Dragonlance [Let's Read] Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen

Libertad

Hero
Before I continue, my last post received some good-faith criticism from dave2008, a poster on one of the forums I placed this review. They’re definitely worth covering so I’m including the quote as well as my own explanation and likely errors on my end:

@Libertad , I always enjoy your reviews and I am sure I will this one. However, I had to stop and ask when I got to this:

"...making it so that Goldmoon is not the first non-evil post-Cataclysm divine spellcaster."

Unless I misunderstood what I have read (I have the adventure) and heard others discuss, this is not a completely true statement. From all the discussion of the War of the Lance timelines I have seen on these forums, it is entirely possible that Goldmoon is the first non-evil post-Cataclysm divine spellcaster. The timing of the PCs becoming divine casters could be directly after Goldmoon becomes one. It leaves the option for it to happen before, but it definitely could be after.

I think that is import for those who care about lore. The adventure doesn't necessarily contradict one of the foundational lore elements of the setting and this timeline.

It’s true that Shadow of the Dragon Queen doesn’t explicitly call out Goldmoon by name or mention who was the “first cleric.” In War Cromes to Krynn, the section on Religion and the Gods can be plausibly read a certain way to imply that divine casting isn’t “just returning” but has been around in bits and pieces:

The gods of Krynn are said to have abandoned the world, and in the great cities of Ansalon, temples and centers of faith are few. Nevertheless, small miracles occur across the world. Druids and hidden communities offer prayers in the old ways and employ mysterious magic. Long-lived peoples remember the worship of the gods and see their shapes in nature and the constellations above. Ancient, forgotten sanctuaries hold wonders beyond imagination, and divine whispers reach those with the minds and hearts to listen. The gods haven’t wholly abandoned Krynn, and as threats grow, mortals turn to them once more—sometimes after a remarkable encounter with a messenger of the gods.

Additionally as I will cover in the adventure itself, divine magic PCs don’t begin play with their spells but “awaken” to them in a religious epiphany. But as Shadow of the Dragon Queen takes place in the vague time of 351 AC where Verminaard is down in Abanasinia, the mention of druids and hidden communities implies a longer-lasting presence than the literal days after Goldmoon’s epiphany where more people become divine spellcasters after hearing about her example.

The book is more vague than explicit on this count like other things, so that’s why my initial reading was that divine magic preceded Goldmoon in the 5e version.

I also want to point out this is a bit misleading statement as well:

"*Her traditional title of the Dark Queen has been excised from this version of Dragonlance, and Wizards made it canon that she and Tiamat from other settings are one and the same."

TSR made this canon in the 1e Manual of the Planes (written by Jeff Grub one of the architects of Dragonlance) and 2e planescape settings among other references. And of course WotC continued that tradition in 4e and 5e products (including the 5e DMG) before this book. If you want to make a statement about this it would be more accurate to say something like:

"...Wixards continue to support that she and Tiamat from other settings are one and the same."

or you could have said this book, as far as I know, specifically mentions that her "true form" is a 5-headed dragon. I don't know that previous DL stuff ever made that distinction.

I guess you could say this is the first time in a Dragonlance product that is relationship clarified as this is also true IIRC.

The Tiamat/Takhisis link was something that Margaret Weis didn’t care for, and several sourcebooks often maintained a separation of Dragonlance’s cosmology from D&D. This was particularly so during the 3rd Edition line, where Cam Banks said in a forum post that the Abyss of Krynn wasn’t the Abyss of the Great Wheel. As the end of the War of Souls novels had Takhisis die, which were published during the 3.5 era and Krynn’s Age of Mortals made this canon in their own products, having Tiamat still be alive in other settings was used as a rationale for the separation.

Naturally, the explicit references to five-headed dragons and Paladine’s association with platinum are a clear call to Bahamut and Tiamat of typical D&D cosmology. So TSR, WotC, and Jeff Grubb making the link explicit is an understandable one. I went with the Dragonlance conception by Weis and Hickman in being the foremost authorities on the setting, and as Weis was the publisher for the 3e line of products and had a hand in writing a few of them I went with that designation. Even so, Jeff Grubb also contributed greatly to the evolution of Dragonlance, so I was wrong on this account being a new thing.

