I started a draft of this post a few days ago and yesterday, when I went to post it, I discovered that I was thoroughly disgusted with that draft. The previous version started as a quick run down on the new Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition Starter Set, and quickly devolved into a bitch-fest of epic proportions… and not about Dungeons & Dragons either. Rather than subject you all to that unbridled whining, I scrapped the entire post to begin anew with a fresh mind on a fresh day: it’s Friday on Saturday, y’all!
I am so ridiculously excited about Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition (hereafter, D&D 5E for brevity’s sake), and I should mention right off the major caveat: I have no insider knowledge whatsoever and I don’t want to represent myself or this blog as being anything other than the fervent ranting of a fanboy. You can get all the insider knowledge and preview peeks by going to ENWorld, where they regularly reveal some great stuff for RPGs; or go to the source: Daily D&D, the Wizards of the Coast (WotC) Dungeons & Dragons news page. This… this is going to be about me being a dork and loving this game.
I received my D&D 5E Starter Set on July 15th like most everyone else (WotC made some available to select Play Network retailers on July 3rd and some folks got them early… not me. This ought to prove that I have zero insider kung-fu). The set is pretty simple: a set of dice, two booklets (one 32 page Rulebook, one 64 page adventure book titled, “The Lost Mine of Phandelver”), five pre-generated characters (a human noble fighter, a human archer fighter, a dwarf cleric, an elf wizard, and a halfling rogue), and an ad sheet that has a blank D&D Encounters character sheet printed on the back. The box set:
and the contents of the box:
Oh, yeah… and the dice:
I was a little upset when I received the box, not because of the contents… but because I was leaving on a trip the very next day, I still needed to pack, and I just wasn’t going to have time to nerd out with the material… not “upset,” then… “disappointed.” But I couldn’t wait; I tossed the rulebook aside because I’d already spent the preceding week absorbing the D&D 5E Basic Rules which WotC made available to everyone as a free PDF download on July 3rd… I had the rules, I wanted to see the adventure because it contains within its 64 pages the first glimpse of elements from the forthcoming Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide… due for release September 30th and November 18th, respectively. That’s a long time to wait. The Basic Rules PDF will tide me over until next month’s release of the Player’s Handbook, and you don’t really need anything other than what’s included in the Starter Set to get a game of D&D 5E going. Basic Rules:
I printed them out so we could hand the binder around the table during game play for ready reference. The “Starter Set Rulebook” serves exactly the same purpose. As an aside: the Basic Rules contains character creation rules — a slice of the forthcoming Player’s Handbook — four core classes and four core races: Fighter, Cleric, Rogue, and Wizard; Human, Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling (with two subraces for each of the demihuman races: Hill Dwarf and Mountain Dwarf, High Elf and Wood Elf, and Lightfoot Halfling and Stout Halfling). If you want to start a game using the Starter Set you can offer your players one of the pregenerated characters, or you can use the Basic Rules to let them build a character. For totally new players, the pregens are probably the way to go. I’m running a D&D Next game at a local library and I allowed my new (REALLY new) players to make characters… and that took a ridiculous amount of time… about an hour each for six players. I should have just had them select a pregen. Anyway… I digress.
The D&D 5E Starter Set is a complete D&D experience in a box. The included adventure takes the characters from 1st to 5th level, does a very nice job of introducing the latest version of the game to both new players and new Dungeon Masters, and only sets you back $20. I took “The Lost Mine of Phandelver” along with me to read during my trip, and I loved the adventure. “The Lost Mine of Phandelver” won’t go down in history as one of the great adventures of D&D (it’s no “Keep on the Borderlands” or “The Village of Hommlet”), but it provides a nice backdrop for players to begin exploring the fantasy world of “The Forgotten Realms” (or any campaign setting really… the details can easily be modified by the DM for placement in any D&D world or home-brewed campaign world) and it’s got some nice challenges and surprises up its sleeve, both role-playing and tactical… “The Lost Mine of Phandelver” is not an easy adventure by any means. More experienced players might not dig it the most, but they’ll certainly find it amusing… and challenging.
I’m planning on running the adventure for my library D&D group during our next “season,” and I’m further planning to run the adventure straight out of the box using the pregenerated characters so we can start playing right away. I think it’ll be a hoot, and an easy way to introduce a new bunch of players to the latest version of the D&D rules. Since I like using battle mats and minis (well, tokens… I use the 4E tokens for the library game), I went ahead and bought the new Icons of the Realms Starter Set Dungeons & Dragons minis by WizKids:
There are your five pregenerated characters from the D&D 5E Starter Set… plus a bonus Drizzt Do’Urden figure just for shits and giggles, I guess… I’m not a huge fan of vinyl minis, but these are nice enough and relatively inexpensive enough that I’ll probably go about and attempt to acquire the whole 51 figure, Icons of the Realms: The Tyranny of Dragons set… I think. They come in blind box boosters… I hate blind boxes… but the enticement of a Tiamat or Bahamut figure is too much for me to blow off… I’m weak.
I’m happy to report back on the progress of the Starter Set game once we get rolling in September, and I plan on posting some feedback for the D&D 5E rulebooks as I receive and read them. I participated in the D&D Next playtest, and I’ve been watching this edition grow… I even planted a few seeds myself with my feedback to the surveys WotC sent… so it’s nice to see this all bear fruit. “One edition to rule them all?” Nah, I don’t think so… I think folks are going to keep playing the edition they like best; and, honestly, next to the Pathfinder Beginner Box, the D&D 5E Starter Set is a bit weak in every respect except for the price.
I have an abiding affinity for Dungeons & Dragons, regardless of edition. Sure, the game is nothing without the rules… but it’s even less without the people who play it, and I’ve said it before: it doesn’t matter what version you play, so long as you play.