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Critical Look: Dungeons and Dragons 5E Starter Set

Critical Hits: Excellent adventure book with lots of awesome encounters and story points for the pregenerated characters. Quick and easy rulebook that’s easy to understand for new players.


Critical Misses: Just not enough included with the set compared to the 4th edition box. Adventure doesn’t tie into the Tyranny of Dragons campaign products.


The time for a new edition of Dungeons and Dragons has finally arrived! The Starter Set hit stores in July, with the official release of the Player’s Handbook this week. We’ll get to that review shortly, but first, let’s take a good look at the 5th Edition Starter Set! For $19.99 in store and in the $12 range at most online retailers this is a cheap way to jump right into the “world’s greatest roleplaying game”. I want to take a look at what you get for your money, and compare it to the 4th edition Starter Set.

5th and 4th next to each other

Right now you can download the Basic Rules for free, along with character sheets directly from the Dungeons and Dragons site, grab some dice, a table full of friends and start delving dungeons and fighting dragons. IF you have an experienced DM who can create and adventure for you. I love that Wizards is doing that. It seems like such a departure from 4th Ed. with its map tiles, miniatures and ability cards that all seemed necessary to really play that edition as intended.  Those changes are noticeable right off the bat with the differences in the Starter Set, for better or for worse.


ContentsLet’s take a look inside. Included with the set are six polyhedral dice (1d4,1d6,1d8,1d10,1d12 and 1d20), a 64 page adventure book (Lost Mine of Phandelver) that will get your players to level 5, a 32 page rulebook and 5 pregenerated character sheets.  The rulebook covers all of the things that can happen, along with spell descriptions and lists, essentially the basic rules that you can get online, minus the race and class information. The adventure book is the real highlight of this set. Featuring a series of encounters around the town of Phandalin, with multiple quest branches that your characters can follow, and even an encounter with a dragon! Different sections of the book even have block quotes to describe things to the party to set the mood and to convey specific information that they will need to advance the plot. Stat blocks are located in the back of the book for creatures and important NPCs that you will encounter along the way.


Everything is printed on glossy paper with exceptional artwork, with staple binding. I understand the economical
point of stapling the booklets, especially for the rule book, but I would have liked to see a more traditionally bound adventure book with a heavier stock cover. The character sheets are very well laid out and easy to understand, with everything including the character’s ties, bonds, backgrounds and personality traits already filled in and ready to go.


To compare this to the 4th edition starter, you received a Dungeon Master’s Book, that covered an adventure albeit only to second level, the player’s book that covered character creation, a sheet of hero and monster tokens, character sheets, power cards, double sided battle map and a set of dice. All for the same price. Although with 4th edition, you NEEDED all of those things to play the game. With 5th edition’s return to the “theatre of the mind” I sort of feel ripped off with this set.


My other complaint, the adventure doesn’t tie into the Tyranny of Dragons campaign that just launched with Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Some people may have been looking forward to running the starter set before the Player’s Handbook and Hoard of the Dragon’s Queen release, carrying the characters over into the massive campaign. I think that Wizards of the Coast really missed a chance there.


At the end of the day, this starter set is a good buy for new players, especially new, aspiring Dungeon Masters that want to get their feet wet before building a campaign of their own. For me, I don’t think it was worth it, and I sort of regret the purchase. It will be fun to run through the adventure with my kids and wife but I really don’t have the time to build new adventures. Is it worth $20? I don’t think so, if you really want to give it a shot, pick it up on Amazon for $12.


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