Unboxing the Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Kit

9 min readJan 7, 2020

New Dungeon Masters rejoice! The D&D Essentials Kit is here. And it’s fabulous.

The 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons is clearly here to stay. Five years in and there’s no sign of a next edition in the pipeline — a significant difference from this stage of 3rd, 3.5, and 4th editions. Unlike those previous iterations — and it is here that I might lose some readers — this version of the World’s Greatest Roleplaying Game actually works.

Not only does it have mass appeal and is currently being championed by some of the planet’s largest online TTRPG communities, but it is simple to play. The overly complex rule system of 4th edition has made way to an easier-to-grasp, more rationalized set of rules, which actually invite DMs to create and develop their own interpretations and make judgments which favor “fun” over “Rules as Written” (RAW).

However, for a new Dungeon Master, setting up a game for the very first brings a whole lot to be nervous about. How do you keep track of the story? Will your players have fun? How do you remember all the abilities and conditions? What the heck is this weird 12-sided dice for?

Thankfully, WotC has released the D&D Essentials Kit, which aims to gently lower you into that first session. It provides everything you need to help a group of friends set off on their very first adventure, including a brand new story written by DM extraordinaire Chris Perkins — although even he probably can’t explain why you need a 12-sided die!

So, as the D&D Essentials Kit is designed for new DMs, we set a brand new Dungeon Master the task of unboxing it and delivering their take.

Here’s what they thought:

The box
The box looks great and is heavy enough to know there’s a fair amount inside. There’s an action scene on the front that suggests the game will have its pinnacle fight against an icy dragon, but the halfling trying to stop her is intriguing. It suggests, perhaps, that there’s more conflict in the role-playing in this campaign, it’s not just a “kill all the things until you kill the bigger thing” story. The reverse shows everything contained within the box: the player’s rulebook, the Dragon of Icespire Peak adventure, a map, a Dungeon Master’s screen, 6 blank character sheets, 11…


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