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Alacrity's Review of The 5e Starter Kit

So I enjoyed the 5e rules well enough that I was willing to lay down the cash and buy the D&D Starter Kit. Not that I have a tabletop group to play with anymore but what the heck. It was a box set, and that immediately took me back to the day when I bought the basic set back in the 80’s. For that feeling alone, I’ll fork out 16 bucks.

What’s in the Box?

On the box is new artwork that pays respect to Larry Elmore’s classic red box cover. I loved it but I have to admit it took me awhile to realise that. I’m getting old, and the memory is slipping. The contents are:

Starter Set Rulebook (32 pages) Lost Mines of Phandelver adventure (64 pages) Six D&D dice (blue with white numbers – no crayons needed!!!!) Five pre-generated characters printed on the new D&D 5e character sheets (Recommend you photocopy them) One blank character sheet with a full page colour advertisement on the back One cardboard insert to give the box a false bottom. Not sure why, you’d think they could have made the box smaller or at least put something special under the false bottom. This is D&D, don’t you know...

The Rulebook

The rule book provided gives you the rules you need to play the adventure. Most of this was already in the Basic Set download but there is a better listing of skills, and some of the encounter rules are explained with greater detail. I am still boggled a bit by the skills aspect of the game. Either they are very simplistic, or they are waiting for the books to come out to fully explain them. There is a better balance with classes now, with mages and clerics having some good re-usable abilities.

The rulebook is written with the new player in mind. Rules are explained clearly (and are not complicated), so it is perfect for a brand new DM or player. If you are old school like me, you’ll be skipping over sections. The equipment is very much cut down here from the one in the basic rules, probably to save space as it is unlikely that the players in the set will ever find plate armour. The back cover is an appendix listing all the “conditions” such as Blinded, Charmed, Deafened, etc. along with their rules - this could be good to have even for an experienced group, or if you like to set up your own DM screen.

With the pre-rolled characters, you get a better idea of how backgrounds will now influence skills and traits. Once again, it is very brief and you are left wanting more - which the accountants of the coast will be providing soon (cha-ching).

Lost Mine of Phandelver

I truly enjoyed reading through this module. It reminded me in parts of Village of Homnlet, A1 Slave Pit of the Undercity, Saltmarsh and many other classic TSR modules. There is a bit of railroading going on in the adventure but what really good module doesn’t have that aspect.

"You are guarding a caravan from Big City to Smalltown. To get there you must take the Youwillbeambushed Pass, which is horribly unpatrolled due to recent budget cuts. Suddenly when you turn left into Cutthroatsbehere Gully ...."

Hey, I am geeking out just thinking about it. The adventure does get progressively harder, and has some magic items and some “big name” monsters, but I don’t want to ruin it for you if you get a chance to play. One thing I did not like was that there was a lot of potential to develop this module further, but there wasn't enough in the rulebook to go beyond the monsters and magic already listed. Once again, if you wait for the books ....

In the End

I thought the starter kit is definitely worth it if you are a new player or DM and have not played before. If you are experienced and have played other editions, you have to ask yourself if the price is worth the module and the dice. I like dice and I have cashed out $16 for modules before, but you have to be the judge on this one. You can always wait for the hard covers to come out and save your money for them.

I like what I see with the emphasis on role playing, with advice like "it's not a competition" and "keep everyone involved" in the rules and the module. The skills and background mixed with Ideals, bonds and flaws all can be used to bring players to the table with a fully thought out character. Even the characters given have sizable sections for background and exploration of personality.

I’d like to include some minor quibbles about the pre-gen characters, though. No elven bow wielder? The cleric is a dwarf? Come on WotC, you should know your target audience. I wanted Legolas and Gimili, and so did hundreds of other players!

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Thanks to Roger (Alacrity) Briant for this contribution!

 


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