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Monday, February 1, 2016

Tyranny of Dragons - Frozen Castle

You can buy Frozen Castle here.

You may or may not have heard about the Dungeon Master's Guild. It is an official D&D site where you can buy 5e adventures. You can make 5e stuff, put it up on there, and make some money. You are even allowed to set your adventures in the Forgotten Realms. Pretty cool, right?

Kobold Press, the makers of Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat, have put out an adventure on the DM's Guild site that is linked to Hoard. It's only 3 bucks, so I figured I'd buy it and review it. Let's check it out.


The Plot: The plot goes like this:
  • The heroes go to try to loot and possibly repair the crashed flying castle from Hoard chapter 8.
  • They explore the glacier that it crashed in, and see that the cult of the dragon is there.
  • The heroes might make friends with residents of the glacier, which include dwarves, orcs and frost giants (you should definitely have them befriend the giants).
  • The group and their new NPC friends begin repairing the castle.
  • The cult sends hundreds of enemies to kill the heroes and take the castle back.
The Art: First off, it has art by Bryan Syme and Marcel Mercado, people who did a lot of the art in the actual Tyranny books. So that's awesome. This really feels like an "official" addition to Tyranny.

This Thing Runs Slow: This is a 14 page .pdf, and for some reason it runs incredibly slow on Adobe Reader. My laptop practically melts every time I try to go to the next page. Maybe it's a problem on my end? It runs much more smoothly on my tablet.

Running This As Part of Tyranny of Dragons: If you're going to run this in conjunction with Hoard of the Dragon Queen, then you should make sure that the the flying castle crashes in chapter 8. The best way to do this is to kill Blagothkus. I know there were a good number of groups who kept the castle or did something else with it, so as a DM you'll need to make Blagothkus more aggressive.

When to Run This: This adventure is meant for 10th to 11th level adventurers. I am thinking that when you run Rise of Tiamat, you could have the heroes go through episode 3 (the yuan-ti dungeon) and then do episode 2, which is set near the Spine of the World. Once the heroes deal with the dragon in episode 2, you can place clues that direct the group to the crashed castle. The group could even sail to the Miklos Glacier on Frostskimmer.

On page 6 of this .pdf, there is a note that the remains of a frost giant named Storvild is in Arauthator's iceberg in The Sea of Moving Ice. The corpse has a bracelet which matches the one on a beard of Brunvild, a giant in the frozen castle adventure.

This adventure also assumes that Glazhael, the white dragon from Hoard chapter 8, got away by "..simply flying away in the face of danger and the castle's crash". As far as I can tell, most groups that played through Hoard killed this dragon. In this, Glazhael has rescued some cultists and they are hanging out near a fissure. If Glazhael died in your game, I think you could replace him with Arveiaturace, the mate of Arauthator, which I discuss in my Guide to Tyranny of Dragons.

Exploring: The heroes will need to traverse the Miklos Glacier, partaking in some sandbox-y exploring. There's a pile of random encounters (which I always recommend that you pre-roll in advance). The encounters are just a sentence long, like "2d6 winter wolves". I wish they would have given a little more detail.

There are a bunch of factions here, including dwarves and orcs. The heroes are going to need their help if they are to dig out the castle and get it running.

My Favorite Part of This Adventure: There's an awesome section detailing three ways that the heroes can win over the frost giants that live in the area. I don't want to spoil too much, but I really get a kick out of the second option. The heroes go on a 'vision quest', drinking spirit brew and wandering into the frozen waste. They proceed to have surreal encounters with a 20 foot tall reindeer and a frost giant god jumping around, chopping chasms into the ice with a massive axe.

The Castle: My other favorite thing in this adventure is the expanded list of commands that you can use in the flying castle. You can have the castle drift in the wind, form a cloud veil around it, or even create a storm that allows the person flying the castle to shoot lightning bolts at a target within 1,000 feet!

The whole thing ends with a hoard of enemies coming to the castle while the heroes are fixing it up. They'll have to defend the castle in a mass combat with over 200 enemies.

The adventure gives some notes on how to handle this without endless dice rolling, but it is very vague. You'll definitely need to do some serious preparation to make this run smoothly.

Overall

For $3, this is worth owning. Good art, nice map, great layout, decent material. I kind of hope they put out more supplements for the under-detailed chapters in the Tyranny storyline. I am thinking specifically of the metallic dragons chapter and the Thay section in Rise of Tiamat.

I love how the adventure gives details on how to win over the giants. I wish they had made material like that for the other factions as well.

This .pdf offers a broad overview of the glacier area and leaves the specifics up to the DM. The adventure could have used a lot more detailed encounters, particularly when exploring the glacier. Out of the Abyss did a great job in this regard, while taking up very little space in the book. All we needed here was a single page of developed random encounters, each with some kind of gimmick or twist.

I also don't like the vague nature of the final siege. That scene deserves a couple of pages with detailed rules on how to handle the combat. This would be a case where the old "encounters" format from the 3rd edition expeditions books and 4th edition could have been used to great effect.

All in all, this is a decent supplement. I hope more like it are created.

2 comments:

samhogy said...

Great review! It seems like a lot gets left on the cutting room floor in these larger published adventures. In the case of Out of the Abyss there's so much that they can add (such as Zeellix's asylum, only mentioned in the afterword). The DMs Guild is a great platform to release these mini-expansions.

Looking forward to incorporating the Frozen Castle in the near future.

Sean said...

samhogy: Thanks! It's funny how they have 250 pages to work with and they still can't fit everything in.