Now on with the review!

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Chapter 2: Prelude to War

The original Dragons of Despair module began with a party split, where PCs ventured to the village of Solace in smaller individual bands. During that time they’d encounter strange occurrences and people forewarning that all is not well, and Prelude to War follows in Despair’s footsteps.

But before that, the book gives a rundown of what the various chapters cover along with the major villains of the adventure: Kansaldi Fire-Eyes is the Red Dragon Highmaster overseeing the Solamnic invasion. She is on orders from Verminaard to find a hidden weapon under the City of Lost Names. Lord Soth has been tasked with the Dragon Queen herself to help out Kansaldi, but isn’t a member of the Dragon Armies and is more or less allowed to do his own thing. Finally there are the draconians, who have a write-up that I’m not fond of:

As early as the preludes later in this chapter, the characters will face the Dragon Army’s secret weapon: draconians. These dragon-like monstrosities are unnatural creatures born of the Dragon Queen’s foul magic. All draconians are fanatically devoted to Takhisis and want nothing more than her conquest of the world. They are utterly loyal to the Dragon Army and those who speak in their god’s name. In the course of the adventure, present draconians as magical, monstrous, fanatical, and unknowable. They aren’t creatures with their own goals and ambitions. Rather, they are magical manifestations of the Dragon Queen’s thirst for conquest, and they wreak her will with lethal efficacy.

The various draconians of Krynn are detailed in appendix B.

With all the talk of revamping the always evil humanoid races such as orcs, this honestly comes off as hypocritical on Wizards of the Coast’s part. Even the Dragonlance sourcebooks and novels subverted the draconians in making them more three-dimensional over time, with a few breaking away from Takhisis and the Dragon Armies due to their poor treatment. This was also “G-level canon” to use Star Wars terminology, as Margaret Weis herself helped write the Doom Brigade which covered one such group of non-evil draconians who decided to build a nation of their own.

I get that an adventure like Shadow of the Dragon Queen wants a straightforward “here are color-coded bad guys to fight without remorse,” but like I said before it speaks to the lack of a consistent vision on the writers’ part.

As for the Preludes, the PCs begin at 1st level, and there are 3 sample ones suited to different character types. What unites the PCs is that they’re all good friends of the now-departed adventurer Ispin Greenshield, and are on the way to his funeral in the Solamnic village of Vogler.

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Broken Silence is a Prelude suitable for divine magic-using PCs. They won’t have access to such holy magic and class features until the end of this encounter, which involves detailing the first vision of their deity-to-be. The PC(s) have a bad dream of being the survivor of a massacre in a forest clearing, spotting a glowing amulet held by one of the corpses. While traveling to Vogler their camp is ransacked during the night and tracking down their stolen supplies they find a strange amulet among their belongings that matches the holy symbol of their chosen deity. The surrounding plant life parts in order to lead them to some ruins which hold broken statues of Krynn’s deities. The statue of their patron deity glows as they establish mental communication with them, and how this scene plays out is up to DM Fiat. But in short the deity wants the PC(s) to become their herald in the world.

This Prelude is written as though there’s only one divine spellcaster in the party. I suppose that multiple PCs can participate and get their own medallions of faith and statue-prophecies, but I feel that this would narratively cheapen what should be a unique once-in-a-lifetime encounter.

Eye in the Sky is a Prelude geared for PCs who wish to join the Orders of High Sorcery. It takes place on the Night of the Eye, when all three moons of magic are full and lined in front of each other to look like a giant floating eye. The PC(s) is summoned to an old spire full of extradimensional rooms known as the Barb, where a red-robed mage by the name of Rovina presides over it. After engaging in some small chat, she reveals a test for the would-be mage(s) and leads them to the Hall of Sight. The Hall has a pedestal in the center holding a key and is surrounded by a maze of invisible walls. The key opens up a door on the other end of the room which the PC(s) must open in order to leave and pass the test. Spells such as Detect Magic and Faerie Fire can reveal the magical outlines of the walls, the former spell by their auras. Otherwise an Investigation check is necessary to “feel” one’s way through the maze, and an Arcana check on the wall around the rotunda can reveal a cipher for a one-time casting of the Knock spell as an alternative solution.

