Continuing our reviews of books previously released for Fifth Edition before we get Tales From The Yawning Portal on April 7, we're moving right along to The Rise Of Tiamat, the second part of the campaign book Hoard Of The Dragon Queen, which we discussed yesterday.
Because this is the second book, it requires your characters to be between levels 8-15 to play it. Which you hopefully have done with them prior to jumping into this adventure, or you've decided to skip the first half of the story and joined with people who already have higher characters from previous adventures. You only need the basic rules and the Tyrany Of Dragons online appendix to get through this as a DM. But when it comes to true storytelling, take our word for it, you want the first book and you want to complete it before heading in.
The Rise Of Tiamat has nine episodes that will take you through a world that is now becoming aware of the Cult of the Dragon and the coming horror of a five-headed dragon (seen on the cover). Keeping things spoiler free, you'll basically be starting off on a mission to thwart the Queen of Evil Dragons and keep the realm somewhat whole, though regions you visit will never be the same again. Nor will any of your characters as it is entirely plausible that if they're not experienced enough or work well as a team, they will probably die off early. This is not an adventure for the timid or the self-righteous, you will need each other to survive.
The biggest issue with The Rise of Tiamat isn't going to be for the players, but the DM, as there's a much more rigid story structure here than in the previous book. Going off track will become an exercise in how well you can adapt to forcing players back onto the rails and down the path you need them to go without seriously hurting them. And that can be a game killer sometimes if the people involved in the game don't particularly like a point in the story. In fact, Episode 1 has a great chance of losing people's interest as they gather around for the council meeting if not done right.
Once you get rocking into Episode 5, there's no going back. The story becomes one hot moment of thrills and adventure after another with little room to break for side-questing and random adventures. Cultists and enemies are a plenty from that point on, and a lot of the adventure is go-time for your would be heroes. While there's a lot here to mull over, and it is recommended by the book that the DM read through it all first before playing the adventure, the story can actually be pretty short. The book itself could be wrapped up in six or seven sessions if everyone is on board and they're not slaughtered, and the payoff at the end with Tiamat's Temple is worth the adventure.
I quite enjoyed the adventure in The Rise Of Taimat, but I can clearly see how many DMs may skip over it if things become too difficult. There's little room for horseplay, which for a player like myself, is something I'm prone to doing quite frequently if I'm bored with the story. You'll need a DM with a fine craftsmanship for engagement to make people stay on point and assure them that the adventure is worth the time spent. Especially when you get to Xonthal's Tower. The book is a challenge, but one worth doing if done right.