Design: Wizards of the Coast
Year: July 14th, 2014
Pages: 64-page adventure booklet, 32-page rule book, and character sheets.
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
You have to hand it to Wizards of the Coast; they know how to make a boxed set. As of yesterday, this set is 6 years old. And it's perfect to get started playing D&D. It contains a 64-page adventure booklet, a 32 rule book, pregenerated characters, a blank character sheet, and dice.
As a condensed game, it has some lacks. However, with introductory sets presentation is everything. It's very nice for the retail price of $20.00. The rules are streamlined for quick play, the pregenerated sheets are good models for new characters if you wish and the 64-page adventure book is extremely nice.
At 64 pages, The Lost Mine of Phandelver is someplace between a guidebook and double size module. It is faced towards the DM with multiple maps and sidebars to keep the game moving.
The maps are on par with Dyson Maps, which is to say, they are very good. Unfortunately, they are printed on the pages of the book which means you need a scan and print out stuff that didn't come in the set. The artist, Mike Schley has them available for purchase on his website. It wasn't that hard to find and it is only ten bucks for perfect, ready-to-go "custom" maps. This is a far cry from the borrow and Xerox format of AD&D.
I very much like Mike Schley's maps and the fact that Wizards of the Coast is deliberately asking you to make a purchase from a content creator rather than themselves. Mr. Schley's maps are wonderful. Besides the set of maps for this game set, new maps retail for $2-3. That's a great price for having stylish maps that all have the same design principles.
The Lost Mines book is not only a module but a campaign setting. When combined with the driver sidebars and the second hints and suggestion on the back of the character sheets, it really is everything you need to become engrossed with this game.
Unfortunately, it's an expansive one-shot. The DM will have to get to work making this campaign come alive from their own work or "reset" to enter the main world of D&D with new characters and settings. At 64 pages, the Adventure booklet is a little overwhelming for a 13-year-old to emulate, but for older players, it really does provide a model for creating a campaign. Those sidebars and hints are pure gold when it comes to asking probing questions and how they fit into this set of rules.
After a while, I am sure that the players and DM will want more which is exactly the reason for this set. To sell other products. As a primer and gateway to the game system, it is remarkably well done and suitable for all kinds of players.