. This is a welcome addition to a game that predominantly focuses on levels one to ten, but it also means fewer groups will find a use for this book. I’m glad Glory of the Giants exists, but I’m not sure I’d call it a book everyone needs to have.

Here’s my Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants review with more details.

DnD book Phandelver and Below: The Shattered Obelisk

1. Phandelver and Below: The Shattered Obelisk

Released September 19
Review score 8/10

Phandelver and Below: The Shattered Obelisk is a pre-written campaign that updates and expands fifth edition’s original starter set adventure, Lost Mine of Phandelver. Lost Mines is a beloved but flawed adventure, and Phandelver and Below doesn’t fully iron out its creases. But the new content added on the end has so much character that the campaign is my top D&D book of the year.

It’s worth mentioning my personal biases here – I love horror, and Phandelver and Below has it in spades. In particular, it delves into squishy body horror, turning the once-idyllic town of Phandalin into a site of mutation and psychic torment. Things get tough for your adventuring party, and they get messy.

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Phandelver and Below never really decides if it’s catering to D&D newbies or experienced adventurers. And I’m not convinced the whole thing is quite as balanced as it could be. But this campaign asks us to imagine a crossover between The Hobbit and The Thing, and I am seriously keen on the idea.

Here’s the full Phandelver and Below review.

In conclusion

You’ll notice a lot of similar review scores here. While this points out some of the pitfalls of a simplified scoring scale, it also tells us this was something of a mediocre year for DnD books. Nothing was worth a bad score, but nothing was truly great either.

As I said in my DnD retrospective for 2023, the releases have been somewhat underwhelming. There’s none of the glory of last year’s Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen or dazzle of Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel. Hopefully the DnD release schedule for 2024 has more promise.

For more year-end yuletide celebrations, check out Wargamer’s picks for ultimate Game of the Year 2023; our favorite videogames of the year; or our run down of 2023’s best new MTG cards.