The Rise of Tiamat (Anglais) Relié – 4 novembre 2014
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The level of detail in which the campaign is described varies throughout the book. Some dungeon areas are described in great detail with flavor text while others are just quick overviews. Some encounter locations have great maps and room-by-room descriptions, while other seemingly important locations lack maps and are only described in a few paragraphs of text, notably the village at Oyaviggaton. The council events also seem to be lacking in detail, despite the council having a large significance in the later parts of the campaign.
The introduction tries to sell this book as a standalone campaign, but without the background story and context from Hoard of the Dragon Queen and having had the characters complete various events in Hoard of the Dragon Queen which heavily influence the outcome of the first council meeting, the players would end up at a severe disadvantage late in the campaign. Additionally, without the Player's Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons), only a small number of races and classes are available to characters, so I can't realistically imagine running this module without both Hoard of the Dragon Queen and the current Player's Handbook.
There is a downloadable supplement which details items, monsters, and spells used in the campaign. Unfortunately it's just organized like the alphabetical listings found elsewhere in the 5th edition books. Running combat smoothly requires a lot of prep work or doing a lot of quick lookups of stats across multiple sources. If you're going to provide an online supplement, why not organize it in a way that reflects how it will be used: by combat encounters? Perhaps the DungeonScape software was imagined to fill this gap, but now that Wizards is no longer working with Trapdoor Technologies, that seems unlikely.
Overall, the story is great, but this adventure requires a lot of effort to run, as the presentation is not very dungeon master friendly.
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.
Anyways, a solid enough start for a campaign for the DM with far too little time spare to spend planning.
This campaign was intense, exciting, and at times very aggravating. It starts off in Horde of the Dragon Queen with a long, exhausting encounter that leads to a likely deadly battle with a foe that could easily kill the whole group. The DM could have made this day a little smoother by adding some potions, a wand, or a few helpful NPCs. The pace is pretty similar the whole campaign. My group lost 6 members in the first book and another 4 in the second. Luckily for me, I had the one original character to survive the whole way. It isn't fun to have characters killed off so easily when you put so much effort into a back story and personality.
The good: I really loved the story line. There were some cool NPCs to meet, and lots of dragons to fight. Some of the fights were truly epic. There were also some cool magic items added for this campaign.
The bad: Sometimes the game is vague and requires PCs to do things that aren't very likely to get done, or it requires really high ability checks in order to be successful. This can be remedied by the DM. Also, there isn't much down time for players to flesh out their characters during the story. My DM fixed that by adding some down time between books. The game also doesn't offer many magic items until the end, and many of the campaign specific things required online access to get to. Something we didn't anticipate. There was also some misinformation printed in the book that caused some confusion (I can't remember what it was at this point, but you can find it online easily).
Give this campaign a shot. Bring someone that thinks outside the box, and make sure everyone is patient. I really enjoyed it, and am planning on playing it again. I'm going to DM it this time for another group of friends.