To Break Into D&D 5E ...


5th Edition (And Beyond)

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Having watched Taking 20's first and, especially, second, I am definitely looking at changing over to 5E

Come in at this late date, what books are now considered "the essentials"?

I know we need:
* - The Player's Handbook
* - The Dungeon Master's Guide
* - The Monster Manual
But, at this point (six years into the game), what else is needed?


1 person marked this as a favorite.

The other core books are called Xanathar's Guide to Everything and Tasha's Cauldron of Everything. (The additional monster manuals (Volo's Guide to Monsters and Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes) have some additional playable lineages.)

There are also setting specific core books (a lot of their crunch was reprinted in Tasha's or Xanathar's, but the lore could be interesting).

I don't think you need all these five (or three, or seven, depending on how you count) core books to start.

I'll paste in the text from one of my blog posts.

(It was for someone coming into D&D from no RPG experience at all rather than from someone switching from 3e or PF.)

Getting started with D&D

Basic rules for level one to twenty is a PDF that's available to complement any of the stuff I'm going to recommend here, and if you are on a super tight budget, you can start and end there for zero dollars.

Starter Set

First of all, get the D&D Starter Set.

That has a good set of dice, a short and easy rulebook (32 pages), a shortened spell list, and for the DM a wonderful, small region with monsters, treasure and interesting people and some missions and stuff to do in that world.

You also get five ready-made characters and their backgrounds. They don't have a set appearance or name so the players can choose how they look, what they are called and so on.

If those characters die and you need to make new ones, you can use the PDF linked above.

Essentials Kit

The Essentials Kit is not necessary to have (the name is kind of a misnomer) but if you can afford it, the time to get it is now. As in, starting with a combination of both the Starter Set and the Essentials Kit is great.

This rule booklet is 64 pages and does cover making characters! I still recommend starting with the pregens from the Starter Set, but if they die and you wanna make new ones, now you can!

You get another set of dice (these red dice are my treasured favorite.)

You get a budget DM screen (better art than, but much flimsier than, the real one they sell separately—same rules content, though, so if you can make do with this flimsy you are set for life!) You get some honestly kinda useless cards.

The selling point is the dice and the character-making booklet and… more quests to add to the village of Phandalin in the Starter Set! It's presented as, and can be used as, a standalone adventure ("The Dragon of Icespire Peak") but it's better used mashed up together with the Starter Set.

It's not a sequel; you can run the two adventures separately (i.e. having only one of the two boxes is absolutely fine!) but they are also designed to be braided together, with stuff from the Essentials Kit being added into the Starter Set.

You can start with either box—the Starter Set for those who want ready-made characters (which I do recommend) and the Essentials Kit for when you want to make your own. Having both from the start is ♥♥♥.

Next Steps

One of the following two is going to be my recommendation once you have played several sessions out of the starter boxes. They are third-party adventures, since D&D is open source and other publishers can publish stuff for it.

  • Neverland (a Peter Pan style adventure, very well organized book with a dynamic setup, anything can happen, it's not a "preset story")
  • The Lost City (a pyramid in the desert. Really well set up to teach you how to run traps and exploration. If you're a new DM but you are running for players who have already done the starter boxes, this is what to get)

There is a small zine publication called Willow that's a little hard to find, but I love it, and it works great as an extension to the stuff in the starter boxes.

You can also go online and there is this fantastic site that rolls up random adventures and dungeons endlessly!

donjon.bin.sh

You can also use your imagination and remix the monsters from the starter boxes and place them on maps you make. Maybe the same rules data (called a "stat block") from a Skeleton can double as an unruly robot, or whatever you want.

What Not to Get

Hold off on getting the Player's Handbook for at least a few weeks, or even months, until you're more comfortable with the game.

I am not trying to gatekeep people from getting in to that level of play; it's a fun book with lots of options and you might be ready for it sooner than not. But the spell list is going to be twenty times longer and it's going to take time to look things up and it can bog down play.

