D&D 4E 4E: Recommended Books

Well, I came this close to asking what were considered the most "essential" books to have/own of the 4E line. (Until I realized at mid point of writing, that Essentials was a whole different kettle of fish in regard to 4E.)

I have been interested in checking out various "older" editions of DND. Namely the main two would be that of 2E/4E. And as known, 4E itself was quite, the black sheep if you will, of the DND editions. But I'll admit that I do enjoy a number of aspects from it, from its lore, races, and some of the other 4E stuff that it brought about.

So, I don't know, maybe I want to try it out one day. Even if I house rule the ever living Baator outta it. (that is neither here nor there though.

For those who were big fans/thought it was neat/experts at 4Eisms, what were the required/recommended books that one must have if you were going to 4E it up?
 

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overgeeked

B/X Known World
It all depends on what you want to do with it.

If you want the end of the line base rules in a single book, pick up the Rules Compendium.

If you want to play it, you'll need many of the books as the player options are spread out. But if you limit player options to some book or set of books, it'll be easier. Most seem to do some version of the Player's Handbooks, either just the first or the first plus one or both of the others. Or the Essentials Heroes of line.

Both DMGs are worth picking up as is the Dungeon Master's Kit. Some of the best DMing advice of any edition of D&D in those.

The monster books are hit and miss, but most fans seem to like the later books far better. There are some math fixes that the designers put into the later books that help. So MM3, Monster Vault, and Threats of Nentir Vale.
 

Lord Shark

Explorer
Yes, the early monster books suffered from bad math that made for boring fights. The revised versions in Monster Vault and Threats to the Nentir Vale are much better.

I'd probably start with the first couple of PHBs for classes. Admittedly, some of the PHB classes (particularly paladin and star pact warlock) were a bit weak at first and were later patched with new abilities in the various Power books, but you should be able to run a decent game with just the PHB classes. The PHB3 classes (the various psionicists, monk, runepriest, etc.) are more complicated and should probably be left until you're more experienced with the game.
 

Undrave

Hero
I'd say PHB and PHB2 (PHB3 is just really weak, but it's take on psionic was interesting) are good picks
DMG obviously, DMG2 could be fun as well.
Martial Power 1 & 2, Primal Power and Divine Power have some of my favorite options (and Primal Power has great lore!)
The Plane Above is a BANGER in terms of lore and adventure inspiration
Monster Manual 3 and the Monster Vault for the best monsters
Player's Handbook Race Dragonborn and Tiefling are super underrated and the format showed a lot of potential and I recommend getting at least one of those if those races interest you.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
I agree that it depends on what you want to do with it. If you want to see the game in its original glory, with its math and other internal organs spread out for easy analysis and modification, I'd get the original PHB and that's sufficient for player options unless you've got someone who wants to play something that isn't in the 4e PHB - one of the big complaints about the 4e rollout is that the 4e PHB left out the Barbarian, Druid, Sorcerer and Bard and the Gnome and the Half-Orc - they show up in the PHB2.

If you want to see where it landed, you can get one of the essentials books - Heroes of the Fallen Lands has the "core" D&D classes and races that you'd expect to see from a Basic Set (Fighter, Wizard, Cleric, Rogue, Human, Dwarf, Elf, Halfling and Eladrin (High Elf in 4e). I prefer the original presentation because I like to tinker - with Essentials you can see the trend towards how 5e is presented, though it's only about halfway there. (My personal preference remains the original PHB and PHB2 when I run games, but YMMV).

For Monster books I'd skip the original MMs for a trial experience and go straight to Monster Vault - the math in the original 4e MM was off, and by Monster Vault they'd fixed it. MV has the kind of monsters you'd expect to see in a D&D game. I'd also personally recommend Monster Value: Threats to the Nentir Vale because it's got a lot of great lore and hooks in it and is one of my favorite monster books to pull down off the shelf when I'm looking for ideas.

For DM's books - I'd go with the original DMG even if you're using the Essentials books for the players. The DM's Kit from Essentials is fine, but I think the DMG is just overall better.

That's the core, and all you really need to try the system out. If you look beyond that, Monster Manual 3 is quite good and has the fixed math for monsters in it. PHB2 gives a full range of classes (PHB3 is less necessary IMO). I also like the DMG2 for its ideas on higher level play. I'd also put a pitch out for the Plane Above and the Plane Below for an interesting take on the Outer and Inner planes that is very different from standard D&D. I also liked the various Player's Options books but I think I'm in the minority on that.
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
I'm almost certain there's a few threads we can point to by now; a newcomers guide, or something similar? I don't know that I can do this again...
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I agree that it depends on what you want to do with it. If you want to see the game in its original glory, with its math and other internal organs spread out for easy analysis and modification, I'd get the original PHB and that's sufficient for player options unless you've got someone who wants to play something that isn't in the 4e PHB - one of the big complaints about the 4e rollout is that the 4e PHB left out the Barbarian, Druid, Sorcerer and Bard and the Gnome and the Half-Orc - they show up in the PHB2.

