Review Dungeons of Drakkenheim - 3rd Party Review

Sparky McDibben

Adventurer
Alright, folks, real quick addendum on this. I wanted to cover what changes I would be making when I ran this adventure, because it's definitely going on my "To Be Run" pile!

1) I bring in encumbrance, using a slot-based system (less hassle to track, easily extended to anyone the PCs recruit)
2) Short rests are 10 minutes (this aligns with my general house rules)
3) Rather than checking for random encounters every hour, I use Arnold K's excellent Underclock system, rolling 1d6 per 10 minutes. In areas of high threat, I roll 2d6
4) Bring in more Eberron-esque elements; I want flamethrower golems, rocketeer gnomes, and Amethyst Academy wandslingers
5) Remove the genetic component to magical ability; I rather like the idea of the Amethyst Academy "recruiting" noble scions as an intimidation tactic - "Do what we say or suddenly your kid's a wizard" is great leverage against dynastically-minded noble houses.
6) PCs have a choice about retreating. They can retreat blindly or deftly.
a) Retreating blindly automatically loses the foe you were up against - no more combat rolls. However, the PCs' new location is determined by me dropping a d4 on the map, and wherever it lands is where the players wind up. Whatever the d4 comes up as (1, 2, 3, or 4) is how many hours of light they have left. If this would put them somewhere impossible (like winding up in the Inner City before they've breached the walls), they wind up as close as they could get.​
b) Retreating deftly requires skill checks as I describe how the monster is in pursuit. Some will be group checks (if everyone's running away), but the DCs start at 20 and go up from there. Failing to retreat means the monster catches back up with you and it's initiative.​

The reasons for these are pretty simple. I'm adding encumbrance because I like to encourage creative problem-solving among my players, and having a meaningful limit to what you can carry in is a useful constraint. Otherwise you run into issues like the Black Door Solutions where a player simply utilizes time and basic equipment to overcome otherwise impossible obstacles. While random encounters can deter this behavior, I want to reward players who use their heads and implement these solutions in a smart way. The best way I can think to do that is simply the encumbrance system. It also stops PCs from looting everything they can find in a place and running away with it.

I use the Underclock because I want to build tension slowly as the party travels in deeper, rather than having a quick roll-off to see if there's an encounter.

I bring in more Eberron-style stuff because 1) I think that's cool, and 2) I think the marriage of pulp action and cosmic horror is a great one. Besides, there's already cannon-wielding dwarves in town for Pete's sakes.

I'm adding the choice about retreating because I want retreating to force interesting dilemmas with unique risk / reward profiles. We frequently don't see retreat as an option used in 5E unless the DM specifically tells players that this is not a fight they can win. I think that's a missed opportunity, and I want to flesh that out a bit.

What do y'all think of these? What would be your houserules for running Drakkenheim? What exactly is a "Travis Kelce?"

Alright, folks, that's it for ol' Sparky on this one. I'm going to go get ready for Strixhaven by going three rounds with Floyd Mayweather and a grizzly bear! Come on down! This Sunday! Sunday! SUNDAY!!!!
 

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NRSASD

Villager
Thanks for taking a look at this! I like the creators’ YouTube channel well enough but it seemed rather basic. Sounds like Dungeons of Drakkenheim is considerably more sophisticated and intriguing. Now I know what’s on my <obligatory winter gift-exchanging holiday> list!
 



Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Dungeons of Drakkenheim is a great product. I wouldn't say it's good for a newbie DM, but if you have a bit of experience, it's fantastic.

What I find makes this remarkable is not so much the adventures per se, although that aspect is very good in and of itself. Rather what I find remarkable is how well thought out the campaign is written as a tool for the GM. This is far, far more usable than many WotC products have been.

The result is a campaign that is more flexible and less railroady, that is internally consistent, and takes less effort for the GM to run. I highly recommend it.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
I appreciate you keeping the spoilers light. I'm playing in this one right now, and we've been in it for a bit. Trying to think back- might have started in December? We've just hit 9th level.

We've quite enjoyed it. Just finishing with the cathedral right now. Our group has two PCs who joined the Hooded Lanterns and two in the Amethyst Academy. One staying more of a free agent. We had conflicts with the Queen's Men early, initial positive interactions with the Falling Fire, then avoiding them like the plague as they got more insistent that we come visit their leader. Mostly standoffish from the Silver Order with a bit of a negative interaction, but earned some goodwill helping them (with the aid of the Hooded Lanterns) take a gate from the Garmyr, who were holding it. The Silver Order and Hooded Lanterns coordinated with us on taking the cathedral from the Garmyr, too, though the Knight Captain wound up dead, resulting in major repercussions.
 

Sparky McDibben

Adventurer
I appreciate you keeping the spoilers light. I'm playing in this one right now, and we've been in it for a bit. Trying to think back- might have started in December? We've just hit 9th level.

We've quite enjoyed it. Just finishing with the cathedral right now. Our group has two PCs who joined the Hooded Lanterns and two in the Amethyst Academy. One staying more of a free agent. We had conflicts with the Queen's Men early, initial positive interactions with the Falling Fire, then avoiding them like the plague as they got more insistent that we come visit their leader. Mostly standoffish from the Silver Order with a bit of a negative interaction, but earned some goodwill helping them (with the aid of the Hooded Lanterns) take a gate from the Garmyr, who were holding it. The Silver Order and Hooded Lanterns coordinated with us on taking the cathedral from the Garmyr, too, though the Knight Captain wound up dead, resulting in major repercussions.
That's great! I love hearing actual play reports!
 



Weiley31

Legend
I would describe Drakkenheim as a toolkit for running a ruined city as a megadungeon.

It got hit by a meteor that carried raw delerium (crystallized magic). The meteor turned Drakkenheim into a hellscape in a very short time, with aerosolized delerium (the "Haze") mutating or killing all the inhabitants. So now it's like The Walking Dead meets Mountains of Madness but all in D&D. Brutal. Anyway, the delirium stuff is hella valuable to magic types, but because it's basically magical uranium, it needs careful handling. So you have high risk (mutation, insanity, death, etc.) and high reward (a ton of cash). So this whole city is covered in this Haze, and it's full of monsters and loot - see why I called it a megadungeon?
 

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