More on the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set

Mike Mearls has enlightened us a little more about the contents of the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set. And there’s a big surprise for people buying the set:

No character creation rules are in the D&D Starter Set!

Well, that’s not what I expected – or had inferred based on his previous posts. Mike has clarified that the Starter Set is aimed at Dungeon Masters, so given that it covers levels 1-5, it likely has a pregenerated adventure in the box. It definitely has pregenerated characters. But from where comes the idea that you’ll be able to create characters?

Here’s Mike’s original tweet:

Lots of questions about character creation and the starter set – you will definitely be able to make characters when it comes out.

And his follow-up:

To clear up the Starter Set – it’s aimed at DMs, so no PC creation in the box. But players will be able to make characters without it. For a DM running the starter set, there will be pregens to hand out. Players who want to make characters will be able to do so.

So, how does this work?

At this point, it seems clear that there will be some option for creating characters. The theories are split between a character generator on the Wizards site and a System Reference Document of some kind. Although my own opinion leans towards both, I’m apparently wrong. (See bottom of the post for more – well, they might exist, but it’s something else Mike is referring to).

Here’s Mike again:

You will be able to run a complete campaign starting in August, with the release of the PH.

So, there’s definitely going to be something going to be released – DM Tools, Player Tools and perhaps more. Unfortunately, Wizards aren’t ready to announce it yet, giving us this reply from Mike when we press for more details:

Sorry, we’re still finalizing things, but I think we have a pretty nifty plan.


However, I can definitely tell that Mike is excited about the new Starter Set. He says so himself:

Holding the Starter Set books in my hand. Gotta admit, this is the most excited I’ve ever been about a product I’ve worked on.

For a DM running the starter set, there will be pregens to hand out. Players who want to make characters will be able to do so.

Orion Cooper: would you recommend the starter set to an experienced DM and player?

Yes – it’ll be a good way to either kick off a campaign or run 8 to 10 sessions to get your feet under you with the rules

Unfortunately, Mike didn’t respond to Morrus’s request for pictures.

There are no rules for creating your own adventures in the Starter Kit. The DM material contains only a pregenerated adventure and rules for running it. Mike, again:

Mike, does the starter set have rules for creating adventures, or is it just pre-written adventures in the book?

Just the pre-written adventure. Think of it like a set you could hand to a board gamer to make them into a new DM running D&D.

The stuff we haven’t talked about yet is where DMs and players go next – there’s a step between the Starter Set and the Big 3

The five pregenerated characters are very, very likely to be the same identities as those in the Starter miniature set – so:

  • Dwarf Cleric
  • Human Ranger
  • Halfling Rogue
  • Northlands (Human) Fighter
  • Elf Wizard

(The Drizzt in the set would be just a bonus).

One other point: The 32-page player book contains rules for playing characters levels 1-5. Given how D&D works, it will probably contain the spell lists (or a portion thereof) for the Cleric, Ranger and Wizard. That’s levels 1-3 spells for the Cleric and Wizard, and level 1 & 2 spells for the Ranger, assuming the progressions work like they do in the playtest (not necessarily true).

ANOTHER UPDATE: From RPGPundit/Kasimir Urbanski (full post here)

I’m willing to say, right here and now, that the Starter set will NOT be “crippleware”, not as I consider that term. 

I can’t get into a lot of specifics here, but as an exercise in contrasts, I will tell you what I WOULD consider ‘crippleware’. It would be Crippleware to me, for example, if it was a boxed set that contained some pretty dice and some minis and rules for playing characters at levels 1-2 and after that you’re shit out of luck and have to go buy the big-boy books.

That’s crippleware.

The upcoming D&D Starter set, based on current information I have received firsthand as I am presently aware of it, is not that.

I would be skirting the limits of what I’m allowed to say if I were to state that in fact, the Starter set will contain more campaign-level material than pretty much any starter set I’ve seen, possibly including the original Basic D&D red box. 

More importantly, as Mearls recently stated in his twitter account, you will NOT need to buy all of the D&D “core” books to play OR RUN the game. And unless I’ve been massively lied to, this is not a play on words or a trick; it is exactly what it says it is.

I will finally close with this enigmatic statement: not everything about how the new D&D will work has been revealed to the public yet. Everything will be more clear when certain information is made public in a while. Information, I might add, that I as an advocate of the D&D game being made as accessible as possible to regular and casual gamers rather than just marketing to the hardcore fans am very excited about.

Kasimir also posted on Google+:

What’s going to happen is neither exactly an online chargen tool or an SRD (actually, either of those may or may not be in the works, I can neither confirm nor deny that, but that’s not what Mike Mearls was talking about).

Wizards is NOT “still working out the details”; I had myself been informed of the general plan for all this back around October-November of last year, and was told some of the specifics (of what is now fully planned and going ahead) back around Mid-March.


  1. thunktanker

    I think we can guess that Drizzt will make an appearance as an npc somewhere in the module that comes with the starter set. The miniatures they announced have one miniature for each of the pregens in the starter set, plus Drizzt. Sure, they could just throw Drizzt in as a bonus famous character, but he’s not going to be famous to new players. Why not tie him into the adventure? A mentor? A provider of important information for the quest?


    • merricb

      Good thought! Yeah, it wouldn’t be an absolute surprise if Drizzt appears somewhere in the adventure. Mind you, there may be a fair number of people who come to D&D through the Drizzt books!


  2. Justin Tiemeyer

    Is this for 5th edition? My DM said he’s been play testing it and it is very limited. He’s hoping they can round it out before full release because some of the mechanics are really neat.


  3. Callan

    It’s curious that somehow char gen==enabled, while lack of char gen==crippled.

    Atleast I think of char gen as something that doesn’t actually involve playing the game. It’s basically prep work. Though I’m increasingly aware of a demographic who treat char gen as the bulk of play itself – and actual playing at a table is almost just dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s of char gen (or it’s just part of getting a ‘build’, which is again char gen).

    It’s like if chess had char gen for each chess piece – and some people calling a ‘pre-gen only’ chess starter set ‘crippleware’

    Granted if you couldn’t rename the pre-gens or use different personalities for them, perhaps I might feel that was a restriction too far.


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