Wizards of the Coast has not been idle. Granted, I think we would all like to see the third Core rulebook in our hands but that doesn’t mean we’ve a lack of content. The team up with Kobold Press to produce campaign content for 5th Edition D&D has certainly been of epic proportions. The Rise of Tiamat comes to us as the second piece of a puzzle, the first being the popular Hoard of the Dragon Queen, designed to take characters from first level to fifteenth and all up and down Fearûn’s Sword Coast while doing so.
I had occasion to speak with a local Game Shop owner the other day and I inquired how organized play (D&D’s Adventurer’s League for which this campaign arc is made for) was doing under the new system. His eyes lit up and he revealed that things were going really well. Under 4th’s Encounters he said he had roughly 3-4 tables but currently he’s been seeing just around double that number of players. Interest has been sparked and looking at the quality of this book it is easy to see why. I’ve already spoken to my love for the new systems’ rules and lore but this is the first time I’ve gotten my hands on some prewritten adventure work (I never got the chance to look at Hoard of the Dragon Queen sadly) and I’m liking what I see.
QUALITY OF PRODUCT
I haven’t yet had a complaint about the physical quality of any source books produced by WotC in this edition and I’ve none here. This is the first time I’ve been able to comment on the layout of an adventure however, so I took my time digesting that.
Like the other books we’ve seen thus far the new book’s binding feels strong, sports a glossy cover, and a textured portion on the back that I’ve come to really like. Grabbing a book and feeling that texture just feels right to me in a way that a full on glossy book would not. I’m not certain who decided to add that small piece to the craft of these books but I’d like to thank them. I know it may seem odd for me to spend a lot of time remarking on such a small addition, but I really do like it! We aren’t looking at a small book as far as prewritten adventures go, it’s a fair size bigger than most. Considering the plot intends to take characters from level 8 to level 15 before they finish things up I’m certainly not surprised at its girth. Lastly I’m a big fan of the type of paper utilized. It has a heavy, textured feel to it that glossy paper just can’t compete with.
Finding your way around the pages of TRoT won’t be too difficult. The table of contents does a great job of not only pinpointing key episodes but it also lists out key events within said episodes. The Appendix’s are helpful for certain points in the game and the only thing truly lacking is a good index. It could be argued though that an index isn’t as necessary in this kind of book.
The artwork in The Rise of Tiamat holds up with the quality we’ve seen in this edition easily. The cover is adorned with a Hellish scene of Tiamat herself being summoned into the world of Fearûn, ready to wreck havoc with its poor souls. The only complaint I could have with the artwork is the lack of it. In reviewing the recent core books I’ve been bombarded with gorgeous artwork on damn near every page but here we see more “walls of text” than pages with art. I’m not sure why this is the case either, the book is big for a premade adventure book but after seeing the sheer mass of the Monster Manual I know we can go bigger…much bigger. Why not add just a few more pages to add more imagery?
RUNNING AND PLAYING THE GAME
I spoke about the book being easy to meander through in the above paragraphs and I did mean it. A Dungeon Master, albeit an experienced DM as this is not all that approachable for a newbie, will find the storyline logical and fun to work with. We are cautioned about party size and how to adjust for more or less than the recommended party of four and there is even a bit of a reminder that certain NPCs are intended to re-occur. If your group killed said NPCs there’s a suggestion that having those NPCs raised from the dead may actually drive home just how vast the resources of those the players are up against might be. A small annoyance I ran into was the many references to Magic Weapons not actually availiable to us yet, what with the D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide not showing up until December (presumably), but I imagine we will see some sort of excerpt from WotC detailing these like we did with Hoard of the Dragon Queen.
Things still take place along the Sword Coast and as the players have “grown up” from their experiences in Hoard of the Dragon Queen they are now working with various factions interested in the similar goal of protecting the Sword Coast. One of the neater additions to the campaign is a reference tool for the DM called the Council Scorecard. The DM can use this to measure the actions of the Players against the Council in order to see if they have either curried favor or caused mistrust with certain groups. It is plain to see that a little bit of advanced role-play may be necessary as the levels rise. As with the mention of needing an experienced DM it seems players may need to be fairly experienced as well. Things seem a mite tougher in this edition’s organized play than what we saw with Encounters. Players themselves will gain levels via a completion style rather than by adding up experience points. This seems not only fair but very useful to me. You’ll need those players to be a certain level prior to the big finale, it holds nothing back.
On the whole this entire campaign arc seems to be on a very grand scale. Even if you don’t plan to run the game there are certainly useable details in this book, and presumably HotDQ (now I want that book too) as well. If you’re looking for a premade adventure to introduce yourself and/or your players to 5th edition and Fearûn I can’t speak highly enough of the quality here. It doesn’t seem to work well as a standalone book, but I don’t think that was ever the plan, you should really have HotDQ if you plan to run the campaign. I would say you could use adventure arcs from within as standalones with some minor tweeks though. WotC‘s progress out of the gates of this new edition continues to be pretty strong, despite the setback with the DMG. I know I’m hungry for more and seeing the time and care they and Kobold Press put into this product only makes me hungrier. Also, kudos on the funny little disclaimers I’m seeing in every book. Love those!
The Rise of Tiamat (5th Edition D&D) – Release Date 11/04/14