Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game: An Essential D&D Starter (4th Edition D&D)

Dungeons of Dragons “Red Box” returns in a 4th Edition update released by Wizards of the Coast on September 7, 2010. This new starter set is patterned after the original “Red Box” Basic Rules set that was released by TSR in 1983 and features the same cover art from Larry Elmore. The game is presented for 1 more players and includes everything you need to get started.

 A Player’s Book will start you off with the most basic aspects of character creation and how to play Dungeons and Dragons.  There’s also a Dungeon Master’s book, hero and monster tokens to use as miniatures, a double sided battle map with indoor and outdoor themes, full color character sheets and power cards, which explain spells and abilities. There is also a set of dice so everything you need is right in the box.

This set isn’t just for someone who has never played 4th Edition before, but rather for someone who’s only heard of role playing games and want to try it for the first time. In the opening adventure, the game plays like a “choose your own adventure story” in which you are presented with scenario information and asked to make a choice on how you’d like to proceed. The first encounter explains that you’re traveling on a wagon with a dwarf headed to a small village. Why you’re with him or exactly what you intended to do when you get there isn’t as important as what happens next: Your wagon is attacked!

The narrator text is differentiated from the instructional text through use of italics. After the goblins attack you are asked how you’d like to deal with the situation. In my case, I chose the options that lead me down the path of the rogue, because I thought hiding and using the wagon as cover and sneaking up on the beasts was my best bet. The game then leads you through each step of the encounter by having you fill in the blanks on your character sheets as you proceed. When you are finished with the first encounter you will have your attributes, your race, your skills and your feats, and your alignment written down on your character sheet. You’ll also have a pretty good idea on which Major Quests you need to complete in order to proceed.

The idea is to let everyone in your group walk themselves through the adventure, each making a character of their choosing based on what they want to play. Essentially, you decide what it is you want to do and the game generates your character on the fly as you work through the first encounter. Very easy for anyone who has never played, but if you’re an experienced gamer you might find the pace a little drawn out. However, the scenario does a good job in teaching you some of the basic game play elements of 4th edition, such as what you can do in a turn and how things like resting between encounters works.

Once everyone has completed their encounter on the wagon and has their character sheets fully filled out, you are then asked to elect a Dungeon Master (DM). At that time, you move the action over the Dungeon Master’s Book where you find a much more in depth explanation of the rules and combat maneuvers such as flanking and line of sight.

The cards are a bit flimsy and must be punched out of their backing, but they do the job. The hero and monster tokens are very sturdy, however, and do the job well of replacing expensive miniatures.

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