Best Non-Core WotC supplements?

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Best Non-Core WotC supplements?

Post by Angel Tarragon » Tue Aug 02, 2016 6:20 am

Interested in hearing which supplements WotC produced for the 3E are considered by you fine folks to be the cream of the crop. What I mean by non-core are the books that do not expand on existing PHB material...what I want to hear are suggestions for books that aren't splats (regarding races and classes).
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Re: Best Non-Core WotC supplements?

Post by Big Mac » Tue Aug 02, 2016 7:46 am

I really lke the Hero Builder's Guidebook. It gets very mixed reviews (with lots of stars or one star) and that seems to be because some people dislike the fact that it doesn't add a ton of bonuses to characters. It's a book about improving the background information about a PC.

Some people think it is a basic book, for newbie players who have not learned to roleplay yet, but I thought it had potential to be used to help randomly generate backgrounds for NPCs.

It's not a perfect book, but the bad reviews tend to hold the price down low, making it good enough value for money, that any flawed sections are offset by the uber-low price. (Sometimes bad reviews are a good thing, for customers. ;) )
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Re: Best Non-Core WotC supplements?

Post by enderxenocide0 » Tue Aug 02, 2016 1:28 pm

Definitely Recommend
Stormwrack - While it DOES have races and classes, the focus is more on how to set up aquatic adventures, whether on ship or underwater. Includes rules on ship combat, as well.
Frostburn - This is arguably my favorite of the environmentally themed sourcebooks. Like Stormwrack, there are some races and classes, but the section on adventuring in extreme cold is great.
Heroes of Horror - This book has a ton of variant horror-themed rules systems as well as advice on running horror games. THAT SAID... if you really want to run a horror game, I'd actually recommend picking up the 3E Ravenloft Player's Handbook and Ravenloft Dungeon Masters Guide. The Ravenloft DMG, in my opinion, thoroughly covers horror games far better than HoH did.

Partially Recommend
Cityscape - Good for urban adventuring ideas, though I'll often grab campaign setting city guides like Sharn: City of Towers and Neverwinter Campaign Guide for roleplaying details.
Stronghold Builder's Guide - Are you building a base of operations for your PCs? Get this. The rules are... meh, but the concepts presented within are good sources of inspiration.
Heroes of Battle - Looking for a rules system to handle mass combat? It's here... but it's not my favorite. Still, some interesting ideas.

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Re: Best Non-Core WotC supplements?

Post by enderxenocide0 » Tue Aug 02, 2016 1:35 pm

Oh oh oh oh oh, almost forgot: Elder Evils. Fantastic epic or near-Epic level threats for the players. I don't know that I'd ever run a campaign based on the Elder Evils presented in the book, but it's some of the most interesting reads out there for 3E. The encounters and mini-adventures are very well designed as far as I can tell.

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Re: Best Non-Core WotC supplements?

Post by Yojimbo » Tue Aug 02, 2016 4:50 pm

Elder Evils
Exemplars of Evil
Lords of Madness

Partial recommend:
Tome of Battle - It was a valiant attempt at adding wuxia to D&D whilst retaining the D&D flavour. Unfortunately, the rules were a little half-baked.

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Re: Best Non-Core WotC supplements?

Post by willpell » Tue Aug 02, 2016 5:49 pm

I regard Unearthed Arcana as the fourth corebook, for the wealth of optional material it adds with which you can fine-tune your campaign (it's a lot like chapter 9 of the 5E DMG, only an entire book full of that sort of thing); Level Adjustment Buyoff is all but mandatory for rendering non-humanoid characters playable, and the Racial Paragon Classes and Alternate Class Features are also strongly recommended.

The Expanded Psionics Handbook is probably the all-around best supplement they ever produced - such a wealth of new material, yet relatively few compatibility issues with the existing stuff. I didn't want to like psionics when I started reading the book, but damned if I wasn't completely won over; it's a very satisfying crunch system, and the failures with the fluff can easily be dealt with through creativity. The only thing I didn't like was the monsters; those were mostly stupid. My recommendation would be that a psionics campaign should mostly feature other psions as the bad guys; you can make NPCs until the end of time with those rules, and thanks to the fact that no psion ever has access to all powers (looking at you, Druids), no two of them will ever have to be quite the same.

