When it comes to playing D&D there is damn near 50 years of lore to cut through when it comes to creatures, places, people and even gods. I cannot sit here and explain every minute detail there is else if be 80 by the time we are done but what I can say is: Buy Legacy Content.
Scottishs’ Guide to Legacy Content
A broad statement but let me be clear for you. If you go to D&DBeyond and try to buy Volos Guide to Monsters (VGM) it gets classed as Legacy Content and you are told to buy Mordenkainen Presents Monsters of the Multiverse (MPMM). Now – both books are essentially updated Monster Manuals but there is a slight twist.
‘Volos’ is a canon book. In Tomb of Annihilation and Waterdeep: Dragon Heist – you can buy Volos book from Volo. A fun little easter egg? Maybe, but the information within those tomes is priceless to any game master and let me tell you why.
Creatures such as the Yuan-Ti show up in both VGM and MPMM, but the information about them is night and day. VGM gives you lore – not on the creatures but on the society and the hierarchy of power. How they go about their dealings, information on their Gods. MPMM gives a small blurb about the creature. VGM is the Nat20 history check and MPMM is the “The people believe” general inquiry.
When running Tomb of Annihilation this would be the better book to have on hand for that reason. It also has great information on Mind Flayers – a deeper understanding of their hierarchy, goals, motivations and even how they come about. An amazing book to have but only available as a hardback book now.
The same goes for Mordenkainens Tome of Foes (MTF) – a whole 30 pages dedicated to The Blood War – we got whole campaign that takes place IN said war: Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus! The difference between Demons and Devils, some excellent tiefling lineages and the reason for said war.
It also has a wealth of information on the Gith – a Mind Flayers only predator. Why do they hunt Mind Flayers? Why do they ride dragons? Whats the difference between the 2 Gith types – Githyanki and Githzerai? Tome of Foes!
Or how about learning more about the Shadowfell and the Shadar-Kai? What about the Drow, or the Duergar? They show up in so many campaigns and are treated like trash mobs. Padding for the dungeon.
Fifty Years Ago!
This also holds true for settings. Running a game in the Dragonlance setting for myself has been fun as there is so much I need to learn. For a newer DM though – you may have questions, like:
Why does the introduction to the book say Clerics have been missing for over 300 years but I can just be a cleric? Who is Thakesis, who is Lord Soth, what is the cataclysm, why do people dislike kender?
Having read the first Dragonlance Novel I have answers to some of these questions. The cataclysm came about when Lord Soth failed to stop a king priest from trying to attain Godhood. Due to Goldmoon taking a staff from Riverwind and touching a statue of a God, she became the first cleric on over 300 years.
People disliked kender as a playable race because they believed that everything is OUR property.
Old books for D&D have a vast amount of knowledge in them that we should covet. As a dungeon master, you can use this information to enhance your game and it allows you to learn more about the world. Putting all the information form these books into play can aid a game so much.
The enemy is no longer scary because it looks it, you now have an understanding as to why you should stop it. It is scary because the price of failure is now so high and everyone knows the stakes.