Dungeons & Dragons: Storm King’s Thunder

 

Still working through my backlog of 5th edition D&D products, I am proud to share my thoughts on another official adventure: Storm King’s Thunder.

This adventure returns to the familiar setting of the Sword Coast in the world of the Forgotten Realms. This adventure is designed to take players from level 5-11. However, if needed, the book also presents a small lead-in adventure to get new players up to the level 5 cap. Another interesting feature of this adventure is that the storyline itself piggybacks off of the events in the previous Tyranny of Dragons campaign. In fact, Wizards of the Coast even took the initiative to provide some potential story hooks to link the events of this book to all of the other adventures they’ve published for 5E thus far.  It’s nice to see the lore being tied together between all the products.

As with the other adventures published thus far, I’ve not actually ran this module at the table. But just by reading and flipping through the pages, it’s very obvious that Wizards of the Coast is upping their quality control. Of all the modules they’ve put for 5E to date, Storm King’s Thunder may be the cleanest and most sensibly structured. For this reason, running this book should be manageable for even a rookie DM as long as they are willing to spend a little time reading the adventure and learning the material. That said, this is no “on-rails” module. Storm King’s Thunder is actually a very open-ended adventure. But one so well written, that it makes the life of the DM easy.

The biggest drawback might simply be with the content itself. The story focuses on the Giants, which are very Nordic by nature. For many players, this may not feel like a very “swords and sorcery” adventure. But personally, I praise WotC for being unique and a providing a variety of settings for their official publications. If anything, I feel that the storyline in this book actually helps the Sword Coast thrive and grow as a campaign world.

The book also offers a few perks that have become standard with officially published adventure modules. It contains a handful of new monsters and magical items that can easily be adapted for other campaigns.

On a personal note, this would not be my first choice for a 5E game. I think I would prefer something a little more traditional. But Storm King’s Thunder would certainly make for a good change of pace further down the road. It’s variety like this that allows Fifth Edition D&D to claim the tabletop crown.

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes   –   Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation  –  Waterdeep: Dragon Heist   –   Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

Original Adventures Reincarnated:

Into the Borderlands    –    The Isle of Dread

Dungeons & Dragons: Curse of Strahd

My first Dungeons & Dragons post of the new year is a look at the long awaited adventure: Curse of Strahd. For those of you who might not know, “Strahd” is a popular villain. Count Strahd von Zarovich is an infamous vampire. Essentially, he’s D&D’s version of Count Dracula. He rules over the mysterious country of Barovia (which is actually not a country, but its own demi-plane), from his castle Ravenloft. This adventure is actually a 5E remake of the original “Ravenloft” module that was released back in the days of 1E. When I learned that Wizards of the Coast were modernizing Raventloft for fifth edition, I was elated. This is an adventure that I had read about countless times, but never had the opportunity to play or host.

Curse of Strahd is the first 5E product that doesn’t take place exclusively in the world of Forgotten Realms. Instead, players find themselves mysteriously trapped in the plane of Barovia. Their goal is to escape and return to their homeworld. The book does include a few mini “hook adventures” to help DMs get the players to Barovia. One of these is a Forgotten Realms specific hook, (so we still haven’t broken those Forgotten Realms chains completely). The adventure is designed for players of level 1-10.

Curse of Strahd is a very open-ended adventure. The entire story takes place in a relatively small area, but players are not railroaded down a particular path. The flow of the adventure is unlike anything published for 5E thus far.  This can make the adventure a bit of a challenge for rookie DMs, so be warned.

With that being said, it is the mood and setting of this module is what really sets it apart from other adventures published so far.  This is a classic horror campaign and it’s done very well.  Instead of a medieval swords & sorcery, this adventure has a very “Transylvanian Gothic” feel to it. Personally, that is a something that I find very appealing. And I’m not alone in that assessment. Barovia was so popular at one time, that back in the 2E days, it was even given its own campaign setting: Ravenloft.

This is an adventure that I can’t wait to experience firsthand. But, just like with the previous adventure Out of the Abyss, I’m certain I’ll need a little more experience before trying to DM something on this scale. But the day will come! I’m glad to see WOTC modernizing and reprinting some classic modules, I hope the trend continues

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes   –   Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation  –  Waterdeep: Dragon Heist   –   Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

Original Adventures Reincarnated:

Into the Borderlands    –    The Isle of Dread

Dungeons & Dragons: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

 

Next up on my list of 5th Edition D&D products is the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. This is a sourcebook that provides information on world of the Forgotten Realms, the official gameworld of 5E.

Old school fans might remember the original Forgotten Realms campaign setting boxed set from the days of 1E  and expect this to be the modern equivalent. Sadly, this is nothing of the sort. Instead, what we have here is a relatively short book that glosses over many of the famous NPCs and locations found in the Sword Coast. The lore and color-text is certainly interesting, but it does not provide much of the deep info that most Dungeon Masters may be looking for when planning to run a full campaign in the realms.

