D&D 4E 4E: Recommended Books

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
I do want to mention a couple of Essentials-based supplements that often get overlooked.

Halls of Undermountain has a similar approach as a DM supplement like the Neverwinter Campaign Setting, though more localized with a focus on a singular (though massive and iconic) dungeon. It includes three adventures for characters of levels 1-5, which can be run individually or tied together. It can even be linked to The Elder Elemental Eye, a D&D Encounters module that was active at the time this was released. Beyond the adventures, it gives DMs advice and ideas for improvising as players explore the dungeon.

The adventure itself, however, actually does a good job of making an otherwise run-of-the-mill dungeon crawl into something more. On the surface, it might look like nothing more than a series of random rooms with random monsters and traps. (To be fair, most standard dungeons originating from the early days were just that.) So this adds a real story element with hooks and motivations for players (and their characters) to go romping around what essentially amounts to the world's (i.e. Faerun's) largest underground death trap.

At this point near the end of the edition's life cycle, however, a lot of the focus was on the heroic tier and the Essentials products. It was also trying to walk back a lot of its innovative and tradition-breaking concepts in order to "win back" its disillusioned fans. To that end, they got away from the full-page/spread Encounter format that made running 4e (and late 3.5e) adventures so easy for DMs in favor of a more traditional format. So instead of bullet points and easy to parse information at a glance (including full stats so you don't have to reference the entire library of books you have if you don't have internet and computer access with you everywhere), everything is presented with the wall-of-text descriptions that you should stop and read through carefully at every step of the way. (No, I'm not a fan. Never was and never will be, especially after having a better way to do it!)

The second product is Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium. This was basically the Essential's answer to the Adventurers' Vaults, the two previous products dedicated exclusively to magic items for the game. The Essentials line did not include more than a handful of magic items on its own, which is ironic considering how the company lauded that you could effectively run the game with just the 10 baseline products. This book actually makes their stated goal possible. However, it wasn't simply a third volume in that series.

The items had a different design approach by giving items background stories and character; something that was skipped in early products in order to provide more crunch with less fluff. These items were also designed with more passive traits instead of tacking on extra powers and uses for everyone to keep track at the table. In essence, it was more in-line with the Essentials new and improved design philosophy that were addressing a lot of the complaints and issues that didn't come up in the playtests. (There's more to that story, but that's another topic.)
 

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Voadam

Legend
It depends a lot on whether you are interested in mechanics or lore.

4e lore is awesome, but spread out a lot. Underdark, Demonomicon, the planar books are all well regarded. History of the 4e default world and cosmology is spread out over a ton of sources such as Dragon. There is no one book on Nerath or the Dawn War.

For mechanics there are sort of split options, there is a bit of a divide between the original cycle (PH 1-3 and X power books) and the essentials (heroes of X). While they are compatible, the original cycle sticks to a pretty hard consistency on power resource management (number of daily, encounter, at will powers) while essentials give some more variation with some always on auras and such.

Monster mechanics get better as you go and the math got periodically revised for the better. Core concepts (which can be applied to other editions easily) are there from the beginning, solos, elites, and minions, monster combat roles such as lurkers versus skirmishers versus brutes, the math and implementation just got better as it went along. Monster lore is everywhere though so if you want to read about Demogorgon go to the relatively early MM2 and a lot on Orcus is in the MM1.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
4e lore is awesome, but spread out a lot. Underdark, Demonomicon, the planar books are all well regarded. History of the 4e default world and cosmology is spread out over a ton of sources such as Dragon. There is no one book on Nerath or the Dawn War.
Zeromaru X put together what looks to be the definitive history of Nerath and the Dawn War

Here's a link:


And there's a later PDF floating around called "History of the Nentir Vale".
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
It depends a lot on whether you are interested in mechanics or lore.

4e lore is awesome, but spread out a lot. Underdark, Demonomicon, the planar books are all well regarded. History of the 4e default world and cosmology is spread out over a ton of sources such as Dragon. There is no one book on Nerath or the Dawn War.
Someone writing up an index of all the sources would be very much appreciated by lovers of 4e...
Derp if I had just read the next post lol...
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
It may still be possible to dig up some of the Living Forgotten Realms adventure modules. Most were designed with a 4-hour convention session in mind. Quality of course cannot be predicted in advance - but the best of them were truly memorable.

And you never know what seemingly minor detail will jump out at you (I still remember the enemy cleric with an aura to 'Nope' ranged healing spells - so he could beat up his chosen target that much faster).
 

GreyLord

Legend
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?

Depends on how high a level you want to run and how you want to run it.

My favorite isn't exactly an adventure but a short delve. They had a BUNCH of them in one called, explanatory enough...

Dungeon Delve

For short adventures for low levels AL adventures were always good campaigns as well.

Keep on the Borderlands
Dark Legacy of Evard
Lost Crown of Neverwinter
Council of Spiders


and more.
 

