D&D 4E Getting back to 4E via Essentials: What do I need?

mhd

Adventurer
I tried 4E with my group shortly after it came out, and weren't too excited. Lots of new options to learn, major changes to the setting (FR), and yes, even the "video-gamey" complaint (which is a bit weird, considering that at that time I was the only one who wasn't a hardcore WoW gamer in the group).

Now we're playing two Pathfinder campaigns, and while they're more familiar, after a few levels the old 3E complaints come up again. Now I bought the two "Heroes" books and the Rules Compendium on my last trip to the states, and it looks a bit more up my alley. A bit more "traditional", less bookkeeping (marks, quarries) and still more "predictable" than 3E/PF. (I really enjoyed Star Wars Saga, which was basically 3.75E)

But I'm a bit confused about the product. Do I need to lug my old core 4E box set to the game table, too? The Rules Compendium seems nice, better organized and wouldn't be littered with dozens of errata post-its, but is it complete? Didn't find any rituals in there, for example.

Would buying the Monster Vault be worth it, or should I be fine with the MM1?

(Note: Not a DDI subscriber, not likely to become one. Not a fan of subscriptions, not a Windows user)
 

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OnlineDM

Adventurer
If you just have the original 4e starter box, I'd suggest taking a look at the Dungeon Master's Kit. It has the equivalent of the DMG1 and DMG2 information. If you already have those books, you can skip the DM Kit (though the adventure in it, Reavers of Harkenwold, is pretty fun so far for my group).

The Rules Compendium is complete with rules, but not with content (no powers, magic items, etc.). Rituals aren't addressed at all in any of the Essentials books. If your players want to use them, they'll have to get them from the older books. Rituals still work just fine, but the Essentials classes don't come with the Ritual Caster feat (though they're free to take it if they wish).

Personally, I DO think the Monster Vault is worth it. I love that book, and I think the monsters in it are much more interesting than the MM1 monsters. Better damage expressions, but also better fluff to inspire the DM in using the monsters in interesting ways.

If you don't want to subscribe to DDI, that's fine. I personally think it's very valuable (and it would make the Monster Vault much less necessary, as all of the monsters are in the DDI Compendium), but if you don't like it, you don't like it. I'll note that being a non-Windows user shouldn't be an issue now, as everything is browser-based (they've done away with the downloadable Character Builder and replaced it with a browser-based one in Silverlight). But that's totally your call.

Welcome to 4e - I hope you have fun with it! I know I have.
 

drothgery

First Post
But I'm a bit confused about the product. Do I need to lug my old core 4E box set to the game table, too? The Rules Compendium seems nice, better organized and wouldn't be littered with dozens of errata post-its, but is it complete? Didn't find any rituals in there, for example.

Well, none of the Essentials classes get Ritual Caster as a free bonus feat, and the Ritual Caster feat isn't in the Essentials books, so unless your players pick it up from PH1 (which is perfectly rules-legal), then no one will have any rituals.

There's really almost nothing you can't do with HotFL/HotFK and the Rules Compendium except rituals.

Would buying the Monster Vault be worth it, or should I be fine with the MM1?

Maybe. The monster design guidelines have changed significantly since MM1, and if you like tokens (or want an adventure), that's nice too. But if you don't want to buy another book, you should be okay as long as you don't use solos, elites, or soldiers higher level than the party (this is the easiest way to cause long combats -- they're usually hard to hit, have a lot of hit points, and don't do enough damage to convince PCs to run quickly).
 

Solvarn

First Post
I'd buy the Monster Vault

I'd buy either the MM3 or the Monster Vault if I were you. Monster Design has evolved in the past couple of years, and seeing conventional designs vs. the ones in MM1 will make it easier for you to convert/build your own monsters to provide an adequate challenge.
 

Truename

First Post
But I'm a bit confused about the product. Do I need to lug my old core 4E box set to the game table, too? The Rules Compendium seems nice, better organized and wouldn't be littered with dozens of errata post-its, but is it complete? Didn't find any rituals in there, for example

The Rules Compendium is excellent. As you noted, it doesn't have any specifics (like powers, rituals, items, or monsters), but as a rules reference it's all you need at the table. Nobody in my group uses Essentials classes, but we still use the Rules Compendium for rules.

(For more details, check out this thread: http://www.enworld.org/forum/4e-discussion/294144-rules-missing-rules-compendium.html)

As for what else you need to lug along, my group gets along fine with just our character sheets. The players bring the full text for things like feats, powers, and rituals, and I bring copies of the monsters I plan to use. We don't use any other books.

