Dragons of Stormwreck Isle (or, more properly, Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set: Dragons of Stormwreck Isle) is the latest introductory set for Dungeons & Dragons, the granddaddy of roleplaying games and more popular now than it’s ever been.
Dragons of Stormwreck Isle comes with an introductory rulebook, one set of dice, and five premade characters. All five of those characters have some story tie-in to give them reason to visit the eponymous Stormwreck Isle. It’s everything a group needs to play, although a set of dice for each player would be a good addition (or, barring that, at least enough twenty-sided dice for each player to have one of their own).
Stormwreck Isle is the centerpiece of the included adventure, which is the main new thing in this starter set. Once on the island, the characters are welcomed to Dragon’s Rest, a kobold-focused cloister dedicated to the worship of the god of the good-aligned metallic dragons. After meeting the locals, the characters will basically have two quests to undertake – one as first-level characters, one as second-level characters. Thankfully, the adventure gives the DM the information needed to appropriately scale up whichever path the characters take second. The DM also has the option of a few more encounters to scatter on or around the island for the players – leave them out if you want to move things along, throw them in if you want some more combat. The characters now having (hopefully) earned the trust of the inhabitants of Dragon’s Rest, secrets will be revealed, and the characters (now third level) will have one final quest. I would try to be coy about what the climax of this adventure is … but the blue dragon (for those new to D&D, chromatic dragons are typically evil) on the box cover kind of gives it away.
Dragons of Stormwreck Isle serves as a solid introduction to D&D. The characters will face a variety of foes, they’ll have to deal with combat encounters in a variety of environments, they’ll have to get into social interactions, and there are parts of the adventure that reward clever thinking without overly punishing players who miss the optimal path.
One mild disappointment to me – although I don’t know if a new player would even notice – is that the five characters used in the art for Dragons of Stormwreck Isle are drawn from or inspired by the early 80s Dungeons & Dragons cartoon. Those characters are also available as a pre-painted miniatures set from WizKids (I have neither the time nor the inclination to paint my own miniatures, and I love the WizKids pre-painted minis line). I though it was a great move. But the pregenerated characters provided in the box set do not match up with those five characters. So, for example, there’s a dwarf in the party, but you aren’t going to see a dwarf among the heroes in the art in the adventure book. This doesn’t affect the adventure at all, but not bringing it all together made me slightly sad.
Comparison to Other Entry-Level D&D Products
Dragons of Stormwreck Isle is the most recent of two Dungeons & Dragons Starter Sets, which were sandwiched around the D&D Essentials Kit. Each presents an introductory D&D experience. The titles of the products are accurate here – the format of the new Starter Set is identical to the original Starter Set, while the Essentials Kit costs a bit more and comes with a few more accessories. The starter rulebook is tweaked and the pregenerated characters are changed up, but the real difference between the two is which adventure you get – Dragons of Stormwreck Isle, or the beloved modern classic Lost Mines of Phandelver? Oops, I think I might have just given my answer away. There’s nothing wrong with Dragons of Stormwreck Isle, but Lost Mines of Phandelver is great. I wish it was written using milestone leveling, but that’s an easy conversion to make (just give the party a level at the end of each section). If you’re buying an your local Target, I imagine they’re only going to have the new Starter Set. And you’re getting a solid introductory adventure when you buy one. But if you’re buying online you will probably have your pick. Plus Lost Mine of Phandelver is also more bang for your buck in that it’s an extra level worth of play (more pages, not just more levels crammed into the same page count).
Promotional consideration was provided in the form of a review copy. Strange Assembly may receive commissions from affiliate links in this article.
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