Essentials or 3 Core Books?

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Hi, folks. I've been DMing D&D (and numerous other rpgs) for 15 years starting with AD&D 2nd Edition all the way up to 3.5 and even some Pathfinder, and recently my group and I have begun to get a little burned out with the sytem we were using. I want to start fresh, back in my D&D roots. I'm pretty familiar with 4E even though I've yet to run it or see it in play. I know that D&DNext is coming down the pipe, but I kind of want to start really soon. So I think that we are going to be playing 4E.

I kind of wanted to start playing using the standard 3 Core 4E books as opposed to the Essentials line, but I was wondering if that is the way to go? I'm a fan of the standard 3 book format that was used in 2E, 3E and 3.5 and don't really want to invest in the whole Essentials collection.

So does anybody still play using the 3 Core books for 4E? Or are the fans of 4E into Essentials more? 

I kind of wanted to start playing using the standard 3 Core 4E books as opposed to the Essentials line, but I was wondering if that is the way to go? I'm a fan of the standard 3 book format that was used in 2E, 3E and 3.5 and don't really want to invest in the whole Essentials collection.

So does anybody still play using the 3 Core books for 4E? Or are the fans of 4E into Essentials more? 



This last is kind of a loaded question. There are fans of both, some fans exclusive to one or the other. What Essentials really offeres is a choice of complexity. Some classes are almost unchanged from their Core 4E roots, some are greatly simplified either in the number of choices or complexity of play, and some are in between.

What we all mostly agree upon is that the Monster Vault is a vastly superior product to the Monster Manual, even if it is lacking in Epic level monsters. You should also pick up the Rules compendium in order to have the most up to date version of the core rules. Aside from that, Player's Handbook 1 or the Heroes books are a matter of personal taste.

IMO, I would get...

DM kit...  cause it's loaded with goodies.  Unless you don't want tokens, then just skip it.*
Rule Compendium...  all the refined** rule in 1 place.
PHB2..  cause i like those classes.
Monster Vault (for tokens) or MM3 (more epic creatures).***

*The DMG and DMG2 are really good book about being a DM.  But you seem to have experience.  Use the rules compendium for the rules.

**offically called updates, most of which can be ignored.  But the game runs better with them.

***Monster manual 2 is ok, but avoid the Monster Manual unless your really hungering for more.  Even  so you probably want to rebuild all of them.

guides
List of no-action attacks.
Dynamic vs Static Bonuses
Phalanx tactics and builds
Crivens! A Pictsies Guide Good
Power
s to intentionally miss with
Mr. Cellophane: How to be unnoticed
Way's to fire around corners
Crits: what their really worth
Retroactive bonus vs Static bonus.
Runepriest handbook & discussion thread
Holy Symbols to hang around your neck
Ways to Gain or Downgrade Actions
List of bonuses to saving throws
The Ghost with the Most (revenant handbook)
my builds
F-111 Interdictor Long (200+ squares) distance ally teleporter. With some warlord stuff. Broken in a plot way, not a power way.

Thought Switch Higher level build that grants upto 14 attacks on turn 1. If your allies play along, it's broken.

Elven Critters Crit op with crit generation. 5 of these will end anything. Broken.

King Fisher Optimized net user.  Moderate.

Boominator Fun catch-22 booming blade build with either strong or completely broken damage depending on your reading.

Very Distracting Warlock Lot's of dazing and major penalties to hit. Overpowered.

Pocket Protector Pixie Stealth Knight. Maximizing the defender's aura by being in an ally's/enemy's square.

Yakuza NinjIntimiAdin: Perma-stealth Striker that offers a little protection for ally's, and can intimidate bloodied enemies. Very Strong.

Chargeburgler with cheese Ranged attacks at the end of a charge along with perma-stealth. Solid, could be overpowered if tweaked.

Void Defender Defends giving a penalty to hit anyone but him, then removing himself from play. Can get somewhat broken in epic.

Scry and Die Attacking from around corners, while staying hidden. Moderate to broken, depending on the situation.

Skimisher Fly in, attack, and fly away. Also prevents enemies from coming close. Moderate to Broken depending on the enemy, but shouldn't make the game un-fun, as the rest of your team is at risk, and you have enough weaknesses.

