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What should a new player buy?

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Forums: Index > Watercooler > What should a new player buy?


I'm really interested in tabletop roleplaying games, and I'd love to try Dungeons and Dragons. But there are so many rule books and "flavor" books and different editions of each that it's hard to know what to get (not to mention they're quite expensive). So what should a completely new player buy to get started? What's necessary to play the game? Screennameless(Talk) 11:39, July 29, 2010 (UTC)

It depends on what edition you're going to play. You should start off by finding a group to play with and ask them if they'll help you learn. But, the main book you'll need for any edition is the Player's Handbook, often referred to as the PHB. This book is pretty much how to make a character and includes everything necessary for a player to play the game in general. The other thing required is some dice. A set of dice is generally fine enough; a d4, d6, d8, d10, d12 and a d20. --TK 12:09, July 29, 2010 (UTC)
If you want D&D, you want one of two editions: 3.5 or 4. These two are different games. 3.5 is nice because there's a vibrant homebrew community for it (not that 4 doesn't have one, but the 3.5 community is larger), apparently also a lot of 3.5 players at cons, and most of the system is available online for free. I hear 4 is easier to run in some ways, but also that there's a lot of fiddly numbers-twiddling that you can sometimes avoid in 3.5. Both systems are completely broken if you try to step out of the box and play in a way the designers didn't plan for, but they do that in different ways: 3.5 gives players of high-level spellcasters the ability to affect the world in ways the designers didn't intend; in 4.0, anything outside of fighting monsters is pretty much DM fiat, and even combat breaks down if you try to fight, say, elven archers in a large forest, instead of delving in a dungeon where you belong.
Regardless of edition, you'll want dice, like TK said. Your local game store, if you have one, should have them.
If you want to play 3.5, there's not much actually strictly necessary. The three core books for 3.5 are the Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual. The Player's Handbook has a guide to getting started as a player, but very little that isn't in the SRD (which you can get from the WotC website [www.wizards.com], hosted here, or at [www.d20srd.org]; I recommend the last one for ease-of-use, but the one here isn't terrible), other than character creation rules. Also, comparing the books to the SRD, the books are better organized for use. The SRD can be intimidating since it doesn't have a place to start, but the books do. All the central rules are in the PHB, but most of them are in the SRD. The Dungeon Master's Guide has some stuff that isn't in the SRD, too (including the expected wealth that a PC of any given level is "supposed" to have. The Monster Manual is almost entirely incorporated into the SRD, except a few of the monsters.
To play 3.5, then, the bare minimum is probably one player's handbook that the entire group shares and one dungeon master's guide for the DM, and then using the SRD for monsters; you can substitute all of the dead-tree books for one experienced player (with or without books, but definitely with patience); most of what you'd need the books for is character creation, and most of us here don't need to look those up (at least, not the parts that aren't in the SRD) when creating characters.
Also, if your DM has never played before, aside from the books, I'd recommend getting a pre-written adventure. There are a few on this site, none of which are complete, IIRC. There are a few on WotC's site, also free [1], of questionable quality, and they aren't sorted by starting level (you'll probably want to start at level 1, and if not that almost certainly no higher than 3). Writing a good adventure is hard if you don't have material to go by, and a feel for how it goes in play. If you poke around the web, you can find more. You also might be able to buy a published adventure (few are still in print for 3.5 and most game stores have dropped their 3.5 section), but, like with cheap software, quality is variable and sometimes the free stuff is higher quality.
It's important to get the right books. It's the Player's handbook, not the Planar handbook or the Player's Handbook II. The Dungeon Master's Guide, likewise, has a DMG II that assumes you own the first one. For monster manuals, on the other hand, if you're getting one, I'd recommend not getting the first one, since almost all the MM1 monsters are available for free, so all you get are the pictures (and a few monsters like the Mind Flayer and Beholder), and almost none of the others are. I wouldn't recommend the 2nd either, since the monsters take a bit of converting from 3.0 (the release order is MM1 (3.0), MM2, MM1 (3.5), MM3, MM4, MM5; there should be an MM2 update guide on the wizards website, but that's not exactly convenient), and I don't know the quality of the others, but I hear they started running out of ideas toward the end.
If you're looking at expansion books, the big one to get is the Spell Compendium. Problem is, it, like the rest of 3.5, is out of print, and, unlike a lot of the other books, there's now an expensive out-of-print premium on it (I've seen it on Amazon for $70, used). It's exactly what it says on the tin; lots and lots of new spells and spells from other expansion books, and nothing else. There's also the Tome of Battle; I haven't checked it's price. It makes warriors and martial artists more interesting to play by making them more like spellcasters. These two are pretty widely considered the best books of the edition, and the people who hate one love the other almost invariably.
Finally, the 3.5 rules fall apart under close inspection and hard play. You don't need to worry about this just starting out. If you start running into problems, or if you want to play a more stable version, we have a couple here on this wiki, called the Tome system and the Grimoire system. There's some discussion about the differences in outlook between the two projects here, a bit of a ways down. With an entire group just starting out you probably won't run into the problems that inspired these unless you have a player who takes to optimization quickly or picks a strong class and reads a class guide for it, or one who accidentally discovers something.
4th edition has books with the same titles. You'll want all three (Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, Monster Manual). They all have additional volumes; you want to start from the beginning. I don't play 4th, so I don't know much else and can't write a good defense of why to play it. The 4e SRD, inasmuch as there is one, is just a list of references to those books telling you what other people are allowed to reference in stuff they sell. I've also been hearing some stuff about a D&D Essentials line that is soon to be released where they're shortening the rules and possibly releasing most future products around that. I have no idea if you might want to hold out for that.
I suppose I should pay lip service to the other alternatives, too, since I've mentioned so much so far. There's the way out of print stuff, 2nd edition and earlier. This is, for historical reasons, called AD&D (for Advanced), and the really old stuff. Finding players and books is harder to find than 3rd, and there's, like, no homebrew community for it anymore, just individual homebrewers playing modified versions of OD&D, BECMI, and maybe AD&D 1. AD&D 1 and 2 are, for the most part, intercompatible with minimal adaptation, similar to 3.0 and 3.5.
Then there's Pathfinder. Pathfinder is basically D&D 3.5, except with little tiny changes made to everything to make it so that you have to relearn the system. If you want that, I'd recommend learning 3.5 and building your own set of house rules.
If you have a specific group you're planning on joining, ask them what to get, like TK said; all of these rules sets are incompatible enough that you need the right core book. If you're building a group, pick whichever one you think is best. And, if you want to quickly get experience playing with experienced players, people will occasionally try to organize games here, although most play is offsite (either play-by-chat or play-by-post). I don't know of any that are organizing right now, though, but if you ask around maybe someone will be inspired. They'll almost certainly be playing 3.5, if the games I remember seeing and the recent activity are any indication.
Welcome aboard. --IGTN 13:05, July 29, 2010 (UTC)

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