While there is lots to like in the new D&D Starter Set, Dragons of Stormwreck Isle, there are a few disappointments, too.
If you’re a fan of the old-school Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, you’ll be pleased to see various characters — Hank, Eric, Diana, Presto, Sheila and Bobby — displayed throughout the incredible artwork in the set. (But no Uni, Venger or bald-headed Dungeon Master.)
Like previous Starter Sets, the box has everything you need to start playing the game with several friends, and it clocks in at about $20. (Less on Amazon.) It’s the perfect way to jump into D&D 5th edition.
First off, here’s what you’ll find in the box:
A set of dice
An adventure book
Five pre-filled character sheets
And that’s all you need to play. Seriously.
Of course, you can expand your arsenal with more D&D stuff — miniatures, maps, monster books, adventures and lots more. There’s even an advertisement sheet in the box letting you know about other products to expand your collection/enhance your game. (You can also check out our comprehensive guide.)
When you dive in, look at the rulebook first. It will explain how the game is played and how to get started with this box.
As for the adventure, Dragons of Stormwreck Isle, it’s a perfect first adventure for new players. It’s set up to show the Dungeon Master how to run a game, and it includes rules references as they’re introduced.
The game also eases players into D&D.
For example, the first encounter features three zombies, an easy combat session that will introduce players to the rules. If they are somehow defeated, they’re saved by an important NPC. And if they want to avoid the zombies, there are rules for that too.
Dragons of Stormwreck Isle is a fun adventure, and it’s just the sort of prototypical D&D story people might be looking for when they dive in.
Magic. Mystery. Legends. Ancient conflict. And, of course, dragons!
Stormwreck Isle is the final resting place of many dragons going back to the fierce red dragon Sharruth, and each dragon has left its magic mark on the island when it died there. Runara, a bronze dragon now inhabiting a human form, created Dragon’s Rest on the island in the hopes of creating a lasting peace.
(Warning:Yar! There be spoilers ahead!If you want to skip the spoilers, scroll down to where it says, “Spoilers over!”)
Dragon’s Rest acts as a home base as players explore the island in a four-chapter story. The first introduces the characters to Stormwreck Isle, Dragon’s Rest and Runara while offering some additional encounters. Residents of Dragon’s Rest — mostly kobolds — offer some quests. There are also individual quests for each character such as a letter asking the wizard to find knowledge held in a clifftop observatory or a lost fortune being sought by the rogue.
Adventurers will later visit caves connected to Sharruth’s grave, which spawns magical sickness. This chapter will introduce aspects of D&D slowly but surely as the characters explore sea caves, fight swarms of blood-sucking stirges and combat tiny dragons made of poisonous fumes.
Later, the adventure heads to a cursed shipwreck, which is the adventure’s best set piece. The wreck is partly submerged, littered with dragon bones and inhabited by zombies and a harpy. Each time the characters finish a chapter, they gain a level. And since the chapters can be run out of order, chapters 2 and 3 contain information to run easier or harder encounters depending on the characters’ level.
The final chapter, only accessible after finishing the previous ones and gaining a key from Runara, leads the adventurers to the lair of a dragon. Now, a full-sized dragon would wipe low-level characters in one round of combat, but this one is wyrmling. That said, he is trying to summon the magic left behind by the death’s of dragons on the island, and he must be stopped. Combat will be interesting, especially as dragon spirits are summoned to help both the dragon and the adventurers.
There are also ideas for further adventures and advice on how to craft them, which is welcome to the DM that might be looking for further D&D fun.
If you’ve purchased previous similar sets, you’ll find the dice in this boxed set are exactly the same dice — blue sparkly swirl — that’s found in previous starter sets and the essentials kit.
You’ll also find this adventure fits in with the adventures from previous sets in case you want to string them together. Since they all take place nearby, you easily could do so. Of course, each of the starter adventures are for low-level characters, so you’d have to do some modification.
There are some improvements in this set compared to previous boxes, but there are deficiencies, too.
The character sheets are more informative (more on that in a bit), and the adventure book itself is even better for first-timers than previous versions. It also offers more possibilities for how characters might navigate the adventure.
That said, the similarly priced Essentials Kit includes a bunch more stuff including a DM screen, maps and even cards for magic items and sidekicks that can be handed to players as they earn them. That boxed set is supposed to be utilized after using one of the starter sets, but why does it have more stuff at the same price point? I hoped future boxes released after that one would have those upgraded items as well.
Another unfortunate point: The pre-filled character sheets are NOT the characters from the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon. They’re five generic characters including an elf wizard, halfling rogue, human paladin, dwarf cleric and elf fighter. That’s fine, but it would be a neat addition (or at least a fun option) to include those for fans looking for that kind of experience. The cartoon characters are displayed prominently on the box and in the books, and D&D is even selling a set of minis depicting those characters.
That said, the character sheets are robust. They’re useable for each character throughout the four-chapter adventure and have information about leveling up as the adventure goes forward. The sheets are also incredibly detailed, giving info about how each character is involved in the adventure and how various aspects of their classes and backgrounds function, essential information for any player starting out in D&D.
(Side note: You’ll want to make copies of each sheet if you plan on running this adventure more than once. You can also download and print new copies.)