If you want to see where it landed, you can get one of the essentials books - Heroes of the Fallen Lands has the "core" D&D classes and races that you'd expect to see from a Basic Set (Fighter, Wizard, Cleric, Rogue, Human, Dwarf, Elf, Halfling and Eladrin (High Elf in 4e). I prefer the original presentation because I like to tinker - with Essentials you can see the trend towards how 5e is presented, though it's only about halfway there. (My personal preference remains the original PHB and PHB2 when I run games, but YMMV).

For Monster books I'd skip the original MMs for a trial experience and go straight to Monster Vault - the math in the original 4e MM was off, and by Monster Vault they'd fixed it. MV has the kind of monsters you'd expect to see in a D&D game. I'd also personally recommend Monster Value: Threats to the Nentir Vale because it's got a lot of great lore and hooks in it and is one of my favorite monster books to pull down off the shelf when I'm looking for ideas.

For DM's books - I'd go with the original DMG even if you're using the Essentials books for the players. The DM's Kit from Essentials is fine, but I think the DMG is just overall better.

That's the core, and all you really need to try the system out. If you look beyond that, Monster Manual 3 is quite good and has the fixed math for monsters in it. PHB2 gives a full range of classes (PHB3 is less necessary IMO). I also like the DMG2 for its ideas on higher level play. I'd also put a pitch out for the Plane Above and the Plane Below for an interesting take on the Outer and Inner planes that is very different from standard D&D. I also liked the various Player's Options books but I think I'm in the minority on that.
Absolutely. The Manual of the Planes, Planes Above, and Planes Below are all amazing books if you like planar stuff.
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
I'm almost certain there's a few threads we can point to by now; a newcomers guide, or something similar? I don't know that I can do this again...
So... if anyone reads my comment, they might think it odd that I bothered writing it at all. If I wasn't contributing anything constructive or useful to the topic, why not just stay out of it? But what you don't know, and I did not make evident, was I had written about three paragraphs before replacing it with what you see there. So let me shed some light on what's going on.

When I started with my original response, I was following the same pattern of thought and perspective I have had with 4e for years. And it felt like I was doing exactly what I hate when talking about my favorite edition. I shored up my defenses, began making apologies and excuses for what it is, what had happened, and what I expect to happen. Having been down this path several times, I know how a lot of these threads end up. And it is exhausting. I don't want to do it anymore.

Or more precisely, I don't want to go down the same path when I know where its gonna go. So I will post my best advice, and do my best not to fall into any old patterns or give in to obvious bait. (I make no promises, but here goes.)

If you're new to 4e, you don't need to get the entire collection. I would actually recommend going with just the Essentials. It is the complete game with the benefit of all the refinements and fixes without the clutter of a lot of extras. Try it out first. Get the Heroes books for players, the Rules Compendium, and the Monster Vault. The DM Kit has a great starting adventure to use called Reavers of Harkenwold. (I actually have thread about it here.)

Monster Vault has tokens for all creatures in the book, and a second adventure that follows up the first in DM Kit. There is also a second Monster Vault book called Threats of the Nentir Vale that is also kind of a setting book.

Edit: I hit post before I was finished. 😕
 
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GreyLord

Legend
For me it depends on how early or late in 4e I want to play.

I have two different 4e kits, one with the early releases and a different one with the essential books in them that I use if I don't want to bring the entire library.

Players Handbook 1 & 2
Heroes of Shadow
Monster Manual 1-3

And that's about it. If one wants a few other items, the DMG is also somewhat useful.

For a later version (and this is a completely separate than the ones above, it is either one or the other).

Heroes of the Fallen Lands
Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms
Monster Vault
Rules Compendium
Threats to the Nentir Vale

You can also toss in Heroes of Shadow into this set if you want as well.

And that's it.
 



Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Pretty much, aside from the DMG and MM, I only bought the books that had major PC resources, including the Essentials books.
 

Lord Shark

Explorer
Probably Madness At Guardmore Abby. It's from late 4e.

I ran every single one of the 4e Adventures back in the day, and I remember having to do a lot of heavy lifting on the earlier pamphlet adventures. (IE rejigging stuff so that encounters work and the story makes sense). This one was very good, IIRC.

Besides Madness at Gardmore Abbey, there's The Slaying Stone and Reavers of Harkenwold.

