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.
 

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Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels


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Are you just going to repetitively quote me so I am forced to get notifications about your negativity?
Whoa, simply sharing a couple of experiences and perspectives. Thought of something else after writing. If you don’t want to be quoted, don’t come to a message board. It’s not a private convo. All posts are for the benefit of all thread participants.

What do you think, you’re bedir than me? Hehe

I’ve said plenty of positive things here. To speak positively again: I spiced up the final cave by adding a “compressed gold ball” in Abbathor’s hand, worth 10,000 gp. I mean, the PCs earned it with all that diggin’!

…plus an explosive fake gold ball necklace. I mean, it is Abbathor after all.

And I roleplayed the two dwarven excavators as being in denial that there could be such a thing as an evil dwarf god. Like: “Ah…at last we find the statue of Father Moradin! Wait…why is he hooded, with a smirk? Noooh!” (Gimli-like falling to the knees in front of Balin’s tomb.)

Tho boring as written, I made it funnish. That’s positive—yippee! Have a beautiful day! 💐
 
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Von Ether

Legend
That would be 37 years ago my good sir, (at least in the US). I can only wish it was 27 years ago.


Possibly they're aiming it at the grandparents of said new players. The folks who were 10 when the cartoon came on the air are now old enough where some of them have grandkids in the 10 and up age bracket. And there will only be more of them in the coming years. if this starter set lasts in print as long as the last one did, this is the decade to strike with grandparent nostalgia.

That scenario seems to be that another grand parent who loved the show but never got into D&D (or maybe did) buys the box on a whim and then used the excuse of teaching the 12 -15 y.o. grand kids to play D&D. Fun for all ages!
 


GreyLord

Legend
I prefer the original Starter Set. For starters, it had LEVELS 1-5, instead of 1-3. The adventure was better (only opinion) and longer. It used XP and had an XP table for advancement. 32 pages of rules is comparable. You had at least a few 3rd level spells. I feel the monsters included were more iconic and generally easier to toss into generic adventures or dungeons of your own design if you really wanted to.

The new Starter set has one advantage...it includes Kobolds.
 


Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I find it bizarre that people who have been running D&D games for 30+ years are complaining that a starter set of all things isn't designed to cater for them. I mean, with respect, who cares what we think of it? It's like complaining tricycles aren't available in our size.
 

wicked cool

Adventurer
for those than have the adventure can someone tell me why the adventure is in the same company as the LMOP? i dont have it so im not being negative.

i love the nostalgia stuff. i want a dungeon master miniature, a baby unicorn (im actualy shocked we dont have 1 yet) etc. i want to be greedy and the stats for them. We have a matt mercer miniature so im good with a dungeon master

some of you might have kids in the tiktok age. the nostalgia is strong right now. my kids are listening to some of the same music i do and when i ask (its on a tik tok video). Captain marvel crashing in a blockbuster was to me the best part of that movie

anyone else seeing the news on the font-heroscape coming back, dark tower board game,he-man and gi joe skirmish games . nostalgia is the thing
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
I'm just happy there's a company that is still trying to write tutorial products, even if they may occasionally miss the mark. Everyone else seems to have given up on making products aimed at the truly new player and just assumes anyone buying their product already has the basics down. ( Though tbh tsr and wizards have always been the best at writing this kind of intro product and have the most history and experience with it.)
 

darjr

I crit!
I find it bizarre that people who have been running D&D games for 30+ years are complaining that a starter set of all things isn't designed to cater for them. I mean, with respect, who cares what we think of it? It's like complaining tricycles aren't available in our size.
Very similar to when the first starter set was released. Also with the essentials.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
I think this starter is going to be fun. It might not wind up with the rave reviews that hindsight gave LMoP, but I bet it's long term reaction will be a sight better than the "I-haven't-seen-it-yet-but-what-the-heck-I'm-judging-it-NOW" that we're seeing here.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
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.
Surprised by the credit you give the adventure tbh. It's a fraction of the adventure content in LMoP and provides very little motivation to the players to actually engage with the quests except for some light incentives from the backgrounds. Not that I love LMoP but it's certainly got way more to engage with.

The final set piece in DoSI is confusingly setup with the possibility of it all fizzling out. Personally, I'd give the adventure a C- and a "needs improvement!" note. :)
 

I find it bizarre that people who have been running D&D games for 30+ years are complaining that a starter set of all things isn't designed to cater for them. I mean, with respect, who cares what we think of it? It's like complaining tricycles aren't available in our size.
Hehe—I like the tricycle image.

