Honestly, I am a bit confused, but I do appreciate you two attempting to enlighten me. So let me try to muddle through to understanding: 4E is the "current edition" of the main product line, and that is what I want if I wish to be involved in a Living campaign. The Essentials line is a concurrent product line, and simplified a bit to introduce new players to the game. If one gets the Essentials line, there is a different book to be bought for each character class one wants to make characters for.
Am I good so far?
Not quite, each essentials book covers 4-5 classes.
If so, I have to say that I would likely go with 4E. The complexity of the full game, which would scare some people away from learning the game, is something I really enjoy (as an example, I used to get a kick out of rolling Shadowrun characters). Also, I would want to play around with the different classes, and probably have a character or two who has more than one class, and I don't have the money to be buying book after book, such as I would have to using the Essentials line.
Back when I played AD&D 2nd Ed., if one wanted to roll a character, he bought the Player's Handbook. If one wanted to run a campaign, he bought that plus the Dungeon Master's Handbook. There were a ton of other, supplemental books, but those were the "core" rule books (maybe including the Monstrous Manual), and one could get by on those alone.
This is still true and works exactly the same way. The essentials books are more like mini PHB's with streamlined rules.
So that is what I am looking to find out now. Is there one book I can buy which will allow me to roll up a few characters and be ready to play as soon as I find a group who can tolerate someone who needs to put the training wheels back on? If so, what is that book? If I have to buy 4E Player's Handbook 1, 2, and 3, I probably will just shelve the idea. $100 worth of rule books is just not in the cards right now.
Once again, thank you for helping me out with this.
They have recently released a starter kit that only costs $20 and is supposed to include everything you need.
The best way to start playing the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game.http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Product.aspx ... /244660000
Designed for 1–5 players, this boxed game contains everything needed to start playing the Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game, including rules for creating heroes, advice for playing the Dungeon Master, a solo play adventure, and group-play adventure content. Learning the game has never been so easy!
Several different character races (dwarf, elf, halfling, and human) and classes (cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard) are presented, along with powers for each race and class.
32-page book for players, with rules for character creation and a solo adventure
64-page book for Dungeon Masters, with the rules of the game, advice on how to run the game, and adventure content
2 sheets of die-cut tokens for characters and monsters
Cardstock character sheets and power cards
Double-sided dungeon map
6 polyhedral dice
That should be enough to get you started and point you towards what you may need in the future.