Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Meet the New Basic...

...same as the Old Basic?

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


  1. How much would it have cost them to put six pages of chargen in? Because if chargen is much longer than that, you're doing it wrong.


    1. I would take this as evidence that they can't fit the character generation on 6 pages.

  2. "Woah. I got an idea."
    "We can make new characters by rolling three six-sided dice and adding them up for each attribute."
    "Woah, indeed. You're like one of those savant dudes."
    "I know. Right?"

  3. Not a Basic set.

    Just an intro.

  4. Please, don't get my hopes up for a "Next" version of the Dragonstrike video.

  5. Thanks for the info. As ridiculous as this is, isn't it the same protocol as all Basic sets in the last 2 decades?

    1. Oh, and I really doubt that the "between step" is any significant product. If it was a key part of their plan, then it wouldn't be "left out" of their unveiling. That's the kind of "maybe we could do this down the road" statement you use in PR.

  6. FFG is doing the same sort of thing with their Star Wars game line, a beginner game with pre-gens and an adventure. The difference is that the adventure is really a rule-teaching tool, the characters will encounter various things in a set order, each thing is designed to teach one particular aspect of the rules. Not only are the characters pre-genned, but their advancement is fixed. So the wizard might be statted out to 5th level but there are not (or few) choices to make.

    That's why you can't just say "rolled 3d6 for each stat" as the character generation rules. The game requires choices to be made at character creation, such as skills, feats and spells (or whatever they are being called now). By pre-creating the character and not allowing them to choose any of those things you only need to list in the rulebook the particular spells and skills possessed by the pre-gens. That's why you can't just add a few simple pages. For example, FFG's Star Wars beginner boxes don't even have equipment lists. Each character is assigned a set of equipment already. Again, no choices limits what you need to include in the box.