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The Rise of Tiamat (D&D Adventure) Hardcover – November 4, 2014
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Learn more
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One final suggestion--The Tiamat mini is expensive, roughly $65, but it's really cool, and it adds a lot to the final encounter. In my group, we all split the cost and then threw dice for it at the end of the adventure. (The individual who won the mini, however, kindly gave it to me in gratitude for having run the adventure.) In any event, I'd recommend that you suggest the price-sharing/dice throwing strategy to your gamers. They'll probably accept the proposal with enthusiasm.
Good luck, and have fun!
As the PCs interact with the council, they must manage the differing preferences and proclivities of the council factions, while, at the same time, seeking to hinder the Cult's machinations.
The council part of the adventure is fairly well done, with some decently deep descriptions of the council factions and representatives that should allow a DM to play their parts. Make no mistake, however, the council is a big part of the scenario and so if your DM is not up to role playing and talking and your players just want to kick in doors and murderhobo, then much of this scenario will be wasted. This is not to say it cannot be glossed over and the council simply used as a mission generator for the PCs, but that misses much of the point and flavor of the scenario.
The council has an interesting mechanic, whereby PC actions (including the outcomes of various missions [including some from Hoard of the Dragon Queen]) are rated for each faction on a scorecard. Some actions will cause some factions to favour the PCs more, while those same actions might anger other factions. The PCs must maneuver these potentially treacherous waters and try to strike a balance that will result in the most overall support from the council factions come the final battle. Alas, a glance at the scorecard pretty much ensures that the PCs would have to work very hard not to get full support from the entire council. This could have been a brilliant mechanism to really force the PCs to carefully consider all of their actions in the adventure, but instead it becomes relatively meaningless. A clever DM could adjust the scorecard mechanics in such a way that this issue is fixed, but given the glaring problem with the end of this adventure, why bother (see below)?
As mentioned, the council sends the PCs on various missions...or rather suggests that they do so, as the PCs are sufficiently powerful so that the council has no real means to force the PCs to do anything. The missions are not chronological, although a certain order suggests itself. They encompass a variety of mission types, including some that are purely roleplaying, others that are dungeon crawls, and everything in between. A lot of these set pieces are interesting, but there is a problem in that some of them ultimately end up accomplishing nothing. For example, there are two episodes where the PCs are tasked with recovering a powerful item called a Dragon Mask. In one, the mask has already been spirited away. In another, the mask the PCs gain is a false one. Having one of these is potentially frustrating to players, but can be used to show that not every mission can be completed. However, having two of them in close proximity feels more like tweaking the players' nose than good scenario design.
The adventures weakest point is the ending, and it is a major problem. The end of the scenario finds the PCs travelling to the Well of Dragons, where the Cult is seeking to summon Tiamat herself. They have a veritable army at their service, including hundreds (if not thousands) of cult troops, mercenaries, dragons, and devil.
The PCs are supposed to have mustered enough support from the council to field its own armies to attack the enemy forces. In theory, if everything goes well, the two armies fight it out, leaving the PCs alone to infiltrate the heart of the Well of Dragons and attack the leaders of the Cult who are performing the ritual to summon the Queen of Dragons.
The problem is that while the ritual and inner temple are well detailed and provide a climactic final set piece for the PCs (including, possibly, a fight against Tiamat), there is almost no thought given to the massive fight between the Cult and the Council. Now, of couse, you don't need mass battle rules to run this combat. It is supposed to take place in the background, and rightly so. But SOME guidelines regarding consequences if one or more Council factions withhold support would have been nice! Absolutely no direction is given. If the metallic dragons withhold support, what happens? There is a one sentence explanation that the metallic dragons would best be allocated to counter that chromatic dragons on the battlefield, but no guidance as to what happens if there are no metallic dragons. Does another Council faction support entirely negate the chromatic dragons? If not, what effect is there on the battle?
All of this can be handled by the DM of course, but that's sloppy design. The DM shouldn't have to figure out entirely what happens. What would have been better is a simple system wherein if certain Council factions are not present, the PCs have to face extra encounters and there would be an effect on a table for the results of the off screen battle that would have ramifications for the outcome of the adventure.
In other words, the designers went way too far in the direction to moving the battle off stage and made it essentially irrelevant.
There are also a lot of unnecessary typos, map errors, and the like which really need to be cleaned up by WOTC or by whomever they license scenarios. A simple proof reading by a group of dedicated volunteers could nip these in the bud...a course of action I had been harping on WOTC about since the days of D&D 3.0.
In conclusion, Rise of Tiamat is not an easy adventure for new DMs to run. It is very free form and requires a lot of DM role playing and adjudication. Nevertheless, aside from the poorly designed ending, the scenario is worthwhile and engaging and is a sufficient successor to Hoard of the Dragon Queen.