I have just started a 4e campaign using Essentials. I have the two hero books, rules compendium, monster vault and dms kit, I like 4e and don't feel any particular compulsion at the moment to go to Next (if I want old school I have the 1e books and there are other games out there). I also am starting to collect other bits of 4e such as the Dark Sun and Forgotten Realms books.
Is there any utility in getting any of the other 'core' books like the phbs and dmgs or the additional mms?
I am worried that they will go out of print and then later I will regret not buying them, although the Essentials books are fine for now.
The PHB1/2/3 contain race and class options that are absent from the Heroes of the Fallen Lands/Forgotten Kingdoms, and the original 4E versions of the classes that are presented in those two books are also found in the PHB line. (Most of the Essentials versions, especially the martial-oriented classes, were heavily stripped down to try to appeal to old-E players.) Perhaps most significantly, this includes the iconic-to-4E classes like the Warlord, which the Essentials line deliberately left out.
The Forgotten Realms, Eberron, and Dark Sun player guides also have an assortment of races and classes not printed in the PHBs. These are NOT setting-specific or designed to different standards than the PHB classes; they were put in those books mainly because they're featured in those settings (and the fact that it gave people an extra reason to buy the setting books probably didn't hurt...)
The "Arcane/Divine/Primal/etc Power" series expands on the classes found in those books, and sometimes introduce new styles of those classes (the marauder ranger, the cosmic sorcerer, etc) but they don't introduce any new classes.
Most of the mechanics-content from these books can also be found in the compendium, but there's a good deal of descriptive/story/setting/explanatory material that doesn't appear in the compendium; if you have a DDI subscription then you might want to browse the books to see whether the non-mechanics content is worth the extra cost.
The DMG is and the DM's Kit are *mostly* the same, rules-wise (with the notable exception of the treasure system; DMKit uses old-E-style random rolling whereas the DMG uses the 4E parcel system), but the DMG1 and 2 contain a great deal of discussion about how to run games, campaign styles, and various approaches to doing so, as well as providing (especially in the DMG2) far more detail on how various systems work. The DMG2 is worth picking up, especially if your campaign is moving into paragon or epic levels; the DMG1 may be worth getting, but you'd be best off to browse through it first and decide whether you need it.
The Monster Manual 1 can probably be ignored at this point; most of the creatures therein were updated and reprinted in the Monster Vault, and the MM1 also suffers a great deal from the problems of early 4E monster design and math. The MM2 has a larger number of creatures that don't reappear in the MV, but still has monster design issues. The Monster Manual 3, however, represents the same era of design as the Monster Vault, as well as having a greater focus on higher-level creatures, so it remains an excellent resource. (The only known issue with the MM3 is that solos generally don't have action-recovery mechanics, but those are easy to add.)
I generally agree with N_D on this subject so I don't feel the need to rewrite his whole post myself.
N_D has listed things I feel comfortable recommending as well. However, I cannot suggest the two DMGs enough. These are, in my 36 year playing history, the best DMGs every written!
Thanks for the great replies. That's really helpful.
I see you have a DDI subscription.
In my opinion, a player with a DDI subscription needs the following books:
a) Any one of PHB1, HotFK, HotFL - to get an explanation of what they are doing as they go through the character creation process (but after they've done that several times, they can get rid of the books if they want)
b) access to a Rules Compendium, particularly during play.
And, again in my opinion, a DM with a DDI subscription needs the following books:
a & b) as above, and actually build a few characters
d) DMG2 sometime before the party hits Paragon
Also everyone needs to be able to print the relevant materials - character sheets, monster stat blocks...
If the campaign is in a published setting, then the group needs the (typically two) books specific to that setting. The DM needs them first, and sometimes there's one that only the DM needs - the division between the two books was done differently for different settings. (If one of the books is just a monster vault, it's covered in DDI).
And if the campaign is using published adventures, of course the DM needs those adventures.
How this might change when Next becomes officially current, I have no clue. WotC currently claims that the old stuff will remain up. We all know what sometimes happens to marketing claims, particularly when they relate to an old product that competes against a new product.
I am assuming the worst case scenario that DDI will disappear for 4e, but I will want to continue playing 4e and not invest in Next.
If I did not have a sub or the DDI goes would you add any other books to those already mentioned?
It is all a matter of what sort of stuff you want. 4e is a LARGE system and there are a ton of books that cater to different interests. You have your player-facing stuff of course. This would include your PHBs, and your * Power books. There are also equipment books, AV1, AV2, and Mordenkainen's. Obviously these can be pretty useful to the DM in various ways too, but are mainly beneficial to players. There are certainly a LOT of character options here. Note that equipment is also pretty lacking in Essentials.
Secondly you have your various DM reference works. These fall in a few categories. One is thematic, there are books on undead, dragons, and demons. Then you have general info books, MotP and the upper and lower planes books, the Underdark book, etc. Some newer books are harder to classify. The DSG, HotFW, and HoS are mostly player oriented like the power series books, but also contain a decent amount of DM info, background material, and advice. There is also the BoVD which is kind of hard to classify (it has a player book and a DM book, the DM part covers a variety of stuff).
There are also various adventure setting books, The Shadowfell, Menzobaranzan, and the various settings. These all have some useful and interesting stuff in them, though the settings are probably not worth picking up if you don't want to run them.
I think that covers pretty much everything that's out there in a general way. Frankly the core books are mostly good to have (PHBs and DMGs) but not utterly vital if you're happy with the existing HotF* options. The MM1 and MM2 are marginal. MM3 is great. The monster type theme books I really liked, as do I like the various general info and location type books like Underdark. Honestly there's no 4e material that is really BAD. The worst 4e book there is is probably the MM1, and it isn't exactly terrible, just kind of dated at this point.
The completionist in me wants to get everything...
Presumably stuff that is now OOP such as AV1 is not going to be reprinted.
Amazon in the UK has MME in stock if this is any use.
Thanks for the enworld info.
Essentials is crap and should have never been created. Wizards was just trying to capture people that didn't like it, rather than sticking to their guns and fleshing out the work they had already done. Part of why 4e is dead after only 5 or so years. Get the Real Books you will have a much more intresting and customisable experience.
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