The Prelude presumes that the trial is completed and doesn’t detail what happens for characters that end up hopelessly stumped. The adventure does mention that an NPC apprentice can accompany a PC if the DM deems that they need assistance. They use the Acolyte stat block, which is amusing as that NPC casts divine magic and at this point in the story such magic is a unique miraculous event.

Upon completion Rovina will give each PC a scroll with instructions to take it to the wizard Wyhan in the city of Kalaman which is conveniently near Vogler. They’re also instructed to not open the scroll under any circumstances. This last part is a secret test of character which along with the mages’ alignment can eventually determine what Order of High Sorcery they’re inducted into. The contents of the scrolls aren’t detailed if the PC decides to open them up, so I presume that they’re blank; they certainly aren’t Explosive Runes, that’s for sure!

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Scales of War is our final Prelude and is suitable for PCs who don’t fit into either of the above Preludes. It’s also the only Prelude which sees actual combat and involves the party coming upon a terrified fleeing commoner whose traveling companions were ambushed by strange cloaked figures. These figures are draconian scouts, one kapak and four baaz to be specific, looking through the dead bodies of the traveling companions who are actually uniformed Solamnic Knights.* The kapak and two of the baaz will attempt to flee so that they can report to their superiors, and all of them are wounded from their fight with half normal hit points. There’s no mention of possible developments for PCs who manage to take a draconian prisoner alive or decide to track down the fleeing ones, which is odd as many future encounters outline what soldiers know and can tell PCs if they’re taken alive (or cast Speak With Dead) to be interrogated.

*Their armor has been rendered useless from the fight so PCs can’t loot them for good armor.

I suppose that now’s a good time to talk about draconians. At this point in the story there are only five varieties of draconians in order of strength: baaz, kapak, bozak, sivak, and aurak. Unlike prior Editions their type is Monstrosity, not Dragon, although thematically they’re pretty much the same. All but the aurak have wings which they can use to avoid a certain amount of fall damage as well as unique death throes.

Baaz are straightforward melee brutes who can multiattack with short swords and have advantage on attack rolls when they can see an allied dragon. Their death throes are different than in previous Editions: while originally they turned to stone and could forcefully embed sharp weapons in their petrified forms, in 5e they impose the restrained condition on adjacent targets and who then can turn to stone for 1 minute if they fail a second Constitution save. I can see this change being made to still be debilitating yet not frustrating in forcing PCs to lose their weapons when fighting hordes of baaz. In prior DL games it was common for characters to have bludgeoning weapons as backup (at least with the groups I gamed with) to get around these death throes. On the other hand, petrification for 1 minute is pretty much a Save or Lose effect, so this still hinders melee characters particularly those without reach weapons.

As for the kapak, they are your sneaky assassin types who fight with daggers coated in their poisonous saliva. They get a bit of buff in 5e, being outright immune to the poisoned condition and poison damage, and their dagger attacks can poison and paralyze a target at the same time for 1 round if they fail a Constitution save. Their death throes remain the same in exploding into a cloud of acid.

There is no real mention on draconian gender in this book; the Dragon Armies could identify the physical sex of dragons before they hatched, so in their rituals in creating draconians they only used the male dragon eggs in order to control their numbers. They hid this from draconians and kept them in the dark, which resulted in a number of them rebelling and taking the rest of the dragon eggs to have greater reproductive freedom once the ruse was discovered. I bring this up as kapak draconians could have healing saliva if they were women, and the book doesn’t mention this at all.

Thoughts So Far: The Preludes are serviceable, although my critical eye can still spot some flaws in their make-up. They aren’t the kind of things that make encounters unbalanced or the adventure unplayable, but it is a throwback to the railroady nature of Dragonlance modules which presume a predetermined course of action without thought as to other likely PC actions.

