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before the D&D starter set comes out #4 “opening the (red) box”

April 30, 2014

Recap: 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 and my friends and family to start our own playgroup and get into this hobby?

 Previously: first post, second post, third post,

I want to look closer at the 2010 Starter Set. I’m hoping it will spark a few ideas on what I would really want in a starting product. I talked about the outside of the box as part of the second post, so this time, let’s open the box.

dnd starter red box 3

The contents of the 2010 Starter Set. Not shown are some blank character sheets and a sheet advertising D&D Essentials products that also came with the game.

Is there a game in here?

Let’s imagine I’ve asked my friends around to my place to play our first game of D&D. We’re sitting round the table – we have the box in front of us – we open the box .. is there a game in here?

We pull out cards, tokens, maps, and dice. This certainly look like a game to us. We’re reassured – we’re reminded of the types of boardgames we’re used to. So far things are looking pretty “gamey”.

There’s also two booklets in here which must be the rules. One’s called the Player Book and the other is the DM Book. They are somewhat thick. A quick read of the Introduction tells us:

“Even if you haven’t played other fantasy adventure games before, this book will teach you how to have an exciting interactive experience in a fantastic world of magic, monsters, and heroic adventure.” – Players Book

We’re reassured – I’ve picked the D&D product that’s aimed at us.

Let’s play now!

Now one of us starts reading the Players Book further. They put the book down and say:

“Ummm, … the first thing we have to do is all spend an hour by ourselves playing the game in this book – solo!”

Not only that, but as the game only comes with one Players Book, we realise each of us will have to take turns playing – there goes the game session. We’re annoyed – this is not the D&D we were expecting ..

What were we expecting?

Is the situation a little unfair? Perhaps a more likely scenario has me looking through the box before I asked friends around. I read the Players Book. found out about the solo adventure and as the Players Book suggests, lend each player the book over a week or two so they could play through the solo adventure and be ready to play together when we all met up. Is that more reasonable?

For experienced players, starting a new game of D&D means “Prep”. Character creation for the players and adventure preparation for the DM. To the game writers I’m sure it was a reasonable idea, and quite a clever one, to simplify character creation by having players work through a solo adventure. In the tradition of the game it makes sense.

By my friends and I are not experienced players. We are new to D&D. We come from another place, one of board games and card games. I don’t think it’s unreasonable that most players who have never roleplayed before would come to it with preexisting ideas about what a game should be – specifically that you can open a game and start playing right away. The Starter Set is obviously different to that – but no where on the box does D&D set about trying to change our expectations.

D&D Next Starter Set: Must play straight out of the box?

So here’s the first thing I want the D&D Next Starter Set to be able to do.

I want to be able to play a typical (if lite) game of D&D straight out of the box with a group sitting round the table. No solo adventures and no more than 15-20 minutes of preparation time to read the rules.


From → roleplaying

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