Dungeons & Dragons’ newest starter kit lets you build out a party with a single player (2024)

’ newest retail product, the Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Kit, might be the single best introduction to the original role-playing game I’ve ever seen. In addition to a bunch of handy pack-ins and a meaty campaign that takes new players up through sixth level, it also includes rules for two-player games. Now all you need to play D&D is a Dungeon Master, a single player character, and a trusty sidekick.

Inside the box you’ll find a slim rulebook that goes over the basics of D&D. At 64 pages, it’s a veritable wall of text for role-playing newcomers. Meanwhile, veterans will find it just scratches the surface. But the volume does the job it was designed to do; it provides an excellent on-ramp for both would-be Dungeon Masters and their newby players.

The included adventure, Dragon of Icespire Peak, kicks players out into the world of the Forgotten Realms for an adventure entirely without pretense. I was impressed with the diversity of environments and enemies on offer. Players will encounter everything from dragons — naturally — to Orcs and Ochre Jellies, fighting along shipwreck-strewn shorelines and atop icy mountains. The retail product itself provides an excellent value, including a set of 11 dice. Especially handy are the three extra d6, perfect for low-level characters. But the real delight are the Essentials Kit’s handouts, including a thick stack of cards for magic items, condition cards listing the rules for prone and blinded, and even big, friendly cards to help keep track of initiative. There’s even a cardboard screen for DMs, with plenty of basic rules inscribed on the backside for quick reference.

But, the most dynamic addition to the 5th edition ruleset is the Essential Kit’s set of dead simple rules for two-player games. The concept is pretty simple: just give your solitary player a sidekick, and off you go. Sidekicks have stat blocks just like monsters, and it’s up to the DM and the player to work out who controls the sidekick in combat and non-combat encounters.

Dungeons & Dragons’ newest starter kit lets you build out a party with a single player (1) Image: Wizards of the Coast

If we’re being honest, sidekicks are more of a hack than anything else. But they are delightfully implemented, and build on the flexible systems at the core of D&D’s 5th edition ruleset. I can easily see myself adding two sidekicks without much trouble, giving me a party of three and reducing the potential need to nerf some early encounters early.

The Essentials Kit comes with nine sidekicks, drawn from some of the more pedestrian races and classes from the lore of D&D mind you, but they’re all playfully illustrated with templates that are easy to improve on. Each one comes complete their own personality, including an Ideal, a Bond, and a Flaw — just like any other player-character created for the game. It’s a great way to get a single player thinking about how they’d like to build out their party, and who among their friends they might like to invite to the next session of D&D.

Also inside the box are a set of blank character sheets and a two-sided paper map, including Phandalin and its environs on one side and a larger, hex-gridded region of the Sword Coast on the other to help manage overland travel.

If I have one complaint, it’s about the Essentials Kit’s many cardboard components. The DM screen, for instance, is pretty flimsy. The one that came with HeroQuest in the 1990s was more sturdy. I’ll likely end up using paper clips to fasten it to the inside of other, more substantial screens that Wizards of the Coast sells separately for its other campaign modules.

But the real disappointment is the quality of the cards.

There are 81 cards inside the box. In addition to the ones mentioned above, there are cards for magic items and quests. It’s incredibly powerful for new players and DMs alike to have these kinds of physical items on the table. They don’t just simply serve as reference items, they do double duty as the physical representation of the intangible rewards players will earn throughout their first few adventures. The ones inside the Essentials Kit are a bit sloppy. Once separated from their sheets, the edges are rough and uneven. They’ve even too big to sleeve, and need to be trimmed down to fit.

A final surprise is how readily this new Essentials Kit embraces the . First announced in 2017, D&D Beyond has grown to become ... well ... essential to my own personal campaign. I use it on my phone to look up spells and magic items on the fly, making the task of running strange monsters that I may not necessarily have prepared to run in advance much easier. The Essentials Kit comes with a code to unlock the entire Dragon of Icespire Peak adventure online, giving you searchable access to everything in the module right out of the box. It also includes a 50% coupon on the Beyond version of the Player’s Handbook.

Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Kit is currently only available at Target, of all places, where you can get it for $24.99. Expect it on the shelves of your friendly local game store and at other online retailers like Amazon by Sept. 3.

