The last few days has seen a lot of information come forward about the Dungeons and Dragons Starter set and much of it has been scattered across a slew of platforms which has led to some false information being presented as true. In an effort to clarify and make all of that information into an understandable form I've gone through and collected everything that can be verified in one place.
The Philosophy Behind the Starter Set
Unlike previous introductory boxed sets from Wizards the new Starter Set is being designed to have use beyond the first time you pick up the box. Mike Mearls put it this way:
". . . In the past, intro sets for RPGs have often been focused on a stripped-down adventure scenario and a limited version of the rules that becomes irrelevant once players move on to the full version of the game. We wanted this new set to be something you could keep on your shelf and use again in the future.
We decided early on that any materials likely to be used only once had to be eliminated from the set or kept to a minimum. One example would be a tutorial that teaches the rules through a scripted adventure. And in deciding that such a tutorial is something we didn’t want, we were able to think about how that kind of resource would be much better suited to other media—such as online video. Because we’re giving players the opportunity to learn the game without investing any money in it . . . a new player who downloads the rules can then make use of video tutorials that provide a much better experience of how D&D works . . ." (Getting Started)
That the Starter Set doesn't walk you through a scripted adventure as every other introductory set has in the past is a major change, as is the idea that the community will be committed enough to the game to create tutorials for how to actually play it. That's a remarkable change but one that was foreshadowed in an ICv2 interview with Wizards C.E.O. Greg Leeds back in August of last year. During the Interview Mr. Leeds discussed the emerging strategy for the Dungeons and Dragons game as one that moved across platforms and engaged its consumer base in ways that had traditionally not been done.
". . . .We are very ambitious with Dungeons & Dragons . . . the strategy that we’re pursuing is starting to emerge. One of the most important things with Dungeons & Dragons is that we are able to take the same stories and themes and execute them across platforms, not just in the paper side of the business but the digital side . . ." (Interview: Greg Leeds on the Game Market and Wizards of the Coast).
By committing to the use of apps, PDFs, and video tutorials Wizards of the Coast has made a huge change in how they want to interact with their consumers - and they're betting that the hobby will be receptive enough to the new edition to champion it as they have previous editions. It's a bet that requires them not to make the same mistakes they did during Fourth Edition's launch and to have a robust program to help encourage the community to take ownership of the edition.
The Cover and Backplate
The front cover is a mirror image of the larger piece at the top of this post cropped to include only the Green Dragon and the Fighter with his purple cape flapping in the wind - which seems like an odd choice considering that the original presents an exciting scene where everyone gets to shine, and not just a fighter trying to avoid having his face melted off with acid.
The back cover gives the following details on the contents of the boxed set (which will be discussed in shortly):
- 64 page adventure book with everything the Dungeon Master needs to get started
- 32 page rulebook that will take players from level 1-5
- 5 pre-generated characters with character sheets and 'reference' materials
- 6 game dice (1d20, 1d12, 1d10, 1d8, 1d6, and 1d4), marbled blue in color with white numbers (see Getting Started for more)
Also depicted on the back cover is the ogre that was first shown at the PAX East Tyranny of the Dragon Panel (see Those New Monsters Look Great for more). Design wise he seems to have more in common with the Warhammer Ogre than with previous versions of the creature that have appeared in Dungeons and Dragons.
Along with the other monsters revealed at the Tyranny of the Dragon Panel and the new covers for the adventures and core books (see Catching Up on All the D&D News that Happened Today for more) it appears that Wizards of the Coast has made the conscious decision to provide a more realistic art style for their books than any of the previous editions.
Character Creation Rules
There will be no character creation rules within the actual Starter Set. Instead these rules will be provided for free to everyone who would like to download them as Wizards of the Coast will be releasing a free Basic Version of the game (see Basic Dungeons and Dragons for more). Along with the character creation rules and the core mechanics of the game the Basic Version will have the following:
- Levels 1-20 for the Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, and Wizard
- An essential subclass for each of the above classes
- Four races: Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, and Human
On Thursday, June 5, 2014 Wizards officially released the Table of Contents for the Starter Set Rulebook. While there isn't a lot of information here that would surprise any experienced player of the game, the best part is clearly the image. I don't know why they're not using this cropping instead of the one they've shown and been publicizing.
On Friday, June 6, 2014 Wizards released the first page of Chapter 1 from the Starter Set. This image continues to reinforce the realistic style of art that has been shown so far.
How Will This Interact with the
Horde of the Dragon Queen Storyline?
While the Cult of the Dragon will be featured in the Starter Set (see D&D Q&A around the 24:00 mark) it is not a required precursor to the Tyranny of the Dragon storyline. However, due to the episodic nature of the Tyranny of the Dragon modules it will be fairly easy to move directly from the Starter Set into the featured storyline.
What is the adventure being used for the Starter Set?
The adventure for the Starter Set is called Lost Mine of Phandelver and was written by Rich Baker of Sasquatch Game Studio. This makes the third adventure to come out of Wizards' launch products not produced by someone within Wizards of the Coast as Horde of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat were each produced by Kobold Press (see Kobold Press Designed Tyranny of Dragons Adventures for the New Edition of the Dungeons & Dragons Tabletop Roleplaying Game for more).
The Lost Mine of Phandelver was inspired by B10 Night's Dark Terror which was a wilderness adventure designed to teach Dungeon Masters how to handle wilderness encounters. More information on this adventure should be up next week (see Getting Started for more).
What characters are being provided as Pre-gens?
There will be a dwarven cleric, two human fighters, an elf wizard, and a halfling rogue. The two fighters represent different focuses and were chosen as the fighter class is the most popular class in the game (see Getting Started for more).
July 3, 2014 for some Wizards Play Network stores and July 15, 2014 for everyone else. The basic rules will launch on July 3, 2014 as well (see D&D Q&A at the 58:00 mark) and will be available on www.dungeonsanddragons.com.