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.

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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.
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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

Lazvon

Explorer
Hadn't seen these mentioned on here... but since we're talking about Stormwreck Isle AND the 80's cartoon... bit updated with more skin coverage... but otherwise, look familiar? ;)
 

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darjr

I crit!
Hadn't seen these mentioned on here... but since we're talking about Stormwreck Isle AND the 80's cartoon... bit updated with more skin coverage... but otherwise, look familiar? ;)
Actual photos! Thanks!

I’ll add them.
 


GreyLord

Legend
I'd say, this is a set that Target is going to use with the Essentials Kit...probably?

I would probably NOT suggest this to someone who has never played D&D. From what I can see, it is useless after one play through. It has no advancement rules except in the adventure itself telling one when to advance characters, no real explanation of how XP or monsters work in advancement, or how any other obstacles work that way, and very limited use otherwise.

Perfect for using to upgrade to Essentials. Worst Starter Kit (or Basic or any type of kit) I have ever seen for D&D yet (for any edition and all editions, it is the worst one). It's not just me talking about what I would want, but what I'd want for those beginning play. For $20, absolutely NOT worth it in my book.

You get more use out of Jaws of the Lion (a gloomhaven game being sold right next to it, though it is 2X the cost, you probably will get 30X the amount of play from it). Similar concepts though different. The value for this set just doesn't set me on fire (and yes, I DO have a copy of it...just for those wondering).

I did mention before, it DOES have one thing that is a net positive in my book...it has Kobolds. It even has winged Kobolds.

Everything else...I'd literally suggest almost any other starter set, beginner box, or basic rules over this from any generation of D&D...and that includes some pretty weak 4e ones in the mix.

I feel this was made for Target to generate sales towards either the Essentials Kit or the PHB, because, from what I see, as a set for new players, it absolutely has very little value overall. It's not really made for them. It offers nothing over what other sets (even the original 5e starter set) offered, and actually manages to offer less and teach less than the other sets did.

I feel it was made to try to generate money, and that was what was REALLY in mind when they made it. How can they not give away the rules too much but just get people to play. Either that or they think that everyone is already online and have downloaded the rules or playing online with the free rules already (in which case, why even have the Starter set) and this set is for...

Gosh if I know. Except. to push people to buy more stuff...but I think that it is going to lose just as many as it gains because of how limited it is. However, it is a Target focus (IMO) rather than a D&D focus, so it's their call to make or lose.
 

It has no advancement rules except in the adventure itself telling one when to advance characters, no real explanation of how XP or monsters work in advancement, or how any other obstacles work that way, and very limited use otherwise.
I suspect milestone levelling will be the default in the 2024 edition.
 

Blazestudios23

Explorer
Personally I liked Lost Mines adventure way more than the Essentials Kit adventure.
Hopefully this one is comparable. Lost Mines is by far my favorite intro adventure, at least of the 6 or so I've run or played in or run (mostly run).
 

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