The bottom line is, D&D is a lot of fun. But it's confusing at first. You have to do some homework, familiarizing yourself with some complicated rules. But soon it all starts to flow and you get the idea. Don't listen to all the other whiners about how the 4th edition rules ruined everything about the game, etc. Rules just provide a rough framework. The role playing/imagination element is up to the people playing the game. This isn't chess. You CAN just make it up as you go. The starter set gets you going and has what you need to make several cool characters and take them through a pre made adventure with battles and challenges up to level two.
However, the D&D product line is very frustrating and confusing for the beginner, like me. It's full of redundant products, so I couldn't figure out what I really needed to buy beyond the Starter Set. I've wasted a lot of money. So here is what I wish someone had told me.
You DON'T need to buy the "Core Rulebooks" ($66). They can be easily substituted with other things. For instance, if you buy the Starter Set, you'll make characters using powers and abilities that don't even come from the Player's Handbook (PHB), but come from "Heroes of the Fallen Lands", which is a "supplement," but fills the same role as the PHB. If you buy Heroes of the Fallen Lands instead of the PHB, you'll have info about making characters that's more compatible with your Starter Set.
What about the Dungeon Master's Guide(DMG)? Buy the Dungeon Master's Kit instead. It comes with an equivalent book, plus a bunch of tokens for characters and monsters, maps and a cool pre written adventure to take characters from level 2 to level 4. Oh, and a dungeon master's screen, too.
So I've read through and examined all the contents (a sample copy) and here's what you need to know. The Red Box is NOT a "basic" set, in that it would provide you everything you need to create a character and play through at least 3 or more levels of the game. This is not at all like any of the basic sets that TSR or Wizards of the Coast have published to introduce new players to D&D.
It IS a "starter" set, in that it will be a good intro for new players or those new to 4th Edition D&D. As a starter set, it excels by giving you a run-through adventure, a Dungeon Master book, cardstock counters, a map, etc. to learn the game. The quality of the kit is not in line with the previous 3.0+ D&D box sets, (this set has flimsy cardstock and uses counters instead of miniatures) but the price is right for what you get--especially on Amazon.
Main Strength? I'm not a 4E fan per se, but there's a lot to like with this introductory set, that simplifies the rules and provides a very easy to grasp description of the main game elements. It would make an excellent gift for someone who might be interested in trying the game (great for kids).
Main Weakness? The main downfall is that once you understand the game, you're never going to need it again. It's a springboard and little else. You'll need to buy the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Compendium anyway. In that sense, it makes this box crippleware, but really good-looking, fun to unwrap crippleware!
This new presentation of the renowned classic RPG was designed to appeal to old school gamers who did the boxed set & ADnD back in the day, like me. I hoped it would be a good way to introduce the hobby to my children, and those hopes were well-founded. The kids are having a blast. It's a fabulous starting point for D&D 4th Edition.
BTW, 4E is vastly different from any previous version, barely recognizable compared to 1E. I think that the changes are for the better, but YMMV.
My main gripe with Red Box is that it very carefully fails to include any straightforward listing of class features, weapon & armor stats, prices, etc. For example, my son wanted to use a bow, but it wasn't an option in the book. I ended up just winging it. There's really no way to use this box alone and run a proper campaign for 2 or 3 levels, the way that the original box set could do. This is a starter set, and ONLY a starter set. If you want to continue, WotC expects you to buy the (more expensive) followup books.
Wizards of the Coast definitely got me with the nostalgia factor with the Red Box, a throwback to some of my favorite sessions of D&D with my cousins, a simplified version of the game that my older brother was playing with his friends. It always seemed like the basic set was more about the telling of great stories rather than being tied down by a bunch of rules.
Flipping through the box set tonight I see this same thing, a simplified introduction to a wonderful game.
This is definitely an upgrade to what I played before, each book has color illustrations, rather than black and white, a little more basic drawings than what you will find in the nicer hardcover books. But still a nice touch.
Bravo Wizards of the Coast on this, describing it to my wife tonight, I may be able to get her to sit for a game or two...maybe.
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