30 January 2010

A 4e Version of the Basic D&D Box Set?

I don’t play 4e D&D, and I have not been following the product line since the initial three hardback books were published. (I read halfway through the PHB before deciding that it wasn’t for me.) However, it recently was brought to my attention that WotC is coming out with a number of ‘box sets’ later this year, including one that seems reminiscent of the old ‘red box’ Basic D&D set.

Here are their descriptions (from here):

Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game

The Essential Dungeons & Dragons Starter

Mike Mearls, Bill Slavicsek and James Wyatt

The best way to start playing the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game.

Designed for 1–5 players, this boxed game contains everything needed to start playing the Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game, including rules for creating heroes, advice for playing the Dungeon Master, a solo play adventure, and group-play adventure content. Learning the game has never been so easy!

Several different character races (dwarf, elf, halfling, and human) and classes (cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard) are presented, along with powers for each race and class.

Game components:

32-page book for players, with rules for character creation and a solo adventure

64-page book for Dungeon Masters, with the rules of the game, advice on how to run the game, and adventure content

2 sheets of die-cut tokens for characters and monsters

Cardstock character sheets and power cards

Double-sided dungeon map

6 polyhedral dice

Item Details

Item Code: 244660000

Release Date: September 7, 2010

Format: Box

Price: $19.99 C$23.99

ISBN: 978-0-7869-5629-6

Dungeon Master's Kit

An Essential D&D Game Supplement

James Wyatt and Jeremy Crawford

Awesome tools, rules, and adventure content for every Dungeon Master.

If you’re a Dungeons & Dragons player interested in taking on the role of the Dungeon Master, or if you’re an experienced DM looking for more game advice, tools, and adventure content, the Dungeon Master’s Kit has exactly what you need to build your own Dungeons & Dragons campaign and excite the imaginations of you and your players.

This deluxe box contains rules and advice to help Dungeon Masters run games for adventurers of levels 1–30. It also includes useful DM tools such as a Dungeon Master’s screen (with tables and rules printed on the inside), die-cut terrain tiles and monster tokens, and fold-out battle maps.

Game components:

96-page book of rules and advice for Dungeon Masters

32-page monster book

Two 32-page adventures

2 sheets of die-cut dungeon terrain tiles

2 sheets of die-cut monster tokens

2 double-sided battle maps

Fold-out Dungeon Master’s screen

Item Details

Item Code: 244640000

Release Date: October 19, 2010

Series: Essential D&D Game Supplement

Format: Box

Page Count: 192

Price: $39.99 C$47.99

ISBN: 978-0-7869-5630-2

Player Essentials: Heroes of the Fallen Lands

An Essential D&D Game Supplement

Mike Mearls and Bill Slavicsek

Exciting new builds and character options for the cleric, fighter, ranger, rogue, and wizard classes.

This essential player product for the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game presents exciting new builds for the most iconic classes: the cleric, the fighter, the ranger, the rogue, and the wizard. Each class comes with a set of new powers, class features, paragon paths, epic destinies, and more that beginning players can use to build the characters they want to play and experienced players can plunder for existing 4th Edition characters.

In addition to new builds, this book presents expanded information and racial traits for some of the game’s most popular races, including dwarves, eladrin, elves, halflings, and humans.

Item Details

Item Code: 247520000

Release Date: October 19, 2010

Series: Essential D&D Game Supplement

Format: Trade Paperback

Page Count: 352

Price: $19.95 C$23.95

ISBN: 978-0-7869-5620-3

Monster Vault

An Essential D&D Game Supplement

Rodney Thompson, Logan Bonner, and Matthew Sernett

Iconic Dungeons & Dragons monsters that are easy to run and fun to fight.

This essential product for Dungeon Masters collects the most iconic monsters of the Dungeons & Dragons world in one handy box and presents all-new variants, including new spins on such beloved monsters as dragons, orcs, and vampires. The monsters described herein are designed to be easy for Dungeon Masters to use and fun for players to fight. In addition to combat statistics, each monster entry comes with story information to help DMs incorporate the monsters into their adventures and campaigns.

In addition to a comprehensive collection of iconic Dungeons & Dragons monsters, this box contains die-cut tokens for the monsters that appear within, as well as a 32-page adventure that showcases several of the monsters.

Dungeon Masters can easily incorporate the adventure into their ongoing campaigns. Game components:

160-page book of monsters

32-page adventure

10 sheets of die-cut monster tokens

Item Details

Item Code: 244650000

Release Date: November 16, 2010

Series: Essential D&D Game Supplement

Format: Box

Page Count: 192

Price: $29.99 C$35.00

ISBN: 978-0-7869-5631-9

Player Essentials: Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms

An Essential D&D Game Supplement

Mike Mearls and Rodney Thompson

Exciting new builds and character options for the cleric, druid, paladin, ranger, and warlock classes.

This essential supplement for the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game presents exciting new builds for the game’s most popular classes: the cleric, the druid, the paladin, the ranger, and the warlock. Each class comes with a set of new powers, class features, paragon paths, epic destinies, and more that beginning players can use to build the characters they want to play and experienced players can plunder for existing 4th Edition characters.

