5E Hoard of the Dragon Queen: As it Turns out, it's Pretty Good (so far)

dd.stevenson

Super KY
That said, a well designed AP should not require intervention to be playable and enjoyable. It should merely benefit from it.

There is much that can be said about the relative strengths of AP vs ad libbed sandbox settings, but I was referring to "commercial success" in the quote you mentioned.


While I appreciate that many players (including yours) have different preferences, I think the market has indicated that the Pathfinder AP approach is the more commercially successful of the two in recent years.
To be clear, I'm only asking about the commercial success of story-driven APs, and how this success is affected by the level of detail provided/vs. what is left for the GM to fill in. (Leaving completely aside the question of plot-free sandboxes.) It's not completely clear to me that Paizo has struck the most profitable balance between detail (good) and linearity (bad), based simply on my own play experiences, and my excitement levels as I read the APs. However, it's likely you know something about this that I don't, if you've concluded categorically that DM intervention shouldn't be required.

Note, I haven't got my copy of HotDQ yet, so I'm limited as to how far I can pursue this conversation. If they really don't give any more encounter detail than "six cultists attack the characters on the road", then that sounds pretty bad, and I suppose makes the point moot.

I'd be curious what your group's reaction to EN Publishing's ZEITGEIST adventure path would be. We have a series of adventures, and the links between them are fairly linear, but within each I think players get a lot of flexibility. I wish I could convert them to 5e.
I'm afraid there's very little chance of me ever running Pathfinder again (though--moods change; never say never!) so I will have to wait on some robust 5E conversion tools to even begin contemplating that. However, I can tell you from listening to my players, that the thing that irked them most, was the linear progression from module to module. It really highlighted to them that they had no real say in the direction the adventure was going, and all of the minor niggling doubts that had been built up over the module sort of re-emerged all at once in acute frustration and disengagement.
 

Tony Semana

Villager
Generally, I think that an AP -- any AP -- benefits from experienced GMs making changes as are required for their particular group. I recommend it often.

That said, a well designed AP should not require intervention to be playable and enjoyable. It should merely benefit from it.
Given [MENTION=20741]Steel_Wind[/MENTION]'s experience was actually positive, his DM is obviously an experienced DM as he's mentioned. So, what would be very informative is how much intervention he/she [MENTION=20741]Steel_Wind[/MENTION]'s DM) felt was required based on this definition of a good AP. In short, whether the DM felt ToD as written really is as bad as the negative opinions in this thread.
 

sgtscott658

Villager
Hi-

The encounters are detailed enough in Dragon Queen and wants to run this module right out of the box, it is very doable. I just wanted to take a more wargame like approach with the first chapter and also acclimate the players to their surrounding environment. That was my choice as the DM as well as getting the players to 3rd level at the start of the DQ campaign. Once more my choice and nothing against the module as written. And it is a very well written module I have always enjoyed Wolfgangs designs. His demon web pits module is awesome.


Scott
 

Steel_Wind

Adventurer
Given @Steel_Wind 's experience was actually positive, his DM is obviously an experienced DM as he's mentioned. So, what would be very informative is how much intervention he/she @Steel_Wind 's DM) felt was required based on this definition of a good AP. In short, whether the DM felt ToD as written really is as bad as the negative opinions in this thread.
I agree.

I would also want to compare the text in the D&D Adventurer's League PDF of Tyranny of Dragons with the text in the hardcover. They may well be identical - I just don't know if they are or not. If I am going to slag the encounter as written, it seems only fair to get that fact established - first.

However, comparing what Azmyth ran to the list obscured by the spoilers posted by Mad Zagyg above, I could clearly see most of what I played in his spoiler notes. Azmyth told me he created the first part before we got to Greenest on his own - and tht part did not appear in those notes. Whether those notes were pasted in from the PDF or not, I don't know. I know that Azmyth was running his game session based upon the D&D Adventurer's League PDF.

I have asked Azmyth to post here but he has lost his password and seems disinclined to remedy that. I have ordered the hardcover and should receive it by Thursday - so I will look at the hardcover text and at the least confirm if the summary posted by Mad Zagyg is repeated in the hardcover as well.

Assuming that is probably is, I guess that we can see what the problems are and how it is that they happened. They are the product of the OP program getting in the way of the needs of home play. Still I prefer not to judge the text of a work I have not carefully read based upon guesses and assumptions. That's not being fair.

I do know that what I played I liked. It seems that was largely as a result of some inspired DMing, but, that doesn't change the fact I liked it; I really did.