One thing that the book does very well is provide some new mechanics for various races and classes. Much of this is specific to the Realms, but can be easily adapted to any homebrew campaign. There’s options for some realms-specific subraces, game mechanics, and character backgrounds. All of this is very well done. Sadly, I had hoped to see a bestiary or some new spells to add to the game. None of that is included here.

The information included in the book is certainly useful and welcome, but I really would have liked to see a more complete “campaign setting” instead of this small sourcebook. The book is priced at $40.00, which I feel is a little steep. I feel a $20 pricepoint would be more acceptable.

All in all, I feel this book would be best enjoyed by DMs who really enjoy the world of Forgotten Realms or are looking for some worldbuilding ideas. But the majority of players can probably skip this by.

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes   –   Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation  –  Waterdeep: Dragon Heist   –   Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

Original Adventures Reincarnated:

Into the Borderlands    –    The Isle of Dread

Dungeons & Dragons: Out of the Abyss

Next up in D&D product lineup is another adventure/campaign: Out of the Abyss. This is adventure is part of the “Rage of Demons” campaign, and was designed to give modern players a heavy dose of 1st edition nostalgia. It pits players against classic fiends and monsters, straight out of the pages of early first-edition texts.

This module is set in the Forgotten Realms and designed for players level 1-15. However, despite starting at a low level, it’s not one that is recommended for beginners. The open-ended feel and campaign-specific ruleset would likely end up being too much of a challenge for rookie Dungeon Masters. Even the content of the adventure itself is best enjoyed by experienced players. Being an adventure that pits players against demons and other powerful creatures, it will be all to easy for inexperienced players to find their brand new character dead and gone after just a few sessions. This one will require some thought and discipline to complete.

That being said, what we have here is a very memorable adventure that takes place almost entirely in the Underdark. The book contains official 5e stats for a handful of classic Underdark monsters as well as official stats for some legendary demonic characters. So, it can also be quite a valuable resource for DMs who are looking to add to their fifth-edition library – even if they don’t plan on running the campaign itself.

As usual, I’m not giving a chapter-by-chapter review of the adventure, as I haven’t actually played through it. But after studying the product in detail, I’m excited to see that Wizards of the Coast is actually making good on their promise to make 5E a version of D&D that will appeal to players of all generations. Being a huge fan of 1E, this product really hits all the right nostalgia buttons for me, while managing to stay true to the modern ruleset. This is one that I cannot wait to experience in the future. But before I tackle an adventure of this magnitude, I feel like I will need a little bit more experience under my belt.

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes   –   Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation  –  Waterdeep: Dragon Heist   –   Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

Original Adventures Reincarnated:

Into the Borderlands    –    The Isle of Dread

Dungeons & Dragons: Princes of the Apocalypse

Moving right along with my summary of 5E Dungeons & Dragons releases, we have the third official adventure (and second campaign) released by WoTC: Princes of the Apocalypse.

This adventure is part of their “Elemental Evil” campaign. This might sound familiar to long time players… The Temple of Elemental Evil is a classic, heralded adventure from back in the 1E days. This release is a bit of a re-modernization of that classic adventure. But, rather than being a simple 1e-to-5e conversion, this release takes the basic premise of the original story and adapts it to Forgotten Realms setting. So, while the core concept is the same, the locations and situations are radically different. This makes for a new a refreshing experience, even for long time players are are familiar with the lore behind “elemental evil”.

This adventure is designed for players of level 3 and will take them all the way up to level 15. However, this book also contains a special section that includes a number of mini-adventures and sidequests, that can easily be adapted for level 1 players. These serve as the perfect buffer, allowing DMs to run their players through these scenarios – in order to toughen them up enough for the main quest. There’s even a hook provided in this book that ties in to the sample adventure included in the D&D Starter Set. So players who have cut their teeth on that adventure, will feel right at home with Princes of the Apocalypse.

In many ways, this release represents a step up from some of the errors and criticisms seen in the prior Tyranny of Dragons campaign. First, we have the entire storyline packed into one book, instead of being spread out between two separate releases. Also, it seems to dwell in the nice middle-ground between being an “on rails” campaign and a bit of a sandbox.  Something that is sort of a “best of both worlds” for all DMs.

This release also includes an appendix that features some new spells and a new optional playable race. However, it’s worthy to note that this is merely a condensed version of “Elemental Evil Player’s Companion” that was released online for free.

In a nutshell, Princes of the Apocalypse does a fantastic job of taking the modern version of D&D and giving it that classic old-school feel.  Personally, I’d have preferred to see this as the debut adventure for 5E. In my opinion, everything that’s great about D&D is represented right here.

