Is the D&D Starter Set everything you need to start playing the world’s greatest roleplaying game? It is according to the box. The box which gets you hooked with a picture of a dragon and a fighter engaged in a furious battle. I plan on using this to introduce two new players with no rpg experience to the hobby and I will talk about how that goes in the future. For now we will stick with just my first impressions.
The D&D Starter Set Rulebook is 32 color pages stapled like a comic book. Inside those pages are several cool pieces of artwork, which is something that the Dungeons & Dragons brand has always done well. If you are an experienced player these may inspire you. If you are a beginner or novice these might help you visualize your character and get a feel for the game. The artwork on the front of the booklet expands on the scene from the front of the box, revealing two more characters, both casters of some sort.
The rulebook immediately jumps in to explaining how to play, get started, and what the dice are used for. I bet most experienced players skip right over these sections although if you read it you might just learn a new way to look at the cooperative storytelling game you love so much. Then a quick explanation of the abilities, ability checks, the advantage/disadvantage mechanic, and saving throws follow. That’s chapter one in a nutshell.
Chapter Two is about combat. One of the core components to any D&D game and probably the part most players look forward to, whether they admit it or not. The rulebook does a fine job of quickly explaining the different actions available in combat, initiative, terrain, movement, and position. Most of what you would need in combat is covered and not covering every possible situation in detail is something as a Dungeon Master makes me happy. Needing to make a rules oriented decision on the fly once in awhile helps make better DMs, which is what the hobby needs.
The damage and healing section is pretty straight forward and easy to grasp and makes me wonder how I ever learned to play D&D with the 1st Edition books. This is so much easier to understand for the beginning gamer. Hit points, critical hits, damage resistance, healing, and dropping below zero hit points only need a page and half to explain how it all works. It even covers knocking an opponent out instead of killing them. I am glad there isn’t a penalty for doing this so perhaps it comes up a bit more in game.
Chapter 3 covers Adventuring. Travel and special forms of movement are explained here. The different types of resting are covered in this section as well. An experience point chart is pictured here for the first five levels and the proficiency bonus a character gets for each level. Weapons and gear are also covered in the Adventuring section. A bit of description about the terms used to define the weapons and equipment will help the inexperienced player.
Chapter 4 is all about Spellcasting and has a pretty decent selection of low level spells for players to choose from. This is the biggest section of the book by far. All components of spell casting are expained, including components.
The Starter Set Rulebook is only necessary for the most inexperienced of gamers because what is covered in the Basic Rules for Dungeons & Dragons is far more extensive and free. That is where you will find rules for character generation; the D&D starter set only includes five pregenerated characters and no rules for character generation. That is fine as the Starter Set is meant to introduce the player to the rules and theme of D&D, and the Basic Rules are free. There is still more in the Starter Set box to talk about, like an adventure.
The meat of the D&D Starter Set is the 1st level adventure, Lost Mine of Phandelver. Although it is presented in the same stapled booklet format as the rules book, it is twice as thick. The adventure is designed to take the characters all the way to 5th level. The inexperienced player should have enough exposure by then to make their own characters. If you have already downloaded the Basic Rules for Dungeons & Dragons, you can feel free to create your own characters to use in the adventure. The adventure is also an introduction to the Forgotten Realms.
The artwork and maps in Lost Mine of Phandelver are excellent, as is the insets with extra tidbits of information to help out the DM. The cover art further expands the image on the front of the box and the Starter Set Rulebook, which is kind of cool. This is a substantial adventure with excellent descriptions, Appendixes for Magic Items and Monsters, and a handy Rules Index on the back cover of the adventure.
From quickly looking through I see plot rewards like getting to join an order or two, just a story element that smacks of early edition D&D. The DM is free to come up with any mechanical advantage if she wants. Which Forgotten Realms orders are represented I will not divulge. I don’t want spoilers or to harp too much about the subject.
