What Do I Know About First Impressions? Shadow of the Dragon Queen (D&D 5e), Part Two
Chapter 3: When Home Burns
I really like how this is framing the beginning of this adventure, by echoing, but not directly mirroring, a lot of elements in the earliest Dragonlance adventures. There is a good narrative reason for the player characters to have a connection to one another, as well as to the starting location. There is a lot of work done to make that starting location a place they will care about.
Vogler has a history that makes details of the ancient past, like the connection between Istar and Solamnia, relevant to the story. I like that the people of Vogler feel like regular people caught up in a war, and that enough stakes for this section of the adventure. PCs get to be heroes by saving everyday people from the horrors of war.
Echoes of the Past
As I mentioned above, this echoes the feeling of the original adventures, where the PCs had some epic things they were doing, but had no real context for how wide-ranging things would be at the beginning. I also appreciate that with the emphasis on the Knights of Solamnia as one of the defining traits of the setting, as presented in the book so far, we get a solid example right from the start.
It’s also nice to have an echo of the original adventures in that the enemy doesn’t come right out and announce themselves and their full intentions immediately, but there is some mysterious interstitial story elements before the full reveal hits.
I love the opportunity to give PCs their own chance to tell stories in one section of the adventure. The only thing I’ll say about this is this is that some players get intimidated by on-the-spot storytelling, but when it works, it works great. From a design standpoint, I like that there is commentary making it clear that since X NPC is meant to be a long-term trusted ally, you should make sure they are likable and dependable.
I also appreciate that there are several things that should happen for the narrative to progress, but there is room for the PCs to take on those tasks in different ways. I really like one particular encounter map, that is semi-abstracted to help model a smaller fight within a larger battle. I love that kind of thing to evoke the feeling without making it too hard for the DM to run.
The Pendulum of Balance
My critiques are pretty mild in this. Like in other D&D 5e adventures, there are some random encounters that you can use, but the text is fuzzy on how many to use. I know that’s meant to give the DM flexibility, but I feel like that can intimidate some DMs.
My long-term Dragonlance fan brain really only has a few tweaks I would make, like reinforcing that PCs that had a divine revelation have a part to play, but it’s not proselytizing, because that’s what the Disks of Mishakal and Elistan are going to be doing. That said, proselytizing isn’t really the aim of this section of the adventure, it’s just something that is briefly touched upon in a few places.
So far, this is definitely feeling like “Dragonlance” to me. In my mind, it’s not about using X% of proper nouns in the adventure, it’s about using the same narrative building blocks and doing something different but thematically aligned, with the original.
Warriors of Krynn Integration
One more thing . . . this has the first instance of being able to use the boardgame instead of roleplaying through encounters, so I wanted to touch on what that looks like for anyone wondering. Basically, there is a section of encounters you’ll skip if you play the battle scenario, and at the end, you start at the beginning of X section and depending on how well you do, you might get some rewards for how the scenario went.
There isn’t a catastrophic swing between where you end up if you win or lose the scenario, it just replaces a section of encounters, with most of the “load bearing” encounters still happening outside of the scenario you are playing through or skipping.