Extraneous Voices of Picayune > Tomes and Illusions

Starter Roleplaying books. What to get!?

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So my birthday's coming up in a couple of weeks and my wife has no idea what to get me. So I told her maybe a DnD manual or something so I can read through it and better understand what actually goes on with roleplaying. Also, it will help me out a bunch in Strolen's, i'm sure; especially with a game i'm thinking of starting in the next couple of months, since I want to make it one with rules and dice.

my question is: What book(s) should I get to start up!? I want to start on Dungeons and Dragons, I suppose, but isn't there a whole bunch of books to start on? Should I start on 1st edition or whatever, or should I skip to a better one? Anything else I should look at?

Finding a 1st edition D&D manual is rather impressive nowadays. From my understanding, those rulebooks are rare as hens teeth. Your main options if you go the D&D route are 3.5e and 4e.

The current system in-use is 4th edition (4e), but playtesting has been happening for 5th edition (D&D Next) for some time now. The edition most people think of when they think of D&D is 3.5. If you're going to go for that edition, though, I'd suggest taking a hard look at GURPS instead.

GURPS was essentially designed to be an upgrade for D&D 3.5 users when Wizards moved on to 4e and left 3.5 by the wayside, and so unlike 3.5, it's got ongoing support from the publisher. Also, it was designed to be compatible with D&D 3.5 material, so you can use modules and other rules that were designed for 3.5 with a minimum of trouble and a maximum of flexibility.

The one caveat with aiming at D&D is that it's extremely focused around combat and fighting. That's where the majority of the rules are centered, and though you can do other things with it, that tends to be the focus of most games, just because that's where the rules are. "When you have a hammer..."

I leave it to the others to offer you advice on other systems. My practical experience doesn't really let me weigh in on that matter.

The 1st edition, original 1st  edition, play manual is a really interesting read.  It is written almost as a stream conciousness with various interjection by the author.  It has long descriptions of some very specific types of actions (like dealing with sleeping monsters) and  a very folksy description of how to interpret stats. I think starting with a 1st edition book would interesting. 

The 2nd edition AD&D books are the best written of the D&D books (acknowledgement I have not read the 4th edition books).  These books have references to the mytho-historical archetypes that lead to conceptualization of the classes.  They are directed to their audience in a broad sense to GMs seeking create worlds and players that wanted to base their characters on situations from outside the game.  If you do dive into second edition I would strongly suggest finding the Arms and Equipment Guide, The Castles guide and the Catacombs guide.  All fun reads right up a strolenites alley.

In the first and second edition the focus is still on using D&D to recreate situations or explore concepts from outside D&D.  The pacing and the skill sets are very much focused on recreating a literary action such as you might find in older adventure novel.  Combat rounds are a minute, and things happens at a slower in-game rate than third edition.

Third edition and 3.5 are written on a  meta-level, the system and the concepts that shaped the making of that systems are for the most taken from decades of game playing.  Instead of asides about the mytho-historical archetypes or literary sources that contributed to the game concepts you get aside about play testing.  It is also written entirely as if based in a single published game world...I not sure which one (forgotten realms?). 

This said the game mechanics of 3.5 are much more flexible in as much as actions and movements are very precisely defined.  3.5 combat takes place on a grid system and the grid is really necessary for fully utilizing and communicating the character abilities.  The character classes are also much more customizable than 2nd edition (just read the 2nd ed fighter manual to understand how limited that system was), for two 10th level fighters that started with identical stats in supplemented 3.5 might have entirely different skills sets and focuses.  In 3.5 your character abilities can tell the story of where and what they have been, in 2nd (aside from non-weapon skills) only your trophies charted your history.  However, beware the munckins.   

I would start with West End Games original Star Wars d6 players handbook and source book.

"I would start with West End Games original Star Wars d6 players handbook and source book."

I concur this is a great system, but it may be hard to get.

As for GURPS, its a good system, but it predates 3.5 edition significantly (1986) and if I remember correctly has a completely different rule system :)  Pathfinder seems to be the best match for 3.5 D&D as it is essentially a 'fork' of the 3.5 stream.

Wulfhere could go into the nitty gritty here as he has done work with both 3.5 and pathfinder.


I thought I remembered some discussions about Fudge and Fate and stuff but couldn't find them. All I found was this old thread http://strolen.com/guild/index.php/topic,1641.msg22390.html#msg22390 that mentions some of the same as already brought up.

I broke my teeth on 1st edition. Played AD&D and moved to Palladium for the bulk of my gaming. Other randoms just to experiment. My tastes lean, as always, towards Palladium because I just love rolling dice and you only really need 1 books. However, that was the old edition too. To me, D&D just has too much stuff to figure out before I can start playing. I am not a rule person, they bore me, so I need something easy and quick. All the ones I have tried were introduced to me so I would learn on the fly. Not sure I would ever pick up a new one to actually learn it. So I am a bad source of info....and not sure why I am still typing. :)


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