I had plans to review Chapter 3 tonight as well, although as I don’t know how long that could take I wanted to get out what I could for Chapter 2 tonight.
 

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With all the talk of revamping the always evil humanoid races such as orcs, this honestly comes off as hypocritical on Wizards of the Coast’s part. Even the Dragonlance sourcebooks and novels subverted the draconians in making them more three-dimensional over time, with a few breaking away from Takhisis and the Dragon Armies due to their poor treatment. This was also “G-level canon” to use Star Wars terminology, as Margaret Weis herself helped write the Doom Brigade which covered one such group of non-evil draconians who decided to build a nation of their own.
All of which happens after this point of time - right now they are basically Tolkien orcs, lacking any meaningful free will immediately after their creation, but will become more nuanced like Warcraft orcs later on. I'm sure any products set even a few years later will have a more varied take.
 


pukunui

Legend
@Libertad: I noticed the thing about low-level mages being given the acolyte stat block as well. As laughable as it is, I think the reason is that there is no low-level arcane caster in the MM. The apprentice mage stat block didn’t appear till later and clearly they didn’t feel like reprinting it here.

Regarding the preludes, I’m not that big a fan of them either. When I run this adventure, I think I’ll just narrate them as “this is something that happened just before the adventure started”. I mean, the divine caster prelude is pretty much just narration anyway. There are no real decision points and no dice rolls required. The whole "someone randomly stole your equipment while you were resting and then just dumped it over here along with a surprise" is kinda weird. Why not just have the PC in question hear a voice that only they can hear or feel otherwise compelled to head alone into the forest to find the temple?
 
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Libertad

Hero
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Chapter 3: When Home Burns

This is the first real chapter where the PCs all meet up, they and are now 2nd level after beating their respective Preludes. It starts out slow, with some fun and games in your stereotypical Starting RPG Village of Vogler…only to see it all burn down when the Red Dragon Army marches to war. During this chapter the PCs will go from 2nd to 4th level, where 3rd level is achieved after the first major battle at High Hill.

Vogler is a village along the Vingaard River. During the Age of Might it was the scene of a border skirmish between Istar and Solamnia, with the latter country winning. The Kingfisher Festival, named after the bird that is the symbol for the Knights of Solamnia, is an annual holiday celebrating the country’s victory over Istar. Vogler’s major industries revolve around fishing and river travel, and the partially ruined keep of Thornwall is home to a non-binary tinker gnome by the name of Than. They built a catapult-like gnomeflinger device at Thornwall’s top that the town tolerates because it looks like an intimidating siege engine that can give raiders second thoughts.

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The DM is encouraged to play up Vogler’s small town charm and has short descriptions of local vendors and notable citizens to make them care for the community. All the better to motivate them in saving the people from the Red Dragon Army!

Ispin’s funeral begins after the PCs meet up with Becklin Uth Viharin, a lady Knight of Solamnia who dresses openly for the part and is tolerated by locals as she’s served the community in defense against bandits and monsters. They can also meet Darrett Highwater, Becklin’s pupil who isn’t like most Solamnics and is in love with the legacy of the Knights. He can share details about the celebrations, Vogler’s history, and an upcoming mock battle with some mercenaries of the Ironclad Regiment as an historical reenactment known as the Battle of High Hill.

During Ispin’s funeral they will send his body to a boat to be sailed downriver, and to honor his memory his various friends and family members gather at the Sand Crab tavern to tell tall tales about his various adventures. PCs who participate can gain inspiration, but the good cheer will come to a stop due to the heckling of an arrogant boor of a man by the name of Bakaris the Younger. For those veteran fans you might recognize the name, for he was Kitiara’s second-in-command as the Blue Dragon Highmaster in the Chronicles. In this adventure he hasn’t yet defected to the Dragonarmies, but is a privileged bastard who harbors violent fantasies and relies on his father’s connections as a Solamnic noble to avoid being strung up. There will be several times when the PCs can use skill checks to distract or run him off during the festivities, although it doesn’t say what happens if someone loses their cool and decides to teach him what the five fingers said to the face. He and his father will be frequent foils to the party in challenges that aren’t meant to be solved with murderhoboing.

