Tuesday, August 31, 2010

D&D Red Box, I have it and Post 300

So something special today for Post 300.  I picked up the new D&D4 "Red Box" starter rules and I like it.

As you can see it fits in nice with the other boxed sets I have picked up over the years.  But how does it stack up to these worthy predecessors?  After all that "magenta" Basic Box with the Erol Otus cover is the box that got everything going for most people my age (not so much the "other" Red Box, which I don't own).  I suppose I had better make some distinctions so we are all talking about the same things.
There are a lot of games called "Basic D&D" and a few of those are even red in color.  Here is how The Acaeum breaks it down.

D&D Basic Set (blue box) edited by J. Eric Holmes and cover art by David Sutherland, 1977-1979, also called "Holmes Basic" or sometimes "Blue Box Basic". That is edition on the far left of the screen. Packaged with module B1 and dice.

D&D Basic Set (magenta box) edited by Tom Moldvay and cover art by Erol Otus, 1981-1983, also called "Moldvay Basic" or "B/X". The book inside is red. Package with Module B2 and dice. In the center of the picture.

D&D Basic Rules Set 1 (red box) edited by Frank Mentzer and cover art by Larry Elmore, 1983-1989, also called "Mentzer Basic" or "BECMI". Comes with Player's and and DM's books, dice and no separate adventure. (not pictured above).

There were more, like the D&D 3.0 one up there and one for D&D 3.5 that came with a softcover of the PHB.

Now we have this one for D&D 4.

Unpacking the box is like that of unpacking the old Mentzer Basic, which this one owes a lot of homage too.

Inside there is a Player's book (32 pages), a DM's book (64 pages), 4 color character sheets on heavier paper, 6 dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12 and d20), a poster map, power cards (lots) and tokens (repalce minis).

A few things are obvious from the start here.
1. This game assumes you have never played D&D in your life. This is a starter set.
2. The game is still D&D 4.  The wailing and gnashing of teeth can stop now.  This is not 4.5, 4.1 or even 4.0.1, it is still the same game from 2 years ago.  Things have been simplified to make learning and getting right into playing faster.
3. Wizard's knows the Grognards are out there.  This game might not appeal to them, but it might to their kids.

Ok what is actually here?  Well let's start with the Player's guide since it has a big "Read Me First" label on it.
The Player's Guide sets the stage on what is D&D and RPGs in general, and it gets you right into thinking about your character.  Not what your powers are, but what you want to be in the game. I liked this.  The rest of the book is dedicated to a pre-programed adventure (yuck) but I can see where this is god for a newbie or a solo player.    As you go through this adventure you are introduced to your abilities, skills, spells, feats and other powers.
The DM's guide is similar.  It gets you up and running fast and explains things along the way.  Obviously lots of room for future books here, OR you could take this game and mover right into the D&D 4 hardcovers proper.

The adventure is nothing great.  It will not ever measure up to the epic quest of Keep on the Borderlands or even In Search of the Unknown.  I played it at Gen Con with my kids.  They had fun.  It is a good mix of combat, skill challenges and role-playing.  Yes. I said role-playing while talking about a D&D4 product.  there is a coupon inside to let you download another adventure for it for free, The Witchlight Fens (which does not seem to be up yet).

The tokens are nice.  Cheaper than figs and certainly have more utility.  Bloodied? Flip it over, same picture now with a red border.  While this will make it easier to stock up on all sorts of characters and monsters, I see a third-party market of blank tokens and instructions on how to print out and glue on your monsters, characters and the like.

The dice are nothing special, but look like they won't chip like the old marbleized dice from the old basic sets.

The redesigned character sheets are really nice.  Heavier paper and full color the skills are now listed under their associated ability.  Visually it makes skills seem like a sub-set of ability checks.  Maybe they are going after the Grognards?

So who is this for?
Well obviously it is designed with the new player in mind.  If you are reading this on my blog then chances are that is not you.  If on you are reading on Facebook, and you have never played but are interested, then this might be a great start.

I like D&D4, should I buy this?
Well....There is nothing new here.  I got it for playing with my boys.  I am sure you can get the tiles elsewhere.  Unless you are a completist, or teaching the game to someone new (I am a little of both) then this is a good buy.

I hate D&D4 should I buy this?
Can't help you there.  I like D&D4, but like I said there is nothing here that is 100% new.  If you hate D&D4 you will hate this too I think.  But in truth the rules are streamlined now and this is a much better "D&D" than 3.0 was.  Hell, when we played at Gen Con we were one character death away from a TPK; so yeah it felt old-school.

I have 20 bucks, is this a good buy?

I have some friends that have never played, is this a good buy?
Yes. You can't go wrong with this.

Well.  The adventure is not great and there is something up with the paint/ink on the books that is giving me a huge headache; before I use them I am going to air them out a bit.
I was hoping for something new (not just revised or tweaked); but I think that is just me and not a fault with the game itself.

I like it.  I'll catch grief from my D&D4-hating friends, but it is going to do exactly what I need it for and rarely can I say that about a game.


Narmer said...

Congratulations on your 300th and thanks for the breakdown of the new basic. I've avoided both 3.0 and 4.0 like the plague. But my oldest son wants to give it a try and I told him we would pick this up. I figure for $20 we can't go too wrong.

One question: Is character creation covered? You mentioned pre-gens but not creation.


christian said...

My sons will love it! Of all my rpgs, they go for my copy of the first 4e box set the most.

Tim Knight said...

Thanks for this Tim. Very insightful. Hoping to pick up my copy later this month (via Amazon) and could have a new gaming group lined up to test drive 4e with as well.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

Narmer: Sort of. The first round of character generation is dealt with in the pre-programed adventure in the Player's Book. The advantages to this are it can be run solo, it focuses more on the role-playing aspects of your abilities and it is great for new players.
On the downside there are no tables for older hands just to look at.
The DMs book has advancement to 2nd level and tells you what you can do at third, but that is mostly left to the new Essentials products.

Narmer said...

Thanks for the info.

Rhonin84 said...


Been waiting to write about this and now I can!

I bought this and I can see where this product is going to be a great introduction to the game, it is well written and there was only one mistake that I caught on my first two read throughs. Acrobatics for thief btw.

I see a game that has been broken down to make it easier to understand but nothing really different from the 4E core books. From what I understand we are going to see 10 products in support of 4E.E and then it will shift to an online type presence. IF you want updates to the game you will have to sign up and pay for some type of account. I may be wrong about this but I seemed to remember hearing this at GenCon.

On the 10th of September we will get the 4E.E rules cyclopedia and this will have nothing to do with character generation just the base rules...mmm. Ok I like the digest size and I also like the price point, so I will get it. Now sometime down the road we get the heroes book and a monster vault. I have to say I am looking forward to the Monster Vault!

I am going to look closely at all of this I have the 4E books, two sets as a matter of fact and I have kids who prefer these rules over the Pathfinder rules...I personally feel that this is going down a slippery road for Habro-WOTC but I guess we shall see.

Last and not least, love the cover on the box set, made me feel very old! ;)