What do we think about the new Tyranny of Dragons module from Wizards of the Coast (WOC)? There may be some spoilers here so read at your own risk. First and foremost this module is designed to take the players from level 1 through level 15 depending on what missions the party may decide to take on, or ignore they can change what level the party finds themselves at the end of the module. Now that that’s out of the way WOC has been working hard to bring two older modules together to create the new book. It originally comprised of Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat, personally I feel that WOC has done a fantastic job at bringing these two books together and adapting them to the current feel that 5th edition has developed into.
One of the many things this book does right is how it introduces many of the core factions from old D&D. Many of the factions that rule the Forgotten Realms or at least like to think they rule it; have been the back bone of 5th edition sense its earliest release. As a new player or a GM with new players you may find it hard to introduce some of these factions into your games. This module dose an excellent job at introducing many of them and getting your players to understand what there all about in a fun and engaging way, although if I have one bad thing to say about this is that for the first few chapters of the book they remain uninvolved and then seemingly come out of the wood work. That said however it dose a great job at keeping this all separate and easy to understand as to not muddy the waters and confuse the story line. Well versed GM’s may find it easy to introduce some of the factions early or may even be able to set the ground work during a session zero in order to help smooth out all the new introductions for the players. I have personally had Tiamat and her Dragon Cultists in my games since I began GMing. If you have been running games for a while you will know she’s not really had the center stage in D&D lore for a while so you may need to introduce your players to her and Bahamut the two “big” gods of dragons.
Lets take a moment to talk about the pace of the book the books have been combined into “episodes” or chapters as I hear many new GM’s call them. each one of these episodes depending on how story driven your party is could take one to as many as 3 sessions to complete. Not all of these episodes result in a level up at the end. Its true that there are always times in the book where it does hand out levels. There are also times when they players are rewarded for a job well done and may get to level up early. So depending on how invested the players are in helping the people of the land or how invested in there own problems the party could be rewarded or hindered. GM’s who are running this for two different tables could have both groups finish the game at different levels making the end of the game harder or “less hard” at the end based on how stream line the party decides to play this module. Trust me when I say that if Tiamat should show up at the end the encounter will be very difficult.
Now we can’t have all this good without a little bad, first off the book doesn’t really do a good job of explaining why the Dragon Cultist would want to “spread there wings” through the realm so as a GM you may want to come up with a plan in case some inquisitive party members start pushing you for some answers. Second, the end of the original first book, the story has the party defeat a white Dragon, and then immediately at the start of the second book you fight another white Dragon the problem with this is there is no motivation for the party in the second fight and you lose the advantages you had in the first one and its a vary tough fight. Unfortunately WOC seems to have not seen a problem with this and left this “duel” encounter in the new book. We suggest changing the first fight into a red (or any other classically evil dragon color) dragon, for variety this also doesn’t really change a lot based on the story.
Now lets end this on a awesome high note the game has tones of free PDF available as aid for the GMs who chose to run this including reputation tracker charts. but arguably one of the coolest is that final chapter ends with the party in a flying castle that they may or may not get to keep. If you’re a GM who likes to set your campaigns in the same world, this is a wonderful new set piece to play around with and something your players wont soon forget.