Indestructible Simply won't die, even if you sleep though combat.  One of THE most abusive character in 4e.

Sir Robin (Bravely Charge Away) He automatically slows and pushes an enemy (5 squares), while charging away. Hard to rate it's power level, since it's terrain dependent.

Death's Gatekeeper A fun twist on a healic, making your party "unkillable". Overpowered to Broken, but shouldn't actually make the game un-fun, just TPK proof.

Death's Gatekeeper mk2, (Stealth Edition) Make your party "unkillable", and you hidden, while doing solid damage. Stronger then the above, but also easier for a DM to shut down. Broken, until your DM get's enough of it.

Domination and Death Dominate everything then kill them quickly. Only works @ 30, but is broken multiple ways.

Battlemind Mc Prone-Daze Protecting your allies by keeping enemies away. Quite powerful.

The Retaliator Getting hit deals more damage to the enemy then you receive yourself, and you can take plenty of hits. Heavy item dependency, Broken.

Dead Kobold Transit Teleports 98 squares a turn, and can bring someone along for the ride. Not fully built, so i can't judge the power.

Psilent Guardian Protect your allies, while being invisible. Overpowered, possibly broken.

Rune of Vengance Do lot's of damage while boosting your teams. Strong to slightly overpowered.

Charedent BarrageA charging ardent. Fine in a normal team, overpowered if there are 2 together, and easily broken in teams of 5.

Super Knight A tough, sticky, high damage knight. Strong.

Super Duper Knight Basically the same as super knight with items, making it far more broken.

Mora, the unkillable avenger Solid damage, while being neigh indestuctable. Overpowered, but not broken.

Swordburst Maximus At-Will Close Burst 3 that slide and prones. Protects allies with off actions. Strong, possibly over powered with the right party.

What we all mostly agree upon is that the Monster Vault is a vastly superior product to the Monster Manual, even if it is lacking in Epic level monsters. You should also pick up the Rules compendium in order to have the most up to date version of the core rules. Aside from that, Player's Handbook 1 or the Heroes books are a matter of personal taste.




Does the Rules Compendium more or less have the same rules as the Core books? It seems like it would be a good resource to hand out ot my players as they never buy any books and have to use mine.
Rules compendium has an up to date summary of all the rules for game play.  No rules about how to build a pc or anything like that. 

Mellored's list is good, but you will also need a copy of  PHB 1 or one of the essentials boosks HoFK or HoFL because those are the only books that have a list and stats of the basic equipment like longswords and chainmail. 

I think you can download all the PHB1 classes for free at this point, so I might download those and then buy HOFL.  Here is the cleric one for instance.

The classes the original PHBs and Essentials lines are very different, except for the wizard who is only a little different.  The PHB ones tend to be more complex.   Sometimes this is for good since the powers of the classes are more insteresting and you get more diverse PCs.  And sometimes for bad like classes having too many stats they need to boost all at once and sometimes the designers didn't know what they were doing yet and had to fix the classes through supplements. 

I prefer the PHB model of classes overall and only rarely will play essentials classes, but am glad they added the essentials ones since some people like that style of play more.
It sounds then like just getting the Players Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide, and Monster Manual probably won't work at this point. Am I correct?
Just getting players handbook, dungeon masters guide and the monsters vault would work fine. 

Monster manual 1 wasn't written very well compared to the later books.  The monsters have too many hitpoints while not doing enough damage.  So fights using those monsters tend to drag.  All the later ones are better and there seems to be general agreement that if you just get one monster book Monster Vault is the one to get. 

Monster manual 3 was well done, but won't have a lot of simple, classic D&D monsters like low level goblins, gelatinous cubes, red dragons etc.  Monster vault has all of those like Monster manual one, but they have been rewritten with the later better math for hitpoints and damage.
Just getting players handbook, dungeon masters guide and the monsters vault would work fine. 

Monster manual 1 wasn't written very well compared to the later books.  The monsters have too many hitpoints while not doing enough damage.  So fights using those monsters tend to drag.  All the later ones are better and there seems to be general agreement that if you just get one monster book Monster Vault is the one to get. 

