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The Rise of Tiamat: Kobold Press & WotC Unleash the Dracopocalypse for D&D 5E in this Pre-Release Re

It’s been less than three months now since the latest edition of the Dungeons & Dragons Role-Playing Game was released at GEN CON 2014. And gamers are already utilizing the two Core Rulebooks to which they already have access – the Player’s Handbook and Monster Manual – with the third – the D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide – coming out (hopefully) before the Holiday Season.

But even without the new D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide, there is still content to play both in personal gaming circles and in organized play activities. The Hoard of the Dragon Queen adventure series has by all accounts sold very well – a top seller on Amazon.com in its initial release – and it has provided gamers with content for the first eight levels of play under D&D 5th Edition rules.

And once again, Wizards of the Coast has teamed up with Kobold Press and designers Wolfgang Baur, Steve Winter, and Alexander Winter to design the second half of the first official adventure series of 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. The Rise of Tiamat takes off where Hoard of the Dragon Queen left off, and pits a seasoned party of heroes against the might of the Cult of the Dragon and potentially Tiamat Herself - with the fate of all Faerûn in the balance!


The Rise of Tiamat (5th Edition D&D)

  • Designer: Steve Winter & Alexander Winter
  • Adventure Contributors: Mike Mearls, Christopher Perkins, Matthew Sernett, Chris Sims, Rodney Thompson; Jeremy Crawford
  • Illustrators: Michael Kormarck (cover); Jean-Paul Balmet, Nicole Cardiff, Guido Kuip, Marcel Marcado, Bryan Syme (interior)
  • Cartography: Jared Blando
  • Publisher: Kobold Press / Wizards of the Coast
  • Year: 2014
  • Media: Hardbound (96 pages)
  • Price: $29.95 (Available from Amazon.com in Hardbound for only $18.94)

The Rise of Tiamat
is the second half of the first official adventure series released for the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons. This adventure arc is designed for four 7th to 8th Level characters to begin an epic quest and progress all the way through 15th Level by the climax of the campaign. The book’s episodes contain information required to run the adventure, including plot descriptions and read-aloud text, full-color maps, monster stat blocks, NPC backgrounds, experience point rewards, and treasure.


Production Quality

The production quality of The Rise of Tiamat is just as excellent as its preceding sourcebook, containing some top-notch writing and a lovely user-friendly layout. Steve Winter crafts a considerably detailed and involved plot for this Dungeons & Dragons campaign, and is a more advanced sort of adventure for a DM who completed the first half of this series with their players.

And like The Hoard of the Dragon Queen, this new book has a solid binding and is sturdily hardbound with a glossy cover. The Rise of Tiamat is a full sized tome weighing in at about 21 ounces, with heavy weight paper for the pages which have a crisp standard (non-glossy) finish. The book has a detailed table of contents with page references to each episode, the episode’s major events, and to each map as well.

The illustrations and artwork in The Rise of Tiamat are really gorgeous, right from the first glimpse of cover depicting Tiamat being summoned into the world of Faerûn! The interior art is equally dramatic and beautiful, but disappointingly, is quite sparse in appearance given the page-length of the campaign. There is quite of few sections where “wall of text” is unrelieved for several pages in a row. However, quite a bit of the artwork depicts scenes and NPCs the heroes are likely to encounter so could be quite useful at the gaming table. And the same cartographer created the maps for The Rise of Tiamat as in The Hoard of the Dragon Queen, and these all have some great “fantasy world” embellishments like runes and decorations which make them lovely bits of art in their own right.


Dracopocalypse 2014!!!
The Rise of Tiamat continues the adventure arc which began in The Hoard of the Dragon Queen, and consists of nine episodes all around the Sword Coast of the Forgotten Realms… and beyond! The adventure series is balanced for a 7th to 8th Level four-person party of D&D heroes, but the author does briefly discuss rebalancing encounters for more characters (or less?). A fiat experience point method is recommended such that the heroes will gain about one level per episode to top out at Level 14 or 15. Dungeon Masters may also tally experience points for encounters and quests normally, and even include side adventures of their own devising to keep the progression on track with the campaign’s expectations.