The Chaos Scar adventures published in the Dragon were good for short one-session games. And even though it was very uneven, I liked the Scales of War adventure path. They may be difficult to track down these days, though, since they were only published digitally and no longer available through Wizards.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
The four part Against the Giants adaptation is really great too. IMO it was a shame that they didn't include the extra Stone Giants chapter in Tales from the Yawning Portal. I mean, I understand why (the desire to translate only the original and the premium of space) but I still think it was too bad.
 

Undrave

Hero
Absolutely. The Manual of the Planes, Planes Above, and Planes Below are all amazing books if you like planar stuff.
I got Plane Above but never bought Plane Below. How similar are they?
Besides Madness at Gardmore Abbey, there's The Slaying Stone and Reavers of Harkenwold.
The Slaying Stone is a good basis for a somewhat sandboxy game, but it has a critical fail point where you can just... FAIL to convince the dragon to help you and he's not only too high level to fight but he could just... fly away... and the book has NO guidance on what to do at that moment.

This was something of a weakness of the Skill Challenge format is that you should have a plan for failing and they rarely provided those.
 

Rikka66

Adventurer
Besides Madness at Gardmore Abbey, there's The Slaying Stone and Reavers of Harkenwold.

The Chaos Scar adventures published in the Dragon were good for short one-session games. And even though it was very uneven, I liked the Scales of War adventure path. They may be difficult to track down these days, though, since they were only published digitally and no longer available through Wizards.

I think all the issues are available for purchase on DM's Guild, but at $5.00 a pop seems ridiculously expensive.

One of the smaller releases I picked up for 4e was the Hammerfast supplement, which detailed a dwarven city and was pretty much all setting and plot hooks. I enjoyed it, though it's weird how the main advertising is about the citizens living alongside ghosts, but the biggest plotline is about dwarves and orcs living together due to God contracts.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
Although I'm clearly not the original poster, I wanted to thank you for all the replies! I've played every version of D&D and miss a lot of what was in 4e and want to look at it again.

Any recommendations for the best adventures?
Scales of War was a nice 1-30 adventure path. Here's a link to some downloads. Index of /dnd/resources/scales of war

They were written by different people due to Dungeon Mag's publishing schedule. So they are somewhat uneven - and sometimes you have to stretch to make them connect well. But they really build out the western end of the Nentir Vale and then gets planar.
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
+1 for Primal Power.
Finally a barbarian who is not just a caricature: Incredible Hulk Grab Axe.
Other primal-based societies were brought out of the wilderness or the edge of the map to gain 'where my character comes from' levels of description.

The two Dark Sun books did a good job describing this very not-standard D&D world, and bringing out the deadly monsters that make the world so dangerous. (Some of the monsters walk on two feet and know speech.)

Neverwinter Campaign Setting was written to be a dynamic world where you could actually fight Bad Guys (not just their minions) at lower levels. The lore and plot threads can be used with any rule set.
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
Any recommendations for the best adventures?
There were very few standout adventures during the short, turbulent lifespan for this edition. Most of those have already been mentioned in this thread, and will likely be repeated again. But I'll reiterate that Reavers of Harkenwold is often regarded as one of the best starting adventures (level 2-3) of any edition. I even had a project thread about expanding it and connecting it more directly to the other highly regarded adventure, Madness at Gardmore Abbey. You can view that thread (with links to more) over here.

More importantly, most physical products are becoming increasingly more difficult to track down, and consequently more expensive. Your best bet will be the DMs Guild for digital (pdf) versions, including Dungeon magazine.

Historically, Dungeon has been one of the best resource for finding a large variety of adventures. The trick is figuring out which issues have the most relevant options for your needs and tastes. Unfortunately, a lot of the offerings during this cycle were (IMO) more misses than hits.
  • The Against the Giants series (issues 196-200) is a great conversion from the 1e originals.
  • The Chaos Scar (various issues) is a sandbox-style campaign of episodic adventures for heroic tier characters.
  • The Scales of War is a massive "Adventure Path" (I hate using that term, but it actually fits this time) that takes characters from level 1 to 30. Not recommended for a casual group, or a casual DM.
The Encounters modules are another option, but they are not your typical adventures. Designed for organized play, these were originally designed to be played in public at the rate of one encounter per weekly session. Great for busy DMs who wanted to play regularly but didn't have the time to prep for more than one encounter at a time. Not so much for the rest. But like everything else, they can easily be expanded and used as a spring board for your own campaigns.

One of the greatest strengths of 4e, however, is how incredibly easy it is for DMs to build encounters. Unfortunately, it wasn't a strength the company play to strongly enough in their products. I would have loved to have seen more "DM toolbox" products like the Neverwinter Campaign Setting that offered more references, ideas and inspiration than hard-coded scripts and plotlines with just enough new crunchy bits to use.
 
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