Wizards of the Coast just released the new 5th Edition of the classic role-playing game system Dungeons & Dragons. Dungeons & Dragons is a game that is driven by imagination where players are members of a party participating in various adventures. Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) is a role-playing game where players assume the role of a character that they create on paper and bring to life during the adventures. The players take that role and interact with one another as their character, as well as with the Dungeon Master who is a narrator of sorts and controls the actions of the environment, creatures and non-player characters (NPCs) in the game. Over the course of many adventures, the characters gain experience and advance levels, giving them new, better, and stronger abilities.
This review is going to cover the D&D 5th Edition Starter Set.
The first impression I got when I saw this box was excitement. The artwork on the box is simply amazing. There is a huge dragon on the cover that just looks ominous. This is such a major improvement over the red box starter set from the previous edition. The quality of the box is sturdy and offers a sleek modern look to this classic game.
Let’s take a look at the contents of the box.
Inside the box, you get everything you need to get started playing the new 5th edition of the game. The game comes with a starter rulebook, an adventure book designed to take a level 1 character up to level 5, 4 pregenerated character sheets, and a nice pearlized set of polyhedral dice.
Let’s start with the starter rulebook. The starter rulebook is 32 pages and is designed to give a brief overview of how the game is played and get a player up and running right away. The quality of the material is very nice with glossy pages, full color artwork, a good font and typeset, and highlighted areas focusing on important concepts of the game. There are 4 chapters of the game, covering How to Play, Combat, Adventuring, and Spellcasting. This new set of rules has been in development over the past couple of years and had extensive amounts of playtesting.
In the How to Play section, the new concept of Advantages and Disadvantages are introduced. This is a new rule that affects special abilities or spells that come up. With an advantage, 2 rolls are made with the higher roll being used, and with a disadvantage, 2 rolls are made and the lower roll is kept. I like this new rule. I think it brings more to the character, exploiting either strengths or weaknesses that a character has in a way that has more of an impact of certain ability checks.
The rulebook itself is adequate in serving it’s purpose of getting someone started in playing D&D. The starter rules do not cover character creation, and give just a basic look at the six core abilities and proficiencies. It does however offer good insight into the ability checks and saving throws. The combat section of the rules brings the game back to the theater of the mind and less on the tactical format of previous editions. Movement is given in feet and does not use the grid system. There is a step-by step set of instructions for handling combat. The movement back to the theater of the mind for me, brings me back to my youth and my first experiences with 1st edition D&D with the basic and expert sets. More of the experience was generated in the mind and less on using miniatures on a grid map. Not that the latter is a bad thing, but a return to more imagination encourages more of developing mental images. The rules then go on to cover results of going on adventures and how time is figured and the importance of rest for a character. And finally, there is a section on spellcasting that is specific to character classes that are able to cast spells.
Next, the starter set comes with a full 64 page adventure called The Lost Mine of Phandelver. The adventure is very good, especially for a level 1-5 adventure. The adventure book, has a very brief overview of the role of the Dungeon Master and it serves as a narrative and outline for the adventure. The Dungeon Master facilitates the adventure, giving certain information and helping in the determination of the outcomes of certain things. The game encourages a bond or adventure hook that links why the adventurer is in the adventure. The game also has inspiration points which is something new that the Dungeon Master can award to players who really play out either a bond or flaw that the character has. The inspiration point can be used as an advantage roll for an ability check.
Inside of the adventure, there are full color maps that are very nice looking. In my opinion, it would have been nicer if they were produced in a separate booklet and each map was full page. As the adventure book stands, the dungeon master is trying to show the map and may reveal information that is only for his/her eyes. Aside from that, the adventure has plenty of information for the dungeon master to help develop the story for the players playing the game. However, in my opinion, this book should have more information for a new dungeon master just getting started. It is a bare bones description of what the DM is supposed to do. The adventure itself is very good. It is divided into 4 parts and will provide many hours of enjoyment going through the adventure. There is also an appendix at the end that covers magic items and monsters that are encountered during the adventure.
The game comes with pregenerated characters that can be used in playing through the adventure. Each of the character sheets is balanced properly with ability scores. If you are interested in using larger maps, there are miniatures that are sold separately depicting each of these pregenerated characters
Finally, the game comes with a nice set of polyhedral dice, These dice are used throughout the game to perform ability checks, saving throws, combat initiative, and calculating damage.
From a family perspective, this starter set is very good for introducing the role-playing genre of gaming. This activity can be enjoyed by families, encouraging the use of imagination as well as encouraging good speaking skills, just by the dialogue with other players and the Dungeon Master. The rules are not too complicated to understand so the game can be easily played.
Overall this is a good buy. At a $20 price point you get a lot for your money. The cost of a nice set of dice and a full length adventure is more than $20. It offers a great jumping in point for people new to D&D. For those who have previous experience with D&D, I think that is not a necessary purchase. I love the quality of the printed materials. They are easy to read and are well laid out. There is plenty of full color artwork placed throughout the books to enjoy and helps the DM offer some descriptions of the different creatures the players may encounter. I wish they had covered character creation in the starter set, because the heart of role-playing games is the creation of the character. On the Wizards of The Coast website, they do offer a free download of the basic rules and in that set of rules, character creation is covered. The basic rules are an abridged version of the rules found in the Player’s Handbook, but as a free resource can be very useful.
So if you are new to role-playing games and wish to jump in to Dungeons & Dragons, this is a great starting point. The 5th edition rules allow the game to flow more freely and really encourages the imagination to be used in this game and uses inspiration points as a reward for doing so. If you are a seasoned D&D player, it is not a necessary purchase, but the adventure is really good if you are looking for something to play.