Dungeons and Dragons Essentials Kit: Review
The Dungeons and Dragons Essentials Kit is one of the starter sets created by Wizards of the Coast to help introduce new DMs and players to the game.
There are a couple of beginner sets, though so it can be difficult to choose the one that is right for you. So we are going to break down the pros and cons of this one to help you decide whether or not it’s what you are looking for.
This is a set for someone who knows the game a little and wants to start DMing. It is a slightly more advanced than The Starter Set with the Lost Mines of Phandelver in it.
This kit has a larger rule book, optional rules are included in this one and it guides you through the process of making new characters.
If you have already played a handful of games and want to get into DMing or if you have played the Lost Mines of Phandeliver already and want to take a step up then this is a good option for you. There are bonus rules, magic items and an open world to explore.
This is also a great kit if you want to play with a small group, even just one or two players. It has an optional sidekick setup which makes it possible to play with just one player and a DM.
What’s in the kit
A 64 page rule book that explains the basic rules, how to run a game, how to build characters and lists monsters and spells. It also contains information on how to use sidekicks which is great for games with one DM and one player.
The characters you can make are limited to a Bard, Cleric, Fighter, Rogue and Wizard and the races are Dwarf, Elf, Halfling and Human. For more advanced players this will be frustrating but for newer players it’s great. Limiting the options makes it a lot easier to follow the build steps and create a good character.
An adventure booklet that will take players from level 1 to level 6. The home base is set in the town of Phandalin where the guide outlines some core buildings and NPCs.
I liked that the adventure gives players options for the quests they take so that you can play this game again and again with different results.
I found the endless orc battles to be tedious, though. There are more orc battles than anything else and for a new DM it is not easy to replace monsters.
Overcome this problem
One way around this is to limit the adventures on offer so that the players are fighting a different foe more often.
Another way to overcome this is to offer more gold for the non orc battles. Adventurers will tend to go for the quest with the most gold, so switch out how much gold is offered for quests with battles of exciting monsters.
A large map that has the sword coast on one side and the town of Phandalin on the other side. We used it to work out travel times and distances while planning adventures.
I was sad that we did not get printouts of the various battle maps and the ones in the book are too small to even photocopy for use. This means you have to hand draw them or buy then separately. However, the maps on dnd beyond can be downloaded and used in your game.
A set of 9 initiative cards to help keep track of initiative. They have the numbers 1 – 9 printed on them and you can place them on the table in front of the relevant player or the DM if it’s a monster.
3 combat cards to help you remember how to run the combat and keep the game flowing.
9 sidekick cards that represent the sidekicks you can use if you are playing with only one or two players. These are NPCs with skills that can help the party and how to use them is explained in the rules.
9 quest cards that remind players of their quest. These represent the quests that they can find on the board outside the townmaster’s hall. There are more quests than quest cards because during some of them you will have the option of another leg to the journey or another quest you can take that is not provided by the townmaster.
24 different magic item cards. These magic items are found on the various adventures and it’s fun to hand cards to the players. The cards describe the magic item and how one can use it.
14 condition cards that you can use during the game to remind everyone that a player is affected by a certain condition.
1 magic charm card which details a charm that is placed on a character when they do one specific quest
A DM screen that shows you the same information that is on the individual DM screen which you can buy. This one, however is thin cardboard whereas the DM screen you can buy is much heftier.
A set of 11 dice. There are 6 types of dice in total. Two twenty sided dice, four six sided dice which you use when you roll for character stats, a four sided, an eight sided, a twelve sided, a ten sided and percentile dice which you use with the ten sided for rolls up to 100.
These dice are really nice. They roll well, are a pretty clear red and are easy to read.
What it is not
This is not a set where you can pick it up and start playing immediately. You will need to build characters and read the rules.
It does not come with pre-generated characters and it is aimed more at teaching a player to DM rather than teaching someone to play the game from scratch.
Having said that you can absolutely learn to play using this set. You just need to give yourself time and be patient. Allow yourself the opportunity to read and reread rules and figure out how it all works.
Who will benefit from it most
Someone who has played a few games already and knows the basic mechanics of how D&D works but wants to start DMing and understanding that side of it.
Get the Dungeons and Dragons Essentials Kit here
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If you enjoyed this review of the Dungeons and Dragons Essentials Kit you may also enjoy our review of the Starer Set.