This Geeklist should serve as an inventory and guide for gamers wishing to get into Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition. 4th Edition (or "4e") is the fourth iteration of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise. Published by Wizards of the Coast (WotC) in June 2008, 4e enjoys a wide library of books and resources available for the game.
The goal of this Geeklist is to easily define these materials to be better suited to an individual's interests or needs, as well as detailing the bare necessities to play the game.
Overview of the RPG 4e is a class-based RPG, based around a revised d20 system. Characters are made up of six attributes: Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. Classes are a combination of exclusive features as well as a variety of abilities that are usable At-Will, once per Encounter, once per Day, and support abilities called Utilities (this is commonly referred to as the AEDU system).
Core Rules There are two good ways to jump into 4th Edition D&D. The first includes the original three hardcover rulebooks released in 2008, which are discussed below. The second includes the "starting ramp" that was released in 2010, which are discussed in the following item D&D Essentials.
The Player's Handbook (D&D 4e) introduces 8 races, 8 classes, and all the rules necessary to create characters and control your adventurers. This includes adventuring gear, magic items, combat rules, and rituals. Included Races:Dragonborn, Dwarf, Eladrin, Elf, Half-Elf, Halfling, Human, Tiefling Included classes:Cleric, Fighter, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Warlock, Warlord, Wizard
The Dungeon Master's Guide (D&D 4e) provides information on running the game, including how to plan adventures, set up encounters, provide rewards for the players, and tools for tweaking monsters or creating your own. There is also a detailed town and starting adventure ready-to-play.
The Monster Manual (D&D 4e) provides plenty of monsters for every level of play. These include traditional monsters such as goblins, orcs, kobolds, skeletons, dragons, zombies, and more. Monsters per Level Breakdown:225 (level 1-10), 188 (level 11-20), 74 (level 21+)
The second way to jump into 4th Edition D&D is to look into the D&D Essentials line. These books were designed to be a simpler stepping stone for new players to 4th Edition or people completely new to role-playing games in general. While these books may appear different, they are fully compatible with the other 4th Edition books and players (and DMs) can use elements from any book at the same table.
There are two softcover books for players to choose from, but each individual book contains the full rules for playing the game and creating characters. Feel free to only pick up one book, if it has races or classes you would prefer.
The Player Essentials: Heroes of the Fallen Lands introduces 5 races, 4 classes, and all the rules necessary to create and control characters. Included Races:Dwarf, Eladrin, Elf, Halfling, Human Included classes:Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, Wizard
The Player Essentials: Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms introduces 6 races, 4 classes, and all the rules necessary to create and control characters. Included Races:Dragonborn, Drow, Half-Elf, Half-Orc, Human, Tiefling Included classes:Paladin, Ranger, Warlock, Warlord
The Dungeon Master's Kit box set provides information on running the game, including a 32-page adventure, a DM screen, two double-sided maps, and two sheets of tokens.
The Dungeons & Dragons Essentials: Monster Vault box set features monsters focused on lower levels of play, including background information on various creatures and 320 tokens. These include traditional monsters such as goblins, orcs, kobolds, skeletons, dragons, zombies, with some new variants or revisions from Monster Manual (D&D 4e). It also includes a 32-page adventure and a double-sided map. Monsters per Level Breakdown:176 (level 1-10), 117 (level 11-20), 12 (level 21+)
The Rules Compendium is a special, softcover supplement that primarily serves as a rules reference. It isn't necessary to play the game, as much of its information is available in the Dungeon Master's Kit and Heroes of Fallen Lands/Forgotten Kingdoms (or the original core rules). However, it is a handy book at the table, if you are needing to find a rule and want a concise rulebook to search in.
*It's important to note that this does not include rules for character creation.
Player Supplements Players looking for new options to expand their characters or new classes to play should look here for more information. Many times these player supplements provide new classes or new options for already existing classes.
The following six books provide completely new classes, with new powers, new feats, and sometimes even new equipment. Most of the material from one book will apply only to the classes in that particular book, though sometimes there is content that can apply to other classes found elsewhere. The last two books in this section are more narrow in focus and provide additional background information on two races: Tieflings and Dragonborn.
Special Mention: The following book doesn't provide new classes, builds, feats or items, but it is especially geared toward newer players. It provides helpful strategy behind the decisions you make regarding what character you want to play, how to build him or her, as well as party advice. It offers more than just maximizing damage output, like tips for making interesting characters and meaningful backgrounds.
Whereas the previous books expanded a player's options with entirely new classes, these books provide players with new powers, feats, or builds to use on existing classes. Each particular book groups classes by power source; so if you pick one up, make sure it covers any classes you intend to play.
DM Supplements DM's looking to expand their tool chest of worthy monsters or expanding their campaign details should look here. Most DM supplements include new monsters, new traps/hazards, new adventure ideas, or setting information for new campaign locations and story arcs. Many monster books provide new versions of creatures, expanding on a particular source. Instead of a single type of creature, there are different versions (based on combat style, environment, or other miscellany). However, these books occasionally provide entirely new monsters.
