Veteran player, been out of the loop, seeking counsel

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I started playing D&D (Basic, Expert, Companion and Master) and AD&D 1st Edition some 25 years ago and played 2nd Edition for a few years but am now looking to return to the game with some friends who are new to it.

So, it's 4th Edition is it... I was going to start with the basics: PHB, DMG and MM but the new structure of the books is bewildering...where would you guys suggest I start?

Like I say, I'd consider myself an advanced player, just new to 4th Edition.

The main thing I can recommend is a DDI sub.  You should get one for the group.

They are fairly cheap and give you access to this:

Compendium: Lets you see all material in all books via a search engine.
Character Builder: Has some errors, but is very pretty/user friendly
Monster Builder: Nice for making custom monsters if you DM. 
Currently working on making a Dex based defender. Check it out here
Need a few pre-generated characters for a one-shot you are running? Want to get a baseline for what an effective build for a class you aren't familiar with? Check out the Pregen thread here If ever you are interested what it sounds like to be at my table check out my blog and podcast here Also, I've recently done an episode on "Refluffing". You can check that out here
First thing i recommend, forget everything from AD&D...go in with a blank mind on it.  In my experience, is the veterans of former editions the ones that struggle with 4th edition, while brand new players master at an surprising fast rate.

You must get rid of older editions paradigms and such... 
I concur with the above posts.

4th Edition has a new feel.

I find it very team orientated and group friendly.  But it is going to be different that what you've played before.
Keep an open mind.

If you have other questions let us know.
I'm intrigued...

I'd like to get some HBs in my paws to get reading (although certainly take the subscription point on board).

There appear to be multiple PHBs? Also, several versions of 'quick play' introductions (including a boxed set looking very similar to Basic)... can anyone explain these?

If I wanted to hit the ground running at an Unearthed Arcana level (apologies for the 1st Ed analogy but it's what I know) where should I start? 
Book-wise, I'd recommend starting with the Essentials books. 

The earlier books are fine — and probably a good idea to get too — but (and I say this as a big fan and defender of 4e) they screwed up some of the math early on, and it took them a little bit to figure out their mistakes.  They didn't hit their stride for monster building until MM3 came out; the Monster Vault books which came out with Essentials were basically them going back and updating things, to some degree.  From a PC perspective, they did better earlier with the PHB2/DMG2 releases, though they add on easily to the first stuff.

Anyway, compared to the Essentials line, the plain PHBs (1, 2, & 3) are Unearthed Arcana-like, in that regard.  Essentials is basically a streamlined version of the classes, simplifying choices to one or two things over the course of a tier.  In the original books, you usually have choices between 4 different things per level — with the Powers books (the "splat books" of 4e) and the stuff given in Dragon magazine, even moreso.

While I'm thinking of it, let me also note that with 4e, refluffing of monsters is fairly easy.  Once you know what the numbers should look like, for any given level, you can basically take any monster, use it as a mechanical framework, and put any skin over the top of it.  In one game right now, I'm using a halfling guttersnipe build to be a goblin sharpshooter; in another, a town guard as the Bandit Leader; and in another instance, I refluffed a grell as an aberrant green dragonling.

So, from my perspective:

For DMs:
• Dungeon Master's Kit (Essentials)
• Monster Vault or Monster Vault:Nentir Vale
• DDI subscription for access to Dragon, Dungeon, Compendium, & Monster Builder.
• DMG2 — in my opinion, the best of the DMGs.  I think the DMK covers DMG1's stuff well enough — especially with the fixes that were put in since — but DMG2 really expands and builds upon things.

For Players:
• Heroes of the Forgotten Lands & Fallen Kingdoms (or is the other way around?)
• PHBs 1 (Martial, Divine, and Arcane classes) & 2 (Primal, Divine, and Arcane classes) & 3 (Psionic, Primal, and Divine classes), depending on player interest.
• DDI subscription for access to Dragon & Character Builder.

