Is DDI essential?

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Hi, I've posted a number of other threads on what to buy and where to go to after your done with the red box and most people are telling me to continue on with the essentials line, which is good as it has clarified and answered a lot of my questions. But Im also getting a lot of recommendations to subscribe to Dungeons and Dragons Insider, which is a problem. I am a student and dont have any steady income and so cannot really afford to subscribe to DDI at the moment, so what Im wondewring is; Is DDI required to get the most out of, or even just play the esssentials line (or the game in general) or is it just an added bonus which enriches the game? Kepping in mind that me and my friends are all newbs and many elements that seasoned players may find necessary in DDI may not matter to us. Any advice is helpful.
No, it's not essential; you can have a perfectly enjoyable game with just the Essentials books.  The subscription gets you all the mechanical options ever published, but that may not be worth the cost, especially if you're just beginning and might be overwhelmed rather than excited about all the extra options.  Consider the DDI subscription for later down the line after you've exhausted the Essentials adventures from the DM's Kit and Monster Vault; that should take you a few months, at least.
It's not essential for 4e period. If you are sticking with essentials, it's even easier to go without it. In fact, I would even go so far as to not recommend it given the relatively fewer options for essentials.
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Thanks for the info, Im finding everyone really helpful here. Smile
It's not essential, but boy is it handy. Not just for the character creator, which is many people's favorite, but for the compendium and monster builder.  However given your budgetary concerns I'd say don't worry about it, because it fosters a certain dependance, especially for character creation.
Thanks for the info, Im finding everyone really helpful here. Smile

The only thing I would add is that I advise you to use the original 4e character sheet. It has a lot of extra spaces for all the bonuses and variables that go into 4e characters, and I think it makes it much, much easier to create characters by hand bc you can easily see where you went wrong or what you forgot (if anything). I strongly recommend switching to them.

Here is a link
I have to agree with Frothsof, use the original 4e character sheets. They are hard on ink, but well worth it. It's really obvious where all the bonuses come from and that in turn teaches the players how all of the math works.

I find that the Essentials character sheets streamlined everything so much that players didn't understand where the numbers were coming from and that made character creation more difficult, not easier.

If you are looking for a way to create power cards, you can easily write them out by hand using index cards and color code with a marker or you can use some printable templates (or search google for dozens of options).

It's a myth that you need DDI to run 4e.  It sure makes it easier, but you don't need it.

EDIT:  You'll find some more resources for 4e here, custom character sheets and printable blank power cards.
Yeah, I agree, DDI is a great tool that I love, but it isn't NECESSARY. In fact 4e is no harder to play without those sorts of tools than previous editions were really. Certainly people played 3e and 3.5 and PF for years without those sorts of tools and gotten by fine.
That is not dead which may eternal lie
The character builder, and compendium aren't even that great. They are both so rife with errors, that I have taken to triple checked any character made with the builder past level 16. Every character I have past 11 has notes written all over the pages, because the sheets generated are often incomplete. That said, its nice to have a library at your figure tips, and its nice to have a clean character sheet generated. I am hoping with 5e they will make a brand new (and less error prone) character builder to go with both systems, and if not, release the code so we can improve the 4e version it ourselves.