So, a few of my friends and I have recently gotten the Dungeons and Dragons Red Box starter set, and it's really a blast. But we realize that this set is only a very simplified version of the game, and would like to eventually move on to the fourth edition of DnD. So I looked it up on amazon, and found this long list of books and implements, who all seem to build on one another and offer things the others don't. It's very confusing for a beginner like me. So my question is the following: which one of these books and implements should I buy if I want an introduction to the fourth edition that isn't overbearing, but still makes the most out of the game?

For instance, the core rules Player's Handbook II seems better than the first, but I'm not sure if I can jump to that one without going through the first one. I also have to keep in mind a Dungeon Master's book, and my starting budget of 100$.

Thank you!

  • \$\begingroup\$ See the duplicate post I've linked, what you should be looking to get your hands on is one of the following: PHB/DMG/MM1, HOTFK/HOTFL/DMK/MV/RC, or simply a DDI subscription and a copy of the Rules Compendium. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Dec 31, 2013 at 16:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Choosing DnD 4th edition or Essentials for a new group and DM? is also very relevant \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Dec 31, 2013 at 16:23

1 Answer 1


Strongly Advised Books

  • Rule Compendium - This is the go-to reference for the rules in the game, and is the most up-to-date resource.
  • DMG 1 - A very useful resource for GMs including special rules and some GM advice.
  • Monster Manual 1 - A good resource of basic monsters, and also lets you get a feel for creating your own (pair with DMG 1).

Thereafter it breaks down to what you want to see in the game. Keep in mind there's two flavors of DnD 4e, both that play more or less well with the other rule wise (IE players can draw from either half):

  • Original - What DnD 4e launched with. Player Handbook 1, 2, and 3 offer some options, but keep in mind that a handful of rules and wording from PHB 1 have been redone. Rule Compendium always bests Player Handbook 1 when they disagree.
  • Essentials - A refresh of DnD 4e with the aim of streamlining, and simplifying character creation, and to make classes less strategic and more fun. Ideal for the more casual players. Check out Heroes of Shadow, Heroes of the Fallen Lands, and Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms and see what classes and races interest the players.

And for clarification: there's a LOT of class overlap between Original and Essentials, but they're unique all the same (Rogue vs Thief, Assassin vs Executioner, Cleric vs Warpriest), so you can get the same story roles for the most part with either flavor, but the two (or three) variations split between the two halves of 4e will play differently. And again, the two halves play well with each other, so some players can go for original, others Essentials.

I believe rule style wise Red Box is part of the Essentials line, so you can judge if you want more detailed/strategic character creation (original line) or continue in the more light weight manner (Essentials).

I would NOT advice buying a ton of books starting out. Get a few, see how you like them and what you feel like you’re missing, and expand from there.

Edit: Also, if the players are looking for more of a challenge in their fights, Monster Manual 3 has monsters tuned to be more powerful and interesting for their levels.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Red Box is even more simplified than Essentials as far a characters go, which is a bit disappointing. Also you should at least make mention of DDI as it can pretty much replace most books \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Dec 31, 2013 at 16:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ What is the DDI? \$\endgroup\$
    – derp
    Dec 31, 2013 at 16:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @derp Dungeons and Dragons Insider, it's Wizards' subscription service for 4e. It includes access to most of the source materials in a searchable format, a character builder, a monster builder and access to Dungeon and Dragon magazines \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Dec 31, 2013 at 16:56
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I'd suggest Monster Vault instead of MM1, because MM1 and MM2 have an outdated monster design and MV contains more or less the same monsters but with the right math and approach. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Dec 31, 2013 at 17:38

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