Over the last couple of years, Wizards of the Coast has been pumping out content with new releases happening just every couple months. They have been exploring new realms in both setting books and adventure books as well as releasing a wealth of new player options. As a new player, it can be very overwhelming trying to figure out where to start and know what options are the right ones for you.
In this article, I will go over what I believe to be the three most useful books you could own as a new D&D player in addition to the Player’s Handbook. The PHB (which can be found here) is where any new player should start as it covers the rules for character creation and gameplay and gives you the base classes used in the game. These options will further build on the classes and concepts in the PHB offering you more customization options to help you create a more personal character. I’ll go over the three reasons you need each book and I’ll also suggest what to stay away from and what to look forward to and reasons why later on. Now let’s get into it!
Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
Written from the perspective of the multiversal traveling witch Tasha, her guide to everything is the best book for players to have come out in the past two years. The book is primarily player-focused, and though it does have some tools for the DM like magic items, puzzles, and session zero tips, the player character options make up the bulk of this release. Below are the three reasons you need this book as a player.
Tasha’s cauldron overflows with a total of 26 new subclass options that cover all of the core classes presented in the Player’s Handbook. It also presents new optional class features that can be used along with the core classes. In addition, it also contains a full reprint of the Artificer class from Eberron: Rising From the Last War, including all 3 of its subclasses.
There are several feats to help you further customize your character as they level up. With feats like the Crusher, Telepathic, and the Gunner feat you can make your character more and more unique. Then there’s my favorite Chef, which allows you to feed your party on short rests and you can make treats to give to them to use later to gain temporary hit points. Super cool!
The collection of spells in this book isn’t super extensive, but the spells that are in here are all worth having available to you. Featuring spells like the deadly Blade of Disaster, the protective Sword Burst, and the oh-so-good cantrip Mind Sliver, this release also features a series of summoning spells finally allowing magic users to summon a variety of different creature types. And with the spells created by the infamous witch herself like Tasha’s Caustic Brew and Tasha’s Otherworldly Guise, you’ll have yourself an arcane arsenal nobody will want to mess with.
Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons
In the guise of a doddering old fool named Fizban, the mighty platinum dragon Bahamut gives you an intimate look into what makes a dragon a dragon, and what makes each of their kind unique. Overall, the content in this book is more geared for the DM, but there are a handful of dragon-themed player options in this book that make it a must-have.
Updated Dragonborn Race
As a player, this alone is enough of a reason to own this book. The Dragonborn race has been around since the core races in the PHB, but Fizban gives them the update they so badly needed. Both the chromatic and metallic dragonborn subraces get leveled up with new traits and they introduce the long-anticipated gem dragonborn featuring new breath weapons and magical wings.
Monk & Ranger Class Options
The subclass options in this book are limited with options only existing for the Ranger and Monk classes. The Way of the Ascendant Dragon monk subclass is for monks that studied under a dragon master and gain draconic abilities like a breath weapon, limited-use spectral wings, and even a dragon’s frightful presence and damage resistance. The Drakwarden ranger subclass gives you the chance to raise a drake companion that fights along your side and whose size increases and abilities strengthen as you level up.
Though there is only a handful of spells collected here, all seven of them are worthy additions to your hoard. Most of the spells boast the names of the dragons that crafted them like Ashardalon’s Stride and Rime’s Binding Ice so you know they are not to be taken lightly. There is even a spell from Fizban himself and one that transforms you into a draconic version of yourself.
Van Ricthen’s Guide to Ravenloft
This title is also largely focused on material for the DM as it expands on the universe of Dungeon’s & Dragons’ most popular adventure, Curse of Strahd, and the other Domains of Dread. The settings involved in this book are all themed for horror adventures so it is no wonder why this made it on my list. That being said, if you plan on creating a character to play in Curse of Strahd, or any other horror-themed campaign, there are a handful of useful player options worth taking a bite out of.
This book contains the first attempt at a new way to think about character races called lineages. WotC has seemed to have moved on from this idea as lineages have not been featured in any releases since, but the three options offered are all fun, and interesting enough, that there is no reason you shouldn’t consider them as an option. The Dhampir lineage allows you to play a blood-sucking vampire, while the Hexblood is infused with eldritch or fey energy, possibly from a hag’s curse, and the Reborn allows you to forgo the petty cares of the living as an undead.
Bard & Warlock Class Options
Like Fizban’s, this book only contains two new subclass options but both can give you a particularly ghoulish feel to fit your next trek through a dread realm. The bardic College of Spirits forms bonds with the undead to seek them for guidance and can even commune with them to be granted extra spells. The Undead warlock subclass allows you to take on an aspect of your undead patrons dreadful form, deal extra necrotic damage while being resistant to it yourself, and even avoid a close call with death every few days.
This guide to the Domains of Dread features a reprint of the Haunted One background from Curse of Strahd, finally giving players access to it without having to buy the campaign book. It also features a new background, the Investigator, which gets you some special starting equipment and a knack for being able to gather information from people or places. On top of these two backgrounds, this release also features several optional horror-themed features that can be swapped out for the feature in any other background.
Lookout For: Spelljammer: The Astral Adventurer’s Guide
Recently WotC announced their next campaign setting to be released, Spelljammer: Adventures in Space. Spelljammer will provide a basis for DM’s to use to create adventures in the Astral Plane in a three-book bundle product. The Astral Adventurer’s Guide will contain everything a player needs to a character into, or out of the Astral Plane with new space-themed races, class options, spells, magic items, and more. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until summer to travel among the stars with a release date set for August 16th, 2022.
Avoid: Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse
Let me be very clear here, I do NOT recommend this book for any players, new or veteran. Yes, they may have collected all of the playable races from various books into one convenient place, but the nerfing of quality is devastating with this release. 30 playable races, none of them new to the game, many of them stripped of their most interesting qualities. Many races are updated with baseline stats and traits that make them operate like every other race and remove some of the most impactful roleplaying aspects of them. If you want your character to feel like every other character at the table then go ahead and get this book. If you want fun, interesting roleplaying with unique individual races, stay away from it.
- First off, if you are new to creating D&D characters, start by getting yourself the Player’s Handbook and read through it. You can check out my earlier article, 3 Books For The D&D Noob, for more on the PHB and other player book options.
- After that get yourself these 3 books to expand on your available options: Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons, and Van Ricthen’s Guide to Ravenloft.
- Mark your calendars for August 16th and await to take to the stars and beyond with Spelljammer: Adventures in Space.
- Avoid Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse like the plague.