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes   –   Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation  –  Waterdeep: Dragon Heist   –   Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

Original Adventures Reincarnated:

Into the Borderlands    –    The Isle of Dread

Dungeons & Dragons: The Rise of Tiamat

My next D&D post is here! My last entry was an overview of the introductory adventure for Fifth Edition, Hoard of the Dragon Queen. This time, I’m taking a look at the sequel to that acclaimed adventure: The Rise of Tiamat.

As mentioned above, this adventure is actually the second (and final) part of the Tyranny of Dragons campaign. It is designed for characters level 8 and above and should end with them around level 14 or 15.

This chapter of the Tyranny of Dragons campaign is quite a bit different from the first half. First of all, the pacing of the adventure seems to be much more open. DMs will likely do a lot of flipping back and forth with this book. Being non-linear is a good thing, but it also means that rookie DMs will likely have a much tougher job than someone with a little more experience under their belt. Also, the scope of this adventure is epic. Regardless of the outcome, the consequences of this adventure will result in some MAJOR changes to the Forgotten Realms game world. So if you’re playing this with intentions of continuing your campaign beyond the 15th level, you’ll likely have to do some major customizing to whatever future adventure you’re likely to run.

Despite being a bit tough on the Dungeon Master, the contents of this book are a treasure trove. There are several excellent “dungeons” to be played within these pages. As well as some really great opportunities for entertaining role playing. I can already see a hundred different ways that this adventure could end up being something that players will talk about for years to come.

All in all, the module is very well written and really gives players a good look at much of the mythology of the Realms. Many famous locations and NPCs are present in this adventure. It seems Wizards of the Coast really wanted to start 5E off with a bang. This adventure manages to do just that.  – Just come prepared. This is especially true if you’re the DM. You will have your work cut out for you.

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes   –   Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation  –  Waterdeep: Dragon Heist   –   Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

Original Adventures Reincarnated:

Into the Borderlands    –    The Isle of Dread

Dungeons & Dragons: Hoard of the Dragon Queen

As promised, I’m making my first post playing catch-up with the current line of D&D releases. So far, I’ve touched on all of the core rule books and even a couple of the supplements.  This will be my first post on an official “module” or adventure. Now, I want to state up front that this is not a review. But rather a summary of the product itself. In this case, I have actually played through this particular module. But I won’t be able to say that for many of the books I’ll be touching on in the near future.

Hoard of the Dragon Queen is the first adventure published for the 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons and it is the first chapter of the Tyranny of Dragons campaign. A few years ago, when I participated in an official sanctioned game, this was actually the storyline that we played through. This module takes place in the Forgotten Realms world (the official setting for 5th edition) and it is designed for players of first level. By the end of the adventure players are expected to reach 7th or 8th level. So it takes a character pretty far along in their career.

The module focuses on the Cult of the Dragon; an evil group working to summon the ancient demonic dragon Tiamat.  The main goal of the adventure focuses around the players uncovering and attempting to stop this evil plot.

This adventure features many classic D&D elements. It’s filled with classic monsters and locations. It’s got a little bit of everything. There’s good opportunity for role playing, NPC interactions, dungeon crawling, etc. However, many have expressed that the adventure seems very “firewalled”. Meaning, it really pushes players to follow a pre-set expectation. There’s an encounter early in the story with an extremely powerful monster. One that most players will realize there’s no way to reasonably defeat. Therefore, most players will rightfully assume that they have “story immunity” and as a result don’t take the encounter seriously. These types of encounters can certainly occur in any Dungeons & Dragons game, but it often requires a very skilled DM to be able to make the scenario seem believable. Otherwise, it comes across as being cheesy.

All in all, Hoard of the Dragon Queen is a pretty good opener to the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Its very epic in scope. Some argue it is perhaps a little too ambitious for an introduction to the hobby. I say that all depends on the skills of the individual hosting the game.

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes   –   Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation  –  Waterdeep: Dragon Heist   –   Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

Original Adventures Reincarnated:

Into the Borderlands    –    The Isle of Dread

Update: Dungeons & Dragons Plans

As the new year quickly approaches, I wanted to share my plans regarding D&D. If you read my D&D posts, you’ll know that my son and I spent a large portion of this year attending D&D games at a local hobby store. However, a change in my work schedule put an end to those outings. So, instead, I’ve been in the planning stages of starting a home-based campaign. My current goal in regards to D&D is catch up on my book reviews before the end of the year. Then, when we start our home campaign in 2018, I’ll make regular posts and updates on our progress.

Despite have a little 5E experience under my belt at this point, I’m still very much a greenhorn. My decades away from the game really took their toll on me, so it’s like learning all over again. I’ll start making some D&D related posts next week. So if you’re a follower with an interest in this subject, stay tuned!

