Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set Review - Dice, Dice Baby

Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set Review - Dice, Dice Baby

Is the first step into the new D&D everything it was promised to be?

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Thanks for the intel, and the spoiler warning tags ;)
Hope we'll like it too :)

I only got into tabletop role playing in the last year or so and have spent money on Pathfinder stuff, really enjoy it, this stuff looks cool too, and I would love to give it a go just to see how different the two really are :D

"Gone are the delineated Move, Minor, and Standard actions on each turn, replaced with a simple Move and Action system that will be very familiar to players of D&D prior to 2008."

... I'm not really sure how to be sarcastic about this, given that you seem to have already pointed out that it's exactly the same system with different names in this sentence itself.

For those who are unclear on this: it's exactly the same system. Move = move, Action = Standard Action, Reflex = swift/minor action. The actual simplifications are in the fact that pretty much everything you'd want to do on your turn is now a Standard action, and draw/ready/etc no longer have action costs at all (so no more three rounds of combat to equip your stuff to attack) and reflexive actions are almost all things you want to do on other people's turn (attack of opportunity, activate disadvantage abilities, etc).

chozo_hybrid:
I only got into tabletop role playing in the last year or so and have spent money on Pathfinder stuff, really enjoy it, this stuff looks cool too, and I would love to give it a go just to see how different the two really are :D

Based on playtest, they're pretty different. 5e has fixed most of 4e's problems with respect to essentially not having any roleplaying components whatsoever without losing the combat balance, so the primary overall difference at the moment is that Pathfinder is deeper and allows better customization, and 5e has a better mechanical balance and is massively more accessible to new players.

They're both pretty good, if you've played a lot of RPGs and so have the other players Pathfinder most likely wins, though. The main difference is that it no longer wins hands-down, 5e being easier to GM off-the-cuff lowers the time investment enough that a reasonably skilled GM can make it just as entertaining.

(Not that any of it matters, since nobody chooses a tabletop system because the system is good. People play tabletop because it's the game the fewest people have to learn from scratch and that you already have books for. If it was about mechanical balance and system depth D&D would have failed as a property and bankrupted Wizards a long time ago.)

Cool, so... where do I actually get one? Can't think of a store around here that would stock it. maybe one of those small board game places?

Jim_Callahan:
Based on playtest, they're pretty different. 5e has fixed most of 4e's problems with respect to essentially not having any roleplaying components whatsoever without losing the combat balance, so the primary overall difference at the moment is that Pathfinder is deeper and allows better customization, and 5e has a better mechanical balance and is massively more accessible to new players.

They're both pretty good, if you've played a lot of RPGs and so have the other players Pathfinder most likely wins, though. The main difference is that it no longer wins hands-down, 5e being easier to GM off-the-cuff lowers the time investment enough that a reasonably skilled GM can make it just as entertaining.

(Not that any of it matters, since nobody chooses a tabletop system because the system is good. People play tabletop because it's the game the fewest people have to learn from scratch and that you already have books for. If it was about mechanical balance and system depth D&D would have failed as a property and bankrupted Wizards a long time ago.)

Thanks for the detailed response, and you're probably right, I see us sticking to Pathfinder for a long time due to investment both cash and time wise learning it etc. But if someone invited me to a session to have a go, I would still have a look.

Floppertje:
Cool, so... where do I actually get one? Can't think of a store around here that would stock it. maybe one of those small board game places?

Your local FLGS should have copies. I don't know what it's like in the Netherlands, but in Canada the Indigo bookstore chain has started stocking some D&D products; you could check your local equivalent. If not, there's always the WotC store locator.

OT:

The new rate of experience gain and leveling up is well presented, with players getting a quick level after the first and second chunks of play - opening up the mechanical complexity of their characters at an ideal speed not only for roleplaying, but for learning the game as well.

What defines a "chunk of play"? Are we talking a 4-6 hour session, a single encounter, or somewhere in between? Similarly, how long is a chapter supposed to take? Veterans will think nothing of signing up to spend 8-10 weeks playing the game, but I imagine that would turn off a lot of the new crowd.

I'm disappointed in the adventure, especially if it falls apart in the third act, and especially if they don't make encountering the dragon a massive event. WotC has enough experience making modules (and didn't they hire outside people to write it as well?) that they should know the danger of having a lackluster middle.

Frankly, I'd like to compare the Pathfinder Beginner's Box at $30 USD to the D&D 5e Starter Set at $20 USD, just in case anyone is reading this thread and debating what to get. It seems like most of the people posting in this thread have been playing for a while. I'll try to be as objective as possible, so let me get my subjective opinion out of the way: the PFRPG BB is a better buy, the PFRPG is a better game, and nothing I've seen of D&D 5e has changed my mind despite my best efforts to give it a fair shake.

