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before the D&D starter set comes out #2 “what (recently) came before”

April 20, 2014

The D&D “Starter Set” for the next edition of the game is due out mid-July. I’m someone who has never successfully played a roleplaying game before – but I’m willing to give it another go. Is the Starter Set for me? It’s title implies it should be, but what would it need to contain to allow me to get into this hobby?

Previously: first post.


Here’s the scenario. I’ve abstracted my own situation a little for the sake of argument.

I’ve heard about roleplaying games and D&D in particular and it’s always sounded fun. Unfortunately I don’t know anyone who already plays, I don’t have a game store near me, and I don’t want to find or join a group of strangers who already know how to play.

But I do have a small group of friends and family who are willing to give D&D a try. I’ve heard there’s a new edition of the game due out soon beginning with a “Starter Set”. So I’ll buy it and get some people together to spend an evening “playing D&D”.


What Should It Look like?

In this post, I want to focus on the outside look of the product, particularly the cover of the box. I’ll use the the two most recent Starter Sets as a guide to help me imagine what I want the new Starter Set to be like.

blue and red box

(l to r): The 2008 Starter Set (blue box) and the 2010 Starter Set (red box)

Blue Box: The biggest text on the cover is the D&D logo which stands out well on it’s white background. Under it, disappearing a little into the blue background are the words “Roleplaying Game Starter Set”. Below that is an atmospheric picture of a male fighter at three-quarter view with two other fighters and a monster of some kind behind. Above the logo in small letters it says “2 to 5 players” and “Age 12+” while below the picture are the words “Easy to set up and play” and “Includes dice, dungeon tiles, and tokens”.

Red Box: Again, as you’d expect, the biggest words on the cover are the D&D logo. Below that, in small letters is “Fantasy Roleplaying Game”. “Starter Set” is next in the second biggest letter size and below that we see the picture of a fighter battling a dragon. the dragon faces us while the fighter is shown from behind. In small letters above the logo is “Age 12+” while below the picture it says “The ultimate game of your imagination, complete with monsters, magic, and treasure” and in slightly smaller letters “For 1 or more beginning or intermediate players”.

It must feel like a game: When I think of “games” I think of “cardboard boxes with things in it”. Both previous Starter Sets have been contained in cardboard boxes and there’s no reason to think the new set will be any different. This is good. Making the product seem familiar will reassure me.

It must tell me that this is where I need to start: The range of D&D products available is vast and for an outsider, confusing. The Starter Set has to make it clear that it is the place to start for new players. The words “Starter Set” are what D&D has used in the past and I can’t see any reason to change. The fact that it is in a box will also set it apart from the other D&D game material which are usually hardcover or paperback books.

It must jump out of the rack at me: Although in my little scenario I’ve already heard of the Starter Set, there are always potential players coming to the D&D product line cold. Imagine for example someone confronting the display racks of D&D products at a store or online. The Starter Set needs to jump out from all the other D&D products and say “start here!” Of the two previous Starter Sets, neither really does that for me. The words “Stater Set” are just too small. I assume D&D wants a unified look across its product line, but I think the Starter Set is a special case. I think “Starter Set” needs to be as big and as obvious as the D&D logo.

dnd so many choices

I want to start playing D&D .. but where do I start?

The art must depict the core activity of the game: Simply put, the introduction product to Dungeons and Dragons must feature a picture of a dungeon and a dragon. Comparing the previous two sets, the picture on the Red Box is better on the whole than that on the Blue Box. While the Red Box shows a dynamic picture of someone fighting a dragon the Blue Box shows a fighter facing something off-panel while a monster that is not a dragon prepare to attack from the side. The Red Box’s message is simple and obvious while that of the Blue Box is the opposite. The Red Box cleverly positions the fighter facing away from us, allowing us to imagine ourselves in their position, a common technique in manga to draw the reader into the role of the protagonist. The Blue Box tells us what our characters will look like while the Red Box, by downplaying the specificity of the fighter, allows us the freedom to project ourselves into the drama.

Tag-lines should reassure: Of all the tag lines on the Red and Blue Box, the best for me is the one promising the game to be “Easy to Set Up and Play”. The idea that the game is the “ultimate game of your imagination, complete with monsters, magic, and treasure” can better be conveyed via the picture while the fact the box includes “dice, dungeon tiles, and tokens” should be left for the back of the box. The only other things I need to know are how many people are needed to play this game and what the age range is.

Cost: It looks like the Starter Set will be going for $20. This seems a reasonable price to me – I’m willing to pay that to see if this game is right for me and my group. Anything more would make me think twice.


 

dnd greg starter set 3

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