Sunday, 2 November 2014

Dungeons & Dragons: The Rise of Tiamat Review


  • Production values are top notch.
  • Lots of room for the DM to add their touch.
  • Continues Hoard of the Dragon Queen (for those of you who liked it. If you didn't...this will probably be a con).
  • Some really awesome and epic set pieces and other parts of the adventure.
  • Multiple ways to handle situations and tons of room for house ruling.


  • If you expect to run the adventure after a quick read through, you will be disappointed. This one requires planning.
  • No grid maps for those of us who love miniatures, meaning you will need to make them yourself.
  • No PDF of adventure (most monsters are in the supplement).*

* Denotes nitpicking.

Dungeons and Dragons The Rise of Tiamat front cover.
The front cover of The Rise of Tiamat.


Scheduled for November 4th, 2014, The Rise of Tiamat continues the story started by Hoard of the Dragon Queen for the new version of Dungeons & Dragons. In general, I liked the adventure but can't deny it does require some work to get up and running. It is also quite a long adventure, despite the page count, covering 9 episodes. Those of you who liked the first part of the story will most likely like this one as well. For the rest, read below. I will keep this review spoiler free for those of you who may want to run through part of it in organized play. At the time of writing this, I have read over the adventure and run two of the episodes.

The Adventure

As mentioned above, the adventure is substantial in terms of length and takes an episodic approach. The stakes are high, with the threat of Tiamat herself hovering over the players heads as they play through it (with a name like “The Rise of Tiamat”, that isn't a spoiler). Starting at level 8 and ending at roughly level 15 (unless you go off track or add stuff of course), it is a higher level of play with all the implications that come with it. It also spans a large level range, meaning that The Rise of Tiamat and Hoard of the Dragon Queen really are a full campaign when put together.

I don't think you can really call the adventure easy to complete (again, Tiamat), and many parts of the story have multiple ways of playing out. However, due to the nature of the adventure, there is more restriction than some other adventures (what's that? You want to spend a week playing dice in the inns instead of focusing on the quest. comes Tiamat) since the players aren't dealing with an abandoned dungeon that waits for them. However, it is written to allow for extra additions by the Dungeon Master. In general, when combined with the way the adventure was written, it gave me a sense of urgency (the implication being that the adventure should be run in such a way as to make the players feel that sense of urgency and risk).

Due to the number of chapters and scope, combined with the 96 page count (less after taking out the introduction stuff), there is still more preparation than some will like from their published adventures (some combat encounters have to be literally put together by the Dungeon Master). You can easily break it up by chapter and plan week by week (though reading the whole thing first is definitely a big help, even if you don't flush out everything) instead of front loading the preparation if you play it as a massive gaming session. Some parts of the adventure give you options (I like options) but doing so means you need to take some time to make the decision and adapt to the unexpected. The specifics of how to account for a larger party are also not detailed, meaning the Dungeon Master will need to spend some time to do so. Prepare to be forced to prepare to run this adventure.

There are some parts of the adventures that look to me to be very easy to drop into other games. The adventure is also self-contained, so the Monster Manual is not required to run the adventure as the stats are present in the supplement posted on the Wizards of the Coast website.

The actual adventure itself has quite a varied feel to it. There is tons of opportunity for role-playing. There are tons of nice combat encounters. There is exploration. My players seemed to enjoy the flow of the narrative so far and the feeling of control and danger present. It really has the potential to be a memorable experience.

There are some problems however. I had a fun time understanding the bullet list of page 88 (read in the other section below for the interpretation) as well as a few other minor things. Otherwise, I generally found the book well written. Some sections, however, will require either some note taking or page flipping (small piece of paper as bookmarks to the rescue!) due to the scattered nature of the sections.
The Rise of Tiamat chapter title and illustration.
An example of the artwork given at the start of the episodes.

The Art and Book Build Quality

The quality of the book is in line with the rest of the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Just looking at the cover, you can tell there is a unified look to the books so far (also, I generally liked the cover image for this book the moment I saw it). The binding is solid and there is artwork throughout the adventure. I found the artwork to be decent, though I am not sure I liked it as much as the Monster Manual's art and there is definitely less of it. The focus here is really on the adventure itself.

The font itself is the same as the rest of the released material as is the contrast so reading these books is a breeze. There are fewer of the little details like fake water damage than the Monster Manual.

However, all of that said, there are not many handouts at all in this adventure, forcing you to use Theatre of Mind to convey the situation (depending who you are, this is a plus or a minus). It also contains no battle maps. In general, I think it would be hard to provide adequate battle maps for this adventure given its scope (I just counted the number of maps given. There are 6), but for those used to having them, this had to be said.


The book isn't out yet but the suggested price from Wizards of the Coast is $29.95 or $35.00 for Canadians. Still, looking around I can already see it in places like Amazon and Chapters for under $25.

What I felt was Missing

It is also important to note that the way the adventure is written, it assumes Theatre of Mind play. There are no battle maps or grids provided and as a result you will need to play Theatre of Mind or, as a Dungeon Master, spend more time preparing tiles for the combat encounters. I hope we will see more support for miniatures use with the Dungeon Master's Guide coming out in December, though I do like having the option of Theatre of Mind. It is also not too much of a concern for more seasoned Dungeon Masters (though it will increase the preparation time), but in my opinion it is easier for newer Dungeon Masters to simply run in Theatre of Mind. 

This adventure, like the rest of the releases so far, does not come with a PDF version. Yeah, it is to be expected, but I still feel it necessary to mention.


As far as adventures go, The Rise of Tiamat is a solid adventure that requires some effort from the Dungeon Master. It has a serious amount of content and provides nice set pieces, interesting settings and a real feeling of risk and danger. However, some assembly is required and if you love miniature and grid based combat, prepare to spend even more time preparing. If you liked the previous one or Kobold Press's work in general, you will probably like this. Those who like having more control over their adventures will like the style where as people who like their published adventures “ready to play” probably will not. In general, I think it is an enjoyable adventure. If you still want to see more, check out the supplement material.

Other Stuff

  • A significant part of helpful and necessary resources for the adventure are provided in the Rise of Tiamat Supplement on Wizards of the Coast website (for those of you curious about it, you can check the supplement out for a general idea of what you will face).
  • The way the adventure works, players gain levels after completing significant events (which translates to episodes). Enjoy not tracking XP.
  • On page 88, the correct interpretation is that if 3 things from bullet list one happen, the first three things from bullet list 2 happen.
  • Yes, Tiamat can make an appearance (Torm help you if she does).

Big thank you to Wizards of the Coast for the cover image and an early review copy. 

Post Finishing Notes: This adventure can really take a long time with the right group. The problems I mentioned with preparation time are still present and there are a few minor things I noticed in some of the descriptions that caused me to pause, but in general I had a lot of fun with this one. The big message is that like any adventure, this will be as fun as you make it.

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