Mind you, I never experienced the full list of all of those tasks without resting or leveling! If that grind Mad Zagygg noted had transpired at my table, I can well expect that my Topic Header would have been very different.

I want to wait and verify all of this and form a judgement myself based on the paper product I know people will buy -- not simply the game session I had the fortune of playing, or the PDF playtest that may or may not be the final version.
 
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jbear

Villager
The point to take away is not that you cannot save money off of the retail price of these books by buying online. Of course you can. You can also save on the price of Pathfinder in the same (or similar) manner. That is assuming you have a credit card or way of paying for these products online. Not everybody does and it limits your market.
It may not be the case in the US or Canada, but in New Zealand for example you can get a visa bank card which is not a credit card for example, but which can be used to make online purchases from your bank account as long as you account has money in it.

It's true, I'm not 20 and a struggling student anymore. But if I was and I did not have the banking system that I have in my country that made online purchase accessible to anyone with a bank account, I would still find a way to pay the online price and not the in store price somehow i.e. parents fronting up and making the purchase and then paying them back.

Having said that, after looking online for the Players Handbook on the Book Depository which offers free shipping world wide, the cost in $US is $40, which is not $50, but it is not the $30 other people are talking about either.

And looking on amazon.uk for example the price is 30 pounds which is practically $50 US. US amazon does have the $30 offer, but I would have to pay shipping on that for sure. So there seems to be quite a bit of variation of prices you can actually get the books at depending on where you are in the world.
 

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
I have both the adventure and the D&D Encounters version. The texts are identical except that the D&D Encounters version gives suggestions for breaking up the adventure into 2-hour blocks. Note that Encounters is only concerned with the first three episodes.

The first episode consists of a number of missions, which the Encounters version rates in a sidebar of being short or long. An Encounters session will probably fit in one one long mission or two short missions.

The second episode has a couple of encounters that fit into one session, then the rest goes very freeform and might take 1-2 sessions, or even less than 1 session!

The third episode which has a dungeon delve) has suggestions for the lengths of encounters, and also suggests extra "random" encounters if necessary to fill out a session (because a short + long encounter would take too long for the time allotted).

I'm not really seeing much of the original text being "made for Encounters". Encounters DMs need to do some fiddling to make it all work.

It is really, really worth having a look at the Tiamat Tuesdays articles by the Kobold Press design team, particularly this one about the first four episodes and this one about how later episodes are more open-ended with regard to the players' approach to them.

Cheers!
 

Steel_Wind

Adventurer
I have both the adventure and the D&D Encounters version. The texts are identical except that the D&D Encounters version gives suggestions for breaking up the adventure into 2-hour blocks. Note that Encounters is only concerned with the first three episodes.
Well, ok. So that's that then. *nods*

I'm not really seeing much of the original text being "made for Encounters". Encounters DMs need to do some fiddling to make it all work.
I think the issue arises due to the timing requirements that a whole shopping list of encounters be completed without the benefit of a long rest or leveling, as Mad Zagyg noted in his post here:

My main gripe with Hoard of the Dragon Queen is that it seems VERY obvious to me that it was written specifically for D&D Encounters and/or Adventurer's League play. After all, the first three episodes of the adventure are pretty much verbatim as they appear in the Hoard of the Dragon Queen Encounters PDF. Why is this obvious? Well, if you run the adventure as written, and your players are trying to complete all the missions that the adventure throws at them in Episode 1, it seems extremely likely that they will fail, and probably TPK (as my group did). When you play D&D Encounters at your FLGS, characters come fully refreshed to every session, as tables can change from week to week.
His identification of the underlying "refresh" of PC resources that happens due to player changes during Encounters sessions every week seemed spot on to me and explains the problem.

That's the design issue that appears to lead to an unplayable TPK when the adventure is run as written for Home play. That should have been caught in development and the text of the hardcover changed or a sidebar written to explain it.
 

Thaumaturge

thaumaturging
**Spoilers**


9. Dragon Attack encounter: If you are kind to your players, as I was, you won't have the dragon attack them as they fire at it from the battlements. If you do choose to attack them with the adult blue dragon, you will kill them for sure. This leaves you a little torn, because having the dragon choose NOT to attack the party (basically the only ones doing any damage to the creature at all) interferes enormously with the game's necessary verisimilitude. Why wouldn't the dragon attack the only creatures hurting it? Ridiculous.
This is addressed in the adventure. The dragon doesn't really want to be there. The dragon doesn't want a confrontation with adventurers. The dragon is doing the bare minimum because of an obligation. Fighting adventurers rises above "bare minimum".