If you do get that book, then hold off on chapter six. Multiclassing and feats are completely optional and they make the game a lot more complex. We do use them (and we use some of the extra books you can get beyond the Player's Handbook) but we waited for a long time before bringing them in.

The publishers of D&D have made some hardback adventure books but the leap in complexity from the starter boxes to these adventures is way too high. It's also… hello upsell! These adventure books "require" the Player's Handbook, the Monster Manual and the Dungeon Master's Guide. Three very expensive books.

Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Rise of Tiamat (published together as the Tyranny of Dragons), Dragon Heist, and Descent into Avernus are especially bad. Princes of the Apocalypse is a fun adventure but horribly organized and very difficult to use. Also, there are many routes but they all lead into the same conclusion, which some people like but I don't, I'm more into more open-ended play.

As far as first party stuff goes, if you absolutely want the official stamp of official, Curse of Strahd, Tomb of Annihilation, and Rime of the Frostmaiden are all fine if you can handle the horror themes in each and the weirdly colonial perspectives in some of them.

They also have a fantastic anthology book out, Tales from the Yawning Portal. Seven absolutely classic dungeons. It also requires those three expensive books (PHB/MM/DMG) unfortunately.

Miniatures

Also you definitely do not need a bunch of miniatures. Collecting, painting and constructing miniatures and their landscape is almost like a separate hobby from D&D.

My group doesn't use any miniatures at all, we just say what we do. "I run from the goblins!" To me miniatures make the game feel, well, smaller.

Some groups like to have beautiful miniatures for the player characters and then just use chess pieces or whatever for the monsters. (But what if the characters die? What happens with that beautiful miniature that they invested in?)

Here is something that I haven't tried or seen in real life, but I saw them on a video blog and I like the idea. There are six sets.

The PocketDM set

One problem with miniatures is that you can get into "my precious encounter"–behavior. You have built a fantastic landscape of some lava crystal forest and carefully painted the wonderful miniatures and then the player characters don't even go there! It's easy to get tempted into fudging play into certain situation and making it so that you get to show your precious encounter.

Good luck my friends♥

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

2097 wrote:
The other core books are called Xanathar's Guide to Everything and Tasha's Cauldron of Everything. (The additional monster manuals (Volo's Guide to Monsters and Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes) have some additional playable lineages.)

This was the actual answer I was looking for. :)

2097 wrote:

There are also setting specific core books (a lot of their crunch was reprinted in Tasha's or Xanathar's, but the lore could be interesting).

I don't think you need all these five (or three, or seven, depending on how you count) core books to start.

I'll paste in the text from one of my blog posts.

(It was for someone coming into D&D from no RPG experience at all rather than from someone switching from 3e or PF.)

And, coming from Pathfinder 1st (and some Pathfinder 2nd), the system's "complexity" is not scary.

What I am finding is that PF2 is excessively strict (as illustrated in Taking 20's second video), and that D&D 5E appears to have more interesting combat options (and less rules heavy options for out of combat checks).

Liberty's Edge

2 people marked this as a favorite.

For players (and some rules for DMs) there's Xanathar's Guide to Everything and Tasha's Cauldron of Everything.
These have the new options, but content in general is just more sparse than Pathfinder. There's a couple options per class but the books aren't giant tomes of crunch.

For just DMs there's the two monster expansions Volo's Guide to Monsters which has a bunch of monsters that didn't make it into the MM along with extra lore for orcs, goblins, kobolds, giants, gnolls, etc. Then there's Mordenkeinan's Tome of Foes which details more monsters but also the gith subraces, the Blood War, and some other fights. This book has a few more high CR monsters.

They've done a few campaign books as well.
Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide details the Forgotten Realms and has some class options, but most of these were reprinted in the two aforementioned player books. There's also two campaign settings detailing Magic the Gathering worlds, but the class content in these were reprinted in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything.
Explorer's Guide to Wildemount details the campaign setting featured in the livestream Critical Role, and has a pretty comprehensive collection of subraces published elsewhere and three new subclasses. It's a decent book to have as well.

