“Can we play D&D now?”
- Will Byers, Stranger Things
The D&D Stranger Things Starter Set is a throwback to an old product and also a re-imagining of a new product which was a version of an even older product as seen in a new TV show.
You follow? Good.
But seriously, if you're at all familiar with the epic Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition (or 5e) that has taken the world by storm these past few years, you'll know the D&D Starter Set already. If you're new to D&D, then you're likely here because you saw the words 'Stranger' and 'Things' in the headline above.
But don't run away- stay with us for a moment longer.
Three years ago, Stranger Things debuted on Netflix to both popular and critical acclaim. If you were a geek at the time, you were probably like me, and screaming with excitement when the opening scene saw the protagonists, a group of young teenage boys, playing an very early edition of Dungeons & Dragons.
The themes of D&D would go on to pepper the show as it explored concepts familiar to the avid D&D player- parallel worlds, haunted forests, and wicked monsters most of us would have never heard of.
The D&D Stranger Things Starter Set is a two-pronged product, suitable for both folks like me who are very familiar with D&D, and the other folks who are new to the game and have been drawn in by the amazing world of the Netflix show.
So, what exactly is it? The D&D Stranger Things Starter Set comes with everything you and a group of players need to start playing D&D right away, straight out of the box. While you'll perhaps need to procure a set of pencils and erasers and some scrap paper, other than that, you're essentially good to go as soon as you open it up and breathe in that delicious, new-game smell.
Similar to the original D&D Starter Set for 5e, inside you'll find a bunch of stuff: Two soft-cover books, a small pile of premade character sheets and an assortment of dice. With this set, however, you'll also score yourself two Demogorgon minis- one fully painted, and one unpainted so you're ready to take the plunge into that rewarding side of the hobby.
The rulebook in the D&D Stranger Things Starter Set gives you all the core rules for D&D, heightened with stills from Stranger Things, and custom art throwbacks to characters and moments from the TV show. As it stands, there are not any new or alternative rules. While some folks may be disappointed if they expected some special Stranger Things style rules changes to the core D&D experience, this actually allows players to go on and play other D&D modules without any confusion.
What will appeal to established D&D players about this set, however, is the Adventure Book, “Hunt for the Thassalhydra: A D&D Campaign by Mike Wheeler.”
Yeah, that's right- this is where all the really juicy Stranger Things references start becoming way more prevalent!
Worth the cost of admission alone, the Adventure Book is made to look like one of those lined-paper work book from when you were in primary school. Within, Mike Wheeler himself has nutted out a fun and fantastical adventure that is quintessentially D&D, with a splash of Stranger Things phenomenon.
Written in Mike's own handwriting, the Adventure Book is a delight to flip through, featuring creature art drawn in pencil and crayon, and dungeon maps sticky-taped to the pages as handy reference for the DM.
Mike tells us that the adventure should be able to be played in a single night, though I will remark that is a little ambitious given its size, and that the product is aimed at new players (to be fair, Mike does remark that it could take a long weekend “if Dustin gets really caught up in the roleplaying.”).
This isn't a bad thing, though. The adventure sees the players contacted by an old friend, Sir Tristan, to aid him in hunting down a dreaded Thessalhydra- a wicked creature that has been terrorizing the land. Of course, there is a mystery within this seemingly straight-forward plot (as often is the case with D&D).
The adventure is surprisingly lengthy, and given how experienced your playgroup is (or how similar they are to Dustin), I'd recommend breaking it into three sessions. The adventure features three fairly distinct dungeons, and encounter with a mysterious Proud Princess, riddles with a Lost Knight- and might even take your group to a familiar and horrifying place directly out of Stranger Things!
While there are other tabletop games that allow you to relive your own version of a Stranger-Things style plot, the Stranger Things D&D Starter Set is a oerfect addition to any RPG library, and doubles as an excellent entry point for new players, and great collectors item for fans of the groundbreaking NEtflix series.