All good advice here, I'm more prone to say 4th edition for D20 as well, more as thats what Wizards has moved onto, its easier to learn from what I'm hearing and anything new and shiny will be based in 4th. Detailed characters are nice but not neccesary for roleplaying a good game. In fact D&D has always been one of the more complex systems in the past, but simplier systems can allow for quick rolls and more roleplay. Both types have their merits though.
As to the local current gaming group, excellent points if they have one, depending on the place they live they may be in a RPG wilderness. This means you may need to form the local group by convincing friends to give it a go, or at worst play one DM and one player, which although not ideal can be loads of fun as well.
If you are going it alone or starting the group my advice is to buy only what you need, look at the sub games as well, some come with all the rules you need to play and create characters in the main book. By sub games I mean Star Wars, Starfleet, and some of the other D20 worlds as listed in the big list above in the Roleplay Games forum.
Thats also another key point, do you plan on making up your own world, or do you just fancy playing in someone elses. On the latter it comes down to the style you want, Sci-fi, fantasy etc. If you where a Fantasy fan for example I'd strongly recommend Forgotten Realms. If its the former and you want to create your own world, then you will need the first three main books, DM Guide, Players Handbook and Monsters Manual and then build away from there.
Hopefully these responses have helped, but I'm quite sure we're happy to respond to any further questions.
Last edited by Druchii in Space; 11-16-08 at 03:09 PM.