Must-Read Books Based On Your D&D Class
Dungeons & Dragons players are notorious for stockpiling character ideas that they’ll — probably — never get to play. But what happens when your character creation well runs dry? This list of must-read books based on your D&D class has some truly fantastic reading recommendations that are all chock-full of great character ideas you can pilfer for yourself, because what good TTRPG player — or, ahem, Dungeon Master — doesn’t steal like a rogue?
The world’s most popular role-playing game has been the focus of some truly terrible PR in recent months. A leaked draft revealed that D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast planned to replace the system’s Open Game License (OGL). That license allows third parties to make and distribute D&D tie-in materials within certain parameters. Perhaps most importantly, it allows the people who write unofficial Dungeons & Dragons supplements, such as monsters and adventures, to make money and retain the rights to their creations. Under the proposed OGL replacement, however, “Wizards would be able to use content made by third parties without recourse, royalties, or even asking permission.”
Fans were understandably furious. Wizards of the Coast eventually rescinded their plans to replace the OGL after users canceled their D&D Beyond subscriptions en masse. By then, many lifelong D&D players had turned their backs on the system. In two weeks following the leak, Pathfinder publisher Paizo sold eight months’ worth of copies of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook.
This is all to say that, if you’re not a D&D player for reasons related to the OGL, I get it. I’m not either. I’ve used D&D classes to make this list, but there’s no reason why one of these books couldn’t inspire your character for another TTRPG, such as Pathfinder, Mage: The Ascension, or Stars Without Number.
Must-Read Books Based On Your D&D Class
Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim – Artificer
The emperor’s getting married, and his bride-to-be must have three perfect, magical dresses. To make sure she has only the best the empire can offer, her groom summons 12 renowned tailors to compete for the job of dressing her. When one of the invitees’ ailing health prevents him from competing, his daughter takes his place. Girls cannot work as tailors in the empire, so Maia must disguise herself as a boy to enter the competition. Intrigue abounds, however, and this young tailor will need more than magical needlecraft to win the emperor’s favor.
Crier’s War by Nina Varela – Artificer
Long ago, human engineering Made the Automae. Then the Automae gained sentience and forced their creators into subservience at the end of a long and brutal war. Even though she’s part of the privileged class of citizens who were Made instead of born, the Sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier, is in danger. On one side, her betrothed: an Automae separatist who wants to be rid of humanity for good. On the other, her new handmaiden: an orphaned human named Ayla, who has planned out Lady Crier’s assassination. But there’s something about Crier that Ayla didn’t anticipate. Is it possible that the Sovereign’s daughter was made with the ability to love?
The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French – Barbarian
Jackal is one of the Grey Bastards: a band of half-orcs whose sworn duty is to patrol the wasteland that lies between the human and orc nations. He believes in their mission, but he does not believe that the Claymaster is the right leader for the Bastards. When Jackal’s challenge to the Claymaster’s authority is shot down, he’s banished to live alone in the deserts he once patrolled. Fearing for the Bastards’ safety, Jackal embarks on an epic quest to win back his place among the tribe.
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso – Barbarian
Five years after Prince Rayyel abandoned his wife, Queen Talyien, on the night before their coronation, he requests her presence at a meeting in a foreign nation. The meeting doesn’t go according to plan. Talyien foils her would-be assassins, but soon finds herself with bigger problems. She doesn’t know who sent them, whether her husband truly wanted to reconcile, or whether she’ll ever see home again.
Babel by R.F. Kuang – Bard
Fans of the College of Eloquence subclass would do well to look to R.F. Kuang’s Babel for inspiration. The story here centers on Robin, a Cantonese orphan raised in London. His life’s aspiration is to attend Oxford University’s Royal Institute of Translation, where linguistics and magic align. But the magic Robin has spent his lifetime studying to apply is the same magic that gives Britain the power to dominate the world — including the land of Robin’s birth.
Siren Queen by Nghi Vo – Bard
Glamour bards, look no further. Nghi Vo’s Siren Queen follows Luli Wei: a rising Hollywood starlet whose Chinese heritage marks her for typecasting in a racist industry. She refuses stereotypical roles in favor of playing monstrous villains and manages to carve a successful career path. But Hollywood is a realm of wicked magic and dangerous deals in this alt-history novel, and Luli will soon find herself facing enemies from all sides.