The following three books are primarily monster books. They provide the DM with a plethora of monsters to put in front of the adventuring party, and usually try to cover all levels of play. The last four books are books specific to a type of creature (demons, chromatic dragons, metallic dragons, or undead). Not only do they provide new monsters of that type, but they also offer detailed background information and campaign tips for using these creatures.
Monster Manual 2 Hardcover Release: May 1, 2009 Retail Price: $34.95 Monsters per Level Breakdown:145(level 1-10), 126(level 11-20), 50(level 21+)
Another form of DM supplement are these "region" books, that feature detailed information regarding various realms in the D&D world. These are different than the campaign settings, which often take place in new or different fantasy worlds. This image represents the cosmology of 4th Edition. The central orb represents the material world, with two sisters: the Feywild and the Shadowfell. Above this is the Astral Sea, and below this rests the Elemental Chaos.
There are four books and one box set dedicated to the planes. The last two items in this section explore specific locations, featuring background details, multiple NPCs, and adventure hooks.
Manual of the Planes Hardcover Release: December 1, 2008 Retail Price: $29.95 Monsters per Level Breakdown:7(level 1-10), 15(level 11-20), 9(level 21+)
Featured Region: General Guide to all the planes in 4th Edition
Special Mention: The following book isn't related to the planes or other regions, but it provides DM and player materials for running darker adventures with evil player characters or just evil villains.
These books provide DMs and players alike with new mundane and magical items. I've listed them in the DM supplement section because DMs can consult these books for figuring out treasure and quest rewards. Generally, anything a player buys from one of these books requires DM permission to begin with, so I consider these a DM resource more so than a player one.
Each book provides non-magic items and armors, as well as magic items in the categories provided in the core rules. I've listed "new features" for where these supplements have provided items (mundane or magic) that were not previously available.
Adventurer's Vault Hardcover Release: September 16, 2008 Retail Price: $29.95 New Features: Mounts, Vehicles, Alchemy, Companion magic items, Mount magic items
Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium Hardcover Release: September 20, 2011 Retail Price: $29.95 New Features: Artifacts, Curses, Story Items, Adventuring Gear, Buildings, Trade Goods, and Hirelings and Henchman (also includes more Alchemy and Ammunition items)
Campaign Settings While many DMs create their own worlds for adventurers to come and go, some prefer published materials or settings. This section is divided between the following three worlds: Forgotten Realms, Eberron, and Dark Sun.
"Welcome to Faerûn, a land of amazing magic, terrifying monsters, ancient ruins, and hidden wonders. The world has changed since the cataclysmic events of the Spellplague, and from this arcane crucible have emerged shining kingdoms, tyrannical empires, mighty heroes, and monster-infested ruins. The Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide presents a world of untold adventure, a land of a thousand stories ready to be explored" ~ Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide back cover
Forgotten Realms is a more traditional, high-fantasy setting. It has been the setting for a number of fantasy novels, as well as significant organized play and supplemental material available at Living Forgotten Realms. This setting features two core rulebooks; one guide for DMs and one guide for players. There is also one adventure for 2nd level characters.
There are also two companion guides, for DMs who would like to explore two regions in more depth. The first one provides a detailed look at the city of Neverwinter and its region. The second provides a closer look at the drow city Menzoberranzen and its location in the Underdark.
Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue Hardcover Release: August 21, 2012 Retail Price: $29.95 Special Note: This book does not contain any game mechanics, but the Underdark is normally associated with levels 11-20.
"Welcome to a world of swashbuckling action and dark fantasy, a world ruled by great dynasties and tempered by war. The Ebberon Campaign Setting holds many wonders, from dragonmarks to warforged, deadly dungeons to elemental airships. As the shadows of evil and conspiracy threaten to envelop the land, heroes of prophecy come forth to save the day." ~ Eberron Campaign Guide back cover
Eberron is a mixture of fantasy and pulp with some darker adventure seeds. It features magic-powered technology, including such things as floating trains, airships, and automatons. There are two source books for this setting; one guide for DMs and one guide for players. There are also two adventures, one of which is freely available and provides pre-generated characters.
Eberron Campaign Guide Hardcover Release: July 1, 2009 Retail Price: $39.95 Monsters per Level Breakdown:76(level 1-10), 31(level 11-20), 13(level 21+)
Eberron Player's Guide Hardcover Release: June 1, 2009 Retail Price: $29.95 New Races: Changeling, Kalashtar, Warforged
New Classes: Artificer
Khyber's Harvest Softcover Release: June 20, 2009 Retail Price: N/A Character Level: Intended for level 2 characters.