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Dungeons & Dragons’ newest starter kit lets you build out a party with a single player (2024)


Can I play D&D starter set alone? ›

The answer is a resounding yes! While the experience may differ from traditional group play, solo DND offers a unique and immersive journey that captivates the imagination, encourages creative problem-solving, and allows for personal growth as both a player and storyteller.

What does the D&D starter pack include? ›

This starter set includes five pre-generated character sheets, an introductory rulebook, an adventure module and dice.

Is the D&D Essentials kit worth it? ›

It is a great starting point, and the adventure and extras will be used for many sessions. But if you are an experienced player, already running a game, using the core rule books, then no, there is very little in the kit that you don't already have a better version of, probably.

How many players do you need for Dungeons and Dragons starter set? ›

Yes, you can play the D&D starter set with only 2 players. Both the current D&D starter set, Dragons of Stormwreck Isle, and the previous starter set, Lost Mines of Phandelver, were designed with a party of 4-5 players in mind, so you will need to adapt the adventure to make it enjoyable and balanced.

Is it possible to solo dungeons? ›

Dungeons are sort of like mini-raids, with mechanics and encounters, but much less demanding than actual six-man raids. This is why it's possible to also solo them, though it requires tremendous preparation and skill from the player.

Can you play DND with one character? ›

Though typically played with four to six players and one dungeon master, D&D works perfectly well when played with one player and one DM. In fact, this style of D&D offers many advantages over the traditional group-based game.

What is the best D&D for beginners? ›

Wizards Of The Coast

Included in the original D&D Starter Set, Lost Mines of Phandelver is designed as both a tutorial for new players and a testing ground for low-level characters. It's iconic in itself, often the first recommendation from any DM to those less experienced.

What to buy as a D&D beginner? ›

To begin a game, we recommend the following:
  • The Player's Handbook (5th Edition)
  • One set of dice: a D4, D6, D8, D10, D12 and D20.
  • Printed character sheets.
  • Pencils.
  • An adventure.

How much does a D&D starter set cost? ›

$17.99 $19.99 Save 10% Current price is $17.99, Original price is $19.99.

How long does a DnD starter set take? ›

It's going to take a couple of hours. There are, however, diminishing returns.

Do you need books to play D&D? ›

If you are playing a character in the game, the Player's Handbook is the only book you need access to (you don't even need to buy it for your first game although it will be helpful. You can always borrow from a friend for the first few sessions).

What is the most expensive thing to buy in D&D? ›

Bombard, Loaded – 64,000 GP

The Bombard is a ship designed by Giff, for Giff. This means it has the biggest guns in all of D&D. And on top of that, it's also extremely heavily armored and has a high damage threshold.

What is the minimum party for D&D? ›

The beauty of Dungeons & Dragons lies in its adaptability, allowing for a wide range of group sizes. While you can play DND solo by yourself, or engage in one-on-one sessions, the typical minimum size for a D&D group is two players.

Can you do a 2 person D&D campaign? ›

A two-player game in D&D can be organized in two ways: either as a party with two players and a DM or the DM with one other character. As this method of gameplay becomes more popular, resources are available for smaller groups similar to those available for bigger parties.

What is a good level to start at DND? ›

Level 1 allows players to create their journey to becoming seasoned adventures, but if your party starts that way, they need to have a clear idea of how or your . If you want them to dive into more “standard” D&D stuff, start them out at level three. They have more abilities, and they can take on orcs and .

Is it possible to play D&D by yourself? ›

While I own a few hardcovers, I highly recommend using D&D Beyond for solo play. Having all of the resources available on all my devices, and having everything linked together, meant that I could play for as little as 15 minutes and squeeze in a little D&D. So, I had one tab open with the adventure itself.

Can you play D&D Starter Set with 2 players? ›

For beginners or a quick adventure, one-shot campaigns can be the perfect way to go. A two-player game in D&D can be organized in two ways: either as a party with two players and a DM or the DM with one other character.

Can you play DND with one set of dice? ›

Technically, you don't need any dice to play D&D. You could use an online dice roller or app. But if you want to use real dice, the absolute minimum to play DND is a set of 7 dice: one d4, d6, d8, d10, d%, d12, and d20.


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