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I want to start a game with some friends. We never played using any book but now we want to try that out. I got the PLayer, DM and monster book but that's it. As I'll be DMing for the first time I'm looking on the internet a lot for tips and tricks and it always seems that every player is expected to have their own player book. However, since it will be the first time using the books for most players and the first time playing it at all for one, I first want to see if they like it before asking them to buy their own books.
Is it possible to play with just one player book, and if you have experience with that how did you handle it?

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Are you willing to buy a DDI subscription? – wax eagle Jun 12 '12 at 19:47
Is this for 4th ed or for all editions of D&D? Do you plan on using character builders? -- hop on chat and we can help you make character sheets that contain power text for everyone. – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jun 12 '12 at 19:49
it's 4th edition, one of the players does have the 3.5e books. I haven't looked into the DDI subscribtion yet, I might if I can do it for short term. – Niek Jun 12 '12 at 20:17
3.5e is different enough that those books are more likely to cause problems than help. – SevenSidedDie Jun 12 '12 at 21:07
A house rule some people like when learning a game is that if you can't remember something just make up a reasonable rule right away, then look it up after the game. You can invoke this if people are getting bored with looking too much up. – psr Jun 13 '12 at 1:13
up vote 5 down vote accepted

eMy group has been playing for over year with virtually no books at all. We have a few books around, but most of our players have not bought any.

DDI provides everything we need.

  • The character builder allows us to build our characters without access to source books.
  • The Compendium has most of the rules material already in place, it leaves you needing very little in the way out outside rules material
  • Access to Dungeon magazine can provide a resourceful DM with a ton of adventures and other world building tools.

However, there are some products that I can recommend that you will really only need one of for your group

  • Monster Vault - tons of tokens and up to date monsters, also has a fun L5 adventure with it.
  • Rules Compendium - has a number of tables and others things not available with DDI that are invaluable.

The only catch here is that per the TOS you need one DDI account per player (and the DM too). I cannot endorse only using one account for an entire group.

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I like your answer. But this is why I like books. Buy them once, and you're done. Need to hand one to your buddy? No problem. Sharing is fun. Sharing is nice. And since the best deal on DDI is over $70 / year, it makes the $50 you'd spend on a rules compendium, both "Heroes of..." books and a Monster Vault look like a steal by comparison. Since you only need one of those. And I can't think of the last time I ran a game where anyone owned any of the books but me. It's worked just fine for over 30 years. – gomad Jun 13 '12 at 0:29

When we started playing 4e (and were similarly inexperienced with it) there was no character builder online and we only had two Player's Handbooks to share among six people.

During play this worked just fine. The biggest challenge was when initially making characters – it took longer than necessary because people were frequently stuck waiting for someone else to finish with a book so that they could look something up.

If you will be using a D&D Insider account to access the character builder that will speed things up. With only the book though, just be sure to allow lots of time for creating the characters, and then you'll be past 99% of the bottlenecks that sharing just one book causes.

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I am pretty sure you can easily play with just one copy of the books. In a group with experienced players and DM you can even play without referring to books at all if there are notes regarding the monsters and challenges for the DM.

My assumption would be that you don't need extra copies of the same books. Just make sure the players have read and do know the rules for the most part (it is their responsibility to know the basics and remember almost anything they need often for their character). Other than that I would advise you as a DM to keep the books near you since you decide when any rules should be looked up in the PH. Moreover, both the MM and Dungeons Master's Guide are meant to be read by you alone. The former contains information about monsters that only the DM should know and reveal on successful knowledge checks, while the latter mostly contains advice and guidelines you should be most aware of beforehand. In my groups the DMs rarely even read the DMG as they know what to do based on experience, logic and knowledge of the current ruleset.

Since this is 4e, the No1 reason your players might need to read the PH for constantly are powers, which are impossible to remember due to quantity. Have them print power cards with Character Builder, make their own or buy cards with powers of their class from a game store, it should be cheaper than buying books just for that.

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I think that it is possible to play a few sessions with one copy of the books you have among the entire group. My first game and group was done exactly as so. I learned that the most important thing to do was for me (being the DM) to be as knowledgeable about the rules as I possibly could be before starting the game. I read through the DMG twice and the PHB even more than that before I finally got my group together (but you may not have to be as obsessive as I was about it). I also used per-generated characters, but also allowed the PCs to create their own if they felt more confident about doing so. Also be willing to fudge the rules if you aren't sure about something. If you spend your entire first game looking up the rules and not spending as much time actually playing your players may not consider it a good time and not be interested in investing more time (or money) in the game.

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