In addition to new builds, this book presents expanded information and racial traits for some of the game’s most popular races, including dragonborn, drow, half-elves, half-orcs, and tieflings.

Item Details

Item Code: 247510000

Release Date: November 16, 2010

Series: Essential D&D Game Supplement

Format: Trade Paperback

Page Count: 352

Price: $19.95 C$35.00

ISBN: 978-0-7869-5619-7

So what is going on here? Do these box sets mark the beginning of a new ‘basic’ D&D – apparently called ‘Essential D&D’ – to run parallel to the main line of ‘regular’ D&D in just the way that Moldvay/Cook D&D, and later Mentzer/Allston D&D, ran parallel to AD&D in the 1980s and early 1990s? The ‘Starter’ kit even seems to include a ‘solo’ adventure, just like the Mentzer Basic D&D set.

Unlike the distinction between ‘D&D’ and ‘AD&D’ during TSR’s hey day, I suspect that the system for ‘Essential D&D’ will be pretty much the same as that of 4e (simply a stripped down version of it). But that minor difference aside, it does indeed seem that history might be repeating itself.

Thoughts?

18 comments:

  1. Looks to me like they are repackaging their products with errata and all into a more appealing box set. The starter set they came out with was good but had some problems(no char generation for one), this looks to address all of this.

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  2. Looks to me that they need stepping stones between people that never played and the core books. They aren't interested the recapturing existing D&D players, so they need to target new ones.

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  3. This is a great idea from Wizards and exactly the kind of thing they need to do.

    As for not being interested in recapturing existing D&D players, well that's obviously nonsense. Many of us got into the hobby by picking up a starter set originally, where even 4th level characters were mythical in status because you had to buy another set to get to that level. So, replicating the original path that many of us took may get many of us old schoolers interested in it.

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  4. I agree that stating they don't want to convert existing D&D players is BS. They want old blood and new blood. Great thing about the boxed set is it significantly reduces the "buy in" To the game. It's a win-win.

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  5. Good for them, spending a bit of time away from the $40 splat book business for a few months:)

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  6. Looks like Mike Mearls is co-opting the OSR and giving it a WotC spin.

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  7. Essential ... essential ... Essential ... essential

    Isn't it odd how repeating a word gradually drains it of all meaning?

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  8. Yay for boxed sets, even if it is something I don't actually play.

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  9. Provided the link to the WotC page (forgot to do that initially, sorry).

    @Chris: I agree that using the adjective 'essential' to describe 5+ different box sets drains the word of its meaning. But WotC then WotC already did this to the word 'core' with their annual PHBs, DMGs, etc.

    @Ryan: I agree with "Yay for boxed sets" ... I may even pick up the initial one. I'm a sucker for boxed sets.

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  10. I started a parallel thread over at RPGnet. Here it is, if anyone is interested: http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=496721

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  11. The initial set may get me to look at 4e, which is something I've had no desire to do so far.

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  12. I purchased both the 3 and 3.5 boxed sets when they were released. I even purchased the 4e starter set, released back in Oct 2008.

    Of course, the 3 and 3.5 boxed sets came with minis, rather than tokens, including black and blue dragons.

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  13. If there is an untapped non-gamer market that desires to start playing D&D (and I don't know if there is or isn't, since everyone tells me that D&D will never be popular again), shouldn't the OSR be out there, trying to show the newbies that Old School has the fun and excitement that they're looking for, rather than watch them march into the clutches of the gaming world's equivalent of Shub-Niggurath?

    Just my two silver pieces' worth.

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  14. Akrasia- I ran a 4th edition campaign every week for seven months; they are going to have to do a lot more than put it in a box to get me to come back. ;P

    Still, this is a direction I'd rather see the game go than to someday see "Player's Handbook 7" on the shelf, with 2 new power sources and 8 new core classes....rinse, repeat.

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  15. Although I'm interested in the forthcoming box set, in an 'academic' sense, I doubt that its production is going to prompt me to play 4e. Life is short, and I have too much fun with S&W and BRP. I'm just intrigued with the development.

    (Of course, I've always been open to *trying* 4e, if someone else whom I knew was a good DM was willing to run it...)

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  16. Well it is interesting to see what WotC think will increase the market as they are one of the few RPG publishers big enough to get these out into the wider sales channels and to have done market research.

    If it does bring in new gamers I'm all for it even though I've got no intention of playing 4e myself.

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  17. I love how it's designed for ONE to 5 players... o.0

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  18. I don't know, I have played 4e and I consider myself an experience gamer. I think that 4e is quite complex from the get go. There are alot of choices for players which can be quite overwhelming. I am actually looking forward to the essentials line. This is what they should of launched in the begining. SImple easy to approach and affordable. The art also seem to have less of a World of WarCraft feel and more of a 3rd edition D&D look to it (except for that intro box set with a classic illustration ). I will likely stick to the essentials line, and keep it simple.

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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who divides his time between Milwaukee and Toronto.