Though I've had mixed feelings about it, 5e is a welcome addition to my gaming library. The Starter Set has special significance because, well... it's fucking D&D, man!
First thing I did was take a picture of the green dragon on the box's cover and text it to a dozen people. Glancing at the people walking by, I wondered if they knew the joys of becoming an elven wizard or dwarven fighter, carving out a destiny of power and riches. I imagined myself sitting behind the DM screen, narrating an enticing tale twixt good and evil.
My kids would probably ruin these booklets within 10 minutes, assuming they're at least mildly distracted by Mickey Mouse and Barbie as a mermaid fairy princess. The booklets are glossy and neat looking but have the same durability as a full-color magazine or expensive pamphlet/brochure selling high-end houses. But the artwork, layout, and informative text are quite nice.
The Starter Set Rulebook, along with the free basic D&D rules online, is enough to learn the game, start playing immediately, and continue a campaign for many adventurous months. There might be little nitpicky things I would prefer this way or that but, on the whole, it's a perfect compromise between all prior editions.
There's a page and a half of DM advice at the very front, including a handy guide to setting the difficulty class for easy, moderate, and hard tasks (10, 15, and 20, respectively). While one and a half pages doesn't sound like much DM coaching (it's not), there are helpful prompts, reminders, and notes provided throughout the adventure.
Dice, pre-generated character sheets (including a blank one), and plain white insert make up the rest. Even at $20, the suggested retail price, it's a good value. It's the gateway to tabletop fantasy roleplaying for the next few years. This is only the beginning...
Evaluating a system from the outside is a perfectly natural way to judge a roleplaying game. That only gets you so far, though. Playing D&D is what it's all about. Soon, I'll be knee-deep in blood and secrets and darkness. Then we'll know how it all turned out. Will 5e live up to its promise? Time will tell.