The 5e Starter Set is an introductory level, boxed set containing everything a group needs to learn how to play Dungeons and Dragons. The MSRP is $19.99. Currently, it is listed on Amazon for $12.99, which I believe is what I paid a year ago.
The set includes a 32-page rulebook, a 64-page adventure booklet, 5 pre-generated characters, a blank character sheet, and a set of six polyhedral dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20).
The rulebook is necessarily light. There are no rules on character generation. There are also no monsters or magic items described in this book. Also, the number of spells included are limited to a small subset of spells 3rd level and below. Lastly, I found much of the content a bit vague which might make it a tad confusing for a new group. However, there is certainly enough there that a bright group could easily figure out anything that wasn’t clear.
The Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure booklet is set in the Forgotten Realms. It includes enough content to allow a group of adventurers to start at 1st level and progress through 5th level. It is quite complete and imo is an excellent adventure to teach a new group the basics of the game. Although there are no monsters or magic items described in the rulebook, this adventure booklet contains stats on all the monsters and magical items encountered throughout this adventure.
I am a little disappointed that they did not include rules on character generation, but this is a somewhat reasonable omission. Instead, they included five pre-generated characters: two human fighters, a dwarf cleric, an elf wizard, and a halfling rogue. This represents a well balanced party with details on the back of each sheet describing the new abilities each character will gain at each new level.
The inclusion of a blank character sheet seems a bit unnecessary since you can’t create new characters. However, had it not been included, I’m sure they would have gotten flak for that, so I guess it makes sense to include it.
I would have loved to have seen them include some old time, retro dice with a crayon to fill in the unpainted numbers! But they would have caught hell for that from anyone who wouldn’t have appreciated the nod to the old BD&D sets.
Instead, they included a very nice set of six standard polyhedral dice (with the numbers painted in). This starter set is designed for a DM and five players, so one set of dice means they have to endure some sharing or go buy some additional sets. Including more sets of dice would have raised the price, so I think one set was a perfect choice.
It looks good. It plays well. It includes everything necessary to learn to play the game. It is an excellent price for an introductory set. I agree with all the choices they made in what was included and what was left out (with the exception of character generation rules, but I can see a number of reasons why that may have been a good choice). Overall, I am extremely happy with this set and would strongly recommend it.
For a group that has never played a pen and paper role-playing game before, I think this is actually a better choice than starting with the three 5e core books. Not only is it a less expensive way to see what D&D is all about, it looks like it would be a less intimidating experience.