At the end of this week, we'll be getting a brand new book from Dungeons & Dragons called Tales From The Yawning Portal. In preparation for it, we're going to be going over some of the books that have come out over the past couple years for Fifth Edition to see how they stack up as additions to the folklore and information given in the series. Today we'll be exploring Hoard Of The Dragon Queen.
This book is the first of two campaigns sets for all things to come in the Tyranny Of Dragons series. Set along the legendary Sword Coast where everything always seems to go awry, you're put on an adventure that explores the Cult Of The Dragon, who are trying to make undead dragons to fulfill a prophecy. Keeping it as spoiler free as possible, your adventure starts with the cult already working toward a very specific goal that you happen to stumble upon and, as a group, you have to prevent it from happening or at the very least, deal with the consequences of failure.
The episodes in this book are pretty easy to digest if you're a DM, not a lot of the monsters and baddies you run into require a ton of setup and there's enough familiarity with the world to where any seasoned D&D player will get the gist of what's going on and how to deal with it. There are some tasty bits you can throw in here and there for experienced players who don't need to have their hands held to get through the adventure, but the book is pretty well set up so that if this is the first time people are getting into D&D for Fifth Edition, the adventure is easy to follow and has avenues to make it interesting while sticking to the plot point.
The rewards are minimal, especially in the experience department for the first few episodes. It's enough to get by but not enough to make the characters super powerful moving forward. Normally I would say this is a nice balance of power and experience, but doing the math on a fresh character sheet, it feels like you're always on the cusp of being great when you truly need to be great. In essence, there's a higher change of defeat once you progress into Episode Four and approach Baldur's Gate. The story itself truly picks up when you hit Castle Naerytar, which is much further down the road after you've figured out who you are and what works best for your character, and hopefully have reached Level 5 in grand fashion.
The enemies are a fine mix of Monster Manual favorites and original characters. There's some wiggle room to play with what you've got in the game, including making the enemies harder if you so choose. One character, in particular, goes up three levels in difficulty if you choose to equip him with a specific kind of armor. The towns and locations will be familiar to many who have ventured into the land before on previous campaigns and offer a wide variety of scenarios for the uninitiated. It makes for a great starting point with enough challenges to keep people guessing about the true nature of your adventure while still focused on an ultimate goal.
Ultimately, Hoard Of The Dragon Queen is a must-have if you're looking to start a pre-constructed adventure that has opportunities for improving points of the adventure. The book itself is a hardback with some very thick stock of paper, so it looks and feels like an old-school adventure guide. The maps are kind of a nuisance as they sometimes don't match the description, but the art inside is well done and fits the campaign to a tee. It also has the lovely bonus of having materials you can look up online for free if you don't have a Monster's Manual, both in a PDF and with the new D&D Beyond system. I highly recommend getting it for a first time DM, but if you're going to jump into this one, you'll need both books. Which we'll discuss tomorrow.