The third party book Tome of Beasts by Kobold Press is also pretty solid and "essential." Some of the later Nord Games products are also nice to have.

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Lord Fyre wrote:
What I am finding is that PF2 is excessively strict (as illustrated in Taking 20's second video), and that D&D 5E appears to have more interesting combat options (and less rules heavy options for out of combat checks).

5th Edition is a system built on "rulings not rules."

Rather than expansive, codified rules with set DCs for most actions, it gives advice on setting DCs and lets the GM adjudicate what can or cannot happen.

Some DMs find this empowering as they can allow their players to do anything and don't have to worry about being "overruled" by the game. And some players like it because it encourages creativity.
Other players find it limiting, as they don't have explicit lists of actions and options. They have less control because whether or not something will be allowed is up to the DM.

In general though it's a little more forgiving to secondary actions. Unlike 3e/ PF where unless you decided to specializing in grappling or tripping it generally wasn't worth doing. 5e tends to have feats or fighter manuevers that give you bonuses when attempting stuff like disarming or let you shove as an extra action.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Jester David wrote:
Lord Fyre wrote:
What I am finding is that PF2 is excessively strict (as illustrated in Taking 20's second video), and that D&D 5E appears to have more interesting combat options (and less rules heavy options for out of combat checks).
5th Edition is a system built on "rulings not rules."

Outside of tournaments and organized play, are not most TTRPGs like this anyway?

Jester David wrote:
Rather than expansive, codified rules with set DCs for most actions, it gives advice on setting DCs and lets the GM adjudicate what can or cannot happen.

This also means that less "memorization" is required (on both sides of the DM's screen). IMO, this is a virtue.

Jester David wrote:
In general though it's a little more forgiving to secondary actions. Unlike 3e/PF where unless you decided to specializing in grappling or tripping it generally wasn't worth doing. 5e tends to have feats or fighter maneuvers that give you bonuses when attempting stuff like disarming or let you shove as an extra action.

Related to this is (as Taking 20's second video illustrated) PF 2E's structure is too limited. A character's initial choices do make a few actions so favorable that other options become almost useless. Counterwise, the GM is also hamstrung; the need to look up the different outcomes for Critical Success/Success/Failure/Critical Failure for ever action can become a real drag.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Jester David wrote:

For players (and some rules for DMs) there's Xanathar's Guide to Everything and Tasha's Cauldron of Everything.

These have the new options, but content in general is just more sparse than Pathfinder. There's a couple options per class but the books aren't giant tomes of crunch.

For just DMs there's the two monster expansions Volo's Guide to Monsters which has a bunch of monsters that didn't make it into the MM along with extra lore for orcs, goblins, kobolds, giants, gnolls, etc. Then there's Mordenkeinan's Tome of Foes which details more monsters but also the gith subraces, the Blood War, and some other fights. This book has a few more high CR monsters.

They've done a few campaign books as well.
Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide details the Forgotten Realms and has some class options, but most of these were reprinted in the two aforementioned player books. There's also two campaign settings detailing Magic the Gathering worlds, but the class content in these were reprinted in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything.
Explorer's Guide to Wildemount details the campaign setting featured in the livestream Critical Role, and has a pretty comprehensive collection of subraces published elsewhere and three new subclasses. It's a decent book to have as well.

The third party book Tome of Beasts by Kobold Press is also pretty solid and "essential." Some of the later Nord Games products are also nice to have.

This does lend itself to an interesting question. Do you think that WoTC is on the verge of 6th Edtion?

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Lord Fyre wrote:
Outside of tournaments and organized play, are not most TTRPGs like this anyway?

I'd say "no."

3e and PF were very much created as games with rules for everything. You didn't need to adjudicate, you just needed to look-up the rule.
While the GM could always overrule the book, that tended to result in pushback from players.
Which leads to rule lawyering. Players knowing the rules and winning because of memorization of the rules.

