On tuesday the first book of the new version of D&D was released: the Players Handbook (PHB), the guide on how to create characters to play in game, and also a complete set of rules for managing most aspects of the game, including those for combat. This is the first of three core books, not including the Starter Set they released last month (which I didn’t bother with because I’m not new to this), still to come are the Monster Manual (MM) – a list of example creatures for use in campaigns, due out in September – and the Dungeon Master’s Guide (DMG) – a guide on how to create and manage campaigns, due out in November.
For previous editions the releases for these three books have been simultaneous, all three being necessary for a new group to begin playing. So why have Wizards of the Coast elected to stagger the release of the core rule books this time around?
First of all, they are at least releasing the books in the proper reading order, the PHB being needed to learn the core rules and get the first part of the campaign building process under-way, building the characters and protagonists for the story; followed by the MM which can help establish a campaign theme and allows the DM to familiarize him/herself with creature statistics; and finally the DMG to help refine and develop a story.
Second, the already available Starter Set and more importantly the simplistic free version of the rules makes the game easily playable without needing any of the core rulebooks, but allows players to build upon an already functioning rule-set.