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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.

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!
 

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Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels

JRedmond

Explorer
It's a terrible product, the miniatures are junk and the adventure was severely lacking. I very much regret my purchase, it's most definitely the worst 5e product to come out of WoTC thus far. If you can cancel your order you should.
 

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Orius

Legend
I have no problem with WotC and Hasbro using this to promote the game. I'm kind of just rolling my eyes at the grogs mad there's no Mentzer in the box. Basic's been out of print for 25 years now, and the current version of the game is descended from the AD&D line. TSR's (usually bad) decisions are long since done and gone, and the smartest thing for the game's current owners to do is to promote the version of the game that's in print, even if it's not necessarily what I want to play.
 

barasawa

Explorer
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.

That doesn't prevent you from trying.
Nothing is stopping you from trying.
It's just that you won't succeed.

Some players just don't seem to understand that even in fantasy worlds, there are limits.

Like using a normal steel weapon to attack a monster that's immune to damage that's not magic or silver.
I don't care how many nat 20s in row you roll, you aren't going to harm it with that kind of weapon attack.
Of course, you still have the choice to try, but one would hope you'd learn some attempts are but fools errands, and maybe your next character will fare better than this one... :angel:

Remember, it's ok if your characters aren't the ultimate gods of the lucky chance able to do anything at all if they can just roll a natural 20 on that die. Even the greater deities have limits. :cool:
 

bedir than

Full Moon Storyteller
It's a terrible product, the miniatures are junk and the adventure was severely lacking. I very much regret my purchase, it's most definitely the worst 5e product to come out of WoTC thus far. If you can cancel your order you should.

2 minis, dice set and 3rd to 5th level adventure for 25-30 bucks? It's a fine value and has more people asking me to DM than any time since 2015.

It's a fine product
 


Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Some players just don't seem to understand that even in fantasy worlds, there are limits.

Which shouldn't be an issue if you only want to face off against a higher-level NPC.

This isn't a question of "attacking a monster that's immune to damage," or "attacking a greater deity." Those, after all, have stats that you can examine to see why that wouldn't work (well, most of the deities don't yet, but there are some great supplements for that). This is just a character that's higher-level than the PCs, and yet has been expressly declared to be invincible insofar as they're concerned. That's an element of railroading, akin to telling the PCs "you don't want to go into the forest? Okay, but every other direction is blocked off by massive flooding. Indefinitely. You can try to go through the floodwaters, but you'll take 1d6+8 damage per round, every round, no save. You probably want to go through the forest." Presenting a choice of "my way or your characters will die" is a Hobson's choice, which is simply no choice by another name.

That's not really something you want to teach in a starter set. :erm:

EDIT: And in an attempt to head off the inevitable reduction ad absurdum, no, this doesn't mean that the DM should never disallow things. If a character has no particular means of attempting something, then they have no method to even make the attempt; likewise some attempts are guaranteed to fail due simply due to the scope of what's being attempted (e.g. your character can't destroy a mountain in one hit). But that's not what's being discussed here. What's being discussed here is something that is normally permitted under the game rules being disallowed by the GM (not just by explicitly saying no, but also by making all such attempts automatically fail where they wouldn't otherwise) for the purpose of trying to advance a particular plot/narrative progression over the players' agency. That's the issue that I'm raising.
 
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bedir than

Full Moon Storyteller
It's only fine value if the quality is at least OK...

Why is this 10$ basketball not the same as the one the NBA players use? That's an absurd position as is the idea that an entry level D&D product have the same quality as the standard game, where you would need to spend about $175 dollars to get full game version/quality as the Stranger Things set
 

Azzy

ᚳᚣᚾᛖᚹᚢᛚᚠ
Why is this 10$ basketball not the same as the one the NBA players use? That's an absurd position as is the idea that an entry level D&D product have the same quality as the standard game, where you would need to spend about $175 dollars to get full game version/quality as the Stranger Things set

Or we could compare apples to apples and look at the other, better quality, starter set.
 

No matter how many times I played that red box adventure, no, it was always the same...

As for the Proud Princess, I've got mixed feelings on that. It's not exactly a great teaching choice for an introductory adventure. But, since it's pretending to be an adventure written by a kid in the 80s, it certainly fits with that part of the design.

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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