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Author Topic: Which Edition of D&D for Newbs?
Herblay
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So, I haven't played D&D since the second edition. My wife has recently become willing to "give it a try", as she geeks around the web and plays WOW.

I recently found a big stack of 3rd edition books (Player and DM Guides, 2 Monster Manuals, Fighter's Handbook, Oriental Adventures, a couple of modules and blank character sheets) at the DI for $20.

SO . . . if I'm going to try to get my wife (and possibly a few other people's non-gaming spouses) to play a few sessions, do I learn the 3rd edition? Or do I Ebay the books and pick up the basic 4th edition set? From what I understand, 4th edition is easier and faster for new players. But how's the experience?

Again, I haven't played since 2nd edition, so I'm not exactly sure what 3rd edition brings to the table. I did love 2nd edition, but it was always unnecessarily complicated for casual players.

Any advice?

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TomDavidson
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3rd Edition is more complicated than 2nd, and is the most skills-based of all the versions. 4th Edition is basically a tactical wargame.

What sort of stories do you want to tell?

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Armoth
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When I first got involved, 2nd edition was simpler, but I felt it was very vague. I appreciated the clarity of the rules in 3rd edition - and it was very easy to play.
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TomDavidson
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I will say that I absolutely loved 3rd edition, and am lukewarm on 4th. However, 4th is absolutely more fun when played as a pickup game, as just another short session during game night (as opposed to a marathon RPG evening.)
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Blayne Bradley
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4th edition is basically WoW: Tabletop edition, completely lacks any mechanical diversity between classes and removing much of the metagaming and ability to properly optimize your characters.

But is as one would say, much more streamlined and easier for newbies to get into, I would recommend it if only as basically a gateway drug to 3.5e (or pathfinder which is 3.75e).

3.5e has several metric tonnes worth of diversity, options, classes, races, settings and mechanics that can provide for a much more immersive experience, the "sit down with a stack of books to make your character" feel and once I feel better suited for epic narrative story telling.

I ain't moving or touching 4th edition until I get my monies worth from 3.5 books I plopped 120$ on.

I don't think I've ever managed to get a campaign to successfully last more than one session under different people, it's very frustrating.

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Herblay
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Hmm. I don't think we're looking for "marathon RPG" evenings. That almost makes it sound like 4th edition might be better for casual / occasional play.

What I'm most concerned about is the fact that several of the spouses have sneered at D&D (and eyerolled, disparaged, etc). I think I'd rather play 3rd edition, but I don't want to "spook 'em".

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mr_porteiro_head
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4th edition would probably work, especially if you gave them pre-gen characters.
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scholarette
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Tell them you are playing Ducks and Dogs and never let them see the book. That was my first rpg experience. [Smile] My friends were convinced dungeons and dragons name would make me judge it unfairly.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Herblay:
SO . . . if I'm going to try to get my wife (and possibly a few other people's non-gaming spouses) to play a few sessions, do I learn the 3rd edition? Or do I Ebay the books and pick up the basic 4th edition set? From what I understand, 4th edition is easier and faster for new players. But how's the experience?

easier to get into, the classes are infinitely better designed, avoid the pitfalls of prestige classes, and offer each player a wide variety of choices they can make in any turn in combat.

More importantly for the sake of non-combat roleplaying mechanics, classes aren't hamstrung in the skills category by 'cross class skills,' which effectively made it so that having certain skills required certain classes, with decent skill availability only present for bard and rogue. In 4e, any class can use a feat to pick up any skill.

3e also has a notorious problem with class imbalance. arcane spellcasters are fragile and mostly useless in the early levels, all non-magic classes become completely overshadowed after level 8 or so, and clerics and druids remain overpowered at all levels. This tends to drive people away from the game if they 'picked wrong' for the level-frame that a game starts at and has an expected lifetime within, and spend their time feeling like they don't get to do nearly as much as other players.

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Shan
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3rd.
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Jenos
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The class imbalance isn't seen nearly as much at a "newb" skill level; when players don't realize spells such as grease are far superior to burning hands arcane spellcasters won't be superior to fighters.

That said, 4e was designed to be easily accessible to new players. 3e has dozens of sourcebooks, each with new rules and and classes. Its taken many a player years to become familiar with all the material; 4e is just more simple.

The "experience" is irrespective of the system you use. Far more important to get players hooked into the game and wanting to play more is to get them into the game rather than trying to make the mechanics work for them. Once you've gotten your spouse and others genuinely interested in playing a roleplaying game, you can try out various systems to see which is the best fit. But, in my opinion, don't worry about the system right now, just get some pre-gen characters to plop down and get your players to actually get involved in the roleplay.

In my experience, one of the hardest things to do is to get players to actually get into their character. I've found that to many, roleplaying does not come naturally and feels awkward - this is the big thing you need to work on preventing when playing. I personally made this mistake; when I was trying to get my friends into D&D I focused on trying to get the system down and create this expansive environment where they could become one with their character, and it didn't work. Then, another friend of mine made a one-off silly adventure which they just loved; I was in the mindset that these were people like me who wanted to roleplay deep characters, but what they needed was something light involving goblins and pumpkins to get them into their characters. Trying to find out what your players want from the game is the most important thing, imo.

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BlackBlade
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4th edition has been fantastic for me. It was very easy to get into, and very enjoyable. I think you would do well to pregenerate a few characters and let them pick from them instead of trying to teach them to build a character from the ground up.

It is a bit more encounter focused as opposed to skill or RP focus.

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twinky
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I agree with Jenos that figuring out what your players want is the most important thing.

