What Do I Know About First Impressions? Shadow of the Dragon Queen (D&D 5e), Part Four
Chapter 5: The Northern Wastes
In this section, the PCs are going to be the scouts/advanced force for troops sent into the titular region to find out what the villain from the previous chapter was after. The PCs don’t start off knowing the exact location they are heading. At various spots on the map of the Northern Wastes, they are going to encounter different characters and locations that will give them more information, which eventually leads them where they want to go.
These locations don’t require a specific order, expect that the PCs can’t pinpoint their final location until they gather some clues. Some of the locations may be discoverable, but are more useful to visit once the PCs have a job to do at that location, from an NPC.
Generally speaking, this is another example of the kind of game design I like in a story that has specific goals. You are trying to do a thing, but the order in which you complete the tasks that prepare you or lead you to the next thing allows you some agency.
The PCs get their chance to meet their next famous Dragonlance NPC in this section, and I like that the circumstances of meeting them doesn’t lead you to think “they should be doing X,” or “why don’t they complete this themselves?” It’s also another good callback to running into people from some of the other regions of Krynn that have been devastated by the War of the Lance, and how some people will be dodgier about explaining their circumstances than others.
While there are still some “echoes” of the original Dragonlance adventures in this section, things like excavating lost archaeological sites for ancient relics and the Red Dragonarmy having camps set up for this definitely bring to mind Raiders of the Lost Ark.
One thing I haven’t mentioned as much in the previous chapters, but which has been true, and continues in this chapter, is that NPCs you are likely to spend some time roleplaying with have full Trait/Ideal/Bond/Flaw sections to guide you. There is another supernatural gift as treasure in this section (see previous chapters, but yes, I like using these).
Order of Battle
Almost all of the encounters either want the PCs to be scouting ahead of the troops, or to only have a handful of troops with them. So what’s the payoff for bringing an army? The “transition encounter” that takes place at the location the PCs need to find the clues for is heavily dug in with Red Dragonarmy troops, which gives the adventure another opportunity for “skirmish with special rules” or “play the board game” resolution.
One thing I find interesting since I don’t have the board game, is that the part of the adventure telling you to play through this scenario doesn’t say “If you win” or “if you survive” go to the next chapter, it just kind of assumes you will after the scenario.
Other “plot advancing” scenarios haven’t said you can’t proceed to the next section of the adventure if you lose, but they have included some kind of benefit if you win the scenario. In this case, I guess you just play to generate narrative details?
The final skirmish for the PCs, if they don’t use the board game, involves searching for a passage on a battle map that has the same border area that simulates mass combat effects, and has special combat-related events that can trigger.
A few things I wanted to throw in from the long-term Dragonlance fan perspective, as things I don’t think are wrong, but might be better “flavored” to Dragonlance
The first thing is the Spawning Shard, which is related to chaos, which means in Dragonlance terms, it’s a gem that could be related to Chaos, meaning maybe just come up with some way to explain that this stone might have been created using the Greygem’s magic in ancient days.
The other thing of note for some die-hard Dragonlance fans is that there are a lot fewer designated separate planes of existence, at least from the point of view of the mortals looking out at the planes.
Basically, you have The Grey (Etherial, etc.), The Elemental Planes, The Astral Plane, The Dome of Creation (Good Outer Plane), The Hidden Vale (Neutral Outer Plane), and The Abyss (Evil Outer Plane).
So, if you want to keep from getting into planar discussions with your long-term Dragonlance-loving friend, you can always just truncate references to the Shadowfell and the Feywild into aspects of The Grey.