[RPG] What set of books makes a complete starter set for 4e


I've asked several questions about 4th Edition D&D because I may be able to start a game. However, I'd need to purchase (some) materials. I am aware of the 4 book set (core) and the expected Essentials Red Box.

So now I need to know: presumably buying either the 4 book set or essentials will be enough to get my game on. Would there be something 'lacking' though? Would I be missing character types, for instance, as I've seen that the splatbook strategy is still in effect?

I'm an experienced player and GM and plenty creative, so many holes I'd be able to fill in myself. I just don't want to get sucked into too much financial impact.

Best Answer

The basic three books -- Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual -- will give you what you need. You can find hard copies if you look online, possibly as a gift set. If you're experienced with other editions, you'll notice the lack of barbarian, bard, druid, half-orc and gnome options; those were included in Player's Handbook 2, and psionic classes of note, particularly the monk, were the focus of Player's Handbook 3.

Be aware that there are a fair number of rules updates that affect these. You can find the full list here.

For the Essentials line here's the breakdown of what I think you'll want if you go in that direction: the Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game Starter Set, as an optional tutorial; the Dungeon Master's Kit, which is the equivalent of the Dungeon Master's Guide; the Monster Vault; and one or both of Heroes of the Fallen Lands and Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms, which give player options. The first three of those were boxed sets, and you'd wind up with three or four adventures, some dungeon terrain tiles, a ton of tokens to use instead of miniatures, and a DM screen; these things are not included with the digital releases, however, so you might need to turn to external resellers. You may also want the Rules Compendium -- it has some rules not covered by the DM's Kit, but is more of value to people who have the core books and don't want to look up errata to rules.

The advantage of Essentials is that it's an easier entrance point, particularly if you're familiar with an older edition. Also, it doesn't have a ton of errata.

If you buy either group of books and later want to use material from the other group, that should be possible without any fuss.

Finally, I'll agree that the Dungeons & Dragons Insider subscription is a good purchase. You did get (in 2010) access to an online database containing every rules option from every source; you get a character builder, which also has all the options (Windows and Mac only); and you get daily articles. (2021 update: subscribing to DDI is no longer possible and the content needs to be picked up piecemeal. Dragon magazine is still available)