Dungeons and dragons? Together? In this economy? It’s more likely than you think. Kotaku Australia was recently invited by Wizards of the Coast to try out the latest Dungeons & Dragons starter set, Dragons of Stormwreck Isle. Run by the Dragon Friends‘ Dungeon Master, Dave Harmon, our party of adventurers were called to the titular Stormwreck Isle to solve the mystery of cursed shipwrecks that seem to be spawning waves of shambling zombies. It’s time to roll for initiative.
Just an FYI, we’ve done our best to avoid spoiling the actual adventure. So if you’re a first-time player looking to pick this up, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
Ruby Innes as Magical Michael
Chris, Bella, and I got the chance to give the new Dungeons & Dragons starter set, Dragons of Stormwreck Isle, a red hot go. What happened in that private room at a CBD pub would change the trajectory of our lives forever. Well, not really, but it definitely made us want to play D&D together.
I played the lovestruck-yet-heartbroken Magical Michael, a high-elf wizard on a journey to find his lost love Mystical Maude (presumed dead). See, the thing is, I met Mystical Maude in college (where I got really good grades) and I fell in love with her at first sight. She was supremely average, very indifferent to me, and had a hotter and more musically talented sister called Mildred. I had no interest in Mildred, and Maude liked that about me. We were inseparable.
But oh no! Maude died! According to a letter, that is. But I’m a smart fella, not a fart smella, and I knew that something was amiss. If Maude were truly dead, she’d come and haunt me, right? She told me she was going on this cruise with her family band for a short time and she’d be right back, so why would she be dead? I had to find out.
That’s how I joined the team of adventurers, which consisted of me (Magical Michael), Fjord, Alys, and Augustus. We were all there for different reasons, yet also for the same reason: To figure this whole mess out.
We had all played D&D before, but there were definitely some of us that were a bit rusty. When I say “some of us”, I mean me. I was rusty. The last time I had played a campaign, I was a Faerie called Trixie Maple that was so tiny she could look through keyholes. It was all very elaborate, but it was years ago.
The great thing about this Starter Set (and a very good DM) is that it is so easy to get into it. The character sheet may be daunting to look at at first, but it takes no time to get your head around it once you get into the game. Also, if you’re wanting a good place to start in terms of story, the Dragons of Stormwreck Isle campaign is heaps of fun and filled with all sorts of spooky creatures. Once again, if you’ve got a good DM, they’ll be more than willing to make the story unique to the team in little ways.
Bella Noyes as Alys Celebjōrn
The new D&D starter kit, Dragons of Stormwreck Isle was a straight-up blast and the perfect entry point into what can feel like an intimidating world.
As someone who can be introverted and shy (but a diehard fantasy fan), my biggest apprehension was the RPG aspect. I was worried I wouldn’t slip into the role of the Wood Elf fighter I chose.
I knew that a lot of players put a lot of love and thought into their avatars, so having a predetermined character lifted a massive weight off my shoulders. Reading my Wood Elf’s back story felt as easy as picking up a script and rolling with it.
Not only did the character sheet help me immensely when plotting my actions and abilities, but I felt much less overwhelmed. The story itself had me rapt the entire way through, and the combat, while difficult for a Level 1 Noob, was still digestible and engaging. If I didn’t have to call it quits for the night, I would’ve gladly played the whole story to completion.
I’ve always been D&D-curious, and after a short-lived attempt with an overly ambitious DM, I can confirm that the new starter kit is the best way to go.
Chris Neill as Fjord Flintstone
I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons for just shy of a decade now, so it’s been a long time since I’ve played the initial 5th Edition starter set (we don’t talk about the 4th Edition days). As an experienced player, I’m definitely not the target market for this set but I still had a fun time playing it. Chalk that up to good company and vibes at the table.
The starter adventure is separated into four sections, and it took our party just a bit over three hours to finish the third chapter. I could definitely see other parties knocking over the full quest in maybe four to five sessions, which is a pretty decent length. I think it’d be extremely hard to make the adventure feel like it’s dragging on, and there’s enough meat on its bones to keep both players and DMs satisfied.
While the rulebook that comes with the set is pretty handy with all of the game’s core rules like combat, ability checks and equipment – I still use the rules from my old starter set as a quick reference – there’s not much in the way of character creation. The set includes five pre-rolled character sheets – which is handy if you want to dive straight into the adventure and get some more hand’s on experience with the type of class you’d want to play.
Rolling up a fresh character is always my favourite part of a new game, so if Stormwreck Isle is your first time playing D&D and you’d prefer to make a character that’s unique to you, then you’ll definitely need to invest in a Player’s Handbook too. There are no blank character sheets included in the starter set either.
D&D means a lot to me, so it was nice to watch Bella and Ruby really get into the game and share that experience. Flipping through the rest of the adventure, there’s a good variety of monsters and settings so each section feels different from the last. A partially sunken ship? Great!
For something designed to teach both Dungeon Masters and players how to play, that tutorial aspect feels subtly integrated enough. The game favours the player’s experiences over being a series of lessons. If you’re someone who has been itching to get a D&D game together, Stormwreck Isle is a good place to start.
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