Personal tips for a newbie starting out today?

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Hi everyone. Sorry if this is in the wrong area. This is my first time posting here on the forums. I've done a lot of reading around and still have some questions I hope can be answered.  

I've been interested for a long time about playing D&D but never have gotten around to buying a set to play with. I have only the most basic understanding of the rules that came from playing games like Neverwinter Nights and Baldur's Gate. Other than that, I don't really have the best idea of how to play. I assume 4e is the best edition to start out with?

Before I go any further, I should say that I plan on starting this out on my own. No DM, just me by myself. I realize this will just be a series of RPless random dungeon crawling, but I'm okay with that. I'd like to get to know as much as I can by myself before I start playing with others. This will also give me a chance to practice DMing. I know the better alternative would be to play computer RPGs, but it's just more appealing to me to roll actual dice instead of having a computer automatically roll for me. With that being said, I have a few questions:

- Will running dungeons by myself be viable if I play more than one character? I would have a main character, but if the dungeons hit too hard I would have to play other characters to support my main. Is this something that can be done easily?

- What do you suggest I buy today? I heard the Red Box is a great place to start, so I will probably buy that, but is there anything else you think is mandatory or anything that will help me learn the rules easier?

- Are there a lot of people who play DMless and by themselves, and are there campaigns tailored to this? I've heard Ravenloft supports single player, are there others like this?

- Do I play all of the separate campaigns and modules with my one character, or do I have to create a new character for each different "set" that I buy? What if the rules and settings are vastly different?

I eventually plan on playing with my brother via webcam since he lives 13 hours away from me, and I'd like to learn as much as I can before I play with him. Thanks for reading this and I can't wait to read some of your answers.  
I don't think a ton of people play 'solitaire' D&D, but it isn't unheard of. As for "should you do it", games are to have fun, so have fun. If you are up to the paperwork you can certainly run many PCs. 4e has a 'companion character' rule (in DMG2) which outlines how to make simpler secondary 'NPC' characters to act as companions for PCs. You can use that to make a couple of 'sidekicks' if you want. You could also play several PC type characters, I know sometimes my players do it and they seem able to manage.

RedBox has an actual solo adventure, but it is a pretty short one. It is designed to make the rules easy to learn, so its not a bad place to start. Red Box is self-contained, so you can just get that and try it out and see what you think.

Not a lot of people play this way, it is somewhat limiting and a lot of the fun of the game is diving into the unknown, which you can't really do on your own. You COULD make up some rules for random dungeons, which at least is a bit more entertaining. DMG1 does have a simple rule for that, though the old AD&D first edition DMG has the best random dungeon rules (some details might need to be tweaked for 4e play, but the basic concept is the same).

You can play the same character through many adventures, why not? You don't have to though. Play however you like. You can run your one character, modify him some (say make him higher level) to fit with a tough adventure if you want, etc. Its all your game, you're the DM, so you can do whatever you want. Its not like you can 'cheat' against yourself...

You might also want to check out local game stores, see where the nearest Encounters program is located, and/or maybe dig around for some online playing opportunities. People post about those things some here, but you can also try places like www.enworld.com which has some player locators and many active players who play online or by email.

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I would try to find at least one other to play with. Even if that person is as new to the game as you are. Game shops, forums, skype, craigs list, whatever it takes. As a RPG most of your fun is going to come from the RP not the crunch or numbers. The players get to 'play' their character while the DM gets to 'play' everything else. But without someone to bounce ideas off of it's just not the same. I've played a duo and I have played DM-less before and I had fun with both.

4e is going to be your best bet as a new player as it's the easiest to learn and reference. Spend for the 1 month DDI subsciption and you get just about everything you need aside from the map and some mini's.      
No wonder the locals hate me.
I also suggest getting D&D Insider for a month. There's a Character Builder, a Compendium and Adventure Tools you can use to look up rules, classes, feats, powers, etc. It's $9.99 for a month and is much cheaper than the actual books.

If you want to buy the books, there are two lines: 4th Edition and Essentials. Essentials is a simplified ruleset aimed at new players. If you buy the Red Box, you're making an Essentials character. I prefer the main 4th Edition line. It's easy enough to understand and I taught myself to play with the PHB and DMG.

Learning by yourself is fine. Take a PC you make and a monster of the same level, put them on a grid (you can use coins or whatever to represent them) and simulate a combat encounter. You can ramp this up over time until you get a hold on managing multiple characters at one time.

Hope this helps.