All you need to play most TTRPG games is the basic rules handbook. For Dungeons and Dragons in particular, this expands to include both the Player’s Handbook and the Dungeon Master’s Guide – simply because DnD uses a somewhat elaborate character creation system, with more stats and in-depth rules than many games. But most games, including DnD, also sell supplemental books and content, both fan made and official.
If you’re looking for more content for your table, they’re a great source of inspiration and content! But they can be a little difficult to start navigating, especially if you’re looking into making some of your own.
How RPG Supplements Work
RPG Supplements usually take a few different forms: modules, worldbuilding, and raw content.
Raw Content supplements are collections of gameplay material that can be used with the basic information already provided by the rulebooks. These are things like monster stat blocks, extra features and spells, or new classes and races.
You might sometimes find collections of these available for a higher price, but they’re also pretty common as small, individual freebies on social media.
Worldbuilding supplements are new locations and settings that can be used with the rule system that a game provides – think Ravenloft, Forgotten Realms, or the Swordcoast. These usually come with maps, histories, and organizations that can be used to craft campaigns without the actual storylines themselves being presented.
They usually include some raw content and rules exclusive to the module. Setting-specific races, monsters, and subclasses are common.
A module supplement is a pre-written adventure that you can run pretty much as-is (think Curse of Strahd or Storm Kind's Thunder). It’ll outline the monsters for your party to fight, places for them to go, and a plotline for them to follow!
Sometimes these will come with new content (usually monsters), or provide worldbuilding and setting information, but not always. Particularly good ones will naturally introduce the players and the DM to the location and backstory necessary for the adventure, while more bare-bones ones may intend for you to layer the adventure with your own backstory and content.
Are Paid Fan-made RPG Supplements Legal?
About 90% of the time, yes.
Official supplements are available for a lot of games, including Dungeons and Dragons. And even if they aren’t, pretty much all games are written under the Open Gaming License, which allows for publication of supplemental materials, and even new games, so long as they don’t violate specific trademarks (such as artwork or particular terms).
Official publishers aren’t the happiest about this, but the fact is that you can’t actually copyright the way in which a game is played, and many of their concepts come from folklore and popular culture anyway. So long as you aren’t using something that’s especially unique to a game (like, say, Count Strahd), you should be fine to either purchase or even publish your own as “system compatible content”.
If you do want to find content that uses DnD trademark content, like a new town for Icewind Dale, your best bet is DMsGuild. It’s run by DnD’s publishers and allows you to publish content that might otherwise violate their copyright. They do, however, take a portion of the profit.
Great RPG Supplements for DnD
Dungeons and Dragons, in particular, is known for its active community and frequent publication of supplemental content. Here are some of my favorite supplemental RPG books for DnD:
Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden
Rime of the Frostmaiden is something of a combination setting/module supplement. It outlines an adventure that takes characters exploring the frozen north, testing their endurance and mettle against Duergar, the Goddess of Frost, and a forgotten magical ruin. It’s one of the best long-form campaign modules that WotC (the DnD company) has put out, to date.
This is (at time of writing) the most recent publication of WoTC. It’s a collection of small, independent modules, centered around a great library called Candlekeep.
If you’re looking for one or two session ideas, it’s a great place to go to.
Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
If you aren’t looking for a setting or a module, just new rules and content, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything is a good choice. It contains various supplemental subclasses, races, and rulesets that can be used with pretty much any campaign.
Some are original to the book, while others are collected from modules and settings that happen to contain location-specific content.
Splendors and Shadow
If you’re like me, and never left your middle school steampunk phase, and can’t seem to find a good steampunk rpg, layering it over the established Dungeons and Dragons rules and setting works pretty well as a stand-in. These rules allow you to bring your players forward into an industrial steam-powered setting while maintaining all of the magic and fantasy of traditional DnD.
Adventures in Ravenloft
If you really like Curse of Strahd, but have already finished that particular campaign, there’s still lots of fun to be had in the horror setting of Ravenloft (if you aren't familiar with it, imaging a fantasy-flavored Transylvania). This particular collection of modules includes 10 adventures in that setting for you and your party to fight your way through.
GKF Presents: 8 Prestige Classes
Fans of 3e and 3.5e often miss the customizability of previous editions. One way that was achieved was through the use of Prestige Classes – classes you can work toward and take once you’ve established certain prerequisites with your normal class. They aren’t included in the normal 5e rules, but this supplement collection includes several that you can include in your games, if you so choose!
If you have any favorite supplements, or supplemental material of your own that you'd like to share - please leave a comment below with it! We're always looking for more!