I went through the D&D Starter Kit, 5th Edition over the weekend. The boxed set comes with a generic “instruction book”, a larger-than-the-instruction-book pre-made adventure, five pre-made character sheets, and a bag of dice. When they say “starter kit”, they mean it in the most unambiguous way possible. You can hit the ground running with this thing in about 30 minutes; less if you have a history with D&D.
I have to say, I am exceedingly pleased with the tack that Wizards has taken in their presentation of the material this time around. I’m not talking about the rules (I will later, though), but their instructional leaflet uses very straightforward language, copious examples, and writes the document in plain English.
One of the issues I’ve always had with RPGs, and D&D in particular, is that they seem to be written for people who already know how to play. They make a lot of assumptions, although they also spend a lot of time explaining how the dice work and such. But character creation always seemed like one aspect that was way more dense than it ever needed to be. As a reference book, neither the DMs Guide nor the Player’s Handbook were organized well enough to let a DM or player find info quickly.
The starter kit’s intro guide doesn’t really cover character creation (it’s a starter kit, and the official guides are coming in a few months), but it does a stellar job of explaining the core of the game in a way that easy to understand. Part of that, I’m sure, is the streamlining of the rules. Obviously, with fewer and less complex rules, explaining things is going to be a breeze. A good 1/5th of the starter guide is spells, 1/5th is gear and equipment, and the other 3/5ths is the meat and potatoes of the experience.
5E seems to be the bridge between the 3.5E and the dreaded 4E that was always missing. It’s more modular, and less about “The Rules” than it is about getting back to the roots of the genre. Unfortunately, I doubt I’ll get to play it, but I’m very happy with I’ve seen in the starter kit and look forward to the official release of the DM’s Guide, Players Handbook, and the Monster Manual.