Other events during the Kingfisher Festival include a fishing contest with skill checks and minor prizes along with Becklin approaching a party member. She will read Ispin’s will where he gives his signature +1 shield to the party, but Beckline will only do this if they agree to participate in the Battle of High Hill.

Withholding a shield doesn’t seem very knightly. I presume this is meant to be played out as more of a gentle encouragement than a mandate.

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The Battle at High Hill is meant to take place between the village militia and volunteers from the Ironclad Regiment. Although their leader Cudgel Ironsmile is a straight-shooter, there are secretly a group of warriors who’ve been bought out by the Red Dragon Army and plan to use real weapons during the reenactment to kill Vogler’s people-at-arms and leave the village defenseless. As professional adventuring types the various NPCs will convince the PCs to take part, at the very least as impartial observers to ensure that “nobody gets hurt.”

Observant PCs can notice that the mercenaries aren’t using padded weapons, but whatever they hope to do is too late as all hell breaks loose and the PCs are immediately accosted by three mercenaries using Guard stats, one of whom is riding a warhorse.

You might notice that the above map has some intimidating-looking flames surrounding the edges. These are special Battlefield Encounters representing a larger surrounding skirmish or war. The flaming edges of the map are the Fray, which is a zone of difficult terrain that deals damage to characters who fail a Dexterity save when entering it from stray shots and the din of flashing swords. Additionally Battlefield Encounters make use of a rule similar to Lair Actions where at initiative 0 or whenever a PC enters the Fray some random event happens. Each Battlefield Encounter has its own table and tend to be things reflecting the chaotic nature of mass combat. In this case we have options such as terrified horses running people over, the appearance of an allied or hostile unit close to the party, or stray arrows dealing an area of effect attack.

PCs who dispatch the initial enemies will then come to face Gragonis, the half-ogre leader of the traitorous faction of the Ironclad Regiment and four more mercenaries with him. He uses ogre stats, and if the PCs are defeated during this or the previous battle then militia members can drag them to safety albeit at 1 hit point. Either way, the mercenaries are forced into a retreat but almost all of Vogler’s militia perished. Cudgel was also targeted by Gragonis’ goons for death but managed to survive, and she is just as pissed off as the villagers about this affair.

PCs have several opportunities to take charge of things, and will be asked to by allied NPCs. Healing the wounded results in grateful villagers rewarding them with valuables, and magical healing in particular can have rescued NPCs eager to learn more about their healer’s deity. PCs can interrogate a surviving mercenary to learn what he knows via successful Charisma skill checks, although Becklin and the mayor will interfere if the PCs try to torture him. Little can be found out besides the fact that Gragonis met with some armed group in the forest and got paid a lot of gold, and if Gragonis was taken alive he doesn’t know his client’s identity besides the fact they wore red and black armor.

The party will have a night to rest while Cudgel Ironsmile and villager scouts do some reconnaissance in the woods, although if they wish the PCs can also go scouting on their own. Either way the discovered information is the same: there’s a camp of hundreds of red tents in a shadowy valley. It is populated by hooded baaz draconians and Dragon Army Soldiers, and combat is meant more as a deterrence if PCs manage to visit. They won’t be overwhelmed or tracked back to the village if they decide to attack some of the warriors.

Dragon Army Soldiers are a new enemy NPC type in this module. They’re indoctrinated soldiers a cut above the average Guard or Bandit at Challenge Rating 1. They have a high 17 Armor Class thanks to their armor and shield, and their weapons have been magically enchanted with the power of red dragon breath to deal +1d4 bonus fire damage on top of the base weapon damage. Like baaz they have advantage on attacks when within sight of an allied dragon. Needless to say they can be a threat in numbers to 3rd level PCs, although they can’t really do much other than fight.

