Stranger Things and D&D at Last: A Review

The Stranger Things Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set was pretty much inevitable. From the moment we saw Mike DM D&D for his friends early in the first session of the Netflix series, the clock started ticking when some crossover product would be released. Announced at Toy Fair earlier this year, Hasbro is heavily gearing this product to the mass market, not just hobby game stores.
Modeled on the original “red box” D&D Basic Set, the Stranger Things Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set has nice faux wear and tear on the box as if one of the kids in the TV show carried it around in their bag. Like the original red box set it comes with six, not seven, polyhedral dice (only one d10 that has to be rolled twice to generate percentile results) though these are all a sapphire blue instead of the original colors. In addition to a starter rule book, adventure, dice and pre-gens it also comes with two demogorgon minis that have a nice amount of detail in the sculpture.

The rules in the set are 5th Edition, of course. While not authentic to the original red box the entire point of this crossover is to attract new or lapsed players so pulling them into the current rules makes the most sense. Plus 5th Edition has a old-school feel anyway mixed with more streamlined mechanics.

The actual explanation of the rules and how to play are nicely done. While the 5th Edition Players Handbook does a good job of explaining everything, it's simplified even more here without dumbing it down. The examples of how to play use the character names from Stranger Things, of course.

The best part and the showcase material is “The Hunt for the Thessalhydra, a D&D Campaign by Mike Wheeler.” Written by Stan! and Ben Petrisor, it's a mix of the D&D adventure you see Lucas, Will and Dustin play on Stranger Things with echoes of the weird things happening in their town, like “The characters meet the Proud Princess, a powerful adventurer who has her own quest and wants nothing to do with the characters.”

More than just a gimmick, the adventure is broken down well for a new DM about taking time for certain things, plus with in-character notes about Lucas wanting to be all business. The “Notes to Myself (As Dungeon Master) have good advice for anyone, especially the part about “my job as DM is to make sure everyone has a good time...” Some experienced DMs still need to learn that, unfortunately.

If you ever wondered what the kids' characters on the show are, wonder no more. The pre-gens in the set match what you see.

If you're a huge Stranger Things fan, you'll probably like the Stranger Things Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set. More importantly, if you have a friend who loves Stranger Things but has never played D&D and is curious about it, the Stranger Things Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set is probably a perfect gift.

This article was contributed by Beth Rimmels (brimmels) as part of EN World's Columnist (ENWC) program. If you enjoy the daily news and articles from EN World, please consider contributing to our Patreon!
 
Beth Rimmels

Comments

paladinn

Explorer
I like Stranger Things.. Just wish they hadn't used "demogorgon" as a monster name. Demogorgon has a very specific meaning for D&D'ers.
 
I

Immortal Sun

Guest
Sounds pretty sweet. I was a little worried it would be a straight up play through of Stranger Things, but it's nice that it's an actual boxed adventure. Also nice that it's 5E, though even though I never played, I wouldn't mind a grog version using Basic rules either.

Edit: bought and bought.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
Actually, since this setting is apparently modern, lacks gods, and has psionics −

I am probably going to love the Stranger Things setting.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
@Morrus

I dont see this article in the Dungeons & Dragons forum. But since its an official D&D 5e product, it seems pertinent there.


[update]

Sweet. It is there now.
 
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I like Stranger Things.. Just wish they hadn't used "demogorgon" as a monster name. Demogorgon has a very specific meaning for D&D'ers.
That's the joke. These are kids who've taught themselves to play and, as a kid whose friends taught themselves to play in the late 1970s and early 1980s, they get some stuff wrong. But everyone at the table is having fun, so who cares?

(For years, I was sure it said in the 1E DMG that a serious curse was placed on everyone nearby if a crystal ball got broken. I'm pretty sure that was someone misremembering Lord of the Rings and, not having fully read the DMG, applying that to D&D as a "rule." It did turn us all into crystal ball-lobbing anarchists, though.)
 
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sevenbastard

Villager
I thought the adventure was terrible. lost Mines of Phandelver was a good mini campaign with sandbox elements. This was a railroad dungeon crawl. It has one cool maze element, that is ruined by a puzzle that requires real world knowledge to solve and I for one got the refrence but had to Google it to solve because it was obscure.

Yes it feels like it was written by an 11 year old. But that's not a great way to introduce folks to D&D. Add in you don't even start at 1st level and you got a piss poor starter set. I was hoping this would bring folks into the hobby.

Graphic design is great. But it does have small small typos.
 
If this is replacing the original Starter Set for the foreseeable future, I'd love it if Phandelver is available in some other format ASAP. I strongly feel it's the best officially produced starting adventure D&D has ever had, and would hate for it to become less available.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
I am unclear about what the Stranger Things setting is, exactly. Is it an adventure resembling the show, including psionics and the Upsidedown? Or is it more like a quasi-D&D game that the kids in the show might have made up as they are trying to learn how to play D&D during the 1980s?

From what I understand, all the pregen character sheets are spellcasters, but none of the kids in show can cast spells − except the psionic yet a psion or mystic is absent from the pregens.

Can someone who has the box explain the setting?
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I am unclear about what the Stranger Things setting is, exactly. Is it an adventure resembling the show, including psionics and the Upsidedown? Or is it more like a quasi-D&D game that the kids in the show might have made up as they are trying to learn how to play D&D during the 1980s?

From what I understand, all the pregen character sheets are spellcasters, but none of the kids in show can cast spells − except the psionic yet a psion or mystic is absent from the pregens.

Can someone who has the box explain the setting?
It’s a D&D adventure. In the show, the kids play D&D from time to time. The “author” of the adventure is one of the characters from the show, but it’s basically a regular D&D adventure. The kids in the show were the players, not the characters.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
It’s a D&D adventure. In the show, the kids play D&D from time to time. The “author” of the adventure is one of the characters from the show, but it’s basically a regular D&D adventure. The kids in the show were the players, not the characters.
Ah. I see.

I am still longing for a near-future setting. A modern setting with psionics would be close enough.
 

mafioso420

Villager
I picked it up, and am going to run it soon for some virgin newbies. One thing I noticed though about the adventure, it seems very short. Like it could be run, quite possibly, in a single evening. Does anyone else have that feeling? Also, after reading it, should the PCs advance in level during the adventure? Or should they come out leveling once they finish it?
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
This is a nitpick, but I'm also a bit bothered by the fact that the Proud Princess has no stats, except for how much damage she does to your characters if they attack her. I'm just not a fan of invincible DMPCs, as they fly in the face of the "you can try anything" nature of D&D (yes, you can still "try" to oppose her, but with no concrete stats, that's invalidating the choice in all but name).

Of course, I'm still mad that there was no way to stop Bargle from killing Aleena, so take that for what it's worth.
 

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