I recently read through a copy of Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition for Dummies by Bill Slavicsek and Richard Baker. My expectations of the work were naturally low since most of the “for Dummies” series are so basic and generic that they are often all but useless to anyone who is somewhat familiar with the topic at hand.
The book is contains 5 chapters: a D&D Crash Course, Building a D&D Character, Playing your Best Game, the Art of Dungeon Mastering, and the Part of Tens.
The first two chapters contain very basic outlines most people familiar with D&D fourth Edition would know from simply reading the rules. However I'm not surprised by this, the book is for “dummies,” after all. But the last 3 chapters include a large amount of material that sheds light upon what the game designers had in mind when creating 4e game mechanics, and how those mechanics differ from prior editions of the game.
The book features “advanced” sections, covering topics such as the finer points of character creation, using multi-class feats to customize a character’s abilities to match the needs of her party, and even a section on effective “Min/Maxing” for “munchkin” or power-gaming types.
An entire part is devoted to the task of Dungeon Master (DM), which players new to the role of DM will find to be of immense use. The chapter helps a new DM differentiate between different modes of play, outlines a sample combat, and provides step-by-step instructions for combat encounter creation. A sample, detachable battlemat with counters is bound into the book for reference.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly for players familiar with the 4e rules, the book concludes with a section called “The Part of Tens,” in which the authors provide a series of “Top Ten” lists on topics such as character powers and feats, along with the reasons for their selections. While one could argue that these are largely matters of opinion, the reasoning behind the choices is illustrative. For example, the Toughness feat – which provides an additional five hit points at each tier of play – is recommended for all characters; the rationale behind the choice is that extra hit points are useful in every encounter, a distinction not enjoyed by all feats.
As the title implies, the book is certainly useful for “D&D Dummies,” but it also contains information useful to more experienced players. And with online vendors selling new copies of the book at approximately $15 U.S. and used copies selling for as little as $1 U.S., it is well worth the investment.