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I'm new to playing D&D and RPGs in general, and I have a group that's unsure about the game.

Is the new Starter Set (5th edition) a good way to start? Is it even worth the cost when there are free alternatives for 5e? The character sheets for the pre-gens and the Basic Rules are online and I could just print those out and make up an adventure. Besides the pre-gens and dice, it seems like the Starter Set only comes with a book that seems no longer than the Basic Rules, so I'm not sure it's actually worth getting it. It seems like it might be worthwhile to start with Basic Rules, and use the money saved to get the Tyranny of Dragons and Rise of Tiamat when they come out and start with a prewritten story that way.

Or should we avoid all this need to figure out what to invest in to start up, and just join a group or Encounters events at the local store or something?

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I gave this an edit to work in your comments, and to focus it down to one core question: whether it's worth learning alone, or a better use of time/money to just join an existing group. I think that's something that can get reopened and could attract quality answers. How's it look? –  SevenSidedDie Jul 30 at 4:43
Very nice job! Thats exactly it! –  Ace Of Roses Jul 30 at 15:06
Doesn't really answer the question, but I feel obligated to warn you about the starter set. See, there's a green dragon that the party has to fight. One of the premade backstories has a goal of slaying this dragon. It flees when 68 damage is dealt to it...but it deals 12-72 (~84) damage to everyone in the party on a failed fort save. And yes, it is presented as a combat encounter. To PCs that are at least 4 levels too low to defeat it. Similarly, you need to play every encounter (even the one against a group of mook goblins) stupidly if you don't want more player kills than they have levels. –  Arkhaic Jul 30 at 18:45
@Arkhaic "Has to fight" implies subscription to play ethos where every encounter is there to be stepped through toe-to-toe without question or strategic manipulation. That's not an ethos that 5e is designed for / subscribes to, which I wish it would make clearer since it's such a break with the play expectations developed from the last two editions. Yes, facing everything head-on is suicidal. Not taking suicidal actions for their PCs is something the players are responsible for. –  SevenSidedDie Jul 30 at 19:07
No, "Has to fight" implies that the party is heavily encouraged to fight it, never properly warned about the dragon's strength (the NPC that warns them also asks them to fight it), and won't survive long enough to run away. This thing is a round 1 TPK waiting to happen. –  Arkhaic Jul 30 at 21:06

2 Answers 2

Starter Set

5th edition's Starter Set is decent to give you a feel for the basic rules, and outside players are not necessary. It is designed with beginners in mind, and is thus a good intro to the game. The starter set has an adventure in it that goes from level 1 to 5, while covering a lot of ground from a role-playing perspective as well as a combat perspective.

It's 20 dollars, but there's a high likelihood that most things outside of using the basic rules to create a character and joining the adventure league as a player are going to cost you more.

It does give you enough to work with to create your own campaigns as well, as the monsters in the appendix are varied enough for some play-room.

Extant Groups

This is particularly advantageous if you don't have a lot of people in your current group and want to get going. If you just combine two groups, you might make the new group too big to manage reasonably. If there's only a couple of you it is easy and would likely be a great intro. If you have a single player you can draw in to play or DM that knows a lot about the game, it can certainly compensate on either side.

Basic Rules

Presently the basic rules only cover character creation, however, WOTC has stated that they will be expanding the basic rules to cover some monsters and DM'ing advice as the core books get released. If you don't mind waiting a bit longer to start playing, then wait for the PHB to be released for sale (as that is when they are supposed to update the Basic Rules next), and download the updated rules. You should have some monsters and such in there that you can use to create your first campaign, free of charge.

If you are in a hurry to try it within the next 3 or 4 weeks, then by all means pick up the Starter Set, or find someone at your local game store that has it and wants to run a game. Ultimately, the decision on how to approach this is up to you. There is no wrong path to start the game.

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The Starter Set is a bit cheaper on Amazon, if it helps. –  DawnPaladin Jul 30 at 19:01
Even with the Basic Rules or Players Handbook, creating a character can be tough to do correctly. Their step-by-step is not as complete as it should be. I recommend using pre-made characters for a beginning group, then graduating to making your own with the assistance of a checklist to help. –  xgm Sep 2 at 17:47

This is a very subjective question, but this is my personal opinion: I think it would be best to find an experienced DM who is looking for players, and play with him, using whatever system the DM chooses. At my local game store, at least, this is a very possible track to take. Playing a few encounters at the game store may help you get a feel for what experiences you're looking for. This will also introduce you to playing RPGs more, but without a lot of the burdens of DMing. Additionally, the DM will be able (and ought) to walk you through how to do stuff as you adventure.

This is all subject to the reason why you all are interested / play RPGs. If you're in it for the world-building (making your own plots, kingdoms, lands, etc.), get the basic rules online (or one of those other free alternatives) and have fun! If you're in it for the social interaction (the having fun with friends while beating up monsters), go play encounters at a game store!

The Pre-Made adventures and starter sets are nice because it does not require as much work to get up and going. Making adventures on your own can be stressful for some people, and certainly can feel more like work and less like play. Learning a new system takes at least a little effort, and learning D&D or another RPG without any prior experience can be very hard!

Whatever you choose, this site is FULL of useful advice and insightful questions, just look for things with the GM tag! We often throw links out for useful blogs, too. Entering the chat, when you can, and asking for help there can be great, too.

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