Review: DM’s Kit for D&D 4th Edition Essentials

The DM’s Kit for 4th Edition D&D’s Essentials line is out, and there’s something strange about it.  But I’m ahead of myself…I’ll get to that in a moment.

First, the product itself.   This is more than just a book for the DM, it’s a boxed set for the DM.  Let’s take things one at a time, shall we?

First, there’s a DM’s screen.  This screen features artwork on the players’ side that shows many of  the iconic monsters in the D&D game.  On the DM’s side, there’s a very useful array of charts and references, everything from XP values to damage by level to stuff you need during combat to conditions to the (new) skill check DCs…very very useful.  The screen itself is made of thin material, but the way that it’s laminated makes it feel sturdier than it should.

Second, there’s an adventure included, split into two soft and thin books:  Reavers of Harkenwood:  The Iron Circle and Reavers of Harkenwood:  The Die is Cast.  The adventure seems to be pretty standard fair, so I don’t have a whole lot to say about it.

There are two double-sided poster sized maps, meant to be used with the Reavers of Harkenwood.  They’re nice, and very useful if you’re running the adventure.

There are three sheets of die-cut tokens.  Again, this includes all the stuff needed to run the Reavers of Harkenwood and are of nice, sturdy hard cardboard.  One side of the tokens have the “normal” state of the creature (which includes a whole sheet of tokens suitable for using as PCs), while you can flip the token over and it has a red ring around it to represent the “bloodied” state.  I really hope this is indicative of what the tokens in the Monster Vault are going to be like, because they are very nice.  Oh, and there are also several “action point” tokens.

Finally, and most importantly, there’s the Dungeon Master’s Book.  This is a 272 page book filled with advice for the DM.  It’s also where things get strange.  First of all, if you own the Rules Compendium (and every group should!), about 80% of this book is a reprint of material from there, including combat rules.  The reason this strikes me as weird is because, while there’s very little material in here that’s not in the RC (normally, this would send me into fits of nerdrage), I can’t shake the feeling that this will be actually useful.  First of all, a new DM doesn’t necessarily need the RC, he can get by with the DM’s Kit.  Secondly, when I’m creating my adventures, all I need to lug around to my day job would be the DM’s Kit and the Monster Vault which strikes me as extremely handy.

Also where the DM’s Kit is weird is where it contradicts or differs from the RC.  For example, per the DM’s kit we’re back to magic items selling at 20% of their street value.  Additionally, the fun and different XP chart for skill challenges from the RC doesn’t appear to be in here.  Like I mentioned before, the RC goes into more detail on a lot of things, making the DM’s Kit seem somewhat less-than-complete compared to the RC.

DM's Kit

There are, however, things that aren’t in the RC, from traps to tips on NPCs to a description of several places in the Nentir Vale.  There are also more magic items, more than what was in Heroes of the Fallen Land, including several rare items including the return of a few favorites like the Staff of the Magi and the Gauntlets of Ogre Power.

Oh, and the box has enough room once you take the packaging out that keeps the DM’s kit from sliding around (a nice touch, BTW) to fit two Essentials-sized books in..say…Monster Vault and Dungeon Master’s Book?

So, would I recommend the DM’s Kit.  I’m torn.  I can’t really not recommend it as it has a lot of usefulness, but if I were to have to suggest it or the RC to someone, I would suggest the Rules Compendium.  However, I think that every 4th Edition DM should likely have this, but they’re going to want to get the Rules Compendium as well.

[tags]D&D,Dungeons and Dragons,fantasy,Game Mastering,gaming,Gming,review,Role Playing Games[/tags]

7 thoughts on “Review: DM’s Kit for D&D 4th Edition Essentials

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  1. I picked this up last week and I have to say I am generally pleased with it. The adventure looks decently laid out, and the maps/tokens look to make it a snap to start running. I don’t own the RC and I didn’t have the 4e DM screen already so there’s no overlap there. So while a little on the pricey side, I feel it was worth it. However if I already owned the RC and DM screen I’d be a little annoyed at the redundant content and I don’t think I’d really feel this was worth it.


  2. Yeah, there is a lot of redundant content, and there’s also a lot of redundant content between the Heroes of the Fallen Lands and the Rules Compendium. I can kind of see what they’re getting at, though; they’re trying to make each book more-or-less complete and separate.

    I think more of an issue to me, personally, are the contradictions between the DM’s Kit and Rules Compendium. It bothers me that we already need errata for one or the other.

    As far as my campaign is concerned, though, the Rules Compendium has precedence.


  3. Yeah, for a while there the massive amounts of errata totally turned me off of playing 4e (I came back, obviously). However, the Essentials line does a good job of collecting and compiling that errata, so I was a bit saddened to see that there was an issue where the DM’s Kit contradicted the RC (which, BTW, I love the Rules Compendium).


  4. For the most I just… don’t care about errata. 😛 I know it exists, but I don’t particularly go out of my way to find it and incorporate it. I’m just really lax about it all. I know that doesn’t fix the issue of them needing to put out errata, it just rolls of me on the whole. Though I admit in this case to being curious to see the discrepancies between the RC and DMkit outlined somewhere.


  5. Hi there,

    i play (do not dm) Reavers of the Harkenwood: The Iron Circle. We´re in some crypt with 3 Undeads and a nasty spider.

    The encouter seems to be very tough since we could not have a shortrest due a spiderweb which has been shot @ us every once and now. So no encouter powers! I think our DM must´ve missunderstood something very wrong.

    After we encoutered the creatures we all got more or less stuck in more spiderwebs so we´re immobilized and some still are.

    We just got to Level 3 and have a human monk,elf priest,elandin wizard,dwarfen fighter and a elf Ranger. 2/3 of the groud is already bloodied or in one of the pittraps. Looks very bad for us.And in round 5 i recon haven´t been able to use not one single dailypower!That is we stoped playing

    Please do not spoil ANYTHING since we are still inthe fight. I´m just currios if it ment to too tough…

    Cheers M.


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