***Spoiler Alert: Although spoilers for this adventure arc will be kept to a minimum while discussing the product, those planning on playing The Rise of Tiamat might wish to skip directly to the bottom for the conclusions and scoring. ***

As the cover of The Rise of Tiamat will tell you, the player-character heroes are to be tasked to “Avert the cataclysmic return of Tiamat…” …and the authors are not kidding around here in the least! The events set forth in The Hoard of the Dragon Queen are moving directly toward an epic climax where Tiamat will be summoned into the world of Faerûn and herald a draconic disaster of apocalyptic levels!

The adventures encounters draws on monsters that can be found in the new D&D Monster Manual, with a supplemental listing of special monsters and NPCs which can be found in a section at the end of the book. But while mundane treasures are taken care of in the adventure text, magic items seem to be expected to be referenced from the as yet unreleased D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide, which might prove a bit of an issue – although to give WotC their due, they did put out an excerpt of magic items and monsters specifically for use with HotDQ, and could do the same with TRoT.

The authors open The Rise of Tiamat with a quick overview of the last campaign arc and about a dozen pages devoted to explaining the story arc and episode design to the DM. It contains information about potential allies and enemies of the adventurers, and features information on main NPCs found in the Factions for the Adventurers’ League. A central part of this campaign arc centers on gathering an army of allies to face off against the forces which are being recruited by the Cult of the Dragons in preparation for an epic showdown, and the heroes are right in the middle of the action as “movers and shakers” in the world now. As such, the campaign arc becomes a bit less sandbox-y in its movement from episode to episode, however, it does focus more on the direct actions of the heroes as they take on quests and resolve issues to garner favor from among some often strange and dangerous allies.

In fact, TRoT employs a faction “scorecard” which is used to tally up the favor and disfavor that result from the actions of the heroes. Some outcomes during the adventures earns favor with one faction, but might cause another faction to become angry or more mistrusting… something the heroes cannot afford given that Tiamat is on her way into Faerûn, and the characters will need all the allies and resources they can get! So roleplaying and creative problem solving become rather important in this higher level of play, and the players will really be able to bring a lot to the table as the let their heroes come into their power as leaders on the world stage in the Forgotten Realms.

The settings for the adventures range from the Council Chambers of Waterdeep, to the icy Spine of the World, the perilous lands of Najara and the Serpent Hills, and even a quick teleport into Thay! Not surprisingly, the heroes end up having their final showdown at the infamous Well of Dragons, but not before tramping all up and down the expanses of the Sword Coast. One frustrating aspect of all this travel is the lack of a Sword Coast map in The Rise of Tiamat – DMs had better have the preceding book on hand for that reference map. And some of the locales where the heroes visit are not shown on the map – an adventure to The Misty Forest for example will be a bit annoying without a quick reference to the Forgotten Realms Wiki to learn that it is “…located just west of the High Moor, just south of the river Delimbiyr.” There is a forest on the map in Hoard of the Dragon Queen – but it is not labeled at all. At least two other locations mentioned as adventure sites are equally… unmapped.

That being said, the adventures in the episodes themselves are quite well written and contain a number of exciting moments, from dungeon delves to outdoor explorations. The encounters are pretty well balanced against level appropriate characters, assuming that the adventures are run in a particular order – going too far out of order would result in either too easy or too hard encounters.

And the final showdown at the Well of Dragons is quite spectacular – as well as potentially lethal. And not just for the heroes, but for the Faerûn as well! The imminent threat of Tiamat’s summoning to the Forgotten Realms is not merely a “cut-scene” for dramatic effect, but an all too real menace which could change the very nature of the Realms forever if the Queen of Dragons is loosed from Avernus. The authors provide the stat-block for Tiamat in The Rise of Tiamat, and odds are that most adventuring parties will face some aspect of this dragon goddess – and oh yes, Tiamat is completely OP and will likely kill off the heroes in a few rounds if she gets out of Hell!

Obviously, the trick is to make sure Herself never gets out the netherworld to begin with… and Good Luck with that!


