Storm King's Thunder

5 out of 5 rating for Storm King's Thunder

Short version of this review: Storm King’s Thunder is the best 5th edition D&D adventure yet, and its Roll20 adaptation shows clearly that Roll20 is the best virtual tabletop on the market. All in all, Storm King’s Thunder is a remarkably clever story, jam-packed with great ideas you can use as-written or steal for yourself. If you play D&D, this adventure is a must-own. Full review at Geek & Sundry.
 
5 out of 5 rating for Storm King's Thunder

Based on my experience running Storm King’s Thunder as a novice DM, I continue to be impressed with the quality of work that Wizards of the Coast puts into their roleplaying game peripherals. The art is fantastic, the maps are meticulous and all of it is set against a Shakespearean story of corruption, betrayal and power. Full review at Slug Magazine.
 
4 out of 5 rating for Storm King's Thunder

Overall, if you like buying Dungeons & Dragons pre-made adventures, I highly recommend this product. While the $49.95 MSRP price tag may seem a bit steep for some, the amount of content provided seems well worth it. No doubt the price will eventually drop slightly, but the amount of content and hours of fun that could be had with this adventure more than make up for it, considering most of us have paid more for a video game with a fraction of the play time. I can’t wait to get a group together for this one! Full rveiew at Project Nerd.
 
4 out of 5 rating for Storm King's Thunder

I have been gushing about all the great things in Storm King’s Thunder to this point. I have to admit that there are a few low points. Typos are there, which is not surprising from a first printing. The high amount of magic could also be considered a negative, as some DMs just prefer magic to be a sacred thing. I described the possibility to “railroad” players above, which is also a commonly-discussed and under-appreciated tool. There is little to explain the reasoning behind the main story, focusing instead on the journey itself. That might put off some players that like deep story and thorough investigation.

But the flaws in Storm King’s Thunder seem insignificant compared to the design and fun of the journey. I think that the Dungeons & Dragons® team did a wonderful job of creating a new adventure. New players will have fun with the story and the monsters. Experienced players can appreciate the lore and deadly encounters. Any player that loves fantasy will recognize the inspirations behind it. Whether as a DM or a player, there is plenty of enjoyment and excitement packed into these pages. I am sure that no-one at the gaming table will be disappointed.

Full review at RPG Academy.
 
4 out of 5 rating for Storm King's Thunder

Overall, I’m incredibly impressed with the world that Storm King’s Thunder hands players and Dungeon Masters alike, and I look forward to the next opportunity I have to shove some of this content into my own play sessions. Full review at Paste Magazine.
 
4 out of 5 rating for Storm King's Thunder

Storm King’s Thunder is a wonderful adventure that introduces players the varied cultures of giantkind, it is narratively stunning and well crafted and presents many different challenges that will keep players clamoring if not squirming. Players will have to think with their wits and ingenuity besides their brawn, though it is still a viable option but sometimes a good word helps. There are plots and intrigue which have been largely underplayed in previous products and actually has a viable place in this particular product. There are new magical items, new monster races and stats, there pages of NPCs that can be transplanted to anywhere and any setting.
 

sphere830

Visitor
5 out of 5 rating for Storm King's Thunder

Storm King's Thunder, I have waited some time to write this short review. I wanted to first read the book, but then to see if afterward that SKT would inspire a campaign. For me this is the bottom-line measurement of an adventure/campaign/collection of linked adventure sites. Invariably, a published module, sandbox, or setting has to answer two questions to validate its worth to me. Do I understand what is going on while reading the adventure? Does it make me want to host a group of friends through this adventure?

While there are far better summaries available about Storm King's Thunder, I'll briefly touch on the main story-arcs here and hardly risk spoilers. The "ordning" of the giants has been disrupted. The ordning is a natural/social order of giants that work to keep everyone in line. Especially regarding all giants relationships with both dragons and little-folk, which include all smaller humanoids. Now that the ordning has been shattered for unknown reasons the resulting power vacuum unleashes incidents involving giant-kind all along the periphery of civilization in the Forgotten Realms. To this end, this is a campaign surrounding giants, as the name implies.

I have read that some complaints are centered on whether this book was marketed correctly. For example, had this adventure been marketed as a setting book, that they would have rated it higher. I can see that, but the product works either way. And although looking at just the adventure, I agree this would not be a 5 star product, but in the whole product and its use-value to me as a DM, this is tied with Volo's Guide to Monsters as my favorite 5E product outside of the three core books.

Do I understand what is going on while reading the adventure?

Retrospectively looking back at the campaign/adventures that have been produced for 5E, the campaigns have catered to a progressively old school DMing philosophy. I ran the Tyranny of Dragons campaign, altering the modules significantly to make the campaign my player's. Storm King's Thunder assumes that, as an experienced DM, that I would be doing those altercations already. SKT offers a story arc, alternate paths through that narrative, but through various event and site based adventures. Yet this book offers the savage frontier as the back drop. Chapter 3 in SKT offers dozens of adventure sites that have just enough description to spark a simple encounter or situation. While these sites do not get equal treatment, this chapter sets this "adventure" apart from previously published material. The North is a desolate landscape with nomadic tribes of humans, ancient ruins, draconic threats, and of course settlements of giants--not to mention a number of access points to the Underdark. While the book is rather large at 256 pages for material that host levels 1-10+. Because the narrative suggests a route, at the player's discretion, the GM must set the scene for the players and the dice to make the story connections. This game theory reaches back into some of my favorite material ever produced for Dungeons and Dragons.