Vogler’s leadership is fully aware that they can’t win against this mysterious army in conventional battle. Cudgel is guilt-ridden and promises the support of the Regiment to Vogler’s defense if need be, and Becklin privately suspects the worst but puts on a confident face to the public. Lord Bakaris doesn’t care at all about the safety of the villagers but expects his half-baked ideas to be taken seriously. They will all listen to the PCs for advice, and once enough planning and debate is done a messenger from the Red Dragon Army arrives, speaking for the Voice of Takhisis demanding Vogler’s surrender and to quarter the soldiers of the Red Dragon Army.

Characters proficient in Religion recognize the name Takhisis as one of the gods of Krynn. A cleric of Takhisis or a character who succeeds on a DC 12 Intelligence (Religion) check recognizes a spiral symbol on the messenger’s armor as a symbol of Takhisis, the greatest of the evil gods, who is also known as the Dragon Queen. This same symbol appears on all Dragon Army armor.

I love how this module takes into account the completely oddball chance that some gaming group out there has a PC who is worshiping the primary villain of the setting, but decides to fight her minions anyway.

The messenger will leave peacefully but PCs who try to attack or capture her will be countered by four Dragon Army Soldiers throwing javelins from nearby cliffs.

Only the Mayor is in favor of acquiescing to the Dragon Army’s demands, but Becklin and Cudgel veto her knowing that the villagers will suffer in being personal witnesses to the “horrors of occupying forces.” The plan is to find a way to keep the Dragon Army occupied for the eventual goal of evacuating the village. The PCs have two options for the former in scaling the cliffs to deal with Dragon Army scouts using its vantage point to keep abreast of the horizon. They can climb normally or use Than’s gnomeflinger to get up there.

Sadly this plan doesn’t make any noticeable changes to the module, even if a Dragon Army Soldier retreats back to their main camp as the main force will invade and any buying of time won’t make a mechanical difference for the later encounters. The evacuation is a series of skill challenges, from Persuading the Mayor that it’s the best out of a series of bad options,* helping the Mayor avoid mass panic among an addressed crowd with Intimidation or Persuasion, using Survival to make impromptu boats out of ropes and logs to help locals flee by river, Investigation to convert the raft and boat pulley system of the ferry crossing to even more boats, and convincing the fishers to lend their personal boats to the evacuation effort with Persuasion. While the module mentions what happens for failures during some individual rolls, there’s no mention of how things turn out if the PCs fail to evacuate enough people in time. Presumably the casualties are higher, but this isn’t elaborated or reflected on in the Chapter itself.

*This is pretty much a But Thou Must skill check, as the rest of the module assumes that she agrees.

Becklin will aid Cudgel and the Ironclad Regiment in diverting the Red Dragon Army’s attention once they arrive at Vogler, and the PCs and Darrett will be asked to remain with the mayor to ensure that straggling villagers have protection if the Regiment falls. But Becklin has another piece of armor and private request for the PCs. She asks the group to give a large wooden box weighing 70 pounds to Darrett once he safely escapes town. The box contains a suit of Solamnic plate armor, which he will wear with pride for the rest of the campaign after this request is honored.

You know, this raises the inevitable question of what happens if the PCs suggest that the armor would be of more practical use in the upcoming battle. Like getting Darrett to wear it immediately, or if a PC decides to don it themselves. The module doesn’t make any suggestions on how the NPCs will react in such a case.

What’s that? Rules for incorporating the Warriors of Krynn board game into providing in-game benefits to groups running Shadow of the Dragon Queen? Say it ain’t so!

Several times throughout this adventure we get Warriors of Krynn Scenarios telling what events to run from that strategy game to be in line with Shadows’ narrative. PCs who win or hold during a scenario often gain benefits such as a magic item, although they don’t suffer any penalties on a loss. In this case a victory causes the Mayor to gift the party with a Quaal’s Feather Token (Bird).

While this sounds like a cool idea, the board game isn’t out yet, and according to this Polygon review one of the manuals actually spoils a later part of the adventure. So DMs seeking to use it will have to weigh the balance of spoiling some story details ahead of time vs enhanced simulation of the war-game aspects of Dragonlance.

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The Invasion of Vogler is a series of combat encounters one after another, such as saving a messenger scout from a pursuing baaz draconian, a random 1d10 table of events such as a gliding kapak ambushing the party, and a mandatory encounter with four baaz draconians wheeling forward a dragon-shaped siege engine known as a boilerdrak to burn down buildings.

