D&D Starter Set: Dragons of Stormwreck Isle Review

Three years after the D&D Essentials Kit and eight years after the D&D Starter Set with the Lost Mine of Phandelver were released, WotC has a new one, D&D Starter Set: Dragons of Stormwreck Isle. In April during the D&D Direct event it was explained that a third set was intended to make it even easier for new players and DMs through a mix of new digital on-boarding and implementing things they learned from the prior two sets.
Starter Kit Box.png

Mixed Feelings​

I love almost anything that lowers the bar to entry for new players and grows the base of RPG players. It's one of my passions. Yet I have mixed feelings about this set. Maybe I'm comparing it too much to the Essentials Kit, which did several things really well.

The first disappointment is how little it holds in comparison to the Essentials Kit. That held a simplified rule book, the adventure Dragonspire Peak, 11 dice, a DM screen, condition cards, a double-sided poster map, and cards for the magic items and sidekicks. By contrast, the DoSI Starter Set has 6 dice, a 48-page adventure, 5 pre-gen character sheets, and a 32-page rulebook. Now maybe 11 dice were overkill, especially considering the supply chain issues and super expensive shipping costs we've been dealing with since 2020, but no DM screen? No condition cards?

Now yes, WotC probably wants you to buy all of the sets, but that wouldn't make the condition cards redundant. Rather, I wish they'd sell extra condition cards separately so a DM could hand out a card for every player affected. In lieu of that, having them in each set makes the sets more attractive and would make keeping track of conditions much easier. The DM screen in the Essentials Kit isn't as heavy duty as standalone-purchase screens so it doesn't deter sales for continuing players.

Good Kobold.jpg

The Upside​

On the positive side, I really like the adventure, Dragons of Stormwreck Isle, and not just because, well, dragons. It's a solid adventure scaled for 1st through 3rd level characters that has a nice blend of action/combat, exploration, and social interaction. In fact, a role-playing interaction with some evil kobolds (as opposed to good kobolds earlier in the adventure) can help the players if handled well. The titular island has been a battleground for metallic and chromatic dragons for centuries. The players become ensnared in the conflict between an adult bronze dragon seeking her missing wyrmling and blue dragon wyrmling seeking to acquire power.

The players also don't have to do the section in a specific order, which is nice. DoSI uses milestone initiative, and there are notes in the adventure to scale the challenges based on the players' level when they get there. I like that.

Cartoon Easter Egg.jpg

How Do You Combine It?​

On the flip side, I wish DoSI contained information on how to combine it with the Essentials Kit adventure to make a longer campaign. I thought they had mentioned that in the D&D Direct event, but I'm not finding it in my notes, so I might be mistaken. Still, if they want to sell both sets, that would be one way to do it with some instructions on how to run it with one first and then the other first, depending upon the order they were purchased, and how to scale up the second one played.

DoSI does contain some mini side quests for each character, which is good. The Exploring the Island section has information on how to expand the adventure as well. The adventure also contains tips for the DM, such as not to worry too much about exact locations when dealing with the violet fungus because they're slow moving, and it's better to focus on what's fun and exciting anyway.

The adventure does have art of the characters from the old D&D cartoon aged up slightly, but it's just an Easter egg. The characters don't actually appear in the adventure unless you model your pre-gens after them.

The mini rulebook is fine. Most of it is reprinted or modified from the PHB, of course, but some explanations were simplified or rewritten with absolute newcomers in mind. It also contains info on where to find more information online, such as the videos and digital tools Natalie Egan and Shelly Mazzanoble mentioned during the D&D Direct event.
staretset.png

The Grade​

So this set has good content, but it's not what I had hoped. If I was only comparing it to the original Starter Set from 2014, it would fare better because they're roughly comparable. However, when compared with the 2019 Essentials Kit, it pales by comparison in terms of the overall set content. So the overall set is a B – respectable, does what it sets out to do well, but it didn't blow me away.

However, the adventure within it is quite good. I like it better than Lost Mine of Phandelver. LMoP isn't bad. It's just personal preference. Grading the new set based solely on the adventure, I'd give it an A- because I really like DoSI. If it did have instructions on how to pair it with Dragonspire Peak for a longer campaign, I'd give it a full A.

So if you're looking for a starter set as a gift or because you're ready to try D&D on your own, well, maybe buy the Essentials Kit first for the more robust package – though that set requires you to make characters. If you want to start playing faster, this new Starter Set is the way to go because it has pre-gens. Either way you'll get a good beginner's package, and with either set you can use the D&D digital resources to build up your confidence and help you get started. Then if you like D&D and want more, you can always buy the other set before transitioning to one of the larger adventures or a homebrew game.

The D&D Starter Set: Dragons of Stormwreck Isle is a Target exclusive until Oct. 4, 2022, when it'll be available worldwide in game stores and other retailers.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels



delericho

Legend
An interesting review, thanks.

I won't be picking this set up until October, but will be getting it then. It sounds like the quality of this set is almost entirely dependent on the included adventure. This was true of the LMoP set too, where the adventure was the only thing really justifying the purchase but was also worth the price of admission all by itself. If the adventure here really is better, that would be quite something.

Regarding the Starter vs Essentials question, my answer previously was "get both". It's harder to see how DoSI would interface with DoIP (as LMoP did so well), but on the other hand the Essentials Kit is pretty excellent even ignoring the adventure. So maybe "get both" is still the best answer?
 

Rhineglade

Explorer
What I don't like about it is the "false advertising" of putting the characters from the classic '80s cartoon all over the box, releasing press notices about this as well as minis but then DON'T include their stats in the game. I should think it was a logical assumption that these would be the pre-gen PCs included in this set but you get just the standard generic options. Very disappointing.
 

Thanks for the review.

