What Do I Know About First Impressions? Shadow of the Dragon Queen (D&D 5e), Part Three
Chapter 4: Shadow of War
I’m going to dance around some spoilers in this section while trying to say something meaningful about it. We have more thematic echoes of the original adventures, in this case a situation not entirely unlike the arrival at Thorbardin. We also get an NPC foil in the veil of Theocrat Hederick or Derek Crownguard from the original series.
This section has a number of missions to complete, as well as two main locations to explore, and another encounter that can be played out that happens in the middle of a larger battle. You can use the board game to resolve mass battles in three suggested areas. Two are noted as primarily existing to give details about what the local forces have been doing while the PCs go on missions.
The third scenario grants the player characters some boons if they successfully complete it. I haven’t seen the board game, but I really enjoy the semi-abstracted more minor battle-within-a-fight encounters in this book.
This uses the same concept as the other chapter, where there is a border region with special rules, but the special rules for this combat and how it interacts with that border region is different.
This section also tackles the age-old question of “how do you communicate the background story of an NPC to the players in a way that isn’t an info dump?” In this case, I like the solution, as parts of the story are revealed as the PCs explore a location, and the reason they are revealed is bound up with the MacGuffin and how it interacts with the NPCs searching for it.
There is a little bit of the design around encounters that I didn’t like in the previous chapter, as we have a few “roll on this chart for encounters, but use however many you want.” I would rather have a suggested number or a trigger, but that’s me.
- The PCs can make a check while searching, and the only difference between making the check and failing the check is the amount of time to accomplish the task, but there is no real time pressure on the PCs.
- The PCs can make a check while searching, and the only difference between making the check and failing the check is the amount of time to accomplish the task, but there is no real-time pressure on the PCs.
I would have rather had the adventure call out checking for encounters during the extended time, or perhaps giving the PCs the chance to set up an ambush if they make their check to notice something earlier rather than later.
We get some encounters with some classic Dragonlance cultural representatives in this section, and I like that both of the encounters are out there enough to convey their quirks, but not a protracted endurance run through those quirks.
So far, this still feels like a really solid representation of playing through the Solamnic campaign side of the War of the Lance and starting to add in some of the more epic things to come that are worthy of big damn hero types.
One other thing that I don’t recall coming up quite as often in other adventures: It looks like Supernatural Gifts are coming up more as a reward in certain sections of this. This is a good place for those, given the kind of mythic significance of the War of the Lance.