Lord Fyre wrote:
This does lend itself to an interesting question. Do you think that WoTC is on the verge of 6th Edtion?

Doubtful.

As the video you linked points out, the game is still selling well. WotC is simply NOT going to release a new edition that *might* well well while they have a game that *IS* selling well. That's trading actual sales for potential sales. Especially so soon after 4e where WotC was reminded that just because they release a new edition doesn't mean people will buy it. They're not going to risk it until sales decline to a point where risk : reward ratio favours making a dramatic change.

The video producer gives a good explanation for how bloat kills games. And he tries to make an argument that 5e has rules bloat, when it really doesn't. Most of the rulebooks are adventures. There's two real books with new subclasses.
He also postulates that the new options are necessary for making characters, which is empirically not the case. You can look at D&D Beyond and their statistics of the most played classes and subclasses and find that options from the PHB are still commonly taken. And because option creep has been restrained, power creep is also reduced: many of the options in the PHB are still viable and competitive.

But the key argument is that a new edition is necessary to keep bringing in new players. However, 5e hasn't struggled to bring in new players in 2019 or 2020. 2019 was the best year for D&D ever. And 2020 might arguably have done just as well, or any decline could be related to the pandemic with 2021 or 2022 having recovery. It's staggering how much of the D&D audience is now new players.
A new edition simply is not necessary until new player acquisition begins to lag. And there's just no sign of that now.
Changing editions right now would do more harm than good, as it would divide the audience and cause confusion over what edition to play.

Given D&D has increased in sales and profits each year since 2014, it makes sense that it's decline would follow roughly the same trajectory. A nice, smooth bell curve. At that rate, D&D would be in trouble in 2026. And even then, sales would *only* be as good as they were during the launch of 5e, which was still very, very healthy numbers. Sales could drop to that and 5e could muddle by for another couple years without issue. Easily.
Even if sales drop twice as fast as they grew, D&D can make it until 2023 before things get tight. But that kind of sharp fall is highly unlikely.

And the longer the edition goes, paradoxically the easier it will be to sustain it. Experienced players will tire of the game and move onto other systems and genres, where they can tell stories they can't tell in D&D. But then after a couple years they can return to D&D, picking-up the books released in their absence. But because there's been so many new players continually joining, people won't tire of D&D at the same rate. They'll alternate and people will come-and-go at staggered times, so there will continually be renewed interest in the game.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

The only (lack of) evidence in favor of a new edition is a complete absence of future D&D products on their schedule. On the other hand, they just released a massively crunchy supplement and are still putting out new 5e ideas in UA columns (latest one being in November) that were posted too late to be considered for Tasha's.

Liberty's Edge

David knott 242 wrote:
The only (lack of) evidence in favor of a new edition is a complete absence of future D&D products on their schedule. On the other hand, they just released a massively crunchy supplement and are still putting out new 5e ideas in UA columns (latest one being in November) that were posted too late to be considered for Tasha's.

They're always slow to talk about planned books, and have been since 2011 or so when they realized announcing things a year-plus in advance made it harder to cancel books and shift things around.

They tend to announce the March/April book in January sometime, so we'll hear about that reprint adventure in a few weeks.
And then we'll learn bout whatever book is coming after that a few weeks later. (Likely another MtG setting, as seen by James Wyatt's name on the UA content released in November.)


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I would agree that Xanathar's Guide to Everything and Tasha's Cauldron of Everything are essential. They both have additional useful rules including multiple new subclasses. Tasha's also included some updates and additions to the base class features.

Are you planning on homebrewing a setting, or running an established setting like Eberron, Forgotten Realms, or even Golarion?


RedRobe wrote:
Are you planning on homebrewing a setting, or running an established setting like Eberron, Forgotten Realms, or even Golarion?

