Dungeon & Dragons Starter Set: Stranger Things

Published 3/7/21

When I was given this box set for Yule by some friends, I had not watched Stranger Things. Since then I have binged watched all the seasons and enjoyed the Netflix show. The only critique of Stranger Things is I wish there was more D&D. I enjoyed This starter set by Hasbro Gaming and Wizards of the Coast includes a variety of items to help new players get into D&D (Dungeons and Dragons). It is made for new players but is also a nice piece to collect for those who enjoy the show or for those who want to play a lower level campaign.

This box is recommended for ages 14+ and the cover of the box features the character Will coming across the Demogorgon. The box also says for 3+ players and comes with 5 character sheets. The game is made for players at level 3.

What's In the Box?

The box includes one set of 7 polyhedral dice needed for playing Dungeons and Dragons. There are five different pre-made character sheets for level 3 characters. There is a 43 page Starter Set Rulebook and a 23 page adventure module titled "Adventure Book, Hunt for the Thessalhydra, a D&D Campaign by Mike Wheeler."

The Miniatures

There are two mini's that come with the box, as shown above. One comes pre painted and the second is primed and ready for you to try your hand at painting your own figure. They are plastic figures and are very flexible. The ones that I got did not need filing or smoothing.

The Books

The two books that come with the Stranger Things Starter Set is a bit different than some of the other box sets that have been published. Read below for more details on each individual book.

The Rule Book

This booklet is set into four chapters followed by a series of appendices. Hasbro has advertised it as a game for 3+ players ages 14 and above (which differs from the 12+ on the Starter Set and the Essentials Kit boxes). The book is filled with images from season one of Netflix’s Stranger Thing.

Though the show itself does have some great D&D moments it does not go through in detail how to play or about the game. This booklet is very much for players who are just starting their Dungeons and Dragons experience or may have encountered D&D for the first time while watching Stranger Things. Chapter one focuses on "How to Play". Reading the sections here teaches about the dice, the structure of play with an example of Mike Will and Lucas "talking" about how they play. There are six abilities in Dungeons and Dragons that control everything from skills, rolls and checks. The main rules about ability checks skills and saving throws all can be found on pages 4-7 and is a good resource for new players and DM to read through when figuring out what each roll does.

Chapter two is all about Combat; going over order of combat from surprise, rolling initiative and the things you can do in your turn. There are so many things you can do besides try to hit something and this section has all the actions you can take during combat written out in description on pages 10 & 11. This section of the booklet also talks about rolling a 1 or a 20 in combat is either an automatic failure or hit regardless of AC (pg 11). In Dungeons and Dragons you can use ranged or melee attacks. There is also basic information on damage, healing and death at the end of the chapter that is good to know as well.

Adventuring 101 is everything in chapter 3. There is information on everything from moving and traveling, the important and types of rest available to players. On the pages 16-19 there are a variety of tables that show armor/shield, weapons, adventuring gear and services with their costs in game to see what is available for your players. There is lots of detailed paragraphs that tells what each type is in detail and what each means. For example, the section that tells about weapon properties defines the weapon types and gives details, such as heavy weapons give small creatures disadvantage.

Chapter four focuses on Spellcasting. It has everything you need to know as a new character with spell slots, known vs. prepared spells, rituals and all about making magic with your player character. The beginning of this chapter it talks about what is a spell and how magic works in the realm of Dungeons and Dragons. There are many rules and components that go into using spells. On pages 22/23 there is talking about duration, the area of effects and an explanation on saving throws and attack rolls with magic spells. There is a list of spells based on classes & level on page 23 followed by pages that describe each of those spells in more detail.

There are three appendices in the book: Magic Items, Monsters, and Conditions. The magic item appendix tells about the attunement rules with 5th edition. There is also some basic descriptions of some items that are magical that you can find in the realm of 5th edition. Magic items are something to be revered because they are so rare to find / hard to make. Appendix B is written for Dungeon Masters talking about monster statistics and what to look for when you are using/creating monsters for encounters. Pages36-42 are all of the statistic blocks for the monsters that appear in the adventure book. The last appendix is a list and description of all the conditions that a player can fall to in D&D.

The booklet is very similar to the ones that are found in the Starter Set and Essential's Kit with some differences being only being Stranger Things references. It has a lot of great information that is easy and quick to reference and can be used independently without the use or need of a Players Handbook.

The Adventure Book

This adventure book provided in the box is so very different than other printed materials offered by Wizards of the Coast or Hasbro. The material is presented to us, dear readers, as Mike Wheeler's journal and hand written works for his D&D Campaign "Hunt for the Thessalhydra." The book has a whimsical look of "hand written" text and some pencil drawings. The maps are shown on graph paper as Mike would have had at his own table.

The cover has a "hand drawn" image on graph paper and on the inside cover is the art for Will the Wise sitting at his crystal ball on top of the credits.

The first page is titled "Notes to myself (as Dungeon Master)" as if the character of Mike is writing in his notebook. I found it really endearing as as Dm, especially paragraph 4 where it tells new DM's to not worry about the rules and that its important to relax and let the game happen naturally.

The story is the players were called together by Sir Tristan to take down a monster called a Thessalhydra. The players start in Sir Tristan's throne room. where he tells the players of their quest and the rewards that he offers the group if they succeed.

The next section they go to is "Rumors on the Road". There are four different individuals that have been written for the party to meet for some role playing and information to follow.

The first dungeon that the players come across is the Troglodyte caverns where there are 11 areas for the groups to explore. There is not much in ways of descriptions but there each area has what is important written there for DM's to know. The Cursed Labyrinth is the next length of the adventure where there is a d20 roll to determine the random path the players take inside of its walls. There are special encounters and they meet the Lost Knight with riddles and is the key to find the way to the Upside Down.

The Upside down is There is a page that gives an explanation on how this dimension works. There is also a section that talks about the great sword Dark Bite and how it works in the Upside Down. It is written that the Upside down is supposed to be scary and not dangerous (very different from the Netflix show). In the Upside down they find the Proud Princess who is on a quest of her own. She is the one who introduces the famed Demogorgon and can provide the players vital information about it.

The Thessalhydra has its own lair and is the last bit of the player's adventure. There are 7 areas all which end finding the Thessalhydra for the players to fight.

The Character Sheets

There are five different premade character sheets to pick from. All of the characters you pick from are of a Good alignment. Each of the papers have a different race and class combination. There is a Wood Elf Cleric, a Human Paladin, Half-Orc Ranger, Half-Elf Wizard, and a Hill Dwarf Bard.

The front of each character sheet is all the information needed for your rolls, features, traits and any spellcasting your PC has available.

The back of each sheet there is a section talking about the race and class and the background. There are also a column talking about gaining levels and how to take your lvl 3 character up to lvl 5. It tells you what ability score improvement you get and what increases you get to everything else.

Starting at level 3 gives players some more hit points and character options to play with. I also think its nice that it gave a good pathway of how to level to 5 so players who have never played before has the ability to continue to higher levels with out needing a players handbook.

Last Thoughts

I have mixed feelings about the presentation of the adventure book, due to it being different from the consistent formatting that has been presented with official 5e materials. I find the adventure to be a dungeon crawl that has some interesting points. I enjoyed reading through the adventure and thought it was easy to follow. The monsters that the players encounters go from CR 1/8 to CR 4 being the Demogorgon, and Thessalhydra. The Rule book also has a young green dragon as well with a higher CR. There is challenge and for new players can give a taste of a true D&D Dungeon crawl.

This article reviewed Dungeons and Dragons Stranger Things Box Set. Stan! and Petrisor, Ben. copy right 2018. Wizards of the Coast.