Overall Score: 8.2 out of 10.0


Conclusions

The Rise of Tiamat
is an epic and smashing conclusion to the campaign arc that began with Hoard of the Dragon Queen, and will likely be one of those adventure series that players and DMs will be discussing with the same fond-dread as Tomb of Horrors and The Drow Series/Demonweb Pits from earlier editions. While perhaps not the sandbox of the earlier adventure, the outcome of The Rise of Tiamat does depend considerably more on the creative roleplaying, diplomacy, and problem solving of the player-characters. There choices during the course of the episodes will, in essence, transform them from mere adventurers to epic heroes of the Forgotten Realms.

The production quality of the book is high, but there were a few flaws that were hard to go unnoticed, such as the sparseness of the interior illustrations leading to “wall of text” syndrome, the reliance on downloadable content or the not-yet-released DMG for magic items, and the missing Realms map and locations. But despite a few rough edges, The Rise of Tiamat is an awesome first epic campaign for the new Dungeons & Dragons edition.

And the price for this huge epic dragon-filled adventure is quite reasonable when it goes on sale on Amazon.com in just a couple weeks! Check out the pre-order for the release on November 4th!

Editorial Note
: This Reviewer received a complimentary playtest copy of the product in hardbound format from which the review was written.

*** This Reviewer would like to extend a big Thank You to the PR folks at Wizards of the Coast for the opportunity to have a pre-release review of The Rise of Tiamat this week! ***

Grade Card (Ratings 1 to 10)

  • Presentation: 8.5
  • - Design: 9.0 (Exceptional writing; great layout; a good-looking tome overall)
  • - Illustrations: 8.0 (Beautiful artwork; beautifully rendered maps; some “wall of text” here and there)
  • Content: 7.5
  • - Crunch: 7.5 (Very cool encounters; good use of mechanics; lack of access to magic items a problem)
  • - Fluff: 7.5 (Truly epic storyline; good use of lore; lack of maps and locales could be frustrating)
  • Value: 8.5 (Big epic adventure for a great price!)
 

Chimpy

First Post
I love D&D, and I think D&D 5 Players Handbook and Monster Manual are excellent. But I think HotDQ is just poor for so many reasons, and I expect RoT is going to be just more of the same. Very disappointed for D&D 5's opening adventure.
 


BackInAction

First Post
Does this adventure have the huge number of errors in it or have many been caught and fixed? Any new monsters? Any new magic items? Any stats for Tiamat?
I tolerate an error or two, but he HotDQ is riddled with them. And many are on the maps (missing numbers, numbers in the wrong room, etc.), which sort of ticks me off as I love maps.
 

Retreater

Legend
For what it was (an introductory campaign for 5e), I think HotDQ was one of the worst designed adventures in modern D&D history - I would say even worse than Keep on the Shadowfell. I will be hesitant to purchase any further products for this edition put out by Kobold Press.
 

Retreater

Legend
For what it was (an introductory campaign for 5e), I think HotDQ was one of the worst designed adventures in modern D&D history - I would say even worse than Keep on the Shadowfell. I will be hesitant to purchase any further products for this edition put out by Kobold Press.
 


BackInAction

First Post
SPOILER ALERT (primarily for players)

Besides the type-os, missing map indicators and oddly balanced encounters. The biggest problem with the overall adventure is that it relies heavily on roleplaying knowledge for BOTH the DM and players. Too many of the encounters would be TPK if played as pure combat encounter by the players and/or DM.

IMO, a beginning adventure should be initially light on roleplaying. And when roleplaying is required, it should be obvious for both the players and DM. As the adventure evolves and the DM/Players mature, more roleplaying can be expected. But even then the DM notes
should be clearly written to handle most scenarios.

The later stages of HotDQ require quite a bit of politics, persuasion and general roleplaying. Like the real world, those concepts are a bit vauge and not clearly defined. I expect stuff like that from a lvl 10+ adventures, but lvl 1-9 (unless both the GM and players are experienced) need a bit more hand-holding and single path type stories.
 


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