YMMV but any of the Forgotten Realms setting books ought to do. Eberron though, one of the few 5e products I actually own outside of the three CRBs, is the best one. But only if you're playing in Eberron or homebrew with a like setting.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

RedRobe wrote:
Are you planning on homebrewing a setting, or running an established setting like Eberron, Forgotten Realms, or even Golarion?

Gor!

Okay, seriously, I am planning to use the Princes of the Apocalypse sourcebook, which is set in the Realms.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Lord Fyre wrote:
RedRobe wrote:
Are you planning on homebrewing a setting, or running an established setting like Eberron, Forgotten Realms, or even Golarion?

Gor!

Okay, seriously, I am planning to use the Princes of the Apocalypse sourcebook, which is set in the Realms.

Since Forgotten Realms is the default setting for 5e, all adventures are set there (except Ravenloft, technically), but should have blurbs about running them in other settings. If you do intend to run in the Realms, I recommend picking up the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

RedRobe wrote:
Lord Fyre wrote:
RedRobe wrote:
Are you planning on homebrewing a setting, or running an established setting like Eberron, Forgotten Realms, or even Golarion?

Gor!

Okay, seriously, I am planning to use the Princes of the Apocalypse sourcebook, which is set in the Realms.

Since Forgotten Realms is the default setting for 5e, all adventures are set there (except Ravenloft, technically), but should have blurbs about running them in other settings. If you do intend to run in the Realms, I recommend picking up the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide.

It does (including the original setting of Greyhawk).

Then again, I should look at a different setting ...
* - before 1989 Real Life Wife loves the Forgotten Realms!
* - Time of Troubles
* - after 1989 RL Wife HATES the Forgotten Realms!

Liberty's Edge

RedRobe wrote:
Lord Fyre wrote:
RedRobe wrote:
Are you planning on homebrewing a setting, or running an established setting like Eberron, Forgotten Realms, or even Golarion?

Gor!

Okay, seriously, I am planning to use the Princes of the Apocalypse sourcebook, which is set in the Realms.

Since Forgotten Realms is the default setting for 5e, all adventures are set there (except Ravenloft, technically), but should have blurbs about running them in other settings. If you do intend to run in the Realms, I recommend picking up the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide.

*Nitpick*

Ghosts of Saltmarsh is still set in Greyhawk, and most of the adventures in Tales from the Yawning Portal remain set in their generic location rather than being moved to the Realms.

Also, Princes of the Apocalypse does include an appendix at the end about moving it to other settings, including Dragonlance, Greyahwk, and Dark Sun.


Jester David wrote:
RedRobe wrote:
Lord Fyre wrote:
RedRobe wrote:
Are you planning on homebrewing a setting, or running an established setting like Eberron, Forgotten Realms, or even Golarion?

Gor!

Okay, seriously, I am planning to use the Princes of the Apocalypse sourcebook, which is set in the Realms.

Since Forgotten Realms is the default setting for 5e, all adventures are set there (except Ravenloft, technically), but should have blurbs about running them in other settings. If you do intend to run in the Realms, I recommend picking up the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide.

*Nitpick*

Ghosts of Saltmarsh is still set in Greyhawk, and most of the adventures in Tales from the Yawning Portal remain set in their generic location rather than being moved to the Realms.

Also, Princes of the Apocalypse does include an appendix at the end about moving it to other settings, including Dragonlance, Greyahwk, and Dark Sun.

Tales from the Yawning Portal itself is set in the Yawning Portal which is in Waterdeep in the Realms. Each adventure within is set in the world in which it was originally published. I have plans to run the adventures within based in my homebrew setting.


I'm a big fan of DragonLance, Eberron, and Golarion for different reasons. DragonLance was the setting of my first 2e campaign back in high school. I ran an Eberron campaign because of how much I liked the Battle Chasers comics. As for Golarion, I like the kitchen sink feel of the setting, and have lots of adventures that can be converted to 5e.

