Dungeons & Dragons Starter Box (D&d Boxed Game) Misc. Supplies – 15 Jul 2014
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Fifth edition, (which the company usually refer to as just "Dungeons and Dragons" now) is a near-perfect ruleset, and the starter set is a brilliant introduction to the system for old an new players alike.
The set contains several key pieces, and everything you need to start playing the game. It includes a simple rulebook—just around 30 pages—which contains all of the core mechanics of the game, a (nearly) full set of polyhedral dice, a set of five pre-generated characters, and, most importantly, a 70+ page adventure, "The Lost Mines of Phandelver"
The rulebook is amazingly succinct, but surprisingly complete. The text of the rulebook is, primarily, taken directly from the Basic Rules and Players Handbook (PHB), and covers all of the basic mechanics for playing the game. Instructions are clear, and the new system is amazingly intuitive. Unlike the Basic Rules, (a 100+ page free PDF available from the WOTC website) and the PHB, the basic rules contain only the mechanics for playing the game. What is missing, then, is all the aditional information for creating new characters, lots of class-specific information, instruction advanced, and non-standard playstyles like multi-classing, and only a limited set of spells and attacks for casters. It also includes only enough information to take a character from first, to fifth level, but since the included adventure doesn't really give players the option to advance much beyond this anyway, this is not particularly a problem.
Almost any rules which will come up during normal play in this game are covered in this rule book, which can be read, cover-to-cover in only around 15 minutes, and will give even complete novice players all of the information that they need to play the game.
The box also includes a nearly complete set of RPG Dice. It contains the 6 basic dice, a D4, D6, D8, D10, D12, and D20. It lacks the D10 Percentile dice, but rolling percentages can still be achieved by rolling the D10 twice, and multiplying the first roll by 10. This comes up so infrequently as to be inconsequential. However, while passing around a single set of dice is certainly possible, most players will want to purchase their own dice in addition to this, to significantly speed up play. The dice are quite nice marbled blue dice, and seem of good quality, similar to that of Chessex matched sets—in fact, it wouldn't surprise me to learn Chessex actually make the dices for the starter set.
The pre-generated characters make picking up, and playing this set really easy. The five characters feature the typical common D&D races—Human, Dwarf, Elf and Halfling—and Classes—Wizard, Cleric, Rogue and two fighters, a ranged fighter, and a "tank".
While it is entirely possible to create your own characters for this adventure, using the free, basic rules (though you would still be limited to the same race/class combinations) or PHB, the pre-generated characters actually have a great and well thought out backstory, and plenty of adventure hooks, and so it is well worth using these, at least during your first play-through.
The adventure itself is wonderfully written, and amazingly deep. The adventure book is a combination of adventure, Dungeon Master's Guide (DMG) and Monster Manual (MM) and contains not only the adventure itself, but also great tips for new DM's, additional advanced rules, and stat-blocks for all monsters featured in the adventure.
Wizards' decision to split the adventure and the rules into two separate books is an inspired one. This means that players can read through rules, and this can be a resource on the table, without the possibility of players spoiling the adventure, and seeing things they shouldn't.
Both the adventure and the rule-book are printed in full colour, on glossy premium magazine type paper, and both feature artwork, both from the printed core rulebooks (PHB, MM, DMG) and some artwork created specifically for the adventure (primarily maps). It is typically very high quality, and very much in keeping with the high-fantasy setting of the campaign.
The Lost Mines of Phandelver takes place in the Forgotten Realms setting—the most popular D&D setting of all time—along the sword coast, primarily in and around the previously largely unexplored town of Phandalin. It starts as a fairly standard sort of adventure, an "escort the cargo" mission, but from the beginning, there are plenty of hooks in the characters back-stories which drives characters towards Phandalin, and that make this more than just a "you've been hired, so shut up and do the job" sort of affair.
It starts with a fairly standard ambush encounter, but this quickly opens up multiple branching adventure possibilities. Even the initial exchanges with basic monsters are challenging and feel rewarding, and while all encounters are winnable, success never feels guaranteed, and there is a real sense of danger and a constant possibility of failure at every turn.
The adventure has many options, which allow encounters to be overcome in a number of different ways, and encourages creative solutions to be considered. There is potential inter-player conflict baked into their back-stories, and the adventure gives the DM plenty of opportunities to test the bonds between players, simply by introducing multiple, mutually exclusive options that different players will want to explore.
The adventure is very dense. Our group is approaching 15 hours into the adventure, and barely feel like we have scratched the surface—we have multiple adventures we have been tasked with completing, and several others threads we are exploring which we don't even have enough information or skills to begin to think about tackling yet. There is more than enough in the adventure for several months of intense play-sessions.
While experienced groups may want to jump right in to creating their own adventures with the core rulebooks, this adventure is so well-produced that experienced adventurers will get just as much from this starter set as complete newcomers. This sort of adventure would be well worth the price of the starter set, and then some, if printed as a stand-alone product.
Fifth edition is the quintessential version of D&D, with all of the best things from previous editions, and a number of new innovations brought together in a perfect package, and the Starter Set is the perfect way to experience this new and improved version of D&D.
An easy recommendation for new and experienced players alike.
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