Well, as I said earlier in the thread, I’ve purchased the previous two sets myself. And also gifted my nephew with the Essentials Kit (despite the one lame quest!)

Except as a gift to a newcomer, why then would a grognard buy the starter boxes? Because:

1) When I bought the Phandelver box, we were trying to learn the 5E system. We played the whole thing through and enjoyed it.

2) I got the Essentials Kit because my players like Phandalin. They made Tressendar Manor their HQ.

3) And after running a bunch of adventures which took the characters far afield, I felt it would be good to bring everyone back to Phandalin for an “in breath”; to explore their home turf again. So I DMed “Dwarven Excavation” a couple weeks ago, and “Gnomegaarde” last weekend. As I said above: we all really enjoyed Gnomegaarde. I’m aiming to run all the Icespire adventures before moving on again (prob to Witchlight or Spelljammer).

4) But most importantly: Adventures/storylines of all levels are valuable to me, because I use an edition of D&D which has no mechanics. It’s called “Storytime D&D” (SD&D). PCs of any level can adventure together in a module of any level—because all character powers are simply narrative prompts.

Those are some reasons why I’ve purchased and run the beginner boxes. I’ll probably pick up and run this new set eventually too, for the reasons stated above.

What, WotC doesn’t want my money?

I’m not demanding. Nevertheless, Icespire’s “Dwarven Excavation,” as written, is a dismally-designed adventure. The one thing that is neat about it is that it touches on Abbathor. And it’s map is nicely rendered. Like I said, I’ve enjoyed other aspects of Icespire though. Will be running more of its quests soon.

As for my comments on the use of the Kids. Even newcomers like a bit of consistent, immersive lore too. I made some points about how I’d like to see WotC justify the presence of these iconic characters from The Realm.

Hey, I “like” that the Kids are in there. Is it too much to ask for sentence or two of in-universe explanation? And, for all we know, maybe there is something like that in the box.

The ENWorld review sheds no light on this. I’ve appreciated other reviews by Beth, but this one is overly vague. (See my follow-up questions earlier.)

I’ve said several positive points in this thread (eg how I like the artwork)—it’s odd how some folks are pouncin’.

I also don’t get why fellow D&D aficionados would bristle at my suggestion that WotC produce a little PDF supplement to Icespire with official 5e stats for the Kids, along with a bit of lore which summarizes why they’re in Abeir-Toril again nowadays. Like the “Journeys Beyond” Radiant Citadel supplement. Could devote it a charity or something.

People maybe turned off by my word “amends.” Gee, it’s not a bad thing to mend something. If Icespire contains no explanation of who the Kids are, and why they’re in Toril, then that could be easily and quickly “mended.”

Might as well open up The Realm to DMs Guild community content as well—that would really get people interested in the Kids again. A great tie-in with Icespire.

What’s the trouble?
 
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dave2008

Legend
47-55 year old person buying for their 20 year olds!
@darjr

I grew up with the D&D cartoon (in case my avatar wasn't a clue) and my children are 19-21. I had them pretty young (by today's standards). Most of my HS classmates have children ranging from 6-18. So definitely in the range to benefit from parental nostalgia.
 

TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
I find it bizarre that people who have been running D&D games for 30+ years are complaining that a starter set of all things isn't designed to cater for them. I mean, with respect, who cares what we think of it? It's like complaining tricycles aren't available in our size.
Harsh.

Some of us may have a few of these. We may may give them as gifts. We may use them with new players.

And we care. We wouldn’t be here otherwise.
 


robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
But then they are still going to be used by NEW players. Most of the complaining is about the suitability for very experienced players. Which it obviously isn't intended for.
At least my complaints are trying to be in support of new players. I didn’t start DMing that long ago, so the pain is still fresh :D
 


Doctor Futurity

Adventurer
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.
I may be wrong but I thought to cartoon was from the early eighties, so closer to 40 years ago.

I don't get it either, and I got in to D&D in 1981 at age 10 and never even knew the cartoon existed until later as an adult. It seemed (to me at the time) like advertising for kids to lead them in to the actual game of D&D, not "actual D&D." I do remember seeing a couple modules with the action figures on the covers so that surprised me a bit. Obviously I was just out of the loop on this segment of D&D.....where I was at, everyone played AD&D or other RPGs.
 

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