You're probably wondering what has happened to me if you're reading this. Have I gone on a holiday, been abducted by aliens or become deceased. Well the two last ones aren't that far off. I've in fact been busy working with assembling a Dungeons & Dragons group. Learning the rules of D&D and trying to create my own D&D adventure. And it's hard as balls let me tell you.
Now the first thing you'll notice when getting into D&D are the massive amounts of rules to the game. Now that may seem unappealing but those rules are there, mostly for the convenience of the Dungeon Master. What I first did was to pick up a starting kit which doesn't have a lot of rules and could be good for the most basic of players if it wasn't for the fact that it doesn't include any rules getting past level 3.
And right away you start to note how BS Wizards of the Coast are about their D&D "Essentials", when they're not even included in the starter kit. Being a gamer, paying for a Demo (which the starter kit really is) is complete and utter BS. I did get a few character and monster tokens, plus 4 colored character sheets, plus a map that includes a prebuilt messy dungeon and two outdoor areas, plus a few cards of magic items and powers, a players book which hosts a "pick your own story" kind of plot, a DM book which has one sloppy adventure in it and a few core rules. This sounds like a lot but it isn't for an aspiring DM or a hopeful player.
What you need to pick up as a DM is firstly the DM kit, the monster vault and probably the dungeon, forest and city tiles, plus a die bag. This will cost you around 70 € alone, assuming you didn't pick up the starter's kit. As a player you want either the Heroes of Forgotten Realms/Heroes of the Fallen Lands books and probably a die bag (to speed up the game), and maybe even a Rules Compenium.
Problem is that the books have a lot of redundant information, where they cover basically the same things. I think that the Rules Compendium covers a lot of what the DM's handbook and the players handbook (HoFR and HotFL) covers, which makes it pretty redundant if you already got these things, (since all of this is essential anyways), but thing is that the Rules Compendium covers some things the other books doesn't such as generation your own ability scores and possibly even generating treasure, xp and encounters. Making it a viable tool for DMs over the DM handbook. The only thing the DM handbook covers that the Rules Compendium doesn't seem to be mostly courtesy rules, which should really be included in the player books rather than the DM book.
Anyway, the point is that Wizards of the Coast seems to be a giant cash in for a business. It's understandable but not acceptable in my opinion. There's a lot of rules to follow and the deliberate spread of information over all of these different books makes it's infuriatingly hard to easily absorb the rules of the game, making the games somewhat half baked with loads of house rules for the reason of profit. This is a bad thing because it can potentially alienate players in a bad way and limit the abilities of the DM. Now there were a useful screen in the DM box and some really unique tokens which I appreciated but otherwise not much aid for an aspiring DM.
The monster vault is what it promises at least. It has a handy monster manual, detailing the behaviors and logic of monsters in the world of D&D in addition to hundreds of monster tokens (both big and small) for your enjoyment. Expensive 25€ or so but at least the price is far more justifiable for the exclusivity of the content, and at least the monster manual is an interesting read in it's own right.
I'm not saying exclusivity is always a bad thing, but it is in the context that it gives far less content for the money you spend and the other context positive where the lack of exclusivity makes the books fairly redundant.
But you don't really need any of this crap to play D&D. The only thing you need are good players which is probably the hardest and most prized thing to acquire.