For Valentine’s Day my seven-year old son received the D&D Starter Set. He was pretty proud of this turn of events, as it marked the very first d20 product he has ever personally owned. He has some hand-me-down books, of course. And he reads my books all the time, but this one? This one was HIS.
Today we’re going to take quick look at the contents of the D&D Starter Set, and let you know what we thought. For more information on our experiences playing through the D&D Starter Set, tune in later this week!
The D&D Starter Set comes in a high quality, really nice looking box that is deeper than necessary. Although this might seem like a waste, at first, it’s not. The box is the perfect size to also place a D&D Player’s Handbook in, which any fan of the D&D Starter Set is going to want to do pretty quick. You can also fit in a notebook and a few pens, which is also a must have. Being able to pack all of that up in the box is great.
Inside the box you’ll find a set of beautiful little dice, swirled in shades of vibrant blue, with bright white numbers. The dice are really nice looking and incredibly easy to read — which is a must! I despise dice you have to squint at just to figure out what they say. Not that it matters what I think, since the dice belong to my son. Happily, he loves them, ranking them as his very favourite set of dice (he owns two sets and a variety of extra dice of all kinds). There are six dice total: a d20, d12, d10, d8, d6, and d4. There is no percentile dice in this set, or extra d20, which is a little unfortunate. It’s always nice to have a second d20 for all those advantage and disadvantage rolls.
Beneath the dice is the D&D Starter Set Rulebook. 32 pages long, this 8 1/2″ by 11″ booklet contains all the rules needed to play and run a game of Dungeons and Dragons. The first seven pages explain how to play D&D, the six ability scores, and their uses, as well as advantage, disadvantage, and so on. After that there’s six pages on combat, six pages on adventuring (including equipment), four pages on spellcasting, a description of all the spells mentioned in the D&D Starter Set, and finally, the back page is an appendix that lists conditions. The book does it’s job well, providing enough information without overwhelming players too much. That said, it doesn’t contain any information on creating your own characters, so anyone who wants to move on from the Starter Set into regular D&D will need to pick up the D&D Player’s Handbook.
The second booklet in the D&D Starter Set is an adventure: Lost Mine of Phandelver. This adventure is a whopping 64 pages long — much longer than I expected from a starter set! I was really impressed. The adventure is split into four major parts: The opening ambush and a small dungeon crawl, time socializing and solving problems in the town of Phandalin, a sandboxy exploration of the surrounding wilds where your players can further investigate the quests they may have taken on, and the finale, a final large dungeon crawl. Before the adventure is an introduction, which gives a quick run down of how DMing works, and explains how to go about it. At the end of the adventure is an appendix containing all the magic times found in the adventure, and a second appendix which contains details on all the monsters and enemies found in the adventure. Finally, the back page of the booklet is a rules index, which lists different rules and the page numbers that they can be found in the Starter Set Rulebook.
Lost Mine of Phandelver is a fun adventure. It’s got a simple opening premise that’s easy to attach a wide variety of characters to, and has a good balance of combat, exploration, investigation, and social encounters. The plot line is easy to follow, and contains a few twists. It’s not overly complex and will appeal to a wide audience. Throughout the adventure there are plenty of notes for DMs, which give further guidance, rules references, and advice. This is super handy for new DMs and was really well handled.
The town of Phandalin was interesting, but I found it a bit brief. The only locations detailed are those where the PCs can pick up quests, which is unfortunate. That said, this adventure isn’t made for me, it’s made for new DMs. And for new DMs? There’s more than enough details, information, and NPCs to work with. Plenty of the townsfolk have tasks and information they can give players, links to other organizations (which can be used for continuing the campaign after you’re done with the Starter Set), plus there’s some trouble in town the players can stumble into on their own. Many of these quests can be completed in the region surrounding Phandalin, in Part Three of the adventure.
There’s some nice maps in Lost Mine of Phandelver, and art representing all of the monsters that need it (although not all of the monsters total). A few humanoid enemies are also illustrated, although none of the NPCs are. I really wish there was art for at least one of them — Silas Hallwinter, for example — but despite lacking art, each NPC in the book has a line or to about their physical appearance and behaviour, so DMs aren’t adrift.
Overall, Lost Mine of Phandelver is a fun beginner’s adventure with lots for player’s to do. It showcases the major types and styles of D&D, and weaves it all together in an entertaining and coherent story. I was really pleased with the adventure’s length. Groups will get more than a few play sessions out of this one, which is really nice to see.
This brings us to the final components contained in the D&D Starter Set: pre-generated characters. This box contains five already made characters. A neutral good hill dwarf cleric soldier, a lawful good human fighter folk hero, a lawful neutral human fighter noble, a neutral lightfoot halfling rogue criminal, and a chaotic good high elf wizard acolyte. The character sheets are easy to read and understand. Abilities are explained right on them, with more information on each one’s race, class, and background on the back of the sheet. Each of these characters has their own personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws which is simple to understand and really useful for roleplaying the characters. As the adventure will allow you to get multiple level ups, the back also has detailed information on what each character gains at each level. The best part? Each of the characters feels unique and fun, and none of them have names or genders. Which is great! Each player gets to decide their personal identity, and add those finishing touches themselves. I thought the characters were all really nicely done. The only downside? Whoever plays the wizard will need to make use of the Starter Set Rulebook to find information on their spells.
Which is it! The entire contents of the D&D Starter Set! This little box is packed full of fun, with everything you need to get started playing D&D. The dice are gorgeous, the rulebook is useful but not overwhelming, the adventure is fun, varied, and much longer than I expected, and the characters are well-made and enjoyable to use. The only thing this starter set lacks? A play mat and minis, but technically you don’t need those to play D&D. They really add to the game, though, so player’s who continue on to play D&D are likely to wish they had some. But, the best part of the D&D Starter Set? The cost! This box is an amazing value! We picked ours up for only $15 Canadian, which is only a few dollars more than the cost of a set of dice. Getting the rules and a good sized adventure in there, as well, makes this a great deal. I highly recommend the D&D Starter Set for anyone interested in learning how to play D&D, or for anyone who just wants a nifty new adventure and some cool dice. Well worth the investment!
Thanks for joining us today. We’ll talk again soon when we discuss our experiences playing through the D&D Starter Set adventure: Lost Mine of Phandelver.