Top 5 Tabletop RPG Starter Sets

Top 5 Tabletop RPG Starter Sets 2
| December 4, 2021

Whether you’re an experienced roleplayer looking for a new game to play or someone who is just diving into the world of RPGs for the first time, tabletop role-playing game starter sets provide an easy way to jump into a new system.

Tabletop RPG starter sets are designed to easily allow for new players to jump in and play a system. They lack the heft and detail of the full rulebooks, but they are meant to serve as an introduction while also providing all you need to run a game. They are also, notably, cheaper than the aforementioned rulebooks. That means that even if your group doesn’t like a system, it’s not going to hurt your wallet much.

Though there’s often huge differences between different RPGs, starter sets typically feature similar types of items. There’s usually an abridged version of the full rulebook, an adventure that introduces both the GM and players to the system, some dice, tokens if the game makes use of them, and pre-generated character sheets so that players don’t have to create characters from scratch.

While the number of starter sets has increased over the years, there are a few that are a cut above the rest. Here are our picks for the top 5 tabletop RPG starter sets.

5. Call of Cthulhu Starter Set

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As one of the oldest RPGs around, Call of Cthulhu is a classic in horror and mystery role-playing. And fortunately, its starter set is the perfect entry point for those wanting to see what all the fuss is about.

The Call of Cthulhu Starter Set features, in addition to dice, three separate books. The first is a short introductory rule-set that explains both a simplified version of the core rules as well as the concept of role-playing and the works of H.P. Lovecraft. The second book contains the Alone Against the Flames solo adventure, which serves as a nice introduction to the mechanics for any player.

The meat of this starter set can be found in the third book, which features three different scenarios that cover a range of horror. Paper Chase is a one-on-one scenario that introduces investigative elements with no real villain, Edge of Darkness is a typical haunted-house adventure, and Dead Man’s Stomp is a gruesome horror scenario set against the backdrop of 1920s Harlem.

The variety of the scenarios in this starter set means that groups can get a full grasp on how Call of Cthulhu plays over the course of roughly twenty hours. While there is a Quick Start rule-set available online, the Call of Cthulhu Starter Set is a much better introduction to one of the greatest horror RPGs ever made.

4. Star Trek Adventures Starter Set

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If you want to boldly go where no man has gone before, the Star Trek Adventures Starter Set is a good place to start.

Containing a very shortened version of the rulebook, clocking in at 24 pages, this starter set is designed purely to get players into the game quickly. There’s no lore and no character creation guides. Just character sheets, dice, tokens, and a hefty three-part adventure that deftly guides both the GM and players through the rule-set. With clear writing, the adventure goes through most of the types of rolls players will have to make in the course of playing Star Trek Adventures. If there is a downside to this scenario, it’s that there is a large focus on combat, which will seem strange to anyone who has watched any piece of Star Trek media.

The Star Trek Adventures Starter Set is backed with great production values across the board, and the pieces have a quality that is more associated with well-constructed board games compared to a normal RPG. Coupled with a concise rule set that covers the most important parts of the game, this is a starter set that can get you into Star Trek Adventures at warp speed.

3. Pathfinder 2nd Edition Beginner Box

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Pathfinder has a reputation for being complicated and difficult to get into, even after the release of a 2nd edition a few years back. The same cannot be said for the Pathfinder 2nd Edition Beginner Box.

This is a starter set that Paizo has built not only for newcomers to Pathfinder, but for newcomers to role-playing in general. The rules are brief for both included rulebooks, instead focusing on getting a game up and running using the character sheets provided quickly. The adventure is a standard dungeon crawl, which allows players to get a grasp of the often-complex rules that define the system.

But you don’t even need a character sheet to play an introductory dungeon that works like a choose-your-own-adventure book. It is built with complete newcomers to role-playing in mind and does its job well by teaching concepts that can be used once you start rolling dice.

As easy as the Beginner Box is to get into, that doesn’t mean it isn’t dense. Both the guides for players and GMs clock in at over 70 pages each, and there are over 100 double-sided pawns to make use of in a home game. More than just a great entry into Pathfinder, the Pathfinder 2nd Edition Beginner Box is a great entry into tabletop RPGs as well.

2. Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Kit

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The incredibly popular 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons has seen two starter sets released over its lifespan. And while the first starter set does feature the iconic Lost Mines of Phandelver adventure, it’s the Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Kit that makes for the better introduction.

In fact, it’s arguably the best introduction to Dungeons & Dragons period. Alongside a 64-page rulebook, dice, and character sheets, the Essentials Kit comes with the Dragon of Icespire Peak mini campaign, which takes players from level one to six. It’s a great adventure, containing both dungeons and dragons, and features plenty of well-designed encounters.

The real treasure in this starter set, however, is the handouts. There are dozens of cards representing magic items, conditions, and quests that serve as handy reference guides for newcomers. Though the quality of their construction is questionable, they are a fantastic way to get players to understand the basics.

As a bonus, the Essentials Kit comes with new rules that allow for two-player games through the use of sidekicks. If you can’t wrangle together a full party to play, there’s plenty of flexibility to still make your game feel like a proper adventure.

1. Alien RPG Starter Set

Top 5 Tabletop Rpg Starter Sets

For players who already own the rulebooks for a tabletop RPG, starter sets are a questionable purchase due to their brevity. The Alien RPG Starter Set is an exception.

In addition to containing a shortened rulebook, this starter set contains the excellent Chariot of the Gods scenario. The Alien RPG allows for two modes of play — the longer Campaign and shorter Cinematic modes — and Chariot of the Gods is a terrifyingly great example of the latter. That scenario alone is worth the price of admission for those who already own the full rulebook, but the starter set also includes twenty custom dice, 56 playing cards for weapons and items, and 84 game markers to keep track of everything.

What sets the Alien RPG Starter Set apart from so many of its brethren is the quality of its construction. The books are softcover, but they are bound with cardboard. The cards and markers hold up to repeated use. The design of the dice as well as the full colour map that’s included are similarly great. Despite being a starter set, this feels like a premium package. Regardless of whether you’re a newcomer to the horror RPG or have died to one too many Xenomorphs, the Alien RPG Starter Set is a must own.

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