So that the Kids may be more than a winking, frustrating Easter egg—I’m requesting that:

  1. DMs Guild open up The Realm of the D&D Cartoon Show for community creation.
  2. And also that WotC publish a DMs Guild short supplementary PDF which gives 5e stats for the Kids, and an in-universe explanation for how the Kids ended up Abeir-Toril at this time, from so many years ago—those Kids entered the D&D Multiverse before even the Time of Troubles!

Questions/suggestions from the review:
The first disappointment is how little it holds in comparison to the Essentials Kit.
Except for having five less dice, and no condition cards, and no poster map (that’s the bummer for me), the reader is not able to tell how the contents stack up quantity-wise. You included page counts for the new adventure and new rulebook, but not for the adventure and rulebook in the Essentials Kit. So the reader feels we just gotta take your word for it that overall “it contains little in comparison.”
In that regard, if we’re going to count and compare things objectively, then it’d be good to know exactly how many pre-gen sheets there are vs. the number of magic item cards, quest cards (I liked handing out those), and sidekick cards in the Essentials Kit. If we’re doing a quantitative comparison, could also compare to the Starter Set.

Follow-up questions:

Are the pre-gen characters statted up as if they were the Kids? I mean they don’t have their Items of Power do they?

Has Sheila become a Cleric instead of a Thief?

Where is the home base for this adventure? Phandalin? I wonder, because my players like investigating those environs due to fond memories of the previous boxed sets.

Is it one big adventure, or episodic quests like the two previous sets?

Is there a regional map in the text? Sword Coast?

How many local site maps are there in the adventure book?

For what it’s worth, I’m DMing the Essentials Kit right now, using my diceless, mechanics-less, one-page Storytime D&D system (SD&D).

SPOILER: We loved Gnomegarde. But I think the Dwarven Excavation is one of the worst adventures I’ve ever seen since I started DMing in 1983. It’s so threadbare. “Oh great, I found yet another secret door…to another empty room.” sigh “Oh great, yet another ochre jelly”. And the final room of the hidden statue of Abbathor is so perversely bare and anticlimactic, that I’m amazed that it passed Wizards’ playtest.

I spiced it up a bit based in Sly Flourish’s suggestions, but otherwise it would’ve been a remarkably terrible and boring adventure.
 
Last edited:


delericho

Legend
What I don't like about it is the "false advertising" of putting the characters from the classic '80s cartoon all over the box...
What I find really weird is using this nostalgia angle for a starter set aimed at new players. Because surely new players aren't going to be nostalgic for a fairly obscure cartoon that ended 27 years ago? And even aiming it at parents of prospective new players doesn't seem to fit - the kids of older fans would seem to be a few years too old for a parental recommendation to be a positive thing.
 





However, the adventure within it is quite good. I like it better than Lost Mine of Phandelver. LMoP isn't bad. It's just personal preference. Grading the new set based solely on the adventure, I'd give it an A- because I really like DoSI. If it did have instructions on how to pair it with Dragonspire Peak for a longer campaign, I'd give it a full A.

LMoP is a full campaign with a strong sandbox element that builds up. DoST is probably one or two sessions. Personally I was disappointed in the adventure. Maybe if it would have been longer and more developed but it is to short and doesn't have a great opening hook. It needs two more levels and about 32 more pages to bring the island and the conflict to life.

I think this is the weakest of the three. I don't love Essentials job board/quest giver model but it had more scope and spots in the sandbox that were exciting but unrelated to the quest encouraging exploring.
 

Von Ether

Legend
The reviews so far are comparing this starter set far against the Essentials Set, which for me is a bit apples and oranges.

The Essentials seems to be more of an expansion product for the original Starter Set. Sort of a "now the training wheels come off and the DM gets their very own DM screen*" as players also get more class choices. And the DM gets an excuse rerun the Phandelver campaign with all the new options and toys.

I wouldn't be surprised if there's an Essentials 2.0 coming down the pike that offers the same kit and various adventures in this new location.

*The accidental upside is that the original Starter Set is being bargain binned so hard it makes getting it and the Essentials together a great deal.
 
Last edited:


I think it was probably a little too late to make them part of the box. I’d bet Chris would have loved to add them.
Darjr, do you have an inside scoop that the idea to add the Kids came late in the product’s development cycle? Otherwise, what do you mean by “too late”?
 



Von Ether

Legend
As a side note: If I remember right, the Essentials was originally an afterthought. Target came BACK to WotC and requested a second boxed set to sell at their store. (And that still boggles the mind of a GM who has and seen fellow gamers called hurtful things throughout the Satanic Panic and being judged as a man-child for their hobby.)

So kudos on WotC coming up with a highly regarded product that was never preplanned.

I also think the general consensus is that the original starter set is now a classic.
 
Last edited:

For what it’s worth, I’m DMing the Essentials Kit right now, using my diceless, mechanics-less, one-page Storytime D&D system (SD&D).

SPOILER: We loved Gnomegarde. But I think the Dwarven Excavation is one of the worst adventures I’ve ever seen since I started DMing in 1983. It’s so threadbare. “Oh great, I found yet another secret door…to another empty room.” sigh “Oh great, yet another ochre jelly”. And the final room of the hidden statue of Abbathor is so perversely bare and anticlimactic, that I’m amazed that it passed Wizards’ playtest.

I spiced it up a bit based in Sly Flourish’s suggestions, but otherwise it would’ve been a remarkably terrible and boring adventure.
I feel the same about DoIP. Came into it expecting a full campaign like LMoP but found many of the actual adventure locations totally lacking. I hope this new Starter Set adventure is a lot more satisfying as a newbie/intro adventure
 

Visit Our Sponsor

Latest threads

Dungeon Delver's Guide

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top