Monster manual 3 was well done, but won't have a lot of simple, classic D&D monsters like low level goblins, gelatinous cubes, red dragons etc.  Monster vault has all of those like Monster manual one, but they have been rewritten with the later better math for hitpoints and damage.



Alright, I see. Thank you. For monsters that are similar to the classics from AD&D 2nd Edition and 3.0-3.5 go with Monster Vault. It looks like I'm going to go with your suggestion, Gelatinous! Thanks!
Rules compendium has an up to date summary of all the rules for game play.  No rules about how to build a pc or anything like that. 

Mellored's list is good, but you will also need a copy of  PHB 1 or one of the essentials boosks HoFK or HoFL because those are the only books that have a list and stats of the basic equipment like longswords and chainmail. 

I think you can download all the PHB1 classes for free at this point, so I might download those and then buy HOFL.  Here is the cleric one for instance.

The classes the original PHBs and Essentials lines are very different, except for the wizard who is only a little different.  The PHB ones tend to be more complex.   Sometimes this is for good since the powers of the classes are more insteresting and you get more diverse PCs.  And sometimes for bad like classes having too many stats they need to boost all at once and sometimes the designers didn't know what they were doing yet and had to fix the classes through supplements. 

I prefer the PHB model of classes overall and only rarely will play essentials classes, but am glad they added the essentials ones since some people like that style of play more.



Where did you download the PHB classes?
 
All the classes that got rules updates in Dragon were available without a subscription. That covers almost all the classes from PHB1, the only ones missing are the Paladin and Ranger
I am not sure if they have easily found links on the website. 

I just did a google search for "class compendium warlord" and the article with links to the PDF was the first return to come up.  The PDF was the second result.  I would do seperate searches for all the PHB1 classes.

The name of the link is below and I think you can swap out the word warlord for "rogue" "wizard" etc. as well, but have not checked.


As someone who's been running a 4e campaign for the last 2 years, I would run a cut down essentials game. I would start by only allowing the following:


For Classes: Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms & Heroes of the Fallen Lands
For Rules: DM Kit and Rules Compendium
For Monsters: Monster Vault
For Items: Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium


But that's for someone like me who's run a campaign that's allowed all content (All Books and Dragon mag). I've had a flavor of the full scope of 4e and find it overwhelming. There's just too much going on. Plus the above books cost around $150 bucks retail to buy. Where as the PHB/DMG/MM1 cost around $65 retail, I believe.


For a new DM, if you limit yourself to ONLY PHB1, DMG, & MM1 you'll be fine. This is a better value and you get a real taste of all that of D&D 4e has. But I would limit it to ONLY those books. Maybe PHB2 for some extra classes but that's it.


D&D is a great game, but the lack of a modernized 'complete package' for new players is a problem.

That's totally what I'm going for.
Throughout all the campaigns that I've run throughout a bunch of different systems, I always did my best to run a simple game without rules-bloat and limitless options. I know a lot of players and DMs dig the wealth of races, classes, feats, gear, and subsystems, but it's just not for me and my players. If I go for the 3 core books, those will be the only books allowed for my 4E campaign.
I would suggest the 3 core books, and the rules compedium. I haven't been totally thrilled with the essentials line, but the compendium is an excellent tabletop reference for quick lookups when you can't remember something.
I would suggest the 3 core books, and the rules compedium. I haven't been totally thrilled with the essentials line, but the compendium is an excellent tabletop reference for quick lookups when you can't remember something.



From what I read of the Rules Compendium it sounds pretty cool as a group rulebook or something to pass around the table. I may get that as well.
Just to warn you there is a bit of class imbalance in the first PHB if you limit yourself to that.  Wotc was still trying to figure out what they were doing and published a lot of supplement material to fix weak holes in some of the PHB1 classes.  This was in dragon, arcane power, and divine power.

Cleric, Paladin, and warlock in particular won't work as well as the other classes in their roles without that material.  I wouldn't use any errata for the cleric if you are not using the supplemental material.
Just to warn you there is a bit of class imbalance in the first PHB if you limit yourself to that.  Wotc was still trying to figure out what they were doing and published a lot of supplement material to fix weak holes in some of the PHB1 classes.  This was in dragon, arcane power, and divine power.

Cleric, Paladin, and warlock in particular won't work as well as the other classes in their roles without that material.  I wouldn't use any errata for the cleric if you are not using the supplemental material.