Inside the box is also a set of dice. I always love getting new dice and a matching sets especially. It is the small things that make me happy and not having to color in the numbers like I did when I opened my first D&D box set so long ago is fine with me. At $19.99 retail I think the D&D Starter Set is a good purchase for those wanting to get a look at the hobby. The size of the Lost Mine of Phandelver makes it the tastiest part of the box set and since there is a lot of artwork that is not included in the free Basic Rules download it is worth checking out, especially since adventures are at a premium with any new rules set.
I will jump into this box set in a couple days with some players with no experience and one or two with years and years of experience and let you know how it goes. Until next time, Roll Hard!
The final D&D Next open playtest packet was released a little over a week ago and I poured over it and made some notes. Then I took to the message boards at EN World and Wizards of the Coast and a few others and read the communities thoughts on the material. Knee jerk reaction is always kind of amusing for me and you get to see a lot of it on forums. It's almost as funny as a review of a new gaming system the evening it came out. Now that I had some time to absorb the open playtest packet, compare it to what I've seen before, read reactions from the internet, and get some feedback from my players, I feel like I can accurately weigh in with my thoughts and impressions. This post is about what I didn't like in the final packet, next week will be all things I did like. The likes definitely outweigh the dislikes and I think a lot of what I have to say about what I didn't like is based on my personal tastes and gaming style.
First I'd like to say that this packet feels more like a game that is ready to play, respecting previous editions of D&D while at the same time being its own game. With that said there are a few things that didn’t sit well with me either. The biggest issue I have would be with multiclassing and the spell levels for casters of multiple classes. A cleric wizard seems to have the ability to cast spells of a higher level than they would know. The document says you don’t know any spells of a higher level but in the Classes document the mage says you might gain higher level spells to add to your spell book from adventuring. Now you know higher level spells.
Sure the DM could make sure you don’t find any spells of higher level until you are the appropriate level to cast them but does the DM really need the extra work? This also requires a lot of timing with leveling to ensure that a mage can get an extra spell or two in their book when they reach the appropriate level to cast them. It's not an overwhelming thing but just doesn’t seem to work perfectly as it now stands.
To a lesser degree but also in multiclassing, I don’t really like the way the extra attack is calculated for certain classes. Barbarian, paladin, and ranger all receive an extra attack at fifth level but if you combine any two of these classes you must wait until eighthlevel for your character to receive their extra attack. Bard and druid receive their extra attack at eight level but if you multiclass one or both of them they add in the same as the barbarian, paladin, and ranger for receiving the extra attack. I understand that this is probably done for balance but the ability prerequisites are there to establish balance so I don’t think this is the way to go. Levels in barbarian, paladin, and ranger should weigh heavier in the equation than levels of bard and druid.
Before I continue I would like to say that I'm not a fan of the quick dip into another class so I'm probably too sensitive to the problems of multiclass. It drove me crazy in 3E/3.5 when I was running a game. Part of the allure of the quick dip is obviously the power game. The other part is that a lot of the classic fantasy archetypes are not well represented in the basic classes. The lightly armored fighter, the spell slinging bladesinger, the devotee of the god of magic who can access a variety of spells from different magical sources. Sometimes it is a better deal for the fighter to take a level of rogue to get stealth, backstab, and a whole bunch of skills, than it is to spend a feat on a single skill to be stealthy.
Racial weapon training has never really sat right with me in any edition. It does not provide any benefit to a martial class in most cases and doesn’t get used by spell casting classes most of the time. The backgrounds and skills document allows for a player to select a different skill proficiency if their character would receive the same skill from two different sources. Instead of receiving nothing for receiving proficiency from two different sources perhaps they could select a different proficiency, perhaps tool proficiency instead. I hate to see a player receive less for playing an iconic character like a dwarf fighter than the rarer dwarf bard.
A few of the new, Unusual races do not seem as well thought out as the already established based races. That's to be expected though, because they have had less playtest, although some are right on. The dragonborn is solid, although I find some of the breath weapons a bit boring. There was no DC’s included for the breath weapons either. I think the white dragon and silver dragon cold could have perhaps slowed those caught up in the cone. This would simulate freezing a little better than just damage like all the other breath weapons. I am sure we will see options like this develop over the course of time, it is excellent crunch material. It is a minor thing. Drow, gnome, half-elf, and half-orc were pretty solid.
