When I was a kid, I had a blast playing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons with friends on weekends. Now that my children are entering that age, they’re picking up and enjoying the 4th edition version of Dungeons & Dragons. If you or your kids are starting to play Dungeons & Dragons, let me help you by writing about what you don’t need to buy.
You don’t need to buy all the books
You could buy the Player’s Handbook, the Monster Manual, the Dungeon Master’s Guide, DMG 2, the Player’s Handbook 2, the Adventurer’s Vault, Dungeon Delve, Martial Power, the Adventurer’s Vault 2, Martial Power 2, Arcane Power, Primal Power, Monster Manual 2…
… scarily enough, I could go on with dozens of more books, many of which describe themselves as “core” and most of which describe themselves as “essential.”
But if you want to play Dungeons and Dragons, you only need to buy one book: the Player’s Handbook. Period.
If you want to be a “Dungeon Master” for D&D (that is, if you want to run a game), you only need to buy three books: the Player’s Handbook, the Dungeon Master’s Guide, and the Monster Manual. That’s it. Get them as a combined set and save a few bucks here.
You do not need to buy Character Record Sheets
The Character Record Sheet Pack for sale by Wizards of the Coast (the new publisher of D&D) is the biggest scam I’ve seen in some time: although the sales literature says there are “32 pages” in the pack, there are actually only 4 Character Record Sheets. And guess what? Wizards of the Coast lets you print them out for free right here.
You do not need to buy Miniatures or Tiles
More than in the old Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, combat in the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons depends on an “Encounter Map,” a grid that allows you to see where characters and monsters are in relationship to one another. Listen to the salesfolks at Wizards of the Coast and they’ll tell you you need to buy “miniatures” (little sculptures that run $5-$100 apiece) and pregenerated maps or “tiles” (more $$$) from them. No, you don’t. There’s this thing called “graph paper,” for one, and you can print it yourself. You can also make and print your own encounter maps with free and open-source Autorealm software for Windows computers.
As for miniatures, let me let you in on a little secret: unless you have a ten thousand dollar budget, you’ll never be able to have enough miniatures to “realistically” depict all the different monsters you’ll encounter when playing Dungeons & Dragons. This means that you’ll inevitably be putting your precious $22.95 troll miniature on your map to depict a frost giant; how unsatisfying! You might as well save the $22.95 and use pennies on 1″ graph paper instead. Put marking tape on the pennies and write the names of your monsters or characters on them. For the bigger creatures, use quarters or cardstock.
You don’t even need to buy dice
There’s something really nice about having a d4, a d6, a d8, a pair of d10s, a d12 and a d20 to roll around. But even if you don’t have a set of dice you can still play. You can use this online virtual diceroller here; if you have an iPod or iPhone search for “Dice Bag” in your app store for a free dice rolling application that doesn’t take up so much table space.