Dungeons & Dragons: Starter Set

As I promised a few months ago, I’m going to be making posts discussing each of the official Dungeons & Dragons supplements that are available. To date, I’ve only really discussed the core rule books and player supplements. But there’s a number of other products available. Today, I’ll be discussing the D&D Starter Set.

I want to start by discussing what this set actually is. If you’re someone who is interested in playing Dungeons & Dragons, most people will tell you that you’ll need to go out and buy a set of dice and a copy of the Player’s Handbook. That’s pretty accurate, but what if you’re still on the fence and you’re not sure if you want to sink a bunch of money into the hobby yet? Well, that’s where the Starter Set comes in.

The Starter Set is a great entry point into the world of Dungeons & Dragons. You can find it at most hobby shops or book stores. The set actually comes in a big cardboard box. It contains the following items:

  • Starter Set Rulebook  (softcover)
  • Lost Mind of Phandelver adventure (softcover)
  • a pack of pre-generated character sheets
  • a set of polyhedral dice

The Starter Set Rulebook is essentially a compact version of the D&D game rules. It’s enough to teach you the basics, but if you decide to get serious you will eventually want to purchase a copy of the Player’s Handbook. For existing players, there’s not really much of value here.

The next main object of interest in the box is the Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure. This is included in the box so that consumers will have a sample adventure to play. Aside from containing the adventure module itself, the booklet also contains a small bestiary of the monsters used in the adventure. (This eliminates the need for a copy of the Monster Manual). If you’re an existing player/dungeon master, this adventure is likely the main reason you purchased the Starter Set – as it is quite a good sized adventure that is designed for level 1 players. It is set in the Forgotten Realms game world.

As I mentioned above, the D&D Starter Set is really marketed towards brand spanking new players. For the price of only $20.00 they can get everything they need to take their first step into Dungeons & Dragons. That being said, if it’s a hobby that you enjoy and end up sticking with your next purchase will want to be the Player’s Handbook. I glossed over that book in an older post, but I think I’ll actually be making an updated post in the coming days that goes a little more in depth.

If you’re a Dungeon Master (game referee) or even a player who likes to read up on “behind the scenes info”, the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Monster Manual  are probably going to be your next purchase.  Another great book to pick up is Volo’s Guide to Monsters – this books serves as both an add-on to the Monster Manual as well as some in-depth information that bother players and Dungeon Masters will find helpful.

In the future, I’ll be discussing some of the adventure books that have been publish since the release of Dungeons & Dragons 5e. Once we’re all caught up, I’ll be discussing items as they are released.

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes   –   Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation  –  Waterdeep: Dragon Heist   –   Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

Original Adventures Reincarnated:

Into the Borderlands    –    The Isle of Dread

Dungeons & Dragons: Father and Son

One subject that I don’t discuss as frequently as I like is Dungeons & Dragons. I try to stay up to date regarding the latest supplemental material and core books, etc. But It’s been several years since I actually made a post about the current state of the game.

If you look back on this site, you’ll see my very first entry regarding Dungeons & Dragons is when I discussed the upcoming release of what is now known as Fifth Edition. Dungeons & Dragons has has a tumultuous history. But I think it is safe to say that D&D 5E has ended up being a smashing success. In my opinion, Wizards of the Coast (D&D’s parent company), has finally hit on the right formula. No longer are the bookstore shelves packed will useless, poor quality supplements. Instead, every single release is filled with quality, well tested material. Any “up in the air” play-options are instead posted online in a series of articles called “Unearthed Arcana”. Players are encouraged to download these game options for free and try them out. This allows 5E players to customize the style of the game they are playing, without weighing down the core rules with countless, redundant options.

Recently, my thirteen-year old son expressed a serious interest in the game. So, I began a search to find a new group of players that are family-friendly. I’m happy to say, I found what I was looking for! For the last month or so, my son and I have been spending our Saturday Nights at a local game shop playing D&D.  It was a bit of a proud moment when I gifted him with his very own copy of the Player’s Handbook… I still remember my father buying mine for me. So far, he has really enjoyed the game. Plus, getting out and meeting new people has also help foster some valuable social skills.

When I started playing again a few years back, I found myself participating in some official, sanctioned games. These days, I no longer concern myself with that. Currently, our DM is running the Out of the Abyss adventure, which is an actual official D&D story, but we’re not actually participating the “Adventurer’s League”.  It’s a much more relaxed and laid back atmosphere.

I plan to begin posting a little more regularly about my D&D adventures. I’ll also be covering some of the books that I previously decided against reviewing on the site. Aside from the PHB, DMG and MM, there’s really only been two other “source books” released – the rest have all been hardback adventures. So I had originally planned not to really spend my time on those. But, to keep things chugging along, I have changed my mind about that.  So, sometime within the next month I’ll start discussing some of these. Stay tuned!