The Saving Throw
Rise of Tiamat 2014
Binding conjurations in the circle on the top of the hill

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Overall Review
published by Wizards of the Coast reviewed by Scott Wachter
96 pages, 2014, $29.95 Print
Game Setting 1.5
Art 5
Story 1
Game Rules 2.5
Intelligibility 3.5
Review Scoring

Rise of Tiamat is the second half of the Rage of the Dragon Queen adventure series, which launched with Hoard of the Dragon Queen. This product seems to be very much a case of second verse same as the first, but the key change and additions to the instrumentation has brought some mild improvements to the overall mix.

The story picks up where the last module left of with the players crash landing a Jotun's flying castle into the wilderness near the city of Waterdeep, only to have their quest hijacked by the Forgotten Realms' generic council of goodness. Note: This is not nearly as cool as it may sound, Yes, the interminable walking north for the first half has been replaced with boring council meetings. These meetings are not so much scripted as sketched out. One guy in a fancy hat will take the lead and give the outline of the characters' mission, while a different guy in a different fancy hat comes along afterwards to offer up some side objectives so it "feels" like the players are doing the politics Game of Thrones-style. After each of these adventures there is a debrief that is not boxed text, but a flow chart that measures success on all the potential subgoals the players did or did not do. Nothing says thrilling adventure like having forms to fill out afterwards! This new structure is not only dry, but genuinely kills player agency, While the first module had players following breadcrumbs from plot point to plot point, at least there were breadcrumbs. This new model gives players a series of patrons who teleport them to the front of a series of bakeries with very specific shopping lists.

The actual adventuring itself has at least broken the rut of Hoard, with rescue missions, and a foray into a city ruled by evil wizards, with one very interesting instance of helping an elf village mount a defence against a dragon. All of this culminates with a battle against an evil wizard and Tiamat herself. This climax is bland and poorly implemented, the flow chart from before comes back and once resolved it alters the specific abilities of the dragon goddess and how the book describes interaction is incredibly messy. The fight itself is obscenely difficult in relation to the playerís level even if they have the best outcomes from the previous quest and the GMís advice on the fight actively encourages it be run as lethally as possible. This is not something I can agree with in a climax - victory at a cost is great, but a loss at this point feels like a waste of effort for the group. For a game that espouses a 'whatever the GM feels is right' philosophy, itís odd not to have some sort of interesting alternative presented. However, this adventure series has a poor understanding of both 'alternatives' and 'interesting', changing that now would be out of tone for this railroaded festival of the generic.

The prior adventure's organization and layout issues of have mostly been smoothed over. Maps are clean and well labelled. The art assets in the game art are richly detailed and have a more dynamic aspect than the rest of the game line. There's a great sense of place and wonder that is streets ahead of the text of the work.

A great many individuals seem to have put a lot of effort into producing a product that exemplifies the classic argument against the use of modules. The adventure on the page is shallow, generic, excessively linear and overall uninspired. The attempt to revive the classic-feel of D&D, complete with multi-part adventures is noble, but maybe they should have tried to emulate one of the good ones.

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