Dungeons & Dragons Designer Reveals Their Approach to Creating a New Starter Set
How does Wizards of the Coast ensure that a Dungeons & Dragons Is the player’s first adventure satisfying? Earlier this year, Wizards of the Coast released a new Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set, which contains a plethora of materials designed to help newcomers learn to play the popular tabletop role-playing game. The new Starter Set contained a new adventure, Dragons of Stormwreck Isle, which sent players into the middle of the ancient conflict between metallic and chromatic dragons and featured artwork inspired by characters from the classic Dungeons & Dragons cartoon released in the 1980s.
ComicBook.com had the opportunity to speak with James Wyatt, the lead designer of Dragons of Stormwreck Isle, about creating the new adventure and Wizards’ goals when creating the new adventure. Our first question to Wyatt, who was also the lead designer for the 2021 dragon-focused rulebook Fizban’s Dragon Treasure, was how his approach differed from making a more traditional D&D book. “Basically, the adventure design and the sourcebook design are quite different,” Wyatt said. “The beauty of a book like Treasure of the Fizban Dragons it’s that I just manage to squirt out ideas until my head is empty of them. Fizban’s is full of boards with adventure hooks and scenes on them and I never really need to spend time developing them. But an adventure is an opportunity to take some of those ideas and turn them into something much more alive and complete.”
A major idea materialized in Dragons of Stormwreck Island are dragons, and specifically what makes dragons unique in Dungeons & Dragons. While previous Starter Sets have featured dragons on both covers and in adventures, none have really explored the concept of how dragons fundamentally alter the world around them due to the nature of their magic. “Especially after working on Fizban’sI really wanted to make it an adventure about dragons and the meaningful impact that even wyrmling dragons have on themselves,” Wyatt said. “The whole adventure isn’t just about two wyrmlings but, more importantly, , the impact of an ancient dragon conflict that had shaped the island itself and continues to have magical effects on the world.”
Because the Starter Set adventure is not a full campaign, Wyatt and the other designers on his team focused less on creating an adventure that balanced the three pillars of play in D&D (combat, exploration, and social encounters ), but more on a handful of notions. “If you were to start thinking of a list of things you want to make sure new players encounter, that would end up being just too much for a starting adventure,” Wyatt said. “So this adventure is a bit more focused than that. Introducing the dragons of D&D is a big goal. You’re not playing Game of Thrones roleplaying – these are our dragons and what makes them different.”
The locations of the adventures were chosen to give the adventure a “classic, resonant feel” with clearly defined and understandable locations for the characters to explore. However, Dragons of Stormwreck Island deviated a bit with the introduction of myconids as a creature that players encounter. I don’t think we’ve seen myconids in a starter set before,” Wyatt noted. potentially very wild games. and psychedelic role-playing encounters with these spore-communicating fungal creatures.”
The adventure also delved into points of focus Wizards has wanted to explore in recent products, namely the idea that non-human humanoids such as orcs or kobolds can be friends or foes depending on the individual situation and personality, and that encounters can be resolved. without conflict. “We wanted to try to make sure it was at least possible to play this adventure without always resorting to combat,” Wyatt said, referring to the 2021 adventure. Nature beyond the witch’s light as a source of inspiration. “There are a lot of things you can do, especially when dealing with myconids, to engage in creative problem solving rather than immediately going into battle, which I think a lot of new players don’t assume. necessarily that combat is the way to go if they’re not already indoctrinated into that way of playing D&D.”
Basically, however, Wyatt noted that the purposes of D&D starter kits haven’t changed too much since he bought his first boxed set in 1979. “I bought this with a friend of mine in 1979,” said said Wyatt his vintage copy of a bookshelf. “A few years ago my older brother had received the original boxed set as a Christmas present and I desperately wanted to understand what a game it was and couldn’t. So somehow this book m helped me figure out that it was a game and helped me figure out how to play it. But the adventure that was included with it, In search of the unknown, basically aimed to teach players how to become a dungeon master. He taught you to DM the game as it existed back then. It’s not really too different from what we do with starter kits to date. From the first page, we try to help you understand how it is a game, how you play it and what it means to do it.”
Dragons of Stormwreck Island is included in the new D&D Starter Kit, which is widely available for sale now.