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Posted November 2, 2010
Skip it and go straight for the other entries in the Essentials Line
What's In the Box Like the original Red Box, the D&D Starter Set is meant to teach new players the basic concepts of roleplaying in general and D&D mechanics in specific. To that end, the box includes; Players Book- This is a brilliant concept. Take one of the old Choose Your Own Adventure style solo modules and layer in concepts with each choice/section of the book. How could it go wrong? Well it is a cute idea, but it bears with it one serious flaw. Once you run through it, the process becomes tedious to do so several times in order to try new characters. What I really would have liked to see is a book that allows expansion up to level 5 and some basic explanation of the rules. The solo adventure could have been included in addition to give a practical example of how to implement those rules. Dungeon Master's Book- Whereas the Players' Book is a somewhat neat gimmick that wears quickly, the Dungeon Master's book is truly golden. Inside are some basic concepts for running an adventure, combat rules, some monsters, a sample encounter and then a whole sample adventure. For the fledgling Dungeon Master/GM, this is about the right balance of theory versus practical information. Spell and Item Cards- Another cute idea, but the driving marketing purpose behind them is pretty apparent; "with the expansion of your rules collection, you should buy more cards." Personally I think I'll stick to 3x5 index cards and print them out myself as needed. The card packs seem too much like D&D the Gathering to me. Poster Map- Maps are always a plus and this one can be folded in different ways to get a slightly different "set" of maps. Pretty nifty concept. I would have preferred something a little more cardstock in construction and tileable. Character Sheets - I like the simplicity and brevity of these Essential Character sheets. My only complaint is that there were only four. Dice- A pretty standard set of polyhedral dice. Of note, many purchased sets include an extra ten-sided dice for percentile rolls and the lack of that extra die was pretty glaring. Ads & Misc- There is an ad to download another solo adventure in PDF format and then the ads for the rest of the Essentials line. Overall Impressions I really wanted to like this product. Instead I feel like my nostalgia has been played by Wizards of the Coast. It would not have been too much of a stretch to include an actual abbreviated players guide with progression to around 4th or 5th level. Even the Quickstart rules included with Keep on the Shadowfell had examples out to 3rd level. Despite this disappointment, the product did manage to "hook" me into buying the Rules Cyclopedia and Heroes of the Fallen Lands supplements. I have been wanting to play with the D&D 4 rules anyway, and $28 at Barnes & Noble for those two books is much more reasonable than the full hard bound book rules that I will not likely use that often. If I were just getting into the game, I don't know that the new Red Box would hold my attention though. Sure, the gimmick is neat but it doesn't have any staying power. The whole setup has too much marketing and too little usefulness in the long term. Also, the multiple player adventure "Twisting Halls" is simply put, too difficult for starting players. The target market is "new players" and the overly difficult encounters are frustrating. Players already familiar with the ba
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