Hoard of the Dragon Queen was the first hardcover campaign book release for the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition RGP. The book has many strengths and many weaknesses to it that make it a good initial installment to a brand new edition to the Dungeons & Dragons edition releases. So how does it stack up to other campaigns in the 5 Edition of the game, how has it aged? Let’s dive in and find out.
Hoard of the Dragon Queen Analysis
Hoard of the Dragon Queen was produced by Wolfgang Baur and Steve Winter and was released in 2014 now over 5 years old. The campaign book is the first in a two part release series with the second being Rise of Tiamat which was released later in the same year completing the Tyranny of Dragons series.
The book consists of eight chapters and three appendices. It’s important to note that at the time of completion of this book, the rules were not yet completed for the 5th Edition game so there are some differences and some noticeable balance issues throughout the book. The book is also different in the print copy that I have in the texture of the paper inside the book. The overall art style of the book is very different from more recent releases as well signifying that Wizards of the Coast was still finalizing their format what would take the release of this book as well as Rise of Tiamat and the Prince of the Apocalypse
Hoard of the Dragon Queens Story
The story begins with adventures heading to the town of Greenest when they discover it’s being attacked by a blue dragon with people aiding it attacking the town. There are several things that the party can do here to start the campaign in the first chapter but depending on the starting level of everyone some of the options could be rather difficult and might require some re-balancing from the dungeon master.
Much of the campaign feels like a tracking down the enemy sort of adventure with large swaths of the campaign being following the mysterious raiders and figuring out what they are really up to after the events of Greenest. At the time of release the tracking down the enemy which takes place the most in chapter 4 was a slog.
One strength of this campaign to me that also happens to be a weakness is the traveling up and down the sword coast going to other towns like Water Deep and Baldurs gate. The amount of the world that is allowed to be seen is pretty extensive. At the time of the book release there was not much covered in the cities around the sword coast however so making things up for each of the cities was common practice. The versions of the towns in this campaign were severely glossed over. However, with time we have come to get multiple releases of other campaigns set in the city of Water Deep and even this year we will receive a campaign for the Baldur's Gate. Today, a DM that happens to have access to this material can not only really make good use of them for this campaign but also potentially add in the plot threads from those books as well
Therein lies the biggest strength of the Tyranny of Dragons quest line. Due to all the travel, so many plot strings from the Wizards of the Coast campaign books for 5th Edition are now able to cover anything up and down the Sword Coast. The traveling up and down the coast now does not have to be a slog. Mini side quests or whole other adventures can be added into this story.
Hoard of the Dragon Queen Can Be Slow
The weakness however stems from that same idea. The Campaign is able to stand on its own but does require some doctoring in order to make more it interesting and for the fights to be more correctly balanced. The lack of detail on release and they way that they handled some of these large towns in the book really just feels like a missed opportunity however intentional it may have been with future stories coming down the pipe in those locations.
The campaign does also happen to fit in some smaller sized dungeon crawls like with the Dragon hatchery segment about midway through the campaign. The dungeon does appear to me to be much more combat oriented however.
Another strength to this book is how rewarding the end fight feels to be. The hard grinding of player levels early on really sets up for good battles up in the sky castle. Around this time if characters are not leveled up enough, it could be really hard to accomplish. But this also is the most unique setting that the book has to offer and once past all the traveling, this will be a rewarding finish for any player.
So Is This Dungeons & Dragons Book Good?
In the end this book appears to be 5th Edition catching it’s stride and setting out on a Lore heavy journey throughout 5th Edition and suffers from the lack of content at the time of it’s release but benefits years down the road with more content that really fill up the world that will be traveled up and down in with this book. How this book handles it’s multi book story structure is not as polished as the Waterdeep series that came out years later but I can appreciate the effort put into what was done with this series.
The book was cleverly crafted to give the rather generic Dungeons & Dragons story that would include instances of everything that the series tends to be known for with new players. Throwing new players into the action quickly to hook them and finishing strong at the end. The empty world that would one day be significantly expanded on was also a really good idea when looking back on the this campaign as now this campaign book makes for a good addition or base story that all the other books can be integrated into.
At the end of the day, this book is a backbone structure that can be used for the 5th Edition campaign but by no means has enough to support itself independently as a standalone story and requires significant work for the DM to really crack open this world for their players to explore. If being used in the way as and not being afraid to pull in smaller stories or descriptions along the way, this book improves.
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Have you played this campaign book? What are your thoughts on it and how does it stand up against other books in the 5th Edition catalog. Would you consider playing it again now that so much more of the Sword Coast has been fleshed out for this edition? Comment below, we would love to hear from you!