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Hoard of the Dragon Queen (Dungeons & Dragons) Hardcover – Illustrated, August 19, 2014
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- ASIN : 0786965649
- Publisher : Wizards of the Coast; Illustrated edition (August 19, 2014)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 96 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780786965649
- ISBN-13 : 978-0786965649
- Reading age : 14 years and up
- Item Weight : 1.28 pounds
- Dimensions : 8.52 x 0.54 x 11.2 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #5,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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The adventure is heavily linear, and requires certain events to be conducted in specific chronology, or the entire thing can become derailed. This is not necessarily a horrible thing since this was the first D&D 5th edition official adventure published and therefore the obvious design decision was that new DMs need a lot of structure and guidance. But it does mean that inserting this adventure into your own campaign and running experienced players through it will require some specific railroading or a lot of improvisation to try to get things back on track.
The first episode in the adventure is the most controversial. The PCs come across a small town being ravaged by raiders and a blue dragon. Now, unless the DM provides the PCs with a very good reason to give a damn about this little town, most sensible and experienced 1st level PCs are going to say "A Dragon! No way...I am out of here!" and that pretty much is the end of the scenario.
One of the hallmarks of 5th edition was the return to old school D&D wherein not every encounter is designed to be perfectly balanced to the PCs' power level. Instead, players are supposed to act organically to such things. For example, in the old 1st edition AD&D scenario Vault of the Drow, there is a certain black tower that, if the PCs assault it, the DM is instructed to inform the players that their characters fought heroically and valiantly and slew scores of drow but eventually were overwhelmed by sheer numbers. Roll up new characters. The players were expected to realize that assaulting that tower was a Bad Idea (tm).
5th edition asks players to use that same judgement instead of, in 3rd and 4th edition, simply assuming all encounters have ELs that are in the PCs' range. An example of this occurs in another official scenario where the low level PCs are tasked with driving off a green dragon. That encounter is optional and very difficult but the PCs can handle it if they are careful, or they can simply say no way.
The problem here is that 5th edition encourages the players not to metagame and assume encounters are all to be vanquished through battle, but then presents the PCs with an obviously overpowered foe and REQUIRES them to run headlong into the battle!
Basically, the DM is going to have to either break the 4th wall and inform the players if they flee then the scenario cannot start, or he is going to have to make up some contrivance, like letting the players know that the dragon has flown off into the night after making some strafing runs at the town, but the raiders are still attacking.
In any event, the entire 1st episode involves the PCs undertaking a bunch of combat heavy missions during the night of the raid to help save the town. There is no chance for a long rest and, these being 1st level characters, the entire episode is going to be extremely taxing and likely deadly to the PCs and frustrating for the players (especially new ones).
A less hairy and taxing episode might have been a better choice to kick off the first adventure in 5th edition history.
Nevertheless, if the PCs can make it through that, they embark on an investigation as to why the Cult of the Dragon, which previously invested into creating Dracoliches, is now raiding settlements, stockpiling treasure, and carting it off to the north.
The PCs must next infiltrate the battle camp of the raiders. Again there is a sequencing issue. There is a cave in the back of the camp that is clearly heavily guarded. Now, a heavily guarded cave is usually a signal to PCs that this is where they want to go. Right? Nope. This episode is designed to be a simple recon mission and the PCs are supposed to then report back to town and THEN return later, when the entire raider army has packed up and gone except for a few remnants and leader types left it he cave. But what player in his right mind is going to somehow know that the massive army is about to pack up and leave and is not going to, having gone to the trouble of infiltrating the camp, not want to get into that guarded cave and have a look around?
Technically, unless the PCs are spectacularly sneaky, the alarm will be raised and the entire camp will come on them, resulting in a TPK or PC capture (the latter possibility thankfully is addressed and can be played). But to design for the assumption that PCs will infiltrate the camp, see the cave, decide not to explore it, return to the town, and then come back later is asking a lot. Again, the DM is going to have to finesse this whole episode if the players go off the rail.
After that, the PCs must join a caravan heading north with the treasure. The majority of the caravaners are not affiliated with the Cult and are travelling on their own business. This is a great episode for role playing a lot like those classic movies that take place on a train where the good guys are tailing the bad guys on the same train. However, this episode requires a lot of roleplaying and preparation or improvisation by the DM, and DMs and players not suited for role playing will find this part of the adventure tedious.