The boilerdrak is not a monster in game terms, and requires three separate actions to light, aim, and fire a 60 foot cone of 5d10 fire damage. But it’s a gnomish device, meaning that every action triggers a d20 roll which causes the boilerdrak to explode on a natural 1 for the same amount as its breath weapon.

The Vogler Battlefield table has an even mixture of fishers and militia helping out the party and enemy draconians throwing flasks of fire or dying from its death throes as potential results.

Once the boilerdrak is destroyed, the ogre known as Fewmaster Gholcrag and two baaz minions will come to fight the party as the final battle during this chapter. The PCs will be forced to board a boat as Vogler burns in the background, and Cudgel’s lieutenant will arrive with Becklin’s horned helmet. The ultimate fate of Becklin and Cudgel are left to the DM, with a few sample events: the lieutenant is a traitor who assassinated Becklin and hopes to make Darrett his next target, he was sent by Becklin to warn the party their defenses failed and the knight has been captured alive, and so on.

Sadly, none of these scenarios are further elaborated on as potential encounters in the rest of this module. At this point the party levels up to 4.

Thoughts So Far: I’ll start out with what I like about When Home Burns. Its pacing and escalation are well-timed, and the important NPCs leave strong first impressions that even a DM with amateur skill can use to elicit the proper reactions from players. I can see Darrett in particular being a trusted ally, if by a shared bond of knowing what they’re fighting for if nothing else.

I have mixed feelings on the Battlefield Encounters mechanic. The Fray is very clearly an invisible barrier that punishes PCs who get too far from the battle, and is rather punishing against mounted and high-speed characters who would use their mobility to their advantage. It doesn’t really act as a stopgap against PCs with a natural flying speed, for the Fray is at the edges of the map and not above. I do like the pseudo-lair actions which throw random events into the fight, which helps round by round combat from growing too stale.

What I don’t like is the fact that this Chapter’s rather railroady, in that while there is the illusion of choice many of those choices don’t matter. The module suggests using Charisma checks to persuade the Mayor to go with the evacuation plan…and the rest of the module operates on her agreeing to this. The PCs can do recon to learn the Red Dragon Army’s numbers…or let some NPCs do it without any consequence. Vogler’s leaders and warriors will suggest the PCs kill the Dragon Army soldiers standing watch on the cliffs, but it doesn’t matter if any of them escape as the Army is going to besiege the village anyway.

As for the enemies themselves, besides the Boilerdrak siege engine and kapak glider the vast majority of enemies are virtually identical in being melee-focused armored warriors without any special abilities or actions in combat to make them do things besides “I attack” or “roll to save vs the draconian’s death throes.” At the very least the Dragon Army could have domesticated monsters for some variety in battle, and it wouldn’t be out of character with the existing lore.

Join us next time as we venture to the city of Kalaman, retake a fortress from the Dragon Army, and venture into some haunted catacombs in Chapter 4: Shadow of War!
 

I think the reason is that there is no low-level arcane caster in the MM.
Acolyte is in the free core rules, no need to even own a monster manual. I have noticed before that WotC prefer to use this source if something isn't important enough to be given a unique stat block in the adventure.
 
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As for the enemies themselves, besides the Boilerdrak siege engine and kapak glider the vast majority of enemies are virtually identical in being melee-focused armored warriors without any special abilities or actions in combat to make them do things besides “I attack” or “roll to save vs the draconian’s death throes.”
This is something of a taste thing. On the other side of the coin, the creatures in Call of the Netherdeep tend to be real b****s, with AoE stuns, high mobility, and other stuff that makes them punch well above their CR.
 

@Libertad: I noticed the thing about low-level mages being given the acolyte stat block as well. As laughable as it is, I think the reason is that there is no low-level arcane caster in the MM. The apprentice mage stat block didn’t appear till later and clearly they didn’t feel like reprinting it here.
Yeah I wonder if they will fix that in 1D&D
 

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