The best adventure for 4th edition D&D is ZEITGEIST: The Gears of Revolution.

More accurately. It is an adventure path going from 3rd to 20th level, we're in. The players are investigators dealing with an international conspiracy during a fantasy industrial revolution. Think Sherlock Holmes meets the X-Files.

There is a subforum for EN Publishing products here on this message board, and a lot of people there post about their Zeitgeist games.

You can pick up the PDFs of the adventure path at DrivethruRPG, and I think you can also get print on demand hardcovers.
 


The best adventure for 4th edition D&D is ZEITGEIST: The Gears of Revolution.

More accurately. It is an adventure path going from 3rd to 20th level,

I think the 4e version goes from 1st-30th...

But it is by far the best adventure for 4e. It is the only adventure that leaned heavily into the structure that 4e works best with -- single story relavent dynamic set piece combats on large maps in between lots of role playing, investigation, moving locations, etc.

In Zeigeist there is rarely more than one combat in a row without some plot movement. Even the good 4e adventuers by WoTc that people mention jam way too many combat enounters together for 4e IMO.

That said, 4e is very very condusive to homebrew given its encounter building tools.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
It may still be possible to dig up some of the Living Forgotten Realms adventure modules. Most were designed with a 4-hour convention session in mind. Quality of course cannot be predicted in advance - but the best of them were truly memorable.

And you never know what seemingly minor detail will jump out at you (I still remember the enemy cleric with an aura to 'Nope' ranged healing spells - so he could beat up his chosen target that much faster).
Behold! Living Forgotten Realms
 

Have you been directed to the 4e discord server for utility wear? like Character Builders and VTT support tools?

Agree here as 4e player option books are not good reads per se. They are reference manuals and you don't really need them if you have access to the character builder and other tools.

So physical copy wise I would start with:

PH, PH2 just so you get how classes are laid out. You can get the other class features and class powers from the characer builder/databases

Neverwinter Campaign -- so you can see how themes can be incorporated and the flexibility of 4e to squeeze a full campiagn into 1-10 levels

MV, Threats of Nentir, and Dark Sun Creature Catalouge to inspire good monster building (the rest can be gotten from the database)

If you want more:

DMG, DMG 2 - two of the best DMGs

especially the later lore books were a huge strength of 4e -- planes above, planes below, underdark were particularly good
 


I think the 4e version goes from 1st-30th...

But it is by far the best adventure for 4e. It is the only adventure that leaned heavily into the structure that 4e works best with -- single story relavent dynamic set piece combats on large maps in between lots of role playing, investigation, moving locations, etc.

In Zeigeist there is rarely more than one combat in a row without some plot movement. Even the good 4e adventuers by WoTc that people mention jam way too many combat enounters together for 4e IMO.

That said, 4e is very very condusive to homebrew given its encounter building tools.
Even if you don't like the adventure itself (which you could for 'choice of theme'-reasons), I would still recommend them - they are a masterclass into creating 4e adventures.

If you contrast and compare them to something along the lines of H1 (or even one of the good 4e adventures), you can glean what makes for awesome 4e adventure/campaign design.

Without hesitation, I state that it is an excellent guide/example of awesome 4e adventure/campaign design.

Chose a 'story'/situation, apply the principals/methods used in Zeitgeist and your whole gaming group will be well served indeed.
 

jeffh

Adventurer
I'd say the most important things to get in book form are any lore-heavy ones you want to use. Most of the key mechanical resources are electronic.

You want the Character Builder with the latest CBLoader patch; links can be found on the 4E subreddit, though Discord is where the real 4E action mostly is these days. You want the offline version of the Compendium, and Masterplan sure as heck doesn't hurt either.

That said, I'd get the Rules Compendium for sure, and at least one of the player option heavy books just to get a feel for what they're like. (ETA: Bear in mind that most player-oriented books have been errata-ed half to death, though! This is one reason to get the electronic tools.) Even running an online game, it's handy to have the Rules Compendium in easy reach at all times. Both DMGs and, as mentioned, any lore-heavy books you might want to use would be the next most useful things to have in print form.

Adventure-wise, most of the good things said about both Zeitgeist and Gardmore Abbey so far are true. I'm running both with different but overlapping groups. They're vastly different, with Zeitgeist being much more story-oriented (in the 4E version, nearly every combat is a custom-built set piece and most are tied into the story in some way), while Gardmore has the feel of playing a computer game in the Baldur's Gate or Pillars of Eternity mold with its focus on traditional-ish D&D action and its large number of interlocking quests that can mostly be done in nearly any order.
 
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Tallifer

Hero
As I say regarding Doctor Who (all the television episodes, comics, novels, web thingies, gum wrappers and radio plays), everythijg is canon. If you have the money, buy it all. Or check out the <ahem> available web resources which package it all: the roll20/discord 4E community has done an amazing job collating and rationalizing all the bits and bobs and powercreep.
 

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