Less mandatory stuff, unless you don't have the DDI subscription:
• Powers books
• Other Heroes books
• Monster Manuals
• Race books (which only ever came out for Dragonborns and Tieflings, but they're still interesting reads, if you need some ideas)

Anyway... The Red Box has an adventure which should take most groups to 2nd level.  The DM Kit has one that gets them through 2nd and 3rd to 4th.  The Monster Vault has one to get them to 5th.  Gardmore Abbey — and it's Deck of Many Things — covers 6th to 8th.   By the time you get through those, you should be experienced enough at handling adventures to be able to make up your own with not too much work, especially if you use the tips and tricks present in some of the other books (esp. DMG2).  And if not, you can always use refluffed LFR adventures. 

As always with D&D, all that is necessary to play are the PHB, DMG, and Monster Manual. Extra content gives extra options. In 4E, the other PHBs had extra PC races and classes. In the "regular" PHB, you'll find, again as usual, a list of base races & classes. The class names will be familiar; the mechanics won't be, for the most part. For races, there are (mostly) the usual options, with some modifications: the Eladrin are new (but they're basically the old Grey Elves), the tieflings are now a base race, there's a new one called Dragonborn, which are cosmetically similar to the old draconians of Dragonlance, but are quite different in gameplay. And they took out gnomes & put them in one of the supplemental PHB.
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I do, however, have one last lesson on this subject. That last one? The only build in this post that can one-shot average opponents[by dealing twice as much damage as they have HP? I would argue that it is not optimized. Why isn't it optimized? Because it's overkill. Overkill is NOT optimizing. This means that there are portions of this build dedicated to damage which can safely be removed and thrown elsewhere. For example, you probably don't need both Leap Attack AND Headlong Rush at the same time. You could pick up Extra Rage feats for stamina, feats to support AoO effects, feats that work towards potential prestige classes, and so on. However, you could also shift our ability scores around somewhat. I mean, if you're getting results like that with 16 starting Strength, maybe you can lower it to 14, and free up four points to spend somewhere else - perhaps back into Charisma, giving you some oomph for Intimidating Rage or Imperious Command if you want. You can continue to tune this until it deals "enough" damage - and that "enough" does not need to be "100%". It could easily be, say, 80% (leaving the rest to the team), if your DM is the sort who would ban one-hit killers.
Tempest_Stormwind on Character Optimization
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There are indeed multiple PHBs, but the initial rules for character creation and the like are in the PHB1.  The PHB2 and PHB3 have rules for additional races and classes, more feats, and more magic items, but they don't have the basic rules to start the game.  There are also character generation rules in the books Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms and Heroes of the Fallen Lands, which are both books for the slightly simplified "Essentials" line, though they are entirely compatible with the PHB classes.  I personally prefer the race variations in those books, as they give the races a single set stat bonus, and a second stat bonus that is chosen from two possible stats.  They also give another option for racial powers, which can be useful.  The Players' Options books are likewise full of races, classes, feats, and items that are optional, though some are quite worthwhile to have available after you've gotten used to the rule system.

There is also a DMG2, but like with the PHB2 and PHB3, it's additional material.  The primary information is in the DMG1, but there is lots of useful stuff like inherent bonuses and the like in the DMG2, so it is also useful.  Likewise, there's more than a few MMs (and there's two Monster Vaults, at that), though MM1 and MM2 have lots of big monsters that do too little damage and have too much HP, the math for which was fixed in MM3 and the later Monster Vaults.

As for the various quick-plays, I haven't tried them, but from what I've heard, the Red Box is only good for the first 2-3 levels, after which you would have to buy the rulebooks if you wanted to play further.  (I could be mistaking this for another of the quick-start products, but I know one of them is like that).

I would suggest starting with the PHB1 (or one/both of the Heroes of the- books in place of PHB1), DMG1, and either MM3 or Monster Vault.  These provide all the needed rules, and give you plenty of material to kick around.  It's a good place to get started and learn, and when you're more comfortable, you can add in the others PHBs, or the Players' Options books, or what have you, to spice things up as your group progresses.  A DDI subscription can also be useful, but it's not a necessary tool.
That's fantastic guys, many thanks for your time and sage advice!