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee – Blood Hunter
Ninefox Gambit opens Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire trilogy. The novel centers on Cheris, a disgraced military leader who must undertake an impossible mission to win back the favor of the empire she serves. Her only ally is the ghost of a brilliant military tactician, Jedao, whose history Cheris desperately does not wish to repeat.
The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski – Blood Hunter
Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher series should be the first stop on any Order of the Mutant player’s D&D TBR. Mercenary Geralt of Rivia is the proto-blood hunter: intentionally mutated at a young age to make him an ultra-efficient monster slayer. The series’ non-chronological publication order can make it a little daunting to newcomers, but starting with The Last Wish should give you a firm foundation.
Servant of the Underworld by Aliette de Bodard – Cleric
The first novel in Aliette de Bodard’s Obsidian and Blood trilogy, Servant of the Underworld follows Acatl, an Aztec priest whose brother has been implicated in a gruesome crime. A priestess has gone missing, her room covered in blood. Only Neutemoc, brother of Acatl and member of the illustrious Jaguar Knights, was at the scene. Acatl must race against the clock to solve the strange crime before his brother is executed for murder.
Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw – Cleric
Dr. Greta Helsing isn’t like other doctors, namely because she isn’t exactly concerned with the living. Instead, Dr. Helsing practices on the undead: mummies, ghosts, and other children of the night. But when someone starts murdering her clientele, along with human Londoners, the good doctor must flex her investigation skills to find the killer.
This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron – Druid
Briseis gets the chance to put her magical green thumb to work after she inherits her aunt’s apothecary business and property. Luckily, Bri’s knack for plant care comes in handy when her aunt’s clients come looking for cures for what ails them. Her talents make her popular, but her ignorance of the trade attracts those who want to exploit her abilities. Throw in a secret buried somewhere within Bri’s new home, and you have a simmering fantasy-mystery that will keep readers guessing until the very end.
The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner – Druid
Members of the local Orthodox community want little to do with Liba and Laya’s parents, because the girls’ mother converted to Judaism. Still, Mami and Tati answer the call when news reaches them regarding a relative’s illness. They leave Liba and Laya alone in the house, but not before revealing their family legacy: the ability to shapeshift.
The Unbroken by C.L. Clark – Fighter
Former child soldier Touraine’s latest mission is a real doozy. Not only is she finally returning to the nation where she was born — a land now colonized by the empire that stole her away when she was young — but she’s also responsible for guarding the emperor’s niece. Luca believes that delaying a coming revolution will win her support when she attempts to overthrow her uncle. She needs Touraine’s help to make sure her plans go off without a hitch, however. Luca’s request forces Touraine to confront her conflicted emotions about her birthplace and her military career — and that’s before the two begin to develop feelings for each other.
Lone Wolf and Cub Omnibus, Vol. 1 by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima – Fighter
This manga series follows Ogami Ittō, a samurai and executioner living in Tokugawa-era Japan. Assassins murder Ittō’s wife and their servants, leaving only the samurai and his newborn son, Daigorō, alive. Ittō’s woes do not stop there, however. Planted evidence leads the Shōgun to believe that his executioner was planning a coup. Knowing he was framed, the disgraced samurai refuses to die by ritual suicide. Instead, he defies the Shōgun’s orders and strikes out as a rōnin — a wandering, masterless samurai — accompanied only by his infant son.
Jade City by Fonda Lee – Monk
Kekon is the world’s only source of jade, a magical material that grants its wielder superhuman abilities. Using jade requires intense training from a young age to avoid serious injury or death. Even then, only those with mixed Kekonese ancestry can wield it safely. Two crime syndicates, the Mountain and No Peak clans, control the dangerous jade trade. When the Mountain clan senses an opening, however, they move on the No Peak, who may be unable to defend themselves in their weakened state.
A Hero Born by Jin Yong – Monk
Jin Yong’s wuxia novel follows the sons of a pair of Song sworn brothers, who live very different lives after one’s father is killed and the other disappears. Simple and kind, Guo Jing grows up among Genghis Khan’s troops, studying martial arts techniques to become a better servant to his people. Meanwhile, the crafty Yang Kang is raised by his stepfather, a Jin prince, and plots against his biological father’s people.
Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey – Paladin
Talia narrowly escapes an arranged marriage when she’s called to serve as a Herald of Valdemar. Chosen by her Companion — a magical talking creature that resembles a horse with silver hooves — Talia is whisked away to a life beyond her wildest dreams. But will she have time to complete her training before the Queen comes under a threat only a Herald can thwart?
Paladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher – Paladin
A paladin needs a god to serve. Too bad Stephen’s god has just died. Working as a hired bodyguard and wrestling with his ongoing identity crisis, Stephen crosses paths with Grace, a perfumer who has gotten herself tangled up in some sort of plot. She seems to actually need Stephen’s help, which gives him a sense of purpose. The serial killer running amok around the city might just cut short Stephen’s newfound contentment, however.
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland – Ranger
The Civil War ended the day that former soldiers rose from the dead at Gettysburg, leaving American racism to take a new, yet familiar, form. In the midst of the country’s ongoing zombie problem, quotas of Black and Native American children are forced to train as monster killers and bodyguards to protect wealthy white families. Dread Nation centers on Jane, the daughter of a wealthy white woman and a Black man, who must solve a murder mystery while she undergoes military training in Baltimore.
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse – Ranger
Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning blends climate fiction, fantasy, and mystery elements to a stunning effect. The novel follows Maggie and Kai, a monster slayer and a medicine man, as they attempt to solve a missing persons case in Dinétah, the former Navajo reservation, where the gods of legend now roam freely.
Child of a Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica – Rogue
If you need a little pirate-y inspiration for your Swashbuckler rogue, check out A.M. Dellamonica’s Child of a Hidden Sea. This series starter is a portal fantasy in which 24-year-old Sophie drops into Stormwrack: a fantasy world she never knew existed, but where everyone seems to know exactly who she is.
Even Though I Knew the End by C.L. Polk – Rogue
I love the Inquisitive archetype for rogues. Naturally, I had to add C.L. Polk’s Even Though I Knew the End — which could also work for a certain kind of warlock, just FYI. The story here centers on Elena, a PI in love who gets an eleventh-hour opportunity to save her devil-bought soul from damnation. She’ll be out of her ten-year-old deal with the devil, so long as she can catch Chicago’s deadliest serial killer — a job that will take what could be her last three days to complete.
The Witch King by H.E. Edgmon – Sorcerer
Wyatt, a trans witch, is betrothed to his best friend Emyr, a fae prince. For Emyr’s family, the marriage is strictly political — formulated so that Wyatt can pass his magical abilities along to their children. Wyatt left the land of the fae following a magical accident, and he’s doing pretty well for himself. Until Emyr calls him back to the land where they grew up, that is.
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin – Sorcerer
I’ll stop recommending this book when I’m dead, OK? Sorcerers in D&D get their magical abilities from their ancestry, much like the seismic magicians — known as orogenes — in N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth. The first novel in this multi-award-winning trilogy, The Fifth Season, follows Essun, an orogene in hiding, as she sets out to avenge her dead son and rescue her kidnapped daughter from Essun’s murderous husband.
The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark – Warlock
P. Djèlí Clark’s alt-history novella imagines a world in which the U.S. Civil War ended with America divided into two separate countries, only one of which outlawed slavery. The story revolves around Creeper, a Black girl from New Orleans, who uncovers a Confederate plot to invade the Union using a magical weapon. Creepers only allies are an airship captain and Oya, an orisha who endows the girl with superhuman abilities.
The Gentleman by Forrest Leo – Warlock
This wacky historical fantasy centers on Lionel, a Victorian poet whose marriage to Vivien abruptly ends when she goes missing. Vivien’s disappearance comes right on the heels of a visit from a strange party guest, who turns out to be the Devil himself. Now, Lionel must track down his powerful acquaintance and figure out how to get his wife back — but that’s easier said than done.
Modern Divination by Isabel Agajanian – Wizard
Aurelia has kept a careful lid on her magical abilities for 23 years. The life of her dreams was in sight, but a brush with a magic-stealing witch has now left her in a real bind. To right the ship, she’ll have to join forces with an unlikely — and infuriating — ally…and break the rules she’s lived her entire life by.
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – Wizard
Tamsyn Muir’s novel could apply to a number of D&D classes, but I want to talk about its most obvious feature: the necromancer. Each of the Nine Houses in the Locked Tomb series focuses on a different type of necromantic magic, from speaking with the dead to making weapons out of bones. If you’re looking to create a macabre wizard with a signature flourish, look no further than the first book in the series, Gideon the Ninth.
Need more books for Dungeons & Dragons fans? Check out these invented worlds to set your next D&D campaign in, and read more about creating a D&D character based on your favorite books.