I think it's a little like going to a company picnic, and sitting in an anthill. Could you wipe out the ants after they bite you? Sure, but it's easier to use the ants as an excuse to just leave. You've got cold beer in the fridge, anyway. And it's hot out.

Thaumaturge.
 

Gundark

Explorer
As I've been reading on in later chapter of HotDQ the adventures do seem to improve. Yes the first episode is written poorly, but the later chapters do seem better and seem to be on par with what I've seen with Paizo's AP offerings.
 

carmachu

Villager
The point to take away is not that you cannot save money off of the retail price of these books by buying online. Of course you can. You can also save on the price of Pathfinder in the same (or similar) manner. That is assuming you have a credit card or way of paying for these products online. Not everybody does and it limits your market.

Go to walmart. Sign up for a walmart prepaid visa card. For $3, you can load any amount of money onto the card, and it acts just like a visa card for online transactions.

I know, I had to get one to pick up some paizo items 3 years back or so- who only take credit cards and not paypal.
 

sgtscott658

Villager
The initial chapter's main goal is to get the players into the module with no in depth background on why the players are there, why the players went to Hommlet (Greenist for the FR types) although in Appendix A HotDQ does give a backround and snippets of idea's none of which I particularly cared for. So I do agree that the initial chapter does need, at least to me, a little bit of work to make the players feel appart of the world and adventure and not feel like they are getting railroaded into something they might not like or feel compelled to deal with.

Scott

As I've been reading on in later chapter of HotDQ the adventures do seem to improve. Yes the first episode is written poorly, but the later chapters do seem better and seem to be on par with what I've seen with Paizo's AP offerings.
 

Tony Semana

Villager
Well, ok. So that's that then. *nods*

I think the issue arises due to the timing requirements that a whole shopping list of encounters be completed without the benefit of a long rest or leveling, as Mad Zagyg noted in his post here:

My main gripe with Hoard of the Dragon Queen is that it seems VERY obvious to me that it was written specifically for D&D Encounters and/or Adventurer's League play. After all, the first three episodes of the adventure are pretty much verbatim as they appear in the Hoard of the Dragon Queen Encounters PDF. Why is this obvious? Well, if you run the adventure as written, and your players are trying to complete all the missions that the adventure throws at them in Episode 1, it seems extremely likely that they will fail, and probably TPK (as my group did). When you play D&D Encounters at your FLGS, characters come fully refreshed to every session, as tables can change from week to week.
His identification of the underlying "refresh" of PC resources that happens due to player changes during Encounters sessions every week seemed spot on to me and explains the problem.

That's the design issue that appears to lead to an unplayable TPK when the adventure is run as written for Home play. That should have been caught in development and the text of the hardcover changed or a sidebar written to explain it.
I guess I'm having difficulty seeing how this episode is so specifically poorly written.

With regards to the emphasized quotes; There are 7 in-game hours, there are 7 items in the 'shopping list' of encounters. The adventure states that, if the characters take a short rest, they will not be able to complete a 'mission' (encounter) for that hour.. For a group of 4, the PC's are likely to accumulate enough XP after 2 (definitely 3) missions to level up. It's explicitly written that the DM can present the characters "with as many encounters as you want, in any order" but nowhere does the adventure enforce or imply that they need to complete the entire set or something bad happens, it's the DM's decision.

On a first thorough reading, I was (and still am) really pumped to run this episode. And saw a lot of opportunity to give the characters a chance to be heroic, intelligent and strategic in the face of the odds. By the end the party will just barely scrape by, that's the best they can hope for - that's the point of this episode. If they play it poorly, then one, many or all will give their souls to the Dragon Queen's cause.
 

Tony Semana

Villager
The initial chapter's main goal is to get the players into the module with no in depth background on why the players are there, why the players went to Hommlet (Greenist for the FR types) although in Appendix A HotDQ does give a backround and snippets of idea's none of which I particularly cared for. So I do agree that the initial chapter does need, at least to me, a little bit of work to make the players feel appart of the world and adventure and not feel like they are getting railroaded into something they might not like or feel compelled to deal with.

Scott
? Lost Mines of Phandelver provides the same mechanic to give the pregen characters a link to that setting. If the examples provided in Appendix A are not suitable to your setting/style, it's easy to use it as a template to create ones you do like / is appropriate. It doesn't mean they didn't provide the way to do it.
 

