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Review: Dungeons and Dragons: 5th Edition Starter Set


Stay-at-Home Gaming is about more than just Video Games…

Those who work full time know the hardships of maintaining forty hours at the office and keeping their love of gaming alive. Money can be hard to save, friends may keep different hours and normal socializing can be more pressing.

Then there’s people like me. We strive to game because it’s deep inside us, the need to create and destroy, to act out our imaginations with friends who think the same way.

Welcome to our review for the Dungeons and Dragons: Fifth Edition Starter Set.

The Perfect Introduction


Phandalin, the town where the first adventures take place

Dungeons and Dragons is the original pencil and paper RPG. One player takes on the role of the Dungeon Master, who serves as the storyteller. He controls the world, the monsters and NPCs in it, and what treasures lie ahead, describing what is seen and heard, and the story as it unfolds. Everyone else takes on the role of a character, each with a unique Race, Class and background.

Fifth Edition is the latest in the line, promising to bring back the fun of the third edition with the ease of learning and play fourth edition didn’t quite deliver on. But will it succeed?

Box of Contents


Each Fifth Edition Starter Set comes with a set of dice (no d%), five pre-made character sheets, a book with the basic rules, and an adventure book with tips for the DM.

That’s it. All you need is that for a fun time.

Haven’t Played D&D Before?


The artwork is superb in any D&D product

For newcomers to the game, that might be confusing, but let me tell you why this is good: those few components lead to hours and hours of gameplay. The core of D&D is to act out your characters and take on the world with your group. Everything you do in the game, from combat to treasure, can be determined with those dice.

The player’s rule book was designed to give you a taste of the power you can have with the full (yet to be fully released) game, so instead of hundreds of options you won’t know anything about, this box streamlines it to the essentials even experienced players will consider.

Although it is certainly more complex than your typical board game, it’s also FAR easier to pick up and play than earlier editions. Each mechanic is explained well in the material, and the DM will have a table of people helping to learn the rules.

The Adventure


Intimidating, but a great first outing

The adventure is not just one little dungeon crawl, it’s a series of linked adventures that will take players from first to fifth level and includes a city full of intriguing and mostly reusable characters. Unlike MMORPGs, this game’s general level cap is 20, which means you won’t clear the contents in a single sitting, but the growth is balanced with an array of new abilities that lets you do some experimentation before you have a new level of abilities to play with.

Unfortunately, if the DM is new to the game as well, it will not be the best gauge of the full experience. A DM is best when he has an answer for everything, a name for every place, and a voice for every NPC. Equal parts actor and mechanics master is important. But as a DM learns, and they certainly will with the well written adventure, each time will be better than the last.

The RP in RPG


New character sheets are slightly less cumbersome

One of the best additions to this edition (tricky words…) is the background traits each character sheet has. In older editions, all you would have is a short bio to describe a character, which would lead to subpar role playing for the inexperienced. This edition has better notes, including a flaw and a bond that give you the motivations of a character, which gives a good starting point for the inexperienced RP’er.

The Old Days


Monster entries should be familiar to 3.5 and 4th Edition vets

Veterans of older editions will find a good reason to pick this up as well. New mechanics, such as Advantage (roll two d20s and take the better) and a condensed skill system (Hide and Move Silently are now Stealth, Listen and Spot are now Perception, etc.) make for a much more streamlined system. The core mechanics of DCs and HP remain the same, and the new sub-race system is balanced well, but a simpler critical system (20 always crits, always double dice) and a much faster leveling system (300 XP to second level) might be irritating to older players.


At $20 American MSRP (and $11.99 on a site name after tall warrior women), this is a fantastic buy for those interested in their first RPG. I would strongly recommend an experienced DM help out in the first session, but thankfully is unnecessary for those who don’t know one. Older players will need some time to adapt to the new rules, but it seems like this edition will bring many newcomers to the series. And the Player’s Handbook is out now, so there’s no reason to stop here!

IMG_0583.JPGWhere the adventure really begins…

Which Edition of D&D was your favorite? I mean, aside from the obvious answer, 3.5. Let us know in the Comments below!


About RedGuinness

Andrew Shortall (RedGuinness) is the Writer, Editor, Administrator and founder of Stay-At-Home Gaming. He also suffers from sleepless nights, summer new release withdrawals and trying to behave himself in front of his new nephew.

3 comments on “Review: Dungeons and Dragons: 5th Edition Starter Set

  1. failedwell
    September 18, 2014

    Away evil usurper! *pats his 3.5 books*

  2. KotBT
    September 19, 2014

    My opinion on it is the same as when fourth edition came out (before I heard how bloody awful it was). I hope this piques the interest of new gamers but I will not be purchasing it. I have a system that works for me that I know the mechanics of, inside and out. I feel the mechanics of a role playing game are naught but facilitators to the important part, which is the story. As long as the mechanics are relatively balanced and kept consistent throughout a campaign I don’t care what they are. Hell, I’ll go back to THAC0 (no, I am not inviting a debate on the merits of THAC0 vs. the modern system. You know who you are…).

    I see is no reason to buy a new set of books if you already have a group that plays a previous edition. The unfortunate reality for creators of roleplaying games is that they invented a game that you can infinitely expand with naught but a pencil and paper. The only purpose I can figure in releasing a new edition is to have the game make money for the creators again. Let’s milk the D&D cash cow again. No thank you, I have more pressing things to spend my money on than something I already own.

    • RedGuinness
      September 19, 2014

      Fortunately, this one was designed with new players in mind from the beginning. When I first picked up 3rd edition, it took months of playtesting and trial and error to get things right. My current (new) players were ready for the Player’s Handbook by the second session and now have a strong grasp of their abilities and limitations.

      I will never give up on 3.5, but as an infection vector to the wonderful world of gaming, it’s much better to use Fifth.

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