The Return of Tyranny of Dragons: First Impressions

Gamers don't usually ask for a revision to an existing adventure unless it's to adapt it to a new edition, yet that's exactly why Wizards of the Coast produced the new edition of Tyranny of Dragons. Fans online have been asking for an updated edition for some time. The fact that Tiamat and the Cult of the Dragon, especially one very prominent Tiamat follower, factors into the newest adventure, Baldur's Gate: Descent Into Avernus, probably helped.

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Tyranny of Dragons contains a revised versions of the previously released adventure books Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat, packaged with extra material, errata and a brand new cover by Hydro74 that gorgeously displays the five heads of Tiamat. While our accompanying image shows off the cover accurately you really have to see it in person to get the full effect of the metallic inks, especially the metallic red artwork contrasted with the black matte background. Unlike Hydro74's cover for Xanathar's Guide to Everything the matte portion is not a soft touch black cover they use on limited editions but it still looks terrific..

Reissuing Tyranny of Dragons in its combined form is not an insult to the original version or, in my opinion, a cash grab. Hoard of the Dragon Queen was produced by Kobold Press, but the team had the disadvantage of creating the adventure while the rules for 5th Edition were still being finalized, and the book was released with before the 5th Edition Monster Manual was released so it was designed to work with the Basic Rules that were online at that time and monsters in the appendix. Logistically, it made sense – give players a chance to start immediately with a new adventure. I don't envy Wolfgang Baur, Steve Winter and their team putting together an epic adventure without a finalized rule set for most of the development time.

As the first official 5th Edition adventure, Tyranny of Dragons, the official name of the two adventures when taken as a whole, is as epic as they come. WotC clearly wanted to kick off with a bang, and Kobold Press delivered. New leadership in the Cult of the Dragon has shifted its focus from undead dragons to plotting to free the dragon goddess Tiamat from her prison in Avernus and acquire a hoard of gold to welcome her return to Faerun (she is greedy, and dragons love a hoard). The plot takes the players through large chunks of the continent as the Red Wizards of Thay scheme with the cult to free Tiamat and a separate conspiracy seeks to shape the world in its image. From Baldur's Gate and Waterdeep to the Sea of Moving Ice and much more, Tyranny of Dragons provides an overview of the world that worked well for new and lapsed players as well as to introduce Faerun to the new edition.

Baur and the Kobold Press team also deftly worked in not just an introduction to factions but weaved them well into the plot as information sources, support and potential thorns in the characters' side, depending upon what the players decide to do. Within the story opportunities arise for rival sides like the Harpers and Zhentarim (as well as groups like the Lords Alliance who frequently disagree with both of those) to work together against a common enemy – but that doesn't mean it will smooth sailing.

The original Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat are fan favorites for a reason. It's a rollicking good adventure whether you're completely new to D&D (and role-playing in general) or just new to 5th Edition. Starting at 1st level and taking the players to 15th level before the final confrontation in the Well of Dragons, it gives players a chance to sink their teeth into the adventure, and they can fail. The final battle isn't hopeless, but victory is far from assured.

I do wish that in revising HotDQ and RoT to unify Tyranny of Dragons that they had adopted some of the conventions the more recent D&D adventures have added. Clearly defined adventure trees, dramatis personae, pronunciation guides, etc. are small things individually but make life much easier for busy DMs.

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The concept art is a lovely addition. Unfortunately Tyranny of Dragons does not follow the convention of the more recent D&D adventures where the artist's name is listed on the page seam so you can tell who did what illustration. Still, in addition to the original art, ToD contains epic new images, details on the dragon masks, the cult's decorative regalia, etc. I especially like the sketches for the types of chromatic dragons with details next to them as if a zoologist was taking notes.

If you don't already own HotDQ and RoT, and are interested in the plot, purchasing Tyranny of Dragons is a no-brainer. You'll be getting a proven, popular adventure in a spiffy new edition with a gorgeous new cover and additional art.

If you do already HotDQ and RoT, purchasing Tyranny of Dragons is more of a judgment call, especially depending upon your budget. While it does incorporate the errata to fix prior mistakes and omission, that and the supplemental material for Rise of Tiamat are still available online so purchasing the new version isn't necessary. If you're a completest, then buying it is an easy choice.

Original edition or revised, Tyranny of Dragons is a terrific adventure. It definitely set a high bar for launching the 5th Edition D&D adventures and well worth a look if you haven't already played it.
 
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Beth Rimmels

Comments

Charlie82

Explorer
Yes, I have to admit other than a single line this review doesn't seem interested in discussing whether I should buy this adventure as someone who owns the original two books.
 