I'll take my first tentative steps into 4th Ed and will no doubt be back here with more questions! 
The essentials give a nod to older editions.

Players Handbooks are most likely going to seem the most drastic.

IF you really want to see now pay teh ten bucks for the character generator and you can look around.
I'd say the Essentials line is the way to go if you want to get into 4E. The PHBs will be a pretty big departure from classic D&D, and they might be harder to find since they're out of print. But I wouldn't recommend the Red Box. Not only is it only good up to 2nd level (maybe 3rd?), the characters you build with it don't match up with the standard game.

The DM Kit and Heroes of the Fallen Lands OR Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms is enough to start (I'd recommend Fallen Lands since it's got the classic Fighter, Cleric, Wizard, and Rogue in it).

I had much the same background in D&D - Basic, AD&D, bit of 2E, follow by nearly 20 years out.  Came back in late 2010.  I really, really enjoy 4e.  But it is a completely different game.  I also have to give a nod to Essentials, and some of the post Essential books.  Though the Red Box players material is "essentially" useless, you would get a 1st lvl adventure and poster map and some tokens to use if you have no mini's, but you will get better tokens from the DM's Kit and Monster Vault.

You should check out the D&D Encounters program if you have a FLGS that runs it in your area.  Great way to try out 4e and meet local gamers.  New season starts in 3 weeks.  

That said, you should know that 4e is on the decline with the playtest for D&D Next running right now, before you spend big $ on it.  I wish that wasn't so, because there are many wonderful things they did with 4e to make the game so much better and everything I have seen of Next is like a backward step.  I hope to continue playing 4E for some time to come. 

If you have questions there are many wonderful people of these boards who can answer your question and give you great advice.  

Best of Luck,



I started playing D&D (Basic, Expert, Companion and Master) and AD&D 1st Edition some 25 years ago and played 2nd Edition for a few years but am now looking to return to the game with some friends who are new to it.

So, it's 4th Edition is it... I was going to start with the basics: PHB, DMG and MM but the new structure of the books is bewildering...where would you guys suggest I start?

Like I say, I'd consider myself an advanced player, just new to 4th Edition.


Allow history to repeat itself, start with the 4e red box.
Where else?
I started playing in 3E, and have moved to 4E, and I learned both systems the same way: Read the PHB cover-to-cover (don't worry about memorizing the math or specific spells and powers, just absorb whatever sticks). There are a couple of caveats, though:

1. If you're going to be a DM, you'll need more information. Reading a DMG cover-to-cover and skimming the Monster Manual is also a good idea.

2. In 4E, there's a lot of space dedicated to the powers for the various classes. Reading the powers like you would the rest of the book can make your brain melt, so I would just read the 1st level powers for each class to get a feel for what the class does, then check out a handful of higher-level powers to see how the class progresses.

Standard Answer to all 5E rules questions: "Ask your DM."

Another thing to know about that might avoid some confusion when you start reading the books and read the fourums here is that the essentials books added sub classes that in some cases work very different and have different goals then other builds.

In PHB the warlock uses ranged attacks and gets extra damage against people that he placed his CURSE on
In forgotten kingdoms the warlock-hexblade makes a sword out of pure magic and gets a static damage bounus

In PHB2 the druid changes between huminoid form using ranged attacks and beast from makeing melee attack. Most of these attacks are CONTROL orriented giving enemies penalties
In forgotten kingdoms the druid-sentinal has a pet wolf or bear and fights with a scimitar or staff and then uses healing and ally buff powers like goodberry or cat's grace.
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Have you tried lurking in the Play-by-post forums? Just reading them might be a clue.

Yes, 4e is very different. In fact, almost completely different. Start from scratch. Build a fighter, a rogue, and a wizard, just for fun. Look at the way they differ.
Don't expect the first set of characters you build to be perfect.

The game is still fun. Just the mechanics are different.
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