Mad Zagyg

Villager
For a group of 4, the PC's are likely to accumulate enough XP after 2 (definitely 3) missions to level up. It's explicitly written that the DM can present the characters "with as many encounters as you want, in any order" but nowhere does the adventure enforce or imply that they need to complete the entire set or something bad happens, it's the DM's decision.
A DM can choose to let the party level at some point throughout the night if he chooses, but the final paragraph of the episode states that if you are using the milestone experience rule, characters reach 2nd level at the end of this episode. That pretty clearly (and incorrectly) implies that the party should be able to defeat this first episode without leveling. The 7 hour time limit explicitly implies that they should also be able to complete it without a long rest.

The point of my OP was not to say that the adventure was "poorly written." The writing seems fine, even though this is not my preferred style of adventure. My post was to warn people interested in running it for their campaign-style home games that if you run the adventure as written you will almost certainly smoke your party. As all follow-up posts in defense of the adventure point out, DMs can easily tweak the mod to help the players survive in a variety of ways. The point is, you HAVE to.

If you run this adventure for your Wednesday Night D&D Encounters this won't be an issue at all because the group returns "refreshed" each week. This solves the problem at the expense of verisimilitude, and underlines the reason why I believe it was written specifically for D&D Encounters. I will note that I have become increasingly aware that a desire for verisimilitude is not a quality required in a huge number of gaming groups I see in person and online. Video-game style leveling mid-encounter is something that will never happen at my home game table. I don't intend that as a criticism of people who don't care about that sort of thing. Whatever works for you and your gaming group is cool with me. For me, the idea that just after finishing a fight my wizard sits down and realizes that he suddenly knows two or three new spells is just silly to me. I recognize that this issue isn't a hang-up for everyone and that's fine. The game rewards us all in very different ways.

To clarify, my OP is a warning to DMs that while at first brush the first episode might look like 7 encounters, but it's really more like 15 combats (some of which are fairly difficult). That's way too much for a 1st level party to handle without rest and recuperation. DMs running this for their home games can and should make appropriate changes to the adventure as written to present a more reasonable challenge.
 
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fjw70

Explorer
That first chapter is really a sandboxish chapter. The DM can decide which missions to give them and the players can decide which missions to take on. So I don't see this as a problem.
 

Mad Zagyg

Villager
That first chapter is really a sandboxish chapter. The DM can decide which missions to give them and the players can decide which missions to take on. So I don't see this as a problem.

It's only a problem if a DM doesn't recognize this before he runs it.
 

fjw70

Explorer
It's only a problem if a DM doesn't recognize this before he runs it.
Since each mission is a discrete event it is really easy to adjust on the fly. For example, if the PCs are pretty low on resources after 2 missions then the DM could very easily wait an hour before introducing another one.


Sorry but sending the group on a critical mission when they need a rest is the DM's fault and not the adventure itself. All DMs make mistakes from time to time. No biggie, just move on and learn from it.
 

Mad Zagyg

Villager
Since each mission is a discrete event it is really easy to adjust on the fly. For example, if the PCs are pretty low on resources after 2 missions then the DM could very easily wait an hour before introducing another one.
Short rests are not enough. The group I ran for took two. Clearly, the group can choose not to partake in the fifth, sixth, or seventh mission if they feel like they can't accomplish it. ("Sorry Governor, we understand that the townsfolk in the Church of Chauntea are about to be murdered by kobolds and cultists but we just can't help you anymore.")


Sorry but sending the group on a critical mission when they need a rest is the DM's fault and not the adventure itself. All DMs make mistakes from time to time. No biggie, just move on and learn from it.
I totally disagree. It is strictly a problem with the adventure itself if you only have 7 hours to complete critical missions and CANNOT take a long rest in order to face those challenges.

As you say, a DM can realize that the players just don't have the stamina and resources to continue the fight and can change the written adventure to ensure that they don't get TPK'd. That is exactly my point.

When I play tested this adventure for my veteran group of players at Gencon it was clear to me that they would not be able to survive another session and complete the remaining missions if I did not change the adventure, omit certain missions, or supply them with help that the adventure does not offer. Since we were play testing, I offered this information to my players who decided that they would like to see just how tough it would be "as written." They TPK'd in the second encounter of the second session (it was part one of the Sally Gate Mission).
 