Kender was right in line with what I would expect, although the Kender Pockets power was lacking an extra sentence or two to bring it in check. The way it currently reads a kinder could pull barding, plate mail, a ballista, or any amount of nonsense out of the pack. I know that the realm of common sense says whatever they pull out of their pack would have to fit in the pack, but the racial power should have clearly stated that limitation. This is one of those things that is an easy fix but should have been caught and clarified before the document was released.
Warforged are pretty solid although they have the same trance ability of drow and elves, instead of sleeping, but lack the ability to not be put to sleep by any type of magic. It's a small thing that of course could potentially be explained away, but seems a bit inconsistent.
I'm disappointed that spells saving against a variety of abilities in the earlier packets seems to have just went back to Wisdom, Dexterity, and Constitution. This takes away from needing an ability array and will probably end up with most fighters being absolutely stupid and uncharismatic, and mages not just being average strength but weak and uncharismatic. Essentially full dump stats in any non-relevant ability unless the character plans on multiclassing. Thunderwave and perhaps Ray of Enfeeblement should save against Strength since that's what it's attempting to affect. Charm Person should save against Charisma since that ability represents your force of personality. Those are just a couple of examples but there are many more. This is a huge step backwards.
Well as you can see except for the multiclassing a lot of what I didn't like is really cosmetic and easy enough to adjust in my own game to what my players and I prefer. There is really nothing that is broken or not easily tweaked. That's one of the great things about not having a rule to define every little thing in the game is that it is easy enough to interrupt and adjust. Advantage and Disadvantage work well to deal with situations that come up, but we'll talk about all of that soon enough. I'm pleased that Mike Mearls and the rest of the design team have obviously made great efforts to include the fans in the design process, and I thank them for that. D&D Next has a lot of promise and I'm excited to hear what you think and have to say about what you see. Use that comments section to tell me what you think about the last playtest packet, or if you think my dislikes are way off, and until next time, Roll Hard!
A few years back I came up with this spell to allow a wizard or sorcerer to turn off low-level spells and restart them at a later point. This would save the unused duration and keep those characters from having to memorize low-level protection spells multiple times. This spell also eliminated the wizard or sorcerer taking several rounds at the beginning of combat to layer up several protection spells before joining in the fight.
Allelorn is a wizard that one of my friend's played in a game I ran and that player provided extensive feedback about this spell. So in classic Gygaxian fashion I chose to name the spell for him. Allelorn was also tough, smart, and memorable so the naming is not without in game merit.
Allelorn’s Intermittent Duration
School: Transmutation Level: sorcerer/wizard 4
Casting Time: 1 minute
Components: V, S, M (a tiny hourglass filled with silver dust worth 5 gp)
Duration: 1 day
By exercising your control over your personal arcane power, you interrupt the duration of any 1st thru 3rd level spell you cast where you are one of targets. You can only affect the duration of the spell on your character, not any other characters that may also be targets of the spell. You can interrupt the duration of a spell you cast as a standard action and restart it at any time of your choosing within 24 hours as a swift action. You can interrupt and restart the duration of the affected spell as often as you like until the duration of the spell expires. This spell does not change the duration of any spell affected by it, it only allows you to choose when to expend the duration. Any spell affected by this must have duration of at least one round.
The caster can affect one spell level for every two caster levels total during the duration of this spell. This spell only affects sorcerer/wizard spells that you cast and has no affect on spells you can cast from any other class. Nor does it have any affect on any spell you cast from a magic item or by using Use Magic Device. The Extend Spell feat has no effect on this spell and this spell does not affect any spell augmented by the Extend Spell feat. After casting this spell, the caster may select any spell that meets the requirements at any time during the duration of this spell. Once selected to be affected by this spell that selection cannot be changed and will be counted against the total spell level limit.
This spell has had some playtesting but I'm curious to hear what you think. Would you use it in your game? Would you allow it to be used in your game? What would you change about the spell? The comments section is at your disposal and I can't wait to read what you have to say about Allelorn's Intermittent Duration, and until next time, Roll Hard!