I'm a DM from 2nd Edition so a little class imbalance doesn't worry me too much.

There is an issue with PHB1 material in that a lot of classes have two primary stats and you're expected to pick only one of those. I believe this is true for Warlocks, Paladins, Clerics and Rangers. The other classes have one obvious primary stat but you pick one of two secondary stats.


The game also assumes you use a point buy system for stats although dice rolls for stats is fine. That being said, it's expected that your characters have at least a 16 in the primary stat and a 12 in the secondary stat.  It's highly recommended someone play a Cleric or Warlord for healing.


Your monsters might also need some damage adjustments but that's only an issue after a few levels.


Lastly, if you want a starter adventure, everyone typically uses "Keep on the Shadowfell" but it's just one very big dungeon crawl. Still, you can get it for free on Wizards website in PDF format. Just watch out for the Irontooth fight, that's a known TPK.


There is an issue with PHB1 material in that a lot of classes have two primary stats and you're expected to pick only one of those. I believe this is true for Warlocks, Paladins, Clerics and Rangers. The other classes have one obvious primary stat but you pick one of two secondary stats.


The game also assumes you use a point buy system for stats although dice rolls for stats is fine. That being said, it's expected that your characters have at least a 16 in the primary stat and a 12 in the secondary stat.  It's highly recommended someone play a Cleric or Warlord for healing.


Your monsters might also need some damage adjustments but that's only an issue after a few levels.


Lastly, if you want a starter adventure, everyone typically uses "Keep on the Shadowfell" but it's just one very big dungeon crawl. Still, you can get it for free on Wizards website in PDF format. Just watch out for the Irontooth fight, that's a known TPK.




Thanks for the info, Sentack. I've got a definite cleric in the group so I will let her know.

I'm not a fan of published adventures, but in writing my first adventure (a dungeon crawl) I've been scaling back the encounters and gearing them around the group. I live in Wyoming, and thus have a very very limited amount of players. I've been going along the basis that for 1st level characters, an average encounter should be worth 100XP per player.
The DMG has a decent sample adventure in the back of the book.  The last monster is a bit of a slog for the reasons I mentioned above since its a big solo with a weakening attack and a lot of hitpoints.  Our party didn't have a striker and we still beat it, but it was a long fight and close to a TPK.
Hi,
If you really want to keep it simple, I highly suggest the following resources...
- Heroes of the Fallen Lands
- Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms
- DM Kit
- Monster vault
- Rules Compendium if your table would get a kick out of it

If you also have a DnDI subscription, add in whatever materal you see fit.  The same goes for any of the other books that are out there (i.e. Heroes of the Feywild, PHB1/2/3, whatever).   

My take on this is based on my experience as a 1ed player from many years ago, and getting back into DnD just as the Essentials line was rolling out.  Frankly, i was ovewhelmed by the complexity of 4E and really appreciated something that was a little smaller in scale.   

The Dm Kit and Monster Vault both have great adventures in them that you can use and abuse for your own campaign purposes.

Later,
Neil

I've been going along the basis that for 1st level characters, an average encounter should be worth 100XP per player.


Encounter design is one of those things you really want to go through the DMG and cover very carefully. This is one of those things that take up almost a whole thread of it's own. When I use various names, I'm talking about monster roles. Soldier, Lurker, Controller, etc.


Have at most 1-2 Soldiers in your encounters if you intend to use them. Their high defenses can be tough to handle.


Lurkers tend to do a lot of extra damage when they get stealth. Don't expect to get that off more then once or twice a fight, and the first time will likely in the first round.


One controller can be fun but be careful of daze, stun or blindness effects. Only because said attacks tend to prolong the fight by a lot. So use controllers that have said attacks sparingly.


How players treat Minions varries a lot. If your adventures have a wizard, feel free to toss them in. If not, they can really bog down a fight. Replacing 1-2 monsters with 4-8 minions isn't so bad. A total minion based encounter is usually not so fun for a lot of reasons.


Feel free to throw at them the occasional Level + 1 or Level + 2 encounter to keep them on their toes but not much higher in general. On average, it's supposed to be 10 equal level 'encounters' per level. Don't forget an encounter might also be a skill challenge or just general 'You completed a quest!' experience.


