Recently Wizards published the D&D Essentials kit, a boxed set that contains a module, quick start rule book and a few essentials for the world greatest roleplaying game. We took a good look at it and here’s our review.
It’s been a while since we reviewed anything D&D related. Not that we dislike the game, in fact 5th edition is by far the most successful and most played edition of D&D ever and for a good reason. This edition has enough old-school vibe to it for the old geysers, such as myself, to like it and enough appeal for younger and/or new players to be a complete success. Say what you will about the game mechanics, the publications and so on, the fact remains, 5th edition is a hit!
I’ve been using 5e to play roleplaying games with my kids. My older ones started playing when 4th edition was still fresh and quickly grew accustomed to the mechanics in the latest edition. The youngest one, a 6 year old boy, has been waiting on the sideline, taking part in encounters every now and then, having a superb time gaming with his older brother and his friends. So, to flame his interest in roleplaying games even more, I decided to buy him the D&D Essentials Kit.
The D&D Essentials Kit
The Essentials Kit is a great starting kit for new or moderately experienced roleplayers. It contains a short rulebook (see below), a module called Dragon of Icespire Peak (see below), a dungeon master‘s screen and a few essentials, dice, characters sheet and a deck of cards containing assortment of information for players.
As we opened the box, my boy gasped and grabbed the dungeon master‘s screen. “Dad, now I can be the storyteller next time we play!” he screamed out, his eyes wide with joy. Next we took forth the dice, which he grabbed and claimed that he’d only use these when he was game mastering. I unboxed the rest of the kit alone, since he had already set up the screen, was staring at the great artwork, rolling dice and talking to himself.
The Essentials Kit has some great player aids, like initiative counters, magical item cards and two full colour maps, one showing Phandalin and the other the Neverwinter region. Once I had glanced at the maps and the rulebook my son wanted to play, and had me roll up a character.
In a few moments my hero, Bregthor Brittlebeard the dwarven fighter, walked into Phandalin only to discover that a terrible hurricane was on its way, one created by an evil airelemental. Needless to say, Bregthor, after intensive discussions with the president of Phandalin (apparently there’s now one), fought the evil airelemental, but due to unforeseen divine interventions and some very hard and failed skill checks, the hurricane swept through town, killing Bregthor but causing little damage.
My son loved Phandalin and the setting, and had me framing the map, which now hangs above his desk in his room.
The softcover rulebook har everything you need to run a game for player characters levels 1-6. Of course, the text isn’t as extensive as in the PHB, and the for more experienced players this doesn’t add much. Some players might even miss a thing or two, but for younger or new players this book has everything you need to run a great game.
One thing I’d like to mention, the rulebook has many great pencil art pieces, showing characters of different class and race. These are at least new to me and I really like them. My son, since he doesn’t read English, flipped through the book and stopped by every picture and has in the last few days been practising his drawing skills by imitating the images.
Dragon of Icespire Peak
I’ve save the best for last. If you are an experienced game master, this module makes buying the kit more than worth it. The module is simply great. It has an overarching story, one of a white dragon coming from the north and claiming Icespire Peak as its lair, which causes all sorts of problems for the people of Phandalin.
The module details many new locations for the area and offer the player characters many chances to meet and get to know the people of the town and the surrounding farms. To make things even better, the player characters can choose in what order the investigate the rumours and locations. This I find a very nice touch. Each location is detailed and offers opportunities for all classes to have a moment in the limelight.
The module also has a superb introduction to being a dungeon master and I find the advice sound for beginners. Of course, there are things mentioned there that even veteran dungeon masters never get too experienced to be reminded of. Also, the module contains some ideas to where the story could lead the player characters once they have defeated Cryovain, the evil white dragon. There are also instructions for session zero, a short key to the Neverwinter region and many great tips for game masters.
What makes this module even better, is how easy it is to make it fit with Lost Mine of Phandelver. The two modules could make a superb starting adventure and with a little tweaks the campaign could be fitted for player characters from 1st to 10th level.
The Essentials Kit is a great boxed set for beginners and starting D&D players. It is a great addition to the Starter Set and has everything you need to start a great D&D game.