This is the BEST product of D&D 5th Edition. I crown it so.
It’s a modular set of books, filled with classes, races, equipment, spells, dungeons, monsters feels very similar to Old-School Essentials, but without using rigid numbers or mechanics.
Instead of saying “you spend one action to heal a target you can touch for 2d8 hit points” it’s just “a target you touch is healed.” DONE. Abilities for characters and monsters alike are just hinted at, instead of spelled out in measurements and damage dice and hit points and ability scores. It’s like someone IN THE WORLD was creating a field guide. Or as if a living person was describing D&D without memorizing the rules.
It’s a great cultural touchstone, using monsters and dungeons that are core to the Dungeons and Dragons experience. Things like Temple of Elemental Evil, Strahd, beholders, mind flayers, and more.
They do have a bit too many special classes (but I have the same grip with 5e) and special races, including Kenku and Tortles (both new to me). Kids like Pokemon, but you needn’t give them a “gotta catch ’em all” in what is more or less a beginner’s book.
However, they do have SUPER helpful flowchart for choosing a class. Follow the questions, arrive at an answer. Who are YOU? Which raises an interesting point: while it helps you pick a class, it also means that this is the same class you would play every time you made a character. Which means that you playing whatever class you chose is somehow a part of your identity. Which means dying would just reset you to level 1. Which is why, I guess, it’s hard to die in D&D. If you were using this flowchart in your game to make characters, I would thoroughly recommend removing death in that game.
They give some really fun examples of each class, some that I recognize, that could be leveraged as neat sighting NPCs in a game. Same goes for the list of dungeons with lists of special rooms and NPCs that could easily be cobbled together into a dungeon instead of buying a full module.
I like the spell list. Pretty small, good collection. The equipment list is also helpful.
The “monster manual” is aces.
Basically, like OSE, this set is an all-in-one-package. But this is for an unwritten, diceless set of “rules” for DND. It’s certainly not B/X.
Here is the product for only $20 on Amazon. It’s like they’re giving them away. You can also find the Hardcover option there.