"Beneath a dying sun lies a world of sand and fire, a world of barbaric splendor and savage desolation. This is Athas, a desert planet laid waste by unchecked sorcery and ancient wars. Immortal sorcerer-kigns reign over cities that remain, celebrating tyranny with bloody arena games and brutal oppression. Cruel slavers and fierce raiders roam the wastelands in search of captives and plunder. Only the strongest heroes can endure the fury of the crimson sun." ~ Dark Sun Campaign Setting back cover
Dark Sun is a darker, low-magic setting for D&D. Metal is hard to find, and water rarer. Magic is outcast, having caused desolation of the planet. This setting has one guide for both players and DMs, as well as a separate book for DMs that features creatures specific to this world. There are also two adventures, one of which is freely available and provides pre-generated characters.
Dark Sun Campaign Setting Hardcover Release: August 17, 2010 Retail Price: $39.95 Monsters per Level Breakdown:5(level 1-10), 0(level 11-20), 0(level 21+)
New Races: Mul, Thri-Kreen
New Features: Themes (new layer of character customization), Class Builds (battlemind, fighter, shaman, warlock)
Adventures These products are ready-to-run modules that any DM can use in place of their own. Some of them work well in unison or tie into one another, though they can also be used independent of each other. H1-3, P1-3, and E1-3 provide a complete adventure path that will take characters from level 1 all the way to level 30.
H1: Keep on the Shadowfell Softcover Release: May 1, 2008 Retail Price: $29.95 Character Level: Intended for level 1 characters. This adventure includes two staple-bound books and three double-sided maps.
This adventure is available for free from the D&D Website or DND Classics. Note: It also includes quick-start rules and six pre-generated characters. (Half-Elf Cleric, Dwarf Fighter, Dragonborn Paladin, Halfling Rogue, Tiefling Warlord, Human Wizard)
These items are considered "super adventures," meaning they're significantly larger supplements covering a wide array of character levels. The first three are hardcover books that provide DMs with extra resources, including background materials, adventure hooks, and monsters, and maps. The last item is a box set, featuring four smaller books, maps, tokens, and a deck of cards.
Revenge of the Giants Hardcover Release: September 1, 2009 Retail Price: $29.95 Character Level: Intended for level 12 characters.
Tomb of Horrors Hardcover Release: July 20, 2010 Retail Price: $29.95 Character Level: This book is broken up into four separate adventures with different intended levels. level 10, level 14-15, level 18, and level 22
Accessories There are plenty of accessories for role-playing games, but this section will focused on ones that are D&D specific (or themed). This includes dungeon tiles, map packs, miniatures, screens, and the D&D Insider subscription program. It's important to remember that none of these accessories are required to play the game.
Dungeon Tiles are cardstock tiles that can be arranged into various configurations, appealing to the DM's inner cartographer. There are quite a few different sets, though some are out of print or hard to find. Each set is usually designed around a specific theme, including new features such as fire pits, arcane portals, or other dungeon dressings. There are three box sets that provide a good basis for starting a new collection of dungeon tiles.
Unlike Dungeon Tiles which allow you to construct your own maps, D&D Map Packs provide you with full color, double-sided battle maps depicting various scenes. Each pack comes with three 21" x 30" maps from the associated theme. This new product line was introduced in 2012 with three packs currently available.
While technically a separate game (a skirmish table top game), many people like to use the miniatures in their RPG sessions. While this product is no longer in production, most online retailers or second hand sellers will still have many of the figures in stock (or for purchase in bulk collections). It's better to buy the figures in bulk or buy only specific figures you're looking for. Trying to have a miniature for every monster in the rulebooks will be rather difficult (not to mention expensive), so some players will only collect miniatures for the adventuring party or significant threats.
Special note: Wizards of the Coast has created a new product line that is a spiritual successor to the D&D Miniatures. Dungeon Command features presorted sets of figures, with new molds or new paints. As new sets are released, more creatures from D&D should see production again.
This screen (and screens in general) usually serve a number of purposes. They can help keep the DMs notes and dice results hidden from players, but it can also provide tables and summaries of important rules for easy reference.
One last accessory/resource for players and DMs is the D&D Insider subscription program. Users can pay monthly, every three months, or yearly, and it provides access to an online character builder, monster builder, the D&D compendium which is a searchable library of the materials from all the books, as well as two monthly magazines. Here is what the D&D website has to say about their periodicals:
Dragon Magazine is the ultimate monthly player resource. Each issue brings you new material and expanded content to help make your characters more fun and compelling, including new character options, new powers, new feats, new magic items, new paragon paths, epic destinies, and more.
Dungeon Magazine provides Dungeon Masters with several new adventures every month, as well as insightful articles intended to provide DMs with new monsters and villains, world-building advice, and new plots for their own adventures. Dungeon is here to help make DMing easier and more fun.
One thing to note is that even a single month subscription provides access to the full archives of digital content available, so users can download old magazine articles as well as new ones. However, access to the online tools ends when the subscription runs out.