As a fan of flavor over mechanics, the generally ill-respected Weapons of Legacy supplement is one of my favorites, along with the better-liked Pact Magic chapter of Tome of Magic (alas, the other two-thirds of that book are a lot weaker). Every Weapon and every binder Vestige comes with a richly detailed backstory; the Weapons system isn't well-balanced and could use some tinkering, but it's worth the effort of fixing it, to be able to use such neat gear that will grow in power along with the players. Pact Magic is still my #1 aspect of the game; I only wish it had been an entire book to itself.

I'll second the mention of Elder Evils as well, and add that Lords of Madness is rich with similar detail for the most compelling (heheh) monstrous foes in the game. Draconomicon is a little more self-indulgent, you have to really like dragons to get into it, and they waste a lot of time giving largely irrelevant details like the exact proportions of the different species, but the art alone is worth it. And finally, I love the Races Of series, most especially Races of Destiny, which introduces the Illumian species as well as putting a lot of thought into the role of Humans in a fantasy world.

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Re: Best Non-Core WotC supplements?

Post by enderxenocide0 » Tue Aug 02, 2016 6:19 pm

Yeah, I'll echo pretty much everything willpell says there. I excluded Tome of Battle, Tome of Magic, and the Expanded Psionics Handbook initially because I figured they fell into your "splatbook" exclusion, but yeah, they're all great for some interesting rule systems as well as fluff. And somehow I missed Unearthed Arcana. That is a definite must. Although a lot of the mechanics do appear on the SRD, the book also contains design notes about why some of the variant rules exist and how they went about creating them in the first place. It's a fantastic insight into the design philosophy of 3.5. I'll also add that DMG2 contains some additional rules content, but is light on the explanations in comparison.

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Re: Best Non-Core WotC supplements?

Post by Dartamian » Wed Aug 03, 2016 2:09 am

I recommend Heroes of Horror (some great new base classes) and the Book of Exalted Deeds and to a lesser extent the Book of Vile Darkness.

I enjoy Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells, but I have always had a soft spot for devils.

Also, Dungeon Master's Guide II, but mainly for just the chapter on Saltmarsh.

And of course there are the Compendium books (Rules, Spell, and Magic Item) the compile a lot of stuff in one place (especially the Rule Compendium, handy reference guide).
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Re: Best Non-Core WotC supplements?

Post by Big Mac » Wed Aug 03, 2016 8:04 am

Dartamian wrote:Also, Dungeon Master's Guide II, but mainly for just the chapter on Saltmarsh.
Saltmarsh? What's that? Is that a mini campaign setting or something else?
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Re: Best Non-Core WotC supplements?

Post by lostanddamned » Wed Aug 03, 2016 2:04 pm

Big Mac wrote:I really lke the Hero Builder's Guidebook. It gets very mixed reviews (with lots of stars or one star) and that seems to be because some people dislike the fact that it doesn't add a ton of bonuses to characters. It's a book about improving the background information about a PC.

Some people think it is a basic book, for newbie players who have not learned to roleplay yet, but I thought it had potential to be used to help randomly generate backgrounds for NPCs.

It's not a perfect book, but the bad reviews tend to hold the price down low, making it good enough value for money, that any flawed sections are offset by the uber-low price. (Sometimes bad reviews are a good thing, for customers. ;) )
I'll second that, a great little book for helping both players and DM's in fleshing out their characters, NPC's and settings, well worth the money, despite what the nay sayers thought....
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Re: Best Non-Core WotC supplements?

Post by Khedrac » Wed Aug 03, 2016 2:33 pm

I like the Player's Handbook II - some stuff may be a bit overpowered but the Duskblade and Beguiler are nice additions.
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Re: Best Non-Core WotC supplements?

Post by Angel Tarragon » Wed Aug 03, 2016 5:57 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Dartamian wrote:Also, Dungeon Master's Guide II, but mainly for just the chapter on Saltmarsh.
Saltmarsh? What's that? Is that a mini campaign setting or something else?
It is a town, years after the events of the AD&D 1st edition U-series modules have taken place.
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Re: Best Non-Core WotC supplements?

Post by Krimson » Wed Aug 03, 2016 6:00 pm

I liked Unearthed Arcana and the Expanded Psionics Handbook as mentioned above. I'll add the Manual of the Planes and the Planar Handbook to the mix because... Planescape.

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Re: Best Non-Core WotC supplements?

Post by willpell » Wed Aug 03, 2016 6:44 pm

Oh, yes, Heroes of Horror! That's also one I should have mentioned. Very evocative.