All other things being equal, though, I wouldn't start with 3E. Keeping encounters balanced is a nightmare for the DM, and the system does nothing to ensure a minimum level of effectiveness for any character, which compounds the first problem. If you're learning the system yourself at the same time as your players, 3E is NOT a good place to start.

If you want to play Dungeons & Dragons specifically, and you don't already know the system yourself, I'd go with one of two options: 4E or the original Basic D&D.

4E has a new "Essentials" line that provides simplified versions of the main classes. A normal 4E character has 6-8 choices to make at first level, after choosing race and class. An Essentials character typically has 2-3 choices, making it a lot easier to pick up and play. But the cost of entry is higher: if you start with the new Red Box, you'll be done with it very quickly. More likely, you'll want at least Heroes of the Fallen Lands (basic Essentials classes) as well as at least one of the DM Kit (which contains an adventure) and Rules Compendium for yourself. Monster Vault is optional.

4E is very easy on the DM, and Essentials is pretty easy on the players. If you and your players find Essentials a little too simple, there's a whole pile of more complex content out there already (published before Essentials) that gives characters tons of options.

But you may still find after all the simplification, that the core rules are too complex for non-gamers. If that's the case, you can get retro-clones of various versions of Basic D&D for free: Dark Dungeons and Labyrinth Lord are the two most common examples. I've never tried either, but I've heard that both can replicate the very rules-light nature of Basic D&D quite effectively. This puts a lot more load on you, but not in the same crunch-heavy way that 3E does. In Basic, the biggest part of the DM's job is making stuff up when the rules don't cover it (which is most of the time).

Be prepared, however, for even simple encounters in Basic D&D to be very risky for your players, up to and including being lethal. Life is cheap in Basic D&D, but on the flip side, rolling up a new character takes five or ten minutes.

I'd lean toward 4E Essentials, myself. Unlike 3E, it doesn't throw you off a cliff right off the bat, and unlike Basic, even 1st level PCs can handle themselves in a fight.

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Samprimary
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Essentials is essentially perfect for new players, and deciphering the gameplay via the training book is a great way to start.

4e can also run good skill and social events, because any class can have any skill.

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Selran
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4e Essentials is my recommendation. It's pretty much designed with groups in your situation in mind.
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Nighthawk
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Looking back at all the past incarnations, as far as an entry level learning curve I think 4e is the easiest to get in to. The mechanics are documented in a very detailed fashion, and there isn't much room for interpretation. Some would argue that's a bad thing, but for people new to the game it's almost a necessity.

I see that earlier incantations of D&D are designed to give the DM/GM artistic liberty to do whatever they want and handle situations in any way they see fit. In 4e, the DM/GM knows exactly how situations need to be handled.

I mean, not counting the pictures, the original Tomb of Horrors was... what... ten pages long? in 4e, modules are ten times the size because of the detail. Like I said above: for newcomers, that may be a good thing.

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Risuena
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I'm in a 4e game on another forum and as a new player, I'm enjoying it and it's been easy for me to get into. And it's definitely been a successful entry point for me.
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Parkour
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Let's just say there's a reason why the third edition books are so cheap.
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0Megabyte
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You'd be surprised. Core rulebooks are hard to come by and more expensive than full price. Certain other books, the really good ones, like Spell Compendium, are ridiculously overpriced, as they're both rare and useful. (Spell Compendium goes for $80 used on Amazon, cheaper on ebay, if you're lucky.)

Some of the books are cheap. In fact, many. But not the ones you need to actually play the game. On ebay, Players Handbooks are going for prices over 30 bucks. At Amazon it's nearly $40 used.

So yes, let's just say there's a reason they are so cheap. As in, not cheap at all...

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Jenos
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There are still a large number of people who prefer 3e over 4e, for various reasons. While I, too, support 3e over 4e, I grant that 4e is designed to be more user-friendly than 3e, which may be of importance. However, I want to stress again the importance of determining what your players want, rather than any system.

If you feel comfortable with it, I'd even suggest a system that is less rules-reliant than D&D. Something like FUDGE can provide just enough basis to start an adventure out, and allow you to really get at what your players want. Use whatever system you feel like, be it 3e, 4e, The Dark Eye, GURPS, MnM, etc as long as it means you can provide the engaging experience to your players - that has nothing to do with the system, and everything to do with you.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by 0Megabyte:
Some of the books are cheap. In fact, many. But not the ones you need to actually play the game. On ebay, Players Handbooks are going for prices over 30 bucks. At Amazon it's nearly $40 used.

what.

http://shop.ebay.com/i.html?_nkw=dungeons+and+dragons+3.5&_sacat=0&_odkw=3rd+edition+player's+handbook&_osacat=0&_trksid=p3286.c0.m270.l1311

Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook 3.5 D&D Core
One-day shipping available $2.00

there's also, like, a whole set over here i could buy from Bookworm for .. like, 20 bucks.

who's paying 40 bucks for a 3.5 book, really

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0Megabyte
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"who's paying 40 bucks for a 3.5 book, really "

Most of the people on the link you sent me, actually.

I see one Player's Handbook bidding at 36, one for 65, one for 21 (and still getting bid on) another for12, though I don't believe it'll actually be sold for that, as there are over two days left on it, and so on. Far closer to what I was saying.

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Shan
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
4th edition has been fantastic for me. It was very easy to get into, and very enjoyable. I think you would do well to pregenerate a few characters and let them pick from them instead of trying to teach them to build a character from the ground up.

It is a bit more encounter focused as opposed to skill or RP focus.

I think I'm losing it, BB -- I read "pregenerate" as "impregnate" the first time through, and just stared at the screen in silent perplexity before I knuckled my eyes and read it again . . . so glad that vacation has started. Maybe I'll get to reclaim a brain cell or two by Christmas. *grin*
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