Xenonnonex

Adventurer
Well, this is hardly a review as nothing of the content has been touched, such as how extensive the errata and additions are, which is the main reason to buy this (except the less exciting cover due to cheaper cover finish).
Yes, I have to admit other than a single line this review doesn't seem interested in discussing whether I should buy this adventure as someone who owns the original two books.
Her other "reviews" were like this as well.
 

Sadras

Adventurer
Sadly this review does not deliver on the intended material. As someone who is busy running the adventure (RoT) I was expecting more here. :confused:
 

Charlie82

Explorer
I have not run this, but I usually hear it panned pretty badly by gamers, and not endorsed as a "fan favorite"
I ran it. It definitely was very railroady, and also quite difficult for the players (lots of dragon fights in environments that benefit them), with some severe deficiencies in art direction and word count. The awesome elements (political meetings! fate of the world! making allies!) felt underdeveloped in comparison to loads of wordcount given to fairly tepid dungeons.

HOWEVER

I quite enjoyed it. I combined it with Storm King's Thunder, which felt very natural as it allowed me to tie in the giants vs dragons theme, and gave the players some absolutely boss allies in the big end battle. Also, Storm King's Thunder has enough talky elements with Harshnag and the Storm giants that it helped balance out the manydungeons of the dragons storyline. Also the dragons storyline has a few really cool moments (the wizard's tower, Tiamat herself, all the cult infiltration stuff) that the players seemed to enjoy.

Overall I would rate the original version a solid... 6/10. If you're really on for that theme, or if you are happy to spend the time to bring out the councils and politics in balance with the dungeons then it can be really fun. It takes less time and effort to use than a homebrew with the same theme would take, even after you rewrite it.

My players unanimously voted for homebrew as the following campaign, however that seems to happen whenever I include that as an option in a poll, so not sure that it was a sign of anything in particular.
 

Sadras

Adventurer
I have not run this, but I usually hear it panned pretty badly by gamers, and not endorsed as a "fan favorite"
I can see that. But - if you have some time as DM
(1) Having hindsight, knowing the shortcomings of the adventure through the forums;
(2) Using aids (DMGuild supplements, FR Lore, Enworld forum threads for Improvement, online guides);
(3) Combining it with SKT (it just gels); and
(4) Developing the Council Meetings and Faction/Personae politics

You can easily manage to make this AP an 11/10.
And for me, it is still easier than developing something from scratch. I use AP's as a guideline.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
I can see that. But - if you have some time as DM
(1) Having hindsight, knowing the shortcomings of the adventure through the forums;
(2) Using aids (DMGuild supplements, FR Lore, Enworld forum threads for Improvement, online guides);
(3) Combining it with SKT (it just gels); and
(4) Developing the Council Meetings and Faction/Personae politics

You can easily manage to make this AP an 11/10.
And for me, it is still easier than developing something from scratch. I use AP's as a guideline.
That does sound like a lot of work. I'm sure for the DMs who put the time and effort it pays off. But for all the ones who ran the original out of the gate, there wasn't much out there to actually supplement it yet, and definitely not SKT.
 

Seramus

Adventurer
Did they fix the introduction to the adventure? I remember there was a huge problem with the beginning because the adventure expected a bunch of Level 1 PCs to go TOWARDS a town under attack by a giant dragon.
 

Von Ether

Explorer
My players unanimously voted for homebrew as the following campaign, however that seems to happen whenever I include that as an option in a poll, so not sure that it was a sign of anything in particular.
There's usually a few reasons that Homebrew get's extra points in a poll.

The first is a fear needing to "catch up" with published material since it's out there in the public. The particular fear might be motivated by competition with other player's geeky trivia of the setting, spending money, a collector/completionist mentality, etc. With a homebrew, there's only what the GM freely gives out, and most GMs are more inclined to fill things in as they go along. Less fuss, less expensive.

Many GMs also fill in holes with tropes that everyone knows (hence why fantasy is the most favored genre, everyone knows the tropes by heart.) It's sort of like zombies and vampires, you only need to tell the audience what's different. And also why vampires and zombies never seem to die as tropes either (see what I did there.)

The last is that with a homebrew is the implied promise that things might be customized towards the group, though many of those type of customizations could be done in a published adventures (if it was brought in as part of the original story line as compared to inserted at the last minute.)
 

Matrix Sorcica

Adventurer
I combined it with Storm King's Thunder, which felt very natural as it allowed me to tie in the giants vs dragons theme, and gave the players some absolutely boss allies in the big end battle. Also, Storm King's Thunder has enough talky elements with Harshnag and the Storm giants that it helped balance out the manydungeons of the dragons storyline.
(3) Combining it with SKT (it just gels); and
Care to share any details an experiences on doing this? How did you do it, what got cut and so on? Thanks.
 

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