The Dawn of a New Age

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Posted July 21, 2014 by Chris Lincoln in Nerdy Bits

It’s here, everyone! The time is finally at hand! The 5th coming is upon us! The new Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set has arrived!

Prepare yourself!

Prepare yourself!

For the past year or so, myself and many like me have been a part of the D&D Next playtest. We’ve seen a dozen or more iterations of the basic rules and we’ve been giving the team feedback on what does and doesn’t work, as well has how our particular games flow. They’ve listened and refined, they’ve tried new things, all while trying to keep the essence of the game intact, and I think they’ve succeeded.

The D&D Starter Set was released recently and it’s the first product available for D&D Next/5th Edition. This box is a great little set that is designed to take you from total newbie to bona fide D&D player or Dungeon Master. You get 5 pre-generated characters, the basic rules (which cover the game up to level 5), a nice adventure, and a decent set of polyhedral dice. Not bad for $19.99, especially when you consider that the terrible, shrink-wrapped module Murder in Baldur’s Gate cost $34.99.

Everything you need to start your adventure.

Everything you need to start your adventure.

Notice that the set contains only the basic rules. There is nothing covering character creation and the list of spells only go as high as the pre-gens will get by level 5. This is a design choice, the philosophy behind the set is to get you up and running as quickly and as easily as possible. The DM should read the rules and have a grasp of them, but the players need very little to get started. Once they choose a character and name them they’re pretty much ready to go.

Choose wisely.

Choose wisely.

The basic rule book still does a great job of teaching the game. All the basic rules are there, the description of the 6 stats, just generally how everything works. I’m really impressed with how well they describe everything without making it feel condescending. It holds your hand, but only for the tricky parts and only if you want it to.

The adventure, Lost Mine of Phandelver, is equally well written and helpful. I haven’t read the whole adventure yet, but what I’ve gotten through looks like a lot of fun and it seems rather well written. The basic plot is fun, definitely a good old adventure full of magic and mayhem, but what I’m most impressed about is the little helpful bits for first time DMs. Whenever the adventure throws something new at you, or has a chance to teach you a new concept, there’s an inset box that helps explain the concept or rule. Here’s how resting works, here’s some general rules for NPCs, here’s what the goblins know. I really love this and hope it helps new DMs as much as I think it will. Overall, this looks like a fantastic module for the first time Dungeon Master.

These are like my commandments.

These are like my commandments.

Also included is a poster for D&D Encounters. I love the program so I think I’ll be hanging this up.

I can't recommend this program enough.

I can’t recommend this program enough.

Before I close this article I need to talk about the full set of basic rules. You see, when the Starter Set was released, WotC also released the new D&D Basic Rules. These rules cover the entire game mechanics, character creation and advancement up to level 20, and the full list of spells. The character creation is a bit light, only 4 classes and 4 races, but that’s pretty standard for an initial release of a new edition of Dungeons and Dragons. They want to keep things simple and I’m fine with that. They’re trying to get away from the complexity of 4th edition (not a complaint, I love 4E). The 4th edition of D&D was all about having more options than your brain could process, so the new edition seeks to get back to the simpler times of older editions while still keeping 4th edition’s theme of empowerment. Fighters don’t start with all the powers they did in 4e, but they’re not as plain and boring as an AD&D fighter, for instance. I really love this, as it makes improvising much easier but the players still feel like they have the fancy tools to handle the adventure.

The future.

The future.

Finally, I’d like to share a quote from the new rules that I feel embodies D&D:

The legends of the Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, Greyhawk, Dark Sun, Mystara, and Eberron settings are woven together in the fabric of the multiverse. Alongside these worlds are hundreds of thousands more, created by generations of D&D players for their own games. And amid all the richness of the multiverse, you might create a world of your own.

So get out there, and start creating worlds.


About the Author

Chris Lincoln

A gamer through and through. A first class nerd. All games are his realm, but the tabletop is where he sits upon his throne.