(PS: Monster Vault is fantastic. Well worth buying, especially for heroic tier adventures.)
 

samursus

Explorer
I'll also echo the regard for Monster Vault. It has monsters with the updated math, better fluff, a counter (at least 1) for every monster, and a nice adventure. And its got the small profile of the Essentials books.

Rules Compendium is mostly complete, minus DMG info and Rituals like others have mentioned. Also, magic items are very lightly represented. I believe there are more in the Dungeon Masters kit, but I am not sure.
 

mhd

Adventurer
Thanks for all the replies. As the Monster Vault came so highly recommended, I ordered it on saturday and received it today. It looks like it will come in pretty handy and should contain most of the monsters I'll need to play a standard fantasy campaign.

And I've looked at my PHB again, it seems I overestimated the importance of rituals. It should be pretty easy to do without them and thus be able to run a campaign with just the Rules Compendium, let's hope that the players are content with the classes that are offered in the Heroes book and I won't have to deal with splat book hell again. I guess it would be easy enough to change a few powers and thus create e.g. clerics of different gods.

I've even looked at the DDI software again, but the option of running the character builder on 2 platforms now (Windows and Intel Macs) isn't really that exciting. Their whole User Experience is still pretty sad and the only remotely interesting program for the DM is Windows only... If only 4E would have a better license or less litigious owners...
 

Lacan

First Post
Thanks for all the replies. As the Monster Vault came so highly recommended, I ordered it on saturday and received it today. It looks like it will come in pretty handy and should contain most of the monsters I'll need to play a standard fantasy campaign.

And I've looked at my PHB again, it seems I overestimated the importance of rituals. It should be pretty easy to do without them and thus be able to run a campaign with just the Rules Compendium, let's hope that the players are content with the classes that are offered in the Heroes book and I won't have to deal with splat book hell again. I guess it would be easy enough to change a few powers and thus create e.g. clerics of different gods.

I've even looked at the DDI software again, but the option of running the character builder on 2 platforms now (Windows and Intel Macs) isn't really that exciting. Their whole User Experience is still pretty sad and the only remotely interesting program for the DM is Windows only... If only 4E would have a better license or less litigious owners...

You made a good move with the Vault. My only problem with it, is that I had to decipher and hack my own monster leveling system in order to increase variety of encounters in my campaign. I also would like to add that the Rules Compendium is now my most highly referenced book at the table (I have a mix of pre-E and Essentials players).

The DM Kit on the other hand, hasn't proven as useful, but that may be because I have both DMG1 and 2, and it did nothing to move the game forward (make it better) compared to what RC and the Vault did.

I also agree 100% with you assessment of the current condition of DDI. I think that the changes they made recently indicate a real financial problem, or relationship problem between the designers (WoTC) and the owners (Hasbro). Mostly because of their new emphasis on DRM. Essentials can be seen almost exclusively as a DRM strategy, an attempt to take back what the "pirates have stolen".
 

Ahrimon

Bourbon and Dice
I know many don't feel that the DM kit is worth it, but I loved it. It had a lot of the good information from both DMG1 and DMG2. Plus tokens and two adventures that take the characters from lvl 1 (or 2 I don't exactly remember) to 4th where the adventure from the Monster Vault takes off. I haven't read the adventures since my DM has incorperated them into his campaign, but I've heard good things about them.

I really enjoyed reading it too.
 

Dausuul

Legend
But I'm a bit confused about the product. Do I need to lug my old core 4E box set to the game table, too? The Rules Compendium seems nice, better organized and wouldn't be littered with dozens of errata post-its, but is it complete? Didn't find any rituals in there, for example.

Would buying the Monster Vault be worth it, or should I be fine with the MM1?

First, welcome to the Dark Side. Have a cookie. :)

Second: No, you do not need your old core 4E stuff. Essentials is a complete game; if you have at least one of the "Heroes" books, plus a Rules Compendium and a Monster Vault, you're good to go. (DM's Kit if you want the extended list of magic items.) You don't have to get the Rules Compendium, but I highly recommend it. It's tight, well organized, and very handy at the table.

Rituals are not included in Essentials, so you will need to bring your old PHB if you want PCs to have access to ritual magic.

Third, re buying the Monster Vault: Yes, yes and HELL YES. The Monster Vault is approximately one hundred and seventy-three and a quarter times better than MM1. They fixed the math (especially at Paragon and Epic tier), cut down grind, and gave solos the flexibility and resilience they need to take on a party unassisted. These days, I use Monster Vault or homebrew for everything; MM1 no longer exists in my world.
 

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