The Dungeons & Dragons Essentials line launches next week with the release of the D&D Starter Set (aka, The Red Box). When announced a little over a month ago, the Essentials line created some confusion, as many thought it was D&D 4.5 (this was in part due to a rumor that the Player’s Handbook would be allowed to go out of print). Wizards of the Coast has since clarified the Essentials line. It is not D&D 4.5 but is instead fully compatible with 4th Edition D&D. The only real changes will be in wizard encounter spells (the forthcoming Rules Compendium will introduce miss effects, whereby spells will still deal damage on a miss).
So what is the Essentials line? Wizards has described it as a suite of 10 products that every game store should carry. It appears to be primarily designed to introduce new players to the game by providing all of the core rules in a simplified manner. For experienced players, the Essentials line will offer simplified rules and alternative character builds.
The Red Box contains everything a new player needs to get started. For players there is a 32 page booklet outlining the rules for character creation and a solo adventure that can be used to interactively create a character. Players can choose one of the four standard races (human, dwarf, elf, or halfing) and the four iconic classes (fighter, wizard, cleric, or rogue). Since it has been designed to make things simpler for new players, there will be less options and powers than were available in the Player’s Handbook. For example, there will be no daily powers. However, experienced players still have the option to use the Player Handbook builds, rather than the Red Box. The Red Box supports 1st and 2nd level characters.
For DMs, the Red Box provides a 64-page book outlining the rules of the game, providing suggestions on how to run a game, and providing material for adventures. In addition the Red Box will include 2 sheets of die-cut tokens for characters and monsters, a double-sided dungeon map, card stock character sheets and power cards, and 6 polyhedral dice.
Following the Red Box, there will be nine more products in the Essentials line. The Rules Compendium (Sep. 21), Dungeon Matser’s Kit (Oct. 17), and Monster Vault (Nov. 16) are geared toward DMs (the later two products will contain adventures). There will also be two player books: Heroes of the Fallen Lands (Sep. 21) and Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms (Nov. 16) which will provide new versions of the classic character classes. The Essentials line will also include D&D Roleplaying Game Dice (Sep. 21) and three sets of Dungeon Tiles: Dungeon Tile Master Set – The Dungeon (Sep. 21), Dungeon Tile Master Set – The City (Nov. 16), and Dungeon Tile Master Set – The Wilderness (Dec. 21)
While I am not sure how “essential” the dungeon tiles sets are, the other products are quite intriguing. I am particularly interested in the solo adventure included in the Red Box as well as the new options contained in the player books.
Be sure to check out the previews on WOTC’s website (a good place to start is here).
If anyone picks up the Red Box next week, we’d love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to stop back and comment on this post with a quick review.