Back around the second edition of the boxed basic sets, the adventure area, or perhaps better known gaming philosophy of the sandbox had evolved. This is the era of Keep on the Borderlands establishing the outpost on the fringe of civilization, the party of young adventurers, a home base, and the caves of chaos to go and explore. You didn't have to explore the caves. But the game would have been boring if everyone decided to play farmers. Probably the most efficient and honed adventure that was the pack-in game of the expert set was the famous Isle of Dread. This was an entire island that functioned as a sandbox. The primary point of the sandbox is to present the players with a site to explore. Make sure there are a number of hooks to inspire exploration and let the game itself fill in the story gaps. By no means, am I arguing that this is the best or only way to run a high fantasy game of swords and sorcery, but I am saying that this is what Storm King's Thunder most closely reminded me of in terms of reading and imagining running a game through this module/adventure/setting.

Does it make me want to host a group of friends through this adventure?

The most efficient answer here is simple, yes. But this is where Storm King's Thunder really shines for me. First off, against the mounting arguments that this book is not organized well, I adore the layout of this campaign. It is organized to use at the table. The caveat is after you've prepared it to run. With some markers and "post-it" notes I have this book ready to run at the table. There are a few sections that you need to copy to keep things straight. To start with specifically the Dramatis Personae (p. 5-6), Figure 0.2: Adventure Flowchart (p. 17), and the treasure section (p. 18). As the adventure progresses, there is a very useful appendix D that has very useful pages to copy for the casts of major NPCs. This is a boon to running an open adventure campaign like I am planning. Speaking, again, of planning appendix A offers cross-over expositions from other published scenarios, which is a great touch into this adventure area. After reading the whole book carefully I can confidently say that you could competently run this adventure after only reading chapters one and two. Then organizing sessions to end on major decisions. In response, only preparing the sections based upon your player's direction. And there is ample space between story encounters to develop this campaign into something unique with each group. I have a far more nefarious plan toward the end of this story arc.

Storm King's Thunder inspired the idea of hacking two other published adventures as possible adventure sites. I know, reviews should be evaluating each product on their own stand-alone usefullness, or something to that effect. In large part I agree. But answering my second question (which took the longest to reach a conclusion *aka this review!) this forced me to look at Out of the Abyss and Princes of the Apocalypse as co-existing sites. I'll get back to SKT, but bear with me. Out of the Abyss is an epic romp through the Underdark beginning primarily between 8-10 level, upon answering Bruenor. The best and most interesting dungeons in PotA is the higher level/deeper levels of the elemental dungeons. SKT, while suggested up to 10th level, offers several more Giant lords to confront if the players so choose. Storm King's Thunder quelled any issue of campaigns feeling railroaded by upper level campaigns. Using SKT as a setting, with benefits, as in a true old school sandbox opens up what this product has inspired for me to bring into my game.

Storm King's Thunder Organizes a tremendous amount of useable material for an unquestionably "old school" feeling campaign, wherein much of the story is invented 'in situ' between the players and the DM, but directed by the dice. The limitation there is I am not sure how younger players/DMs will make of this book. While there are fair critiques against SKT in terms of not holding the DMs hand and offering much more game than a group is likely to use on one play through. These critiques only increases the long-term usability of a role-playing product for me. Perhaps many folks were thrown by this book being marketed as an adventure, which has developed into a preconceived notion of how an adventure path is to be presented, but I would refer to Storm King's Thunder as a bound boxset adventure of old. For that, I love it.

PS

It is also worth noting for those of you that play D&D via roll20. I also purchased this software after reading the book itself and am positively happy with the translation. The reason that I am mentioning this here is that you don't need both, but the digital package of this book works like a sandbox too. You could even use SKT roll20 software for the maps, magic items, and NPCs and run your own game entirely.
 
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Jensen

Visitor
5 out of 5 rating for Storm King's Thunder

I strongly disagree with many points mentioned in the 'poor' reviews.

The adventure is definitely more of a sandbox than adventure path, giving the DM a lot of province. It may not be the best place to start for a new DM, but boy does it give you a lot of tools to work with- interesting circumstances, side-quests, political and personal drama. As a DM you have so many entry points for the party, and it can be (main) plot-driven as you want it to be. I don't think it's a waste to have 40 pages on locations and situations in the region- that's material you'll always have an is easily adaptable for just about any location or campaign. I think it rewards a hard-working DM.

Chris Perkins hits all the right notes when it comes to the giants. Each race's goals and motivations reflect their worldview and abilities; each lair is iconic without being cliche, and there's an ecology for each giant stronghold that gives a fun variety of encounters, creatures and traps. Giving players the ability to become giant-sized and at different times control npcs (commoners as well as giants) is a terrific option to have in the adventure.

