By Andrew Dmytrasz
If you have never played Dungeons and Dragons before but have always secretly wanted to, and you’re a fan of Stranger Things, look no further. There is finally a set for you! Hasbro has released a special Stranger Things-themed edition of the classic D&D Starter Set, which is an excellent entry point for series fans who are intrigued by the tabletop game.
This set was made for fans of the show whose curiosity has been piqued by watching the Stranger Things crew play D&D. Hopefully the hardest thing you’ll have to deal with is Tiamat on paper, and not the Mind Flayer in your living room. How does this version of the game stack up against the regular edition? Read on.
The box itself has a bit of an aged look to it, to give it that old school feel as if it has been played a lot and picked up straight from Mike Wheeler’s basement.
The cover of the campaign book is a drawing done in crayon, as you would see on a custom DM campaign book. Plus, the campaign is printed to make it look like it is lined paper with some carefully drawn maps, detailed notes and thorough drawings. All of this is done specifically to give it that ‘80s custom campaign sensation.
The Starter Set Rulebook that this Stranger Things D&D set comes with is almost identical to the official D&D Starter Set Rulebook from Wizards of the Coast. There are a few slight differences in terms of the spells, however.
For example: the Stranger Things starter set doesn’t have: Dancing Lights, Darkness, Prayer of Healing, Spider Climb, Warding Bond, or Web, though it does have spells that are not included in the traditional D&D Starter Set. These include Fear, Hunter’s Mark, Longstrider, Magic Weapon, Pass without a Trace, Protection from Evil and Good, Sending, Speak with the Dead, Vicious Mockery, and Zone of Truth.
That said, all the spells that are not in the D&D Starter Set are in the full spell list in the Player’s Handbook, so they are canon rather than “homebrewed.” The difference in spells is probably because only the spells you will need in the campaign are included — this is common practice for starter sets. However, the starter sets can be used as a jumping off points for people to build and expand on if they want to keep playing after the included campaign is over.
One of the wonderful things about D&D and tabletop games in general is how easy they are to customize. If you want to have your players battle through the Hawkins National Laboratory, you can create your own maze for them to navigate through. You can take a boss from the campaign, change it to a human or whatever creature you want them to fight from the Upside Down, possibly change some of the stats, and you have your own campaign.
The campaign, as I saw it, could have gone one of two ways: playing as the Stranger Things characters and acting out some of the series events, or playing their in-show D&D characters and following their campaign. As it turns out, neither of these options is exactly true to the campaign included in the Stranger Things D&D set. You don’t play as the characters themselves or play through the events of the show. And since we only see them play D&D a few times on the show, it’s hard to say if the characters we get in this starter set are the same ones they use in the show.
The character sheets in the Stranger Things set are similar to the classic D&D Starter Set, but all the players begin at level 3 as opposed to level 1. Having the Stranger Things set be one, possibly two sessions, and starting players out at level 3 where they have access to more spells and abilities than at level 1 is a great way to give people a taste of what D&D is all about and what to expect. The D&D Starter Set does a similar job, but the campaign takes between three to five sessions (with each session lasting about three to four hours), depending on the decisions the players make and how fast or slow they go through the story.
In the Stranger Things D&D campaign, you are summoned by Sir Tristan of a small domain to get rid of the menace of the thessalhydra. If the players are able to defeat it and bring its head back, they will have successfully completed the campaign. It seems like your standard D&D campaign, but the interesting part about it where they do actually pull from the show is that to get to the thessalhydra, players have to venture through the Upside Down. The Upside Down in the campaign is the same as in the show:
“The Upside Down is a cold, dark place. It’s always night there and air is always cold. You never feel warm in the Upside Down. In places where our world and the Upside Down touch each other, the Upside Down looks like our world-the same buildings, trees, and other structures-but they’re always broken and ruined. There are the places where you can cross between planes, if you know how.”
What is fascinating about the Upside Down in the campaign is how it affects the players: “While in the Upside Down, characters get no natural healing: no matter how long you rest, you don’t regain any hit points and you can’t spend Hit Dice. Magical healing still works.” In any other campaign, after doing a battle, players can take a rest to regain their hit points, but while in the Upside Down, players need to be more strategic in planning their next move. I won’t get into much more details of the campaign as to not ruin it for anyone interested in seeing how it turns out. Aside from that, there is nothing else they pull from the show and leveling up and items are all what you would find in any other campaign.
I think this is a great starter set for fans of the show who have never played D&D before or even regular players of D&D who are fans of the show. They way it is set up and designed puts you in the environment right away and has a clear objective of what needs to get done. Players who have played this and want more, I would recommend getting the D&D Starter Set. It is also geared towards new players but has a bit of a longer campaign with more story to explore. If people are feeling creative enough, they can take elements of this campaign and create their own to continue on after it ends.
The Stranger Things D&D Starter Set is currently available in stores for a list price of $24.99.