Well, here we go! The long wait is over! The fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons is going to be released in just a few months, and Wizards of the Coast have been busily released information on what’s coming up. The cost of getting everything is going to be quite high, though. $50 core rule books? One wonders what price they’ll be in Australia…
Anyway, here are July’s releases:
July 15, 2014
Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set – Fantasy Roleplaying Fundamentals – US $19.99
Everything you need to start playing the world’s greatest roleplaying game.
Explore subterranean labyrinths! Plunder hoards of treasure! Battle legendary monsters!
The Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set is your gateway to action-packed stories of the imagination. This box contains the essential rules of the game plus everything you need to play heroic characters on perilous adventures in worlds of fantasy.
Ideal for a group of 4 – 6, the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set includes a 64-page adventure book with everything the Dungeon Master needs to get started, a 32-page rulebook for playing characters level 1 – 5, 5 pre-generated characters, each with a character sheet and supporting reference material, and 6 dice.
D&D Basic sets have a long history, and it’s been a rocky one. The very first one was written by a D&D fan – Eric Holmes – and was really a starter for the original D&D game, although TSR put in a lot of references to AD&D, and added the five-point alignment scale they’d been considering which no other published version of D&D uses. It’s not really a very good explanation of the rules, although it was a big step forward from the original text in the three booklets! However, it was a complete game unto itself: you could play through the first three levels of D&D, and you had character creation, adventure design and all the features that make D&D what it is.
It was the next version of the set that really nailed it: Tom Moldvay’s Basic D&D (1981) actually created a new version of the game, and coupled it with easy-to-understand rules and an excellent writing style. It covered levels 1-3 and, once you added its sister release of Expert D&D, it allowed players to reach the 14th level of power. Which, in fact, is a lot higher that many campaigns ever got. A Companion rules set (levels 15-36) was advertised, but it wasn’t released before TSR revised the set again.
The next revision was the famous one. Keeping the core of Moldvay’s work and adding in a new level of professional typesetting, the 1983 Frank Mentzer-edited Basic Game is better known as the “Red Box”. It sold a huge number of copies, and would be succeeded by four later boxed sets – taking the characters to level 36 and beyond. D&D BECMI, as this full game is known, was an amazing accomplishment. However, there was one problem with it: it was its own game, and the primary line for D&D was now Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, which was significantly different.
The BECMI line was retired by the time Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition came out, and from now on, the starter sets were explicitly that: introductions to the full game. Along the way, they got recast as walk-through introductions. The set would provide an adventure and some characters, and little else. The idea of a Dungeon Master actually creating their own adventures with the sets got lost along the way. I’m sure a lot of research went into making those decisions, but for those of us who started back in the 80s, it always felt wrong.
The new starter set handles levels 1-5, and we’re rather hoping that it hearkens back to the old style of Basic games, where the DM can create their own adventures. There’s less than two months to wait!
Icons of the Realms: Starter Set – D&D Miniatures – US $19.99
The D&D Icons of the Realms Starter Set is the perfect supplement for your D&D tabletop roleplaying game. The 6-figure Starter Set represents some of the most iconic characters classes and races from the Dungeons & Dragons universe, including the dwarf cleric, human ranger, halfling rogue, northlands fighter, elf wizard, and the famous drow ranger, Drizzt Do’Urden. Combine these high quality miniatures with the 44 found within the D&D Icons of the Realms: Tyranny of Dragons booster packs to bring an exciting new depth to your D&D adventures.
This is not actually a Wizards of the Coast product – well, not entirely. Instead, they’ve licensed out the miniature rights to WizKids, who are very well known for their HeroClix and Pathfinder lines of miniatures.
Of course, Wizards used to produce D&D miniatures. In 2003, they started up a pre-painted plastic line sold in random boosters that was extremely successful – and extremely affordable. The initial line included 8 miniatures per booster for only US $10!
The price for miniatures these days, over a decade later, is a lot higher. In August we’ll be getting the actual boosters for the game ($15.99 each for four minis), but in July will come the starter set, which contains six player-character miniatures. Yes, it includes Drizzt, everyone’s favourite scimitar-wielding drow ranger, along with five other adventurers. It’s too early to tell what the miniatures will actually be like, but based on the Pathfinder line, they should be pretty nice.
The real question for me is how brittle they’ll be. The original Pathfinder line had real problems with the minis breaking or popping off their bases – the harder plastic allowed for much better paint jobs and posing than the original D&D Miniatures line, but paid a price for it in durability. The later Pathfinder minis haven’t been so bad, but I haven’t paid attention to their latest releases.
This release – six character minis – is fine as far as it goes. It will be popular with those wanting an immediate set of character miniatures, although it’s likely that more established players may give it a miss – depending greatly on the quality of the miniatures, of course!
Anyway, that are the two July releases. I’ll post about the rest of the releases soon enough!