System: The D&D SS is meant to work for the D&D 5e ruleset. This is a new edition which will be out this fall in full. The PFRPG BB is meant to work with the Pathfinder RPG. D&D 5e looks to be very mechanically sound at the cost of offering a fraction of Pathfinder's customization.

Player options: The 5e boxed set gives you a quintet of pregen characters to pick from. The PFRPG BB gives you a quartet of pregen characters and dedicates a whole 68 page book to making and improving PCs. The online support from Paizo includes a fifth pregen. The 5e set has generic pregens. The PFRPG pregens are Paizo's iconic characters for the Fighter, Rogue, Wizard, and Cleric.

Replayability: The D&D SS has a single adventure which I won't spoil. The PFRPG BB has a similar adventure in it. Both are honestly pretty generic. Paizo offer more free adventures on their website. More importantly, it has an abridged list of magical items, monsters, and spells to take the party all the way to fifth level. The PFRPG box explains how terrain, settlements, and so forth work in order to help a novice GM continue the game past the first session. D&D offers their core ruleset online as a PDF for free. D&D Basic Rules Online PDF. Paizo offers their full ruleset online for free. Paizo System Reference Document Paizo operates on the OpenOGL, an old agreement which allows third party developers (like Paizo!) to develop for what was once D&D. Thus, Paizo has a lot of third-party supplementation of their game.

Layout and Appearance: The 5e box has less art, which is all in the same art direction as the 4e art - earth tones, angular characters, . The Beginner's Box has a lot of Paizo's pulpy, bright style. The D&D SS offers an abridged version of the rules in one 32 page book and a starter adventure module in another 64 page book. The PFRPG contains three books: a 68 page book for detailing heroes, a 100 page book on GMing and building your own adventures as a novice GM, and a 16 page novice little run through a maze.

Long Term Value: Both boxed sets come with a full set of dice. The PFRPG boxed set comes with a bonus flip mat and a large number of tokens with standies that can be used for the rest of your gaming career. Simply put, you can pay $20 USD for the D&D SS to play it once, or you can play for months with just the content of the PFRPG BB and then continue using a lot of its pieces for years to come.

Price: $20 USD for the D&D SS. $30 USD for the PFRPG BB. Free goodies are currently available at Paizo.com.

Thunderous Cacophony:

Floppertje:
Cool, so... where do I actually get one? Can't think of a store around here that would stock it. maybe one of those small board game places?

Your local FLGS should have copies. I don't know what it's like in the Netherlands, but in Canada the Indigo bookstore chain has started stocking some D&D products; you could check your local equivalent. If not, there's always the WotC store locator.

OT:

The new rate of experience gain and leveling up is well presented, with players getting a quick level after the first and second chunks of play - opening up the mechanical complexity of their characters at an ideal speed not only for roleplaying, but for learning the game as well.

What defines a "chunk of play"? Are we talking a 4-6 hour session, a single encounter, or somewhere in between? Similarly, how long is a chapter supposed to take? Veterans will think nothing of signing up to spend 8-10 weeks playing the game, but I imagine that would turn off a lot of the new crowd.

I'm disappointed in the adventure, especially if it falls apart in the third act, and especially if they don't make encountering the dragon a massive event. WotC has enough experience making modules (and didn't they hire outside people to write it as well?) that they should know the danger of having a lackluster middle.

Sorry, I tossed off playtime casually in like the second paragraph. About four hours per session for slow groups - you can see Escapist staff in our D&D livestream get first level in about two hours of play, though there's some clever skill use that bypasses about an hour's worth of exploration and combat. That's located here.

The third act is very strong in structure, but doesn't have quite the depth of info I wanted. Dragon is entirely a disappointment.

Jim_Callahan:
"Gone are the delineated Move, Minor, and Standard actions on each turn, replaced with a simple Move and Action system that will be very familiar to players of D&D prior to 2008."

... I'm not really sure how to be sarcastic about this, given that you seem to have already pointed out that it's exactly the same system with different names in this sentence itself.

Uh, well, since it's a different system I'm not sure how to be sarcastic in response. There's no such thing as a move action anymore. No such thing as a minor action. No weird powers that employ your move in place of doing something else. No weird shift actions. You have an action, and you have a movement allotment. Anything else is gravy - not something you need to consider every turn.

Excellent article, one concern I can answer. The excellent maps are available online in annotated and non-annotated versions from Mike Schley, the illustrator, in digital format from his website.

http://mikeschley.zenfolio.com/p856083253

Tex

 

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