It is about as user-friendly a product that WotC has given us, too.

It has a few drawbacks:

It's not ideal for a new DM or a DM short on prep time (very little boxed text, key NPCs to understand in order to properly role-play, maps are not ready-to-use for the tabletop).

The DM will need a through understanding of the plot and lairs to give the players a chance to find out a lot of backstory. This involves inventing ways for the party to be exposed to information- overhearing conversations, finding notebooks, NPCs, etc, and those situations aren't always written into the adventure. To get the most out of this adventure, it pays to have a curious, patient group that engages with the people and world around them. 'Bottom-line' players that want to grab n' go through the adventure will miss out on a lot.

I loved the storyline, and the characters absolutely have compelling reasons to step up to the challenge in each phase of the adventure. And no, the story doesn't culminate in the players facing off and defeating giants, but they have opportunities to do that all throughout the adventure. However, being key players in the reshuffling of the ordining is pretty dang cool, and the climactic battle of leading a group of storm giants vs an ancient blue dragon is just brilliant.
 

Tobold

Explorer
3 out of 5 rating for Storm King's Thunder

Storm King's Thunder has a bunch of nice features, like an adventure flowchart, and encounter rosters for each dungeon. However if you play this adventure as written, it also has a lot of problems:
- The chapter to get from level 1 to 5 is a rush job, badly written and very thin (17 pages). It would be better to play something else to get to level 5, like the Lost Mine of Phandelver (64 pages).
- At level 5 the players get to defend a town from a giant attack. You are given three choices of which town to defend, with different maps and different NPCs. But the general structure of the three options is exactly the same, and they don't really play any different from each other.
- There is a huge sandbox section about the Savage Frontier, which would combine very well with the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide. However the players don't really have much reason to explore all that, and the chapter is only meant to bring them from level 6 to 7.
- At level 8 the players should get an item from *one* of five different giant dens. This time the 5 options are really different from each other, and it is a shame to play only one of them.

One could do more with the book by not following the adventure flowchart, especially not granting the milestone levels, just giving players regular xp for encounters. Playing the start plus various events (adjusted for level) of the big sandbox chapter until the players reach level 7 (with the town attack inserted somewhere at level 5) would probably be more fun than the rush proposed in the flowchart. I would also consider playing several or all of the giant dens at level 8.
 

pogre

Adventurer
3 out of 5 rating for Storm King's Thunder

The players in my group felt like a bunch of errand boys in the early parts of this campaign. They were fatigued by it early and we abandoned the adventure. The latter parts may be excellent in play - we'll never know.
 
5 out of 5 rating for Storm King's Thunder

We're currently in the middle of this campaign with a 4 man group and with the levels you start running into hordes of monsters critical thinking is a must. I'm not sure how much, or if at all, my DM is deviating from the content as written but thus far charging in headfirst quickly got us killed. We've had to be very creative with how to bait enemies, starve out Guh, etc. From my perspective this is a blast compared to typical run in and hit stuff til it dies style campaigns.
 

Enrico Poli1

Explorer
4 out of 5 rating for Storm King's Thunder

WotC tried to make a true sandbox. They were and, at the same time, were not successful.
First of all, the adventure truly starts at 5th. The provided adventure to bring beginning characters from 1st to 5th is a joke.
Then, they provided 3 different starting points for the campaign. Nothing exceptional. After that, the PCs can explore the Sword Coast. WotC built a true sandbox, in the sense that the party can truly pass through every town of the Sword Coast and find something interesting to do. That is impressive: the Sword Coast as an open-world that can be used by the DM in many other campaigns. But this part is so free-form that it is easy to get lost. Meaning that the players, fascinated by the sub-quests and red herrings, don't know clearly what to do. IF all goes as well, the PCs discover the plot of the giants and can storm ONE out of FIVE of their lairs. Each of these dungeons is very good or masterwork, and the DM can use the excellent material provided later in this campaign or in other ones. Then, the final part of the campaign: the Storm Giant lair appears excellent but the NPC relationships make it a bit confusing (IMO), and the end appears a bit anticlimatic. A Giant campaign with a BBEG that is not one of them?...
Other ideas were underdeveloped, as the runes or the potions of growth (why? "You have to be a giant to defeat a giant!" But Please!). The art, instead, is excellent.

In the end, it is a good product with some excellent aspects that the DM can peruse, but ultimately lacks focus. As a consequence, the players lack a strong motivation. So I cannot give this product a 5-star rating.

WotC experimented with the idea of a true sandbox, surpassed the results of the first published adventures for 5e, and learned some lessons from the mistakes, and in fact some time later Tomb of Annihilation was produced: a truly well made sandbox.
 
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1 out of 5 rating for Storm King's Thunder

[FONT=&quot]This, like most wizards campaign books, takes a good adventure idea and stretches it into an overly drawn out campaign with a ton of meaningless random encounters and half baked side quests. It assumes a ridiculous amount of prep to run anything prior to the higher level dungeons (which aren't in themselves that bad, except that as written the majority of them won't be played through). More of a North Sword Coast Gazetteer with some cool giants' lairs tacked on at the end.[/FONT]
 

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