What to buy to begin a Forgotten Realms 3.5ed campaign?
December 8, 2011 6:06 PM   Subscribe

A few friends and I would like to begin playing tabletop role-playing games. We've only barely played a pen-and-paper game before, a long time ago, but we play a lot of RPGs on the computer. What reference materials should we get to begin a simple campaign? Aiming to play D&D 3.5ed, Forgotten Realms.

The reason for choosing the Forgotten Realms setting is really because that's the one all of us are most familiar with, thanks to all the Bioware D&D RPGs. Again, 3.5ed because that's what those RPGs used, and I'm a bit wary of the changes introduced in the 4th edition. Familiarity is key; we don't want to spend too much time learning a new system or a new world but just get into it immediately.

Currently I only have the player's handbook, and I'll probably get a copy of the DM handbook as well. Should we also get the Forgotten Realms campaign setting? It seems like that is for 3ed, not 3.5ed, and we'd need an additional "Player's Guide to Faerun".

I'm also wondering if it'll be better to get a pre-written campaign (e.g. "Cormyr: The Tearing of the Weave"). Most likely I'll be the one DMing, and since I have no experience following a pre-written campaign would probably produce better results.

I'd rather not spend too much money on this, so what set of books would be sufficient for our purposes?

PS: I know the best way to get into tabletop RPGs is to join some existing group with more experienced players (and a good DM), but due to time constraints (we're all working adults) and the lack of popularity of such games here, it's a bit difficult.
posted by destrius to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You don't need the Campaign Setting or the Guide to Faerun if you're running a pre-written campaign, the adventure books will have all the material you need and if you need to adlib or fill in the gaps, you can just draw on your own experience from the Bioware games. In fact, that's one of the first things to internalize as a DM: There's no such thing as getting the world "wrong." Even when you're playing in a predetermined setting, the actual world of your game is being built as you play it. If the player's arrive in a village and want to know if there's a weapon shop, it's way more fun to just wing it and say "there's a woman in the market square with a bunch of swords laid out on a blanket, she tells you that they belonged to her husband who ran off with some elf hussy and she's selling them to save up the money to pay someone to kill him" than it is to say, "just as second let me look it up... yep there's a blacksmith named Gor Blackhammer, it says he sells maces, swords and pikes."

I haven't actually played a pre-made scenario in 3.5, but all you should need is the player's handbook, the scenario and maybe the DM handbook.
posted by 256 at 6:29 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would advise to keep it simple when it comes to acquisition of books. You don't need much.
It's rare that I play D&D because most of the people I've played with tend to be book obsessed to the point where more time is spent looking things up than actually playing.

Also, as the DM, make note of how well your players are handling the various enemies they're going up against. If it takes more than a few rounds to kill something, that something is probably too strong for your characters.
The last time I played the DM put us into fights that took 7 characters dozens of rounds (and about 6 hours) to defeat. Not fun.
posted by nickthetourist at 6:42 PM on December 8, 2011

You scarcely need to buy anything, the core rules are available in a really easy, searchable format at the hypertext SRD.

The Faerun books will get you more setting-specific stuff, but everything you need to play is in that link.
posted by Lifeson at 7:01 PM on December 8, 2011

As time-strapped players this might be your best friend: The One Page Dungeon is a good resource. It's a yearly contest. There are some good campaign ideas and you can flesh it out with some of the above resources. You don't need anymore books. You just need a printer, or you can just read it off the screen!
posted by hot_monster at 7:15 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

One consideration, on the books front, would be to think about playing Pathfinder instead of 3.5. Same races, same classes, similar or same feats, but lots of minor mechanical fixes to the broken 3.5 bits; it has been described as 3.5 v2, and rightfully so. One book covers DM and Player guides, and from there you would only need your adventures. Cross compatible with any 3.5 adventure out there, with minor skill name adjustments.
posted by ellF at 8:46 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

My first question would be how serious are you about playing Forgotten Realms? Or are you interested more in exploring D&D and FR is a gateway for that? As a former FR hoarder, you can buy ALL the books, but if you don't really like D&D all you'll get is 1000 pages of strangely specific fantasy.

To start, I would suggest getting the strangely open source d20 SRD and a few of the One Page Dungeons hot_monster suggests. Try it out, see what you think. If the dice rolling and rules lawyering and plastic figures are fun, start out with the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting book. For whatever reason, there aren't many adventure modules for FR, but lots of sourcebooks so you might be rolling your own a lot of the time.

If you like old-time RPGs but decide the rules are a pain the ass, try a Microlite variant. One or more of them is based on FR but I don't remember which one (Realms of Renown??).
posted by fiercekitten at 9:08 PM on December 8, 2011

hot_monster: As time-strapped players this might be your best friend: The One Page Dungeon is a good resource.

Cool! That looks quite useful, and I'll probably crib one of the campaigns there for our first game.

ellF: One consideration, on the books front, would be to think about playing Pathfinder instead of 3.5.

Pathfinder looks perfect; I'll probably go ahead and get the Pathfinder book instead, as the 3.5ed books are out of print and harder to find.


I'm aware of the SRD, and will probably make lots of use of it. Having a book on hand does have its advantages though as its easier for the players to just flip through and read. I'm also still considering getting the FR campaign setting because I kind of like the world (although it can be very cliched at times) and I think its useful to have some world-related lore and other things while gaming to tie the game to the bigger picture. Like for example if I set the game nearby Waterdeep, it'd be useful to know what people or creatures the characters are likely to bump into. Just for flavour, especially since we're all already familiar with much of the setting.

Hopefully the game will be fun and will become a regular thing. Thanks for the suggestions!
posted by destrius at 12:36 AM on December 9, 2011

Right on! I started playing with the D&D Expert Set back in the 80s, and Pathfinder is the best D&D game I have ever owned. Paizo's Adventure Paths are another excellent way to explore the world without needing a ton of prep time; they are monthly module books that take players from low to mid level, with pretty solid writing.

Rise of the Runelords is out of print, but it is available from their website in PDF format, and is widely regarded as one of their best campaigns. Well, well worth nabbing, and if physical books are a concern, easy to have printed and bound by a Staples or local print shop. (In fact, all Paizo books are sold as both physical and PDF books, and for $10 a PDF can be a nice way for a player with less cash on hand to get access to a book they want but won't need in massive hard bound copy.)
posted by ellF at 4:56 AM on December 9, 2011

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