Hoard of the Dragon Queen reviewed: the final chapter

Ok, let’s round this sucker up. Ultimate spoilage. The Cult have made a somewhat unlikely alliance.

There’s this Cloud Giant, and he flies around in an ice castle powered by his dead wife’s spirit right? The Cult use his castle and hospitality to ferry the hoard to the Well of Souls so they can bring Tiamat back from Hell. There’s a pair of Red Wizards in tow also, and they… Well, I don’t know what they’re really doing there to be honest. Anyway, the castle has an army of ogres garrisoned there, they look after the ballistas and try to stay away from the vampire who patrols the place after dark. Oh yeah, there’s some Stone Giants too, but they don’t like the plan. And then there’s old Rezmir the half black dragon, who’s all tooled up and locked in her room sulking waiting to be murdered. She’ll have the last laugh though as her treasure somehow teleports away when she dies. Ha! Oh, and there’s a big white dragon guarding the hoard at the centre of the flying iceberg that castle is built on.

You read that right. Now, at this stage the only thing to do with this whole adventure is smile, and stop trying to take it too seriously. The authors didn’t. This is right up there with the best/worst of D&Ds crazy menageries like White Plume Mountain. Seriously, I hate/love it! It’s bonkers/brilliant. It makes zero sense. There’s a door that has DC 70 to open. Some walls disappear when you touch them just like in video games. There’s a chamber you can’t get to, but if you do you have to work hard to get inside a sarcophagus, and it’s empty. There’s a kitchen full of kobolds, and they are led by a griffon.

I’m barely scratching the surface of the madness you can find in this episode. And that’s not mentioning the bit before you get into the castle where you have to talk to the strange eyed villagers and their incorrectly numbered map. You might get a free Wyvern flight out if it though.

And nothing you do actually matters. This castle has one destination, no matter what approach you take. It doesn’t work. Nothing you can do. Actually maybe that’s for the best, because if you’ve been busy keeping tabs on the regional map during this epic overland crawl you’ll find that the proper destination for the adventures conclusion is a stones throw from it’s starting point. Yep, a massive circuitous route, almost entirely back to day one. Brilliant!

As you can probably tell, I’ve started to lose the plot a little by now (and I’m not alone in that). Sorry.

Let’s sum up.

This series of adventures tries ever so hard to not make the mistakes of 4e adventures. It does that by being hard to follow, vague about its contents, and over emphasises the possibilities of non-combat without backing that up with anything solid. It’s an epic plot, albeit one that could be said in one sentence, and then it gets smudged together with faceless factions and ludicrous situations. It’s been edited in the dark by someone who had more pressing things to concentrate on. It’s been packaged beyond its station. It’s simply not cohesive, coherent or competent in any form.

For the flagship game in the hobby, as it’s opening salvo from the ‘story first’ cannon, it’s a wet, rushed, wobbly, underachieving squib of a product.

If you get quality gaming out of this, bow down before your DM and thank them from the bottom of you heart. They spent good cash on this, and through the power of imagination, improvisation, and sheer bloody mindedness, they delivered you a great experience, in spite of the shoddy tool they had to work with.

Shameful. And it’s only part 1 of 2.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Hoard of the Dragon Queen reviewed: the final chapter

  1. Mark

    This is a fair review. I am trying to run this now and wasn’t anticipating having to do so much heavy lifting. I can see how I am going to have fun with a bunch of it, but it will take a bunch of work.

    How are DMs running this for Organized Play? How could there be any such thing as OP using this? This seems to me to be a skeletal campaign frame, not actually a “module” in any traditional sense. I know wizards has been giving them some kind of expanded PDF version of it. Does that have more details, like, say, stats or background for any of the PCs?

    It is particularly shocking in comparison to the Starter Kit adventure which is fairly well organized and easy to run. And this is nothing compared to the scenarios for, say, Trail of Cthulhu where great pains is taken to explain the spine of the scenario, its major players, and the plot in question.

  2. Well this has certainly saved me some money, I’ll just press on with the starter set and expand the Black Spider elements somehow when they get to 5th Level

  3. I started running this for my players and have decided to take it way off the rails, in large part because I saw on the map that the circuitous route that the cult is taking with the hoard is ridiculous.

    There’s a swamp much closer to Greenest, called the Marsh of Tun. I’m moving the castle there.

    I’m also having the camp vacated, not by packing up the wagons and scattering, but by walking into a teleport circle created by a Red Wizard of Thay, bearing the treasure to its next destination. (still deciding where exactly that is… maybe the castle itself… maybe straight to the cloud city?)

    So I was googling to look for other people’s perspectives on the module and found your entries here very helpful. I think I’ll stop by again sometime.

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