Tony Semana

Villager
Short rests are not enough. The group I ran for took two. Clearly, the group can choose not to partake in the fifth, sixth, or seventh mission if they feel like they can't accomplish it. ("Sorry Governor, we understand that the townsfolk in the Church of Chauntea are about to be murdered by kobolds and cultists but we just can't help you anymore.")

I totally disagree. It is
strictly a problem with the adventure itself if you only have 7 hours to complete critical missions and CANNOT take a long rest in order to face those challenges.
When I play tested this adventure for my veteran group of players at Gencon it was clear to me that they would not be able to survive another session and complete the remaining missions if I did not change the adventure, omit certain missions,
I had a much longer reply but it boils down to this. You are mixing up the fact that there are 7 provided missions by thinking there are 7 critical missions. I'm sorry but it seems you are ignoring or misread the part where you are not required to put your players through all missions. Just because they're there doesn't mean they're mandatory, required, or critical. AT ALL. If the party took 2 short rests then they would have 2 less missions to take on, 5 total and not 7, remove 2 from the remain roster of potential events. If they took a 3rd rest that would be 4 total and not 7, choose which one is left. You are expected to allow this, you're not 'correcting' the adventure by doing this. You're expected to run the number of missions as appropriate to your table. Saying "sorry, that's what it says in the adventure" is not valid. Especially when the text explicitly assigns the responsibility to you, the DM, and instructs you on how to treat the number of mission and rests within that timeframe.

From a story-telling stand point, the characters don't know what carnage is happening out there, and it hasn't happened yet. They don't know what they're missing by resting (until you tell them). It's up to you to 'write' your fiction and decide which (if any) of the missions the party missed actually happened. Either way is legitimate.

... or supply them with help that the adventure does not offer. Since we were play testing, I offered this information to my players who decided that they would like to see just how tough it would be "as written." They TPK'd in the second encounter of the second session (it was part one of the Sally Gate Mission).
If you presented your players with their predicament and they chose to 'cowboy up' then that's an out-of-character decision by players wanting not to miss any part of the adventure options and your decision to run them through it. Which is a perfectly legitimate exercise, but it's not actually the adventure "as written".

I think if reading the adventure that wasn't clear in the first place, it would be useful to listen to Kobold's intention behind the adventure design (specifically from min 26 where they address exactly this episode and this question).
 

Steel_Wind

Adventurer
I had a much longer reply but it boils down to this. You are mixing up the fact that there are 7 provided missions by thinking there are 7 critical missions. I'm sorry but it seems you are ignoring or misread the part where you are not required to put your players through all missions. Just because they're there doesn't mean they're mandatory, required, or critical. AT ALL.
I now have a conflict in the dates and times Azmyth will be running his HotDQ campaign so I cannot play in it. While a little disappointing, this conflict in our schedules frees me from any moral quandaries I might have in reading the actual adventure text.

I have picked up the hardcover version of HotDQ this morning and I have the .PDF made available to those in the Adventurers League as well. I have briefly (though not thoroughly) compared the text of the two products.

The introductory portion of the .PDF that is Encounters specific in pages 2-6 of the document are not present in the hardcover. Those pages reveal that character levels 1-4 are legal for Encounters play, so that can effect the overall challenge presented by the encounters. Table size varies from 3-7 players, so that can effect challenge level as well. Advice is provided for scaling or changing the encounter strength -- though it suggests doing so in accordance with the DMG - which is of course a book none of us presently have,

In terms of the adventure text itself, while Merric is correct in that the documents appear to be the same in terms of the adventure text, there is a sidebar in the .PDF that is not present in the hardcover at page 10 that provides specific advice to those running the missions as part of the D&D Adv League Encounters DMs. I'd have to do a scan OCR and blackline comparison of the two texts to provide a more exacting evaluation than that. The sidebar appears to be the only notable change on first blush.

The short strokes would appear to be that there is no necessity for completing any of the seven missions and the DM is not directed to make the players do so. While Mad Zagyg's comments on the lethality of approaching the first section of HotDQ are valid -- in the sense that you should NOT have your players do this, there is no contrary requirement that they should do so that is presented in the adventure text. The PCs can and should refuse -- and the DM may ease off as well if they are not able to do so. In that regard, I think Tony's comments are correct, (though perhaps a little more forceful that was needed in terms of their advocacy!)

Given the treatment of the missions and the details which are present in the balance of that part of the adventure, my favorable impression of the product remains; indeed, I would say it has increased after skimming (and I do mean skimming) over part 1.

End Result: It's all good folks.
 
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