The newest iteration of 37 years of D&D Basic Sets will be released this summer, and is available for pre-order right now.
When I saw the cover art I immediately thought of the Mentzer Set, with a lone warrior facing off against a red dragon. We all know how that ends:
|1983 Sliding Puzzle. Source: Tome of Treasures|
The green lighting on the dragon on the new Starter Set also reminds me of the green dragon on the Moldvay Set, one of the few basic sets to not feature a red dragon. I can't say I really like the new art very much but of course I am heavily biased towards old school RPG art.
The new Starter Set follows the tradition started by the Holmes Set of including a rulebook and a module. When I saw yesterday that the new rulebook would only be 32 pages long, shorter even than the Holmes rulebook (48 pages), I was immediately suspicious that it would not contain full rules for the game. And today designer Mike Mearls confirmed that while it would have pre-generated characters and an adventure module (64 pages), it would not contain character generation rules or info on how create an adventure, as it is "a set you could hand to a board gamer to make them into a new DM running D&D". This seems to follow the model of the Dragon Strike game that TSR put out in the early '90s. This raises the spectre of "crippleware" but Mearls referenced as an yet undisclosed "step between the Starter Set and the Big 3" that will contain the character generation rules. Possibly an on-line version of the playtest document? Hopefully it will be something that can be printed out and will fit inside the box.
The Starter Set will supposedly cover character levels 1-5 (like the 1991 Basic Set), but without character generation rules this is somewhat meaningless. It sounds more like a fancy introductory module for character levels 1-5 rather than a real Basic Set.
5/21 Update: Mike Mearls has an update on the step between the Starter Set and the PHB: "we just announced at the ACD distributor conference that about 15% of the Player's Handbook will be available for free as a PDF". Encouraging... He also mentioned in that conversation that the extra options for tactical combat and spell point systems will be in the DMG. Interesting way of layering the rules by using the DMG as an 'options' book.
Back Cover of the Starter Set, via Enworld (who have a great info page):
|Click for a larger view|