Good luck!


I've been going along the basis that for 1st level characters, an average encounter should be worth 100XP per player.


 


Feel free to throw at them the occasional Level + 1 or Level + 2 encounter to keep them on their toes but not much higher in general. On average, it's supposed to be 10 equal level 'encounters' per level. Don't forget an encounter might also be a skill challenge or just general 'You completed a quest!' experience.


Good luck!




Alright. I was planning on doing a greater percentage of skill challenges and major and minor quests than combat encounters anyways because of my small number of players.
Additionally and conditionally if you've been playing 3.5 and any of the players enjoy psionics and want to play that you'll have to get PHB 3 because that's the only one with it in it. PHB3 was actually my first 4E purchase because I love psionics.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

There is a nice little self created devide here. Shame there can't be more acceptance instead. I feel that is where the future of the game should be.

All this vitrol, pushing away, retroactive retaliation, and premptive striking needs to stop.

I keep trying but some won't let things go. Will you?

 

Because you like something, it does not mean it is good. Because you dislike something, it does not mean it is bad. Because it is your opinion, it does not make it everyone's opinion. Because it is your opinion, it does not make it truth. Because it is your opinion, it does not make it the general consensus. Whatever side you want to take, at least remember these things.

I just put in my 4E order!


What I decided on for game books is:


Deluxe Player's Handbook

Deluxe Dungeon Master's Guide

Deluxe Monster Manual

Core Rulebook Giftset  

Rules Compendium

Monster Manual 2

Monster Manual 3      
 

I got the deluxe versions of the core books because I like to collect limited and special editions of various rpgs, the core book giftset will be for table use, the rules compendium will be a quick reference guide for the table, and I got the other two monster manuals because as a DM I like to have a wide variety of creatures to choose from when I'm designing adventures. I dont want to be stuck with only skeletons, goblins, rats and kobolds for a 1st level adventure for instance.
So there we have it! Gaming should start soon! We're pretty excited to start with 4E finally. I have another thread around here somewhere that details my new homebrew setting for 4E with maps and info.
 

I would strongly suggest you don't bother with the 'deluxe' set.  There's nothing really that interesting in getting that set compared to the 'giftset' which has everything you need and cheeper.  Do consider  returning them if you can.
I would strongly suggest you don't bother with the 'deluxe' set.  There's nothing really that interesting in getting that set compared to the 'giftset' which has everything you need and cheeper.  Do consider  returning them if you can.



It might seem a little dumb, but I want the deluxe copies just from a collector's standpoint. I'm not interested on any internal errata or formatting changes or anything. The 3 corebooks in the giftset are going to get all of the use for sure.

I just put in my 4E order!


What I decided on for game books is:


Deluxe Player's Handbook

Deluxe Dungeon Master's Guide

Deluxe Monster Manual

Core Rulebook Giftset  

Rules Compendium

Monster Manual 2

Monster Manual 3      
 




In having both the PHB and the Rules Compendium, you will want to get the errata for the PHB and DMG up until at least November 2010 (I am not sure what and how much official errata came after that), as the rules compendium was 'up to date' as of then. There are a lot of changes to the actual rules (like flying, sneaking, charging) that will be different between PHB/DMG and RC. As to class changes in the errata, it's up to you and if you want to play the 'current' rules or not.

For me, I  cut out errata and put them on post it notes, trimmed them down and put them over the rules they changed (a few places I just made a new 'page' to replace an old page (used Post-its so I could remove them without the book being damaged when the rules changed a second or third time). Otherwise, you'll have an errata 'book' to sift through every time you look up a rule. or just use the RC for basic rules and PHB for all the other rules.

FWIW: My PHB1 is about 1.5 times as thick as before because of errata. I stopped all updates when Essentials came out because I hate the new character builder. But at Novemeber 2010, the errata for PHB1 and the new (at that time) Rules Compendium were equal. I do love the RC.
Awesome! Thanks for the info.
Hi, folks. I've been DMing D&D (and numerous other rpgs) for 15 years starting with AD&D 2nd Edition all the way up to 3.5 and even some Pathfinder, and recently my group and I have begun to get a little burned out with the sytem we were using. I want to start fresh, back in my D&D roots. I'm pretty familiar with 4E even though I've yet to run it or see it in play. I know that D&DNext is coming down the pipe, but I kind of want to start really soon. So I think that we are going to be playing 4E.

