We’re now five years into the Dungeons & Dragons renaissance sparked by the release of the 5th edition of the world’s greatest roleplaying game. These days, every new release comes in two versions – the normal one available everywhere, and a version with an alternate cover that’s available through hobby channels. But this was not the case from the start, and the first 5E campaign books (Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat) existing with only a single cover each (the horror!). But this oversight has now been rectified with the release of Tyranny of Dragons, which was available at hobby stores starting on October 22.
Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat were each on the shorter side for campaign books (less than 100 pages), but combined together to form, if not Voltron, then at least one full-size campaign running from levels 1-15. Tyranny of Dragons brings those two books together into one tome – more than double the size and half the covers, but it’s a fancy Hydro74 cover (it’s also cheaper to buy Tyranny of Dragons than Hoard/Rise separately, at least if you’re paying MSRP).
Tyranny of Dragons is very close to being the same as the two original books. Errata is incorporated. Appendices for magic items and such are combined. The council scorecard for Rise of Tiamat gets a full page. The introductory chapter(s) are reworked. The paper is a smidge fancier. Some art layout has been tweaked (e.g., putting the picture in the top right of the page instead of the bottom middle where the text has to flow around it). Some sidebars have been moved. Some headers have a different graphic design. The biggest difference is the addition of a 32-page appendix of concept art (hint: it depicts a lot of dragons).
Because Tyranny of Dragons is a combination of existing campaign books, I won’t rehash a full review here (you can check out our existing reviