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I'm totally new to D&D having only played 2 games neither of which I GM'd, one being 3.5, the other being heavily home brewed version of 3.5.

I want to GM a game. I have a group ready, but I was wondering what would a good edition be to start with for a totally new dungeon master as well as totally new players. D&D only (pathfinder and other forms aswell), not other RPGs.

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As this is a game-recommendation question, please adhere to the FAQ, the rules for subjective questions as outlined in Good Subjective, Bad Subjective and our rules for game recommendations. All responses must cite actual experience or reference others' experiences!

closed as unclear what you're asking by mxyzplk Aug 8 '14 at 12:36

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Please add more on what you want out of a game. What aspects of D&D do you like/not like? The editions vary widely and there is no "best," there's only "best for a given purpose." Also, you say "D&D only" but does that include various branches of the tree like Pathfinder and OSR retroclones? – mxyzplk Aug 8 '14 at 12:37
@mxyzplk I never asked for the "best" to me there is no best to anything in a franchise each has it's ups each it's downs, I was just asking what's an easy starting point for a group of new players with a new GM. – Jayjay Aug 8 '14 at 14:35
@mxyzplk and that was an edit from someone else i'll fix it – Jayjay Aug 8 '14 at 14:40
Unfortunately, at least the possibility of a best answer is necessary for a question to work on this site. This site is designed to work really well for questions that could have a best answer, because most sites aren't good for that kind of problem. A side effect is that this site works terribly for getting opinions—but that's okay, because there are lots of other sites heat work well for that. – SevenSidedDie Aug 8 '14 at 15:19
@Flamma The problem isn't that it's hard to tell what the asker wants, the problem is that if there aren't any more requirements, then which one is easiest is just a matter of personal opinion. And we don't take questions that can only be answered with personal opinion. It's not a bad question, just one that doesn't fit this site. Lots of other sites do take questions of opinion, and RPG.SE doesn't aim to replace them. RPG forums, Quora, WikiAnswers, reddit, etc., etc., are all well-equipped to deliver a pile of opinions on demand, and we're not. – SevenSidedDie Aug 9 '14 at 18:02
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Run 5e

5e has the fastest character creation of the last 3 editions, and the smallest core rules as well. D&D Basic is available for free download, and the Starter Kit is selling around 20 dollars and is an excellent introduction to both the edition and the hobby. The adventure module inside is well written and well organized and specifically breaks down things like traps, stealth, and the initial combat in the adventure to help new DMs and players.

D&D 5e rules also support various play-styles. Whether you want to do everything on a grid, run it as WYSISYG, or just go theater of the mind, the rules explicitly support all 3 approaches.

My experience

I've been playtesting Next (5e's alpha) for the past year, I currently run official adventure modules for D&D encounters at my local gameshop and have done so for the past year and a half. I have played a lot of 4e, its my favorite edition, but its also got a lot of rules and material upfront that can overwhelm new players and strong expectations of PC optimization. 3.5 and Pathfinder equally suffer from this problem. As such I can't recommend any of them as a starting point for trying to get into the hobby.

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I can accept DVs, but did anyone have a concrete reason or just disagreeing over 5e as the best option? – Joshua Aslan Smith Aug 8 '14 at 17:21
Seeing as the Players Handbook is only just out today, and that only in limited release, I can imagine that some people might disagree with your assessment of (for example) player creation time. – Mark Bessey Aug 8 '14 at 20:26
Basic is part of the main system, all the options in basic are available in the PHB and Basic has been out for awhile now so I think that the consensus has been pretty strong on just how fast character creation can be using it. – Joshua Aslan Smith Aug 8 '14 at 21:04
Oh, I'm not disagreeing with you, I just thought that maybe that's where some of the down votes are coming from. – Mark Bessey Aug 8 '14 at 23:19

3.5e or Pathfinder

5e is new, 4e requires knowledge of game concepts from other dnd games and combat takes ages, and ADND/2e/clones are very rough on new players. My greatest strike rate with introducing DnD to new players/roleplayers who haven't played it is 3.5e. I include Pathfinder as the two games are very similar, with some people calling Pathfinder 3.75e. I personally prefer 3.5e, but the difference is slight.

On 5e

I only have limited experience with it, but I feel again that it relies on a certain amount of dnd 'meta knowledge' to run quickly and easily. If you are a new GM, or if your players don't have experience with DnD, I feel a different edition may be easier to understand and use.

It obviously depends largely on your group and what they like to do, whether that's crunch minutiae, tactical miniatures combat, 'die for no reason a lot', etc. My suggestion would be to run a couple of games in one, and if they are not liking it, switch out for another.

My personal largest strike rate has been with 3.5e/pathfinder, though, so that's what i'll recommend you start with.

Books - 3.5e

There was a re-release of some 3.5e books, if you're looking at playing 3.5e I would recommend picking up the core set - the Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual. All are quality products. For interesting material that will add to any 3.5e game, I can recommend the Expanded Psionics Handbook, Complete Warrior, Complete Arcane, Player's Handbook II. A monster manual or two can be handy if you're drawing a blank on what exactly is infesting the basement of the House of Twin Spires. It's worth noting, although I explicitly cannot encourage you to pursue this or give you any advice on doing so, that there do exist pirated copies of 3.5e books in pdf form.


There's a Beginner's Box for pathfinder, which I have not personally used. My experience of these 'boxes', though, is that they are geared to absolute newbies and generally not as fun as simply buying the actual rulebook, even for absolute newbies. If your group has rpg experience, the lack of choice I assume to be present will probably annoy them, and you're probably better off picking up a copy of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook.

Additionally I hear good things about the Advanced Players Guide and Ultimate Combat, and you will need their version of a monster manual, the Bestiary.

Interestingly for Pathfinder there are several 'Adventure Paths', campaigns in a book designed for you. Of those, i've read through Kingmaker, Carrion Crown, and Shattered City - I can recommend all three as easy to run and hopefully interesting.

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Ok thanks like I said I do have some experience with 3.5 but didn't know to much about it due to only having 1 game in the campaign i'm in right now, pathfinder I never did try I might try it out as a player first but thanks for the answer even tho i'm not supposed to say thanks in comments – Jayjay Aug 8 '14 at 10:06
Quick question tho before i'm done with this any suggestions on which books to get either then like the core rulebooks? – Jayjay Aug 8 '14 at 10:09
Are such old books still on sale? – Flamma Aug 8 '14 at 10:26
@Jason It's common etiquette in this place to wait 2 days before accepting an answer. Specially if it's so opinion based. Questions with accepted answers tend to receive fewer additional answers, and you may want to hear more opinions. – Flamma Aug 8 '14 at 10:28
@Flamma K thanks I guess and ya they are well atleast on amazon they are – Jayjay Aug 8 '14 at 10:46

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