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On launch, I bought all the D&D 4E Essentials books (except the Starter set). I'm currently very happy with the content, but I'm noticing more and more frequently stuff that I don't have:

  • More items (even if the new rarity system is still a bit lacking).
  • Superior weapons? All I know about them is through a helpful wiki
  • One of my players asked to multiclass his ranger build.
  • Another asked to build a Warden Shapeshifter.
  • Another created a cleric with the Ritualist feat.
  • I have no info what treasure I should give when creating players above level 1.
  • I have no Paragon info apart from the bits included in the DM Kit and Rules Compendium, and obviously the powers the books have.
  • Ditto for Epic.
  • I need more info on how to create level-appropriate monsters from scratch or modify existing ones. Ditto for traps, treasure, etc.
  • I'm planning an overarching campaign centered around Asmodeus, if that helps.

To clarify: I said no to the multiclassing guy then, because he brought me the question 5 minutes before session, wanting the change right then and there. I plan on eventually relenting, but I don't know what effect this will have. I said yes to the rest, but for now it's essentially "If you don't use my material, you manage your players, I'll try to give all the help I can, but no more".

Given all this, your recommendations would be to buy books (and if so, which ones, and in which order), to subscribe to ddi, both, or something else?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

Honestly, your best move is probably a DDI subscription. If you buy the whole year its about $70 which is what you would pay for about 2-3 additional books. If you don't mind sharing an account you can get by with one account for a whole group.

Here is what is provided that you can't get anywhere else:

  1. Online Character Builder. Makes player's and DM's life simpler by simplifying character creation and leveling. Only real drawback is the 20 character limit and that its Silverlight so it doesn't work with Linux.

  2. Access to the DDI Compendium which contains most monster entries as well as entries for items, powers, a glossary and a ton more. This contains information from all 4e publications including Dragon and Dungeon magazine articles. Honestly the best part of the package.

  3. Full access to Dragon and Dungeon magazine articles. These provide updates and this year are taking the place of at least one if not more publications that Wizards has cancelled. Useful, but not a deal breaker for me, especially when things outlined in the articles get added to the Compendium and character builder.

After that I don't know how much more you really want to buy. I have copies of PHB1, DMG, MM1 and the Rules Compendium, but I don't find those essential.

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The Rules Compendium isn't essential, but it is super handy to have during a session. +1 on the subscription though, it is pretty freaking useful as well. –  Cthos Jun 1 '11 at 19:45
    
@Cthos - Agreed that it is incredibly handy. It would be essential without a DDI subscription and a laptop. –  wax eagle Jun 1 '11 at 19:47
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You wouldn't need to bring a laptop to the table, you could just do everything on DDI for prep and print out what you need for the game. –  migo Jun 1 '11 at 22:07
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Unfortunately the Character Builder limits essentials characters to using essentials items. At least in my recent use of it, there are only a small handful (6-7) items per non-primary slot all the way from 1-30. –  dpatchery Jun 1 '11 at 23:19
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I found it myself. If you build your essentials character using the quick start option you will be limited to essentials-only items. Use the custom option instead and choose an essentials character, then you won't face the same restriction. –  dpatchery Jun 2 '11 at 17:26
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