My current, long-running Iron Gods campaign is on hiatus due to the pandemic, and not being able to buy the adventures on Roll20. My group has decided to convert to 5e for that campaign going forward, and I've had alot of fun converting the NPCs to new classes.

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Lord Fyre wrote:
Okay, seriously, I am planning to use the Princes of the Apocalypse sourcebook, which is set in the Realms.

I don't know if you are familiar with the DMs Guild (on Drivethru), but most (all?) or the hard back adventures have fan-made "DMs Guides" available for sale there as PDFs.

They are especially useful for those adventures which are the worst organised, such as Princes of the Apocalypse. I have Sean McGovern's A Guide to the Princes of the Apocalypse, which is a couple of dollars and is well worth having. Other people have probably done similar ones as well.

There is also a bewildering collection of tie-in adventures and the like, of varying quality and usefulness, in addition to the official Adventurers League adventures for the Elemental Evil storyline.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

amethal wrote:
Lord Fyre wrote:
Okay, seriously, I am planning to use the Princes of the Apocalypse sourcebook, which is set in the Realms.

I don't know if you are familiar with the DMs Guild (on Drivethru), but most (all?) or the hard back adventures have fan-made "DMs Guides" available for sale there as PDFs.

They are especially useful for those adventures which are the worst organised, such as Princes of the Apocalypse. I have Sean McGovern's A Guide to the Princes of the Apocalypse, which is a couple of dollars and is well worth having. Other people have probably done similar ones as well.

There is also a bewildering collection of tie-in adventures and the like, of varying quality and usefulness, in addition to the official Adventurers League adventures for the Elemental Evil storyline.

Thank you! The Sean McGovern guide is a great buy!

RedRobe wrote:
I'm a big fan of DragonLance, Eberron, and Golarion for different reasons. DragonLance was the setting of my first 2e campaign back in high school. I ran an Eberron campaign because of how much I liked the Battle Chasers comics. As for Golarion, I like the kitchen sink feel of the setting, and have lots of adventures that can be converted to 5e.

More recently, I find myself moving away from Golarion. I'm not sure why. Maybe just "too much" Golarion from my playing group in the last few years.

So, since my motivation for Lords of the Apocalypse is the warm memories of Temple of Elemental Evil, Greyhawk is the obvious setting. :)


Lord Fyre wrote:
amethal wrote:
Lord Fyre wrote:
Okay, seriously, I am planning to use the Princes of the Apocalypse sourcebook, which is set in the Realms.

I don't know if you are familiar with the DMs Guild (on Drivethru), but most (all?) or the hard back adventures have fan-made "DMs Guides" available for sale there as PDFs.

They are especially useful for those adventures which are the worst organised, such as Princes of the Apocalypse. I have Sean McGovern's A Guide to the Princes of the Apocalypse, which is a couple of dollars and is well worth having. Other people have probably done similar ones as well.

There is also a bewildering collection of tie-in adventures and the like, of varying quality and usefulness, in addition to the official Adventurers League adventures for the Elemental Evil storyline.

Thank you! The Sean McGovern guide is a great buy!

RedRobe wrote:
I'm a big fan of DragonLance, Eberron, and Golarion for different reasons. DragonLance was the setting of my first 2e campaign back in high school. I ran an Eberron campaign because of how much I liked the Battle Chasers comics. As for Golarion, I like the kitchen sink feel of the setting, and have lots of adventures that can be converted to 5e.

More recently, I find myself moving away from Golarion. I'm not sure why. Maybe just "too much" Golarion from my playing group in the last few years.

So, since my motivation for Lords of the Apocalypse is the warm memories of Temple of Elemental Evil, Greyhawk is the obvious setting. :)

If you don't have it already, you may want to grab the 3.0 Living Greyhawk Gazetteer. Its on Amazon for a decent price.

Community / Forums / Gamer Life / Gaming / D&D / 5th Edition (And Beyond) / To Break Into D&D 5E ... All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.
Recent threads in 5th Edition (And Beyond)