Cancelling my Hoard of the Dragon Queen campaign

Cover of Hoard of the Dragon Queen
I decided a few days ago to cancel my Hoard of the Dragon Queen campaign. The module felt far too linear for me, as it consists largely of a plot rather than situations. For the purpose of organized play across many groups where players can come and go as they please, it probably works fine (at least for some GMs). But it doesn’t fit the way I like to play. Other issues specific to that group and my organization of it had led me to dread both prep and game night. These include a huge variation in player understanding (both of D&D and of computers in general) and my need to stick closely to the rules as written for both Fifth Edition and Adventurers League.

While Lost Mine of Phandelver certainly has a plot to follow, it also has enough non-linearity that the group has significant leeway. The players in my group have bonded fairly well (at least it seems like that to me). I haven’t done a lot of customization of the adventure, but a group that intends to stick together after completing the module could twiddle quite a lot of knobs without breaking things. It just feels more robust in this way, which makes sense given its intent as part of the Starter Set rather than as the centerpiece for the game’s main storyline.

I would probably enjoy HotDQ more as a novel, though, as such things go. Wizards of the Coast will almost certainly start to publish more Tyranny of Dragons fiction next year in addition to the comics already available on their site. In fact, that’s precisely what damns this adventure for me: I feel as though we are experiencing a predefined arc rather than adventuring through the world. We experience the episodes as theme park rides, albeit gorgeously crafted ones. The maps provide some really gorgeous eye candy and the NPCs and magic items could end up in an independent campaign. Actually, a GM could forklift one or two of the episodes for some extra spice. So I’m glad I have the book, although I probably won’t pick up Rise of Tiamat immediately upon release.

Instead, I’ve started preparing for a new sandbox campaign in a unique setting. I’ll have more to say about that in the coming weeks, especially after the impending release of the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

Play Report: Hoard of the Dragon Queen Episode 1

Two D&D minis and a d20

One of my two campaigns on Roll20 just finished Episode 1 of Hoard of the Dragon Queen tonight. We ended up running all the missions. Although I realize that the module doesn’t actually require that, various circumstances with player availability meant that it ended up being easiest way to handle things on a session-to-session basis. That yields a lot of experience, by the way, even when I scaled down some encounters due to having three characters instead of four in some encounters. If they get enough random encounters in the village and complete all the missions (including bonus objectives), then hitting level 3 while still in Greenest can happen. That may change some calculations down the line, but I expect I will deal with that as it happens.

Hoard of the Dragon Queen isn’t really for GMs or groups completely new to RPGs or even D&D, though. People in that situation should try out the Starter Set (which has a more cohesive narrative and, for me, is lots more fun). I’m glad I had several sessions of Fifth Edition under my belt as both a player and GM before starting this. Also, if you run this online (or maybe even offline), give a thought to buying the Hoard of the Dragon Queen maps. They don’t cost much and artists deserve to be paid.

WARNING: The rest of this post contains spoilers for the module.

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