To match my video game awards this week I offer up the top five game books for tabletop RPGs that took my fancy in 2014. This list is going to look a little biased...you have been forewarned!
#5. Blood Tide
The hefty Basic Roleplaying tome on the world of magic and mystery in the Caribbean is a fantastic and well-researched effort at making pirates accessible as both a mythic genre and a historical setting. If you liked those movies and also know what I mean when I say that On Stranger Tides was one of the best books ever written (Tim Powers, check it out) then you should investigate this book.
#4. 13th Age Bestiary
This amazing monster book and one of the only such tomes I've enjoyed reading in quite a long time. Every entry is loaded with ideas and concepts about using the monsters in 13th Age games. Every stat block is concise and to the point, a trademark of 13th Age's style, with system-specific tricks and gimmicks to make the monster interesting. Invaluable resource for 13th Age games.
#3. Savage Worlds Science Fiction Companion
This amazing book, as as slim as it is, shows just how good Savage Worlds is at doing fast and furious multigenre, and was the source of a great SF campaign and a lot of blog inspiration last year.
#2. 13 True Ways (13th Age)
13 True Ways is the quintessential expansion for 13th Age, this book is a magnanimous addition to that system. From the way it managed to introduce devils into the game and show a multitude of ways to "make them your own" to the six new classes and plethora of setting material 13 True Ways is a real hoot. I got a lot of good gaming out of 13th Age in 2014.
#1. Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition (Player's Handbook, Monster Manual and Dungeon Master's Guide)
These three books swept in and in one fell swoop brought the game back to where I wanted it, while stealthily introducing new concepts and expectations for how D&D should play that have already become so comfortable at my gaming table that stepping back to older editions without these changes feels like a regression. Who knew I'd grow to love the advantage mechanic, bounded accuracy, and a hefty ephasis on "less is more" when it comes to modifiers and variable? This is the last D&D I want to buy, and it's the first edition I feel could be the one I game into my old age with. Please don't eff this one up, WotC.
Lots of good stuff came out this last year, but especially interesting to me were the following books. If only I'd found time to run them, these games might have made it into the top 5:
Interface Zero 2.0 - a fantastic and deep cyberpunk world for Savage Worlds. Possibly too deep for the kind of game SW is, this book could have done just fine if it was half the size it is right now.
Shadowrun 5th Edition - I am not qualified to compare this version of the game to prior editions, as I didn't even decide I wanted to care about Shadowrun until the new android/PC RPGs came out and motivated me to investigate this book. It sold me on the idea of mixing fantasy and cyberpunk, though, and the 5th edition mechanics seem very sound.
Vampire the Requiem 2nd Edition (alias Blood & Smoke: the Strix Chronicles)
Bet this one took you by surprise. Far and away the most interesting read of 2014, the revision of the Vampire: The Requiem runs deeper than just a sound reworking of the mechanics, adding in a new metastory about the ancient Strix and a strong emphasis on a more...2014ish take on vampires (still with 100% less glitter, thank you). Appears to have recently been re-repackaged as Vampire: the Requiem 2nd edition, perhaps due to the insane level of confusion I am sure the original title caused people, for a product which you can only find if you know that it is available online through rpgnow.com, being published by Onyx Path and not White Wolf. I would have made this a top contender if I had just found the opportunity to run it.