Return of the Boxed Set

Scott Thorne, owner of Castle Perilous Games and Books in Carbondale, IL, has a column up today over at ICv2 on the subject of the new renaissance in RPG boxed sets. It’s a good article, especially interesting because it’s written from the perspective of a game store owner, and well worth reading in its entirety. One thing that really caught my eye, however, was this:

No one just getting started, unless they are a huge fan of Doctor Who and plan to drop $60 for it or $100 for Warhammer FRP will consider those two.  That leaves Dragon Age or the D&D Red Box, both fantasy RPGs, which is well and good but there’s no modern day or futuristic starter to point to a Halo or Call to Arms player, no superhero intro game to show the DC or Marvel fan, no martial arts or anime beginners set to appeal to fans of those genres.  Even those RPGs that tout ease of play as one of their main advantages, such as Fairy Tale or QAGS, don’t have a starter set.  The customer has to buy the book, then buy a set of dice, then wonder if they have bought the right set of dice.  Of course, store personnel can help with this, and they should, but still, a low priced starter set eliminates one more reason for the customer not to buy.

I’m not sure you need to include a pencil in a boxed set (ahem), but certainly the idea that a beginning gamer might not even know which dice to buy isn’t something that would ordinarily occur to me, since I’m one of those who’ve been playing these games for literally decades, and sometimes putting myself in the shoes of someone brand new to the hobby isn’t easy. Plus the noted lacunae of boxed supers, sci-fi, and other genres is one that certain publishers should probably be taking notice of.

As I said, a good article, and well worth the read.

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

5 thoughts on “Return of the Boxed Set

  1. In pretty much every RPG book I've ever read, I'll usually see a 'what you need to play' list on the back or in the first chapter. Also, in my experience, most people will take a book home and read it through before they even think about sitting down to play it – affording them the opportunity to find out what they need and acquire it in time for the first game.

    In my opinion, at least, I don't really think an introductory box set is necessary (or even preferred). But, then again, I've been playing for almost a decade myself so who knows? Maybe my perspective is slanted as well.

  2. People new to the hobby really need something to explain it, explain a system, and to do so in stages. I've always thought that this shouldn't be integrated into the main system and should be written after the main system.

    And it is important to keep in mind that while joining a group is perhaps the best introduction to the hobby, it isn't an option for everyone. So introductory materials are important. Not to mention that they can be helpful to the newcomer who does join an existing group as well.

    Sure, there isn't a need for "everything in a box", but I think it helps. And I think Raggi's choice to put as much as he could in there makes a great impression. Sure, he didn't need to put a small pencil in there, but he did, and that says something. At least, it did to me. Perhaps not itself, but as part of the entire package.

    I also don't think we need starter sets targeted at different genres. Maybe fantasy isn't the best starter genre anymore. Maybe it is. But I think a lot of starter kits just gives the beginner another thing to be indecisive about. And it's another thing that a group of friends needs to come to consensus on before taking the plunge. Most people don't have such narrow tastes that different starter sets for different genres would change things very much.

  3. I've been seeing the trend for more box rpgs and I really dig it. It is a shame that there isn't box sets for the Halo, superhero, or other kind of genres. I think those would be cool as well.

  4. I got involved in gaming as a result of the old red boxed set, so I would certainly say it is good to see it coming back. I found the AD&D hardbacks too intimidating at the time, and looking at them them now, they're still not very accessible. But supers and sci fi are big holes in this market at the moment.

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