Whenever it comes to any list of ten greatest role-playing game products you're bound to find people saying things like, "But you didn't include my really obscure favorite product that was only produced for one summer by this blind, Irish immigrant on 14th St. in New Orleans. It totally predated all of your mainstream bullshit by, like, 150 years. You're fucking lame, dude."
I'm going to stop you right there, hipster. I make no pretense at knowing every esoteric book attached with the hobby - nor do I have any intention of wading through the muck of games like FATAL to prove my geek cred - but that doesn't mean that I don't want to hear about your favorites. So write your own lists and leave me a link in the comments (I'll add your link to the bottom of the page) or leave me a comment down below telling me about some of your favorites that I've missed and why they rock.
That's the fun part of lists like this: you get to tell everybody about your favorite products and hear about their favorites in return. So here's mine:
10.) Rifts Sourcebook #1 by Kevin Siembieda: This book was one of the first rpg books that I bought where you were encouraged to go far beyond dungeon room A12-c3 and its orc guarding a chest filled with dirty rags and smutty magazines. This book taught me that your players can be easily fooled by gigantic robots into overlooking the real threat, and that deception wasn't something that should be done only by your enemies. It taught me that the bad guys can hit and run and that winning a fight can sometimes be the worst move you can make.
9.) The Rythlondar Chronicles: I've never really been sure who wrote the majority of these but I'm eternally grateful that they did, and even more so to Risus Monkey for making them available to the world again. This Chronicle is an eye opening look into the early days of the hobby and into the beauty that comes when you remove yourself from your expectations for what a game should be and just create the game you want to play. Since I first found the pdf version of these Chronicles I've read them a half dozen times and every time I read them I find something new.
8.) Greyhawk Adventures by James M. Ward: This was my introduction to the world of Greyhawk. It's an easy read and there is so much inspiring material here that even ten years after starting running in the world of Greyhawk I'm still able to read it and bring something new into my game. I'd gush some more about this product but once I start I'll never stop.
7.) Carcosa by Geoffrey McKinney: This setting book burned up the OSR blog-o-sphere and the rpg forums years before I became involved in rpg blogging. What made this book so controversial? The Sorcerous Rituals where virgin sacrifices and the blood of imaginary children dribbled down cruel blades as vile gods were called back from the void that spawned them.
That people who wax on for days about Lovecraft and Howard got so damned up in arms over this book has always mystified me. This doesn't glorify the darkness that permated their worlds; instead it is a refreshing reminder to step away from your modern sensibilities and to remember that evil should be cruel. It pushes you away from the greys and dulled moral equivocations that wash our daily lives and for that I cannot express how great a book this is.
Since I picked up this book in pdf I have continuously regretted not purchasing it in hardback. It is a fantastic resource that will give you a world darker and crueler than your vanilla dreams have room for, and it will spawn villains that will haunt your player's waking moments.
6.) Rifts Ultimate Edition by Kevin Siembieda: I picked this book up because of its cover and for the next five years I disappeared into its world of made up terms and nebulous game play. I traversed the multiverse and learned that the only reason I should ever be stuck in one world is because I find it interesting and not because it's the only place I can go. I learned that if playing a cyborg dinosaur sounds cool then I shouldn't waste my time lamenting the idea and instead should play the hell out of it.
People knock Rifts for its lack of balance and for the continuously creeping power grab that makes each new supplement more powerful than the last; but they're missing the point of Rifts. This isn't a game where everything should balance like Fourth Edition and you should always feel safe in the idea that every encounter is going to be perfect for your level. Rifts is a game where you imagine a cool idea and chase it; it rewards cleverness and ingenuity and it punishes the dull and boring. This game kicks ass.
5.) Monster Mythology by Carl Sargent: I picked this book up because I had already encountered Sargent's works and had figured out that I could trust him to put out a consistently good book. This did not disapoint me. I found more gods to populate my imaginary worlds with then I could have imagined existed in this game. It changed so much of how I thought gods should behave in my worlds and how their temples and shrines should be done. Fantastic book and I've read it from cover to cover nearly a dozen times over the years.
4.) Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide by Gary Gygax: This book has been one of the greatest resources I've ever read when it comes to role-playing games. Time and again I have found myself wondering how I should do something as a Dungeon Master and Gygax has given me the answer through this book. If you haven't got a copy of it I cannot recommend you getting a copy enough.
3.) Iron Kingdoms Character Guide by the Awesome People at Privateer Press: I bought this book in the spring of 2005 because I kept finding their models and thinking they were amazing. When I opened the book to the first page of text I found myself wrapped up in this world and I haven't let go of it since.
I brought Ogrun, Gobbers, and Mechs into my games. I created currency trading and brought railroads, long rifles, and globe spanning conflicts to the forefront. I have dragons that shake the world when they enter play. I have devils that do things in my games that make Carcosa seem tame.
I have read this book cover to cover a dozen times since I bought it and I love it every time.
2.) Warhammer Fantasy Role Play by Games Workshop: I picked this book up after hearing about it for nearly a year and it was everything I had hoped for. There are rules that drive me up the wall and character creation makes me want to vomit - but the world that this game inhabits captured my imagination. I bought the Gotrik and Felix novels because of this book and my mind exploded with the Konrad Saga.
I have had vivid dreams that walked beside me during my waking hours expressly because of this book and I am so thankful for it. This book makes me want to be a better Dungeon Master and it makes me want to be a better storyteller. Leafing through its pages makes me want to be a better illustrator and if you can find a book that does that for you in this day and age then god damn it, it had better be at the top of your fucking list.