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4e D&D Starter Set – Review

I've had a chance to take a good look at the starter set and it's left me with mixed emotions. On the plus side, I really liked the counters which have some really nice art and are sturdy- just like the included dungeon tiles. I also found the DM's book to be pretty well done. It has a nice selection of low level monsters and just enough info to run a game - if you've played D&D before.

That brings me to the down side. The Starter Set is just woefully inadequate when it comes to actually being a starter set. I can't see how anyone who is new to rpg's would be able to take this boxed set and get near to playing what would be recognizable as D&D. It's not just that there's no character generation rules- other, better starter sets have done this before. This set is missing much more. What more do I expect? Examples, lots of examples and there are very few here. No combat examples. No example of play. The only real example is for a Skill Challenge which is probably the last thing a newbie needs to concern themselves about. Beginners need a lot more hand holding than this. And what makes this worse is the included "adventure" is only three encounters long. Three. So, you basically have about 2 hours of play time out of this before the fledgling DM has to start making up his own dungeons? The old 2e starter set had enough adventures to last at least a month of play time.

Another thing that I didn't like was the Quick Start book itself. It's basically the same that came with the Keep on the Shadowfell module. I didn't like it for two reasons. The rules are just a subset of what is in the DM's book so it's just a repeat of what you already have. That's six pages that could have been used for something else without having to raise the price any. Something else like a combat example or, I don't know, how a list of some stuff I could buy with all that loot I find in the dungeon!?! Yes, that's right. Treasure has no purpose in the starter set and is almost completely ignored. The other thing I disliked about the Quick Start book was that the pregen characters have to be cut out or photocopied to be able to actually play. This is just enough of an inconvenience to keep me from getting to play it. This is yet another mistake that the 2e version did not make.

I certainly hope that WotC puts more thought into their new boxed set coming out later this year. This set combined with a Player's Handbook would be enough to start playing. It's really more of a DM's Starter Kit than anything. By itself though, it's really incomplete as an introductory D&D game.

Update: you can view some treasure rules that were left out here- Excerpts: Economy & Reward and you can get some more kobolds to use here- Kobolds!.

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