As the well paid Civil Servant, as opposed to the Gamestop clerks and laid off factory workers I play with, it falls to me to buy the stuff that convinces the Game store owner it's worth having the extra space for games in the shop. As such and because the collector in me must possess one of everything fantasy role playing I am now the proud owner of a fancy red box 4 edition starter box. After all as I explained to she-who-must-be-obeyed it wouldn't be fair to review it on my blog without actually owning it. It's got some nice black plastic dice and a well drawn large double sided battle mat with a road, some caves, and a dungeon. It got some cards in text too small for me even with my reading glasses which might be power cards, even a few which might be new. The fighter at will seem intriguing the rest is nothing to see here. I am sure the min-maxers down at the store will scrutinize them closely for brokenness and transform the most broken in to exploits to post on the WoTC forum like they aways do. I am going to take she-who-must-be-obeyed advice and slap them on the scanner before doing anything else with them. And then there are the two stapled pamphlets in between. I could go with my mothers suggestion "if you can't say anything nice don't say anything" but where's the fun in that? Now pick-a-path adventures can be fun but they usually start with a page labeled how to play. I have been very much against pick-a-path adventures as a way to start characters since Garyisaal (Empire of the Petal Throne) tried it in the '90s. Sure its fun the first time but after awhile it gets old. I searched the second book cover-to-cover for what are character classes, levels, or what are those funny power cards for but never did find them. I find rule sets that bury the rules in purple prose annoying, again may be fun for the first time (although if its bad prose not even then) but just try going back to look up some point the DM and player disagree on. These books didn't need to written, and if they are capable of confusing an experienced gamer like me I doubt they'll be much help to a starting gamer. Even 4e D&D is a simple enough game that most people want to play the full blown version after a single evening of introductory play (This is what doesn't work about the D&D encounters program either). They should just give away a quick start guide for free (like those free computer game demos with the first few levels of the larger game) rather than charging people twenty bucks (Oh wait! They already did that). Well at least I got that cool box and more dice.
P.S. Lamentations of the Flame Princess which I picked up last month has an even cooler box, micro dice, and a little stubby pencil like they hand out in libraries. Perhaps I'll talk about that some time