Once they travel with the caravan, the PCs must follow the trail into a swamp to a crumbling castle where the treasure is collected and transported via a magical gate to a hunting lodge. The crumbling swamp castle is well done, with some interesting role playing possibilities amongst the lizardman and bullywug factions to complement the door kicking aspect of this dungeon crawl.
The hunting lodge is a bit of a throw away, as the entire episode is really designed around the PCs realizing the treasure trail leads past the lodge to a small town where a cloud giant's floating castle has landed. All the PCs technically need to do in the lodge is figure out where the small town is. The rest is sort of throwaway.
The cloud giant's castle is a unique set piece, especially as it will generally take off and float through the sky while the PCs are on it. There are some interesting factional aspects here, pitting the giants against the Cult and its dragon, and the setting is unique enough to provide a nice climax to the scenario.
Overall the scenario should be enjoyable if you can get past the railroading aspects. There are a lot of typos and map issues, however, and some out and out mistakes, some of which resulted from the scenario being issued before the 5th edition rules were finalized. For example, in one instance the PCs are attacked by 4 ASSASSINS. Unfortunately, between the time the adventure was written and the 5th edition rules were finalizes, ASSASSINS were upped in power quite a bit. The result is likely a TPK unless the DM substitutes a lower level opponent to substitute.
In conclusion, while flawed and railroad-y, the scenario provides a suitable prequel that sets the stage for the more epic pursuits in Rise of Tiamat.
Overall this module has a great design and good flow. The initial pacing is very quick and I would recommend making healing a bit more available so the group can proceed easier (we started at level 1).
We have not finished playing the complete module yet but this is a very good one and allows for a lot of role play as well as some good dungeon slogs. Very good entry into the D&D world.
Production Value - The book is indisputably high quality. Full color printing, heavy duty binding and fantastic artwork makes the book a pleasure to use.
Layout - The layout is extremely clean, with nice use of color to delineate sidebars and "read-aloud" text.
Writing - The writing is well done, by some big name pros in the industry including Wolfgang Baur and Steve Winter. It's got enough flavor to paint a picture, but is short enough to not overwhelm.
Structure - The adventure is put together in an episodic format throughout the book and each episode has sub-missions that can, generally, be done in whatever order the GM / Players choose. This may not be true for each chapter, but is certainly true for the first.
Cons (I would not actually say there are any *real* cons to this product, but I would like to address some issues other users have mentioned):
Level Range Visibility - Some users have pointed out that it does not state the level range. It does, on the back cover of the book it states that it is from 1-7.
Monsters - There are certainly monsters mentioned that are not found in the book. The reason that this was done is up for debate but you DO NOT need to wait until the Monster Manual or the Dungeon Master's Guide come out. They state in the first pages of the book that there is a free online supplement that they have released that has all of that information (and then some). That info can be found simply by googling "Hoard of the Dragon Queen Free Supplement."
This is a great product that is extremely high quality and should make for the beginning of a very awesome campaign! You would do well to pick yourself up a copy.
Top reviews from other countries
Takes some work to flesh out some of the non dungeon encounters which newer dms may struggle with, but experienced dms should be fine.
My group of mainly new players did find the first chapter pretty hard with lots of fighting with several of them falling unconcious often, I ended up toning it down a little. Also following the one level per chapter idea the pc's would end up with way less xp than if you do the other suggestion of xp for kills with some bonuses for objectives. There is also a limited number of different monsters used which may become abit repetitive so regquire some work to make them interesting.
I also became confused by the whole Perception vs Investigation, with investigation not being used anywhere in the adventure.
It could have used more maps and details for some encounters.
As it came out before the monster manual you need to download a pdf online to get the monster stats, it would have been good to include this with the adventure initially.
On the whole it was good fun, but could have used more detail.
I played the 1st few stories as a player so purchased it to run my own campaign when the group ended prematurely.
Was received well by my players but felt a tad restricted for me as events had a flow.
Perhaps a fault with my preparation but as a source material it is detailed and actually was a lot of fun for us all.
Read everything and plan ahead before using.