I kind of wanted to start playing using the standard 3 Core 4E books as opposed to the Essentials line, but I was wondering if that is the way to go?



The Essentials format isn't a great deal for a core game product, but, all  you need it to do is give you something different from 3e/Pathfinder, and reminiscent of old-school, until 5e comes out in a year or so.  For that, some cheap softcover books are fine.  

Probably the easiest, lowest-investment thing to do would be to buy the Rules Compendium and a subscription to DDI.  The character builder has all the character options and monster stats.  The Compendium has the rules.  You should already have all the general parahenalia you need -  minis, campaign settings, prefered play surfaces, dice, etc - so you wouldn't need the tile sets, dice, or the  counters, poster maps & adventures in the DM Kit or Monster Vault.

I'm a fan of the standard 3 book format that was used in 2E, 3E and 3.5 and don't really want to invest in the whole Essentials collection.

So does anybody still play using the 3 Core books for 4E? Or are the fans of 4E into Essentials more? 

Essentials has created a divide in the 4e fanbase much like 3e/3.5 did.  Because Encounters is Essentials-plus-the-latest-book only, and Lair Assault is anyting goes, Essentials is always useable while pre-Essentials is sometimes banned our outmoded.  WotC's intention has clearly been to push Essentials, but a lot of fans, particularly those with established campaigns rather than those in organized play, perfer to stick with the core books and ignore Essentials completely.

I do both, I play in a no-Essentials core campaign (currently 13th level), in "Essentials+" Encounters, and I run Lair Assault and a weekly 2hr public mini-campaign in the Encounters 1-combat-a-week casual-play format that's 'anything goes' (currently 5th level, with as many as 10 players showing up some weeks).  

Want to see the best of 4e included in 5e?  Join the Old Guard of 4e.

5e really needs something like Wrecan's SARN-FU to support "Theatre of the Mind."

"You want The Tooth?  You can't handle The Tooth!"  - Dahlver-Nar.

"If magic is unrestrained in the campaign, D&D quickly degenerates into a weird wizard show where players get bored quickly"  - E. Gary Gygax

 

 

Oops, looks like this request tried to create an infinite loop. We do not allow such things here. We are a professional website!

I think you'll be fine with the books you have ordered. Most people where I play don't use Essentials and stick with the 3 core books.

I personally got the Deluxe core books too as they had at least the first load of errata included and also were as cheap as the regular core books at the time.

I did print out all the errata but to be honest I have not used any of it. Only if something comes up in play that appears too powerful or broken do I actually bother to see if its got errata, its just easier that way.

The only errata rule I thought I liked was the Aid Another change, but since buying the Essentials Rules Compendium I realise that I was mistaken about how it worked*.

As for other rules updates, I actively dislike some of them - e.g. I prefer the original Magic Missile and I like the Treasure Packages rather than randomly rolling treasure (when I am planning adventures I don't have dice with me).

Some updates I am just not bothered about and seem like more effort than benefit to implement given I use the original core books - the Common, Uncommon and Rare ratings of magic items, because the items in the core books aren't rated meaning I would need to cross reference with the update file when choosing what magic items to give out.

So overall I would say you're fine not using Essentials though Rules Compendium might be useful to pass around the table (I bought a copy so as a player I can travel lighter but find I haven't used it much yet as I still cart about my PHBs for the Rituals).

* I thought the Aid Another change had the DC be 10 + one-half the level of the character being aided. This made sense to me as it meant a Level 1 character wouldn't easily aid a Level 20 character, and instead would prove a hinderance more often than not. And a level 20 character could pretty much always aid a level 1 character. However it seems as though the DC is 10 + one-half the level of the character doing the aiding, so the chance of aiding stays pace with a character leveling up
R Grant Erswell Geek in wolf's clothing
Thanks for the info, DigitalMage! You and I are in the same mindset it seems. I've had my players create characters already with the books that I ordered and I've started writing my campaign. I'm happy with the stuff that I ordered and look to lots of good gaming with it.