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Re: Best Non-Core WotC supplements?

Post by Dartamian » Thu Aug 04, 2016 12:05 am

Also enjoy the Races Series (especially Races of Destiny and Races of Stone, not so much Races of the Dragon). Had generic histories for the races and I find Illumian and Goliath races intriguing (especially the Illumians). Races of Destiny had a sample town (or was it a city) for humans, I always like semi-fleshed out settlements.
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Re: Best Non-Core WotC supplements?

Post by willpell » Thu Aug 04, 2016 8:42 pm

Dartamian wrote:Also enjoy the Races Series (especially Races of Destiny and Races of Stone, not so much Races of the Dragon). Had generic histories for the races and I find Illumian and Goliath races intriguing (especially the Illumians). Races of Destiny had a sample town (or was it a city) for humans, I always like semi-fleshed out settlements.
I liked ROT Dragon; it has the Spellscales in it, as well as the first ancestor of today's Dragonborn. The only one of the series I find somewhat deficient is ROT Wild.

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Re: Best Non-Core WotC supplements?

Post by Dartamian » Fri Aug 05, 2016 2:30 am

willpell wrote:I liked ROT Dragon; it has the Spellscales in it, as well as the first ancestor of today's Dragonborn. The only one of the series I find somewhat deficient is ROT Wild.
I agree Races of the Wild is somewhat deficient, but I did enjoy the generic backgrounds for the halflings and elves. Not sure if I liked the wandering aspect of the halfling that was presented (too much kender flavor maybe?).

As for Races of the Dragon, at first I liked the concept of the dragonlike races, but they just seem to alien to me to be part of a humanoid (mammal? based) society, even more so than the traditional evil humanoids (Races of the Goblinoids or Races of Orckind would have been more interesting to me). But that's just me.
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Re: Best Non-Core WotC supplements?

Post by willpell » Fri Aug 05, 2016 8:08 pm

Dartamian wrote:
willpell wrote:I liked ROT Dragon; it has the Spellscales in it, as well as the first ancestor of today's Dragonborn. The only one of the series I find somewhat deficient is ROT Wild.
I agree Races of the Wild is somewhat deficient, but I did enjoy the generic backgrounds for the halflings and elves. Not sure if I liked the wandering aspect of the halfling that was presented (too much kender flavor maybe?).
I think they did that in an attempt to distinguish D&D halflings from Tolkien hobbits.
As for Races of the Dragon, at first I liked the concept of the dragonlike races, but they just seem to alien to me to be part of a humanoid (mammal? based) society, even more so than the traditional evil humanoids (Races of the Goblinoids or Races of Orckind would have been more interesting to me). But that's just me.
I agree that goblins and orcs badly need a races book. Wotco put out three books about Dragons because that's popular. I don't think Spellscales would get any stranger looks mingling in a human society than Elves or Illumians would (and certainly not more than Raptorans, Catfolk, Centaurs or Killoren). Dragonborn of Bahamut would experience friction, but more due to their attitude and their battle-bred nature than simply because they're reptiles. And the chapter on Draconic and Half-Dragon creatures goes out of its way to exagerrate the angst and ennui and loneliness and tragedy and isolation and emo whininess of these hybrids; the reality would probably be far less overblown. A half-dragon would be viewed much the same as an ogre, much the same as how we react to a guy covered in tattoos and scars with a rebar through his nose, and with the same distinct possibility that he's not as scary as he looks.

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Re: Best Non-Core WotC supplements?

Post by rabindranath72 » Mon Aug 15, 2016 10:25 am

Elder Evils (which has cool campaign ideas.)
All of the other books only had tiny bits I was interested in, so I was never very motivated to keep them and sold pretty much everything (apart from some FR stuff). Besides, I use the 3.0 rules; never moved to 3.5 and most of the later books were just filled with too much crunch.

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Re: Best Non-Core WotC supplements?

Post by dulsi » Tue Oct 18, 2016 2:43 am

I can't really answer that. My non-splat 3E books would be Frostburn and Lords of Madness. (Including splat books really doesn't increase it that much.) Lords of Madness collects I, Tyrant and the Illithiad and adds material for other aberrations. Unfortunately they didn't fix the complaints I had with the original material. The new material again ignores what came before like the Ecology of the Aboleth which I really liked. For that reason I can't say it is the cream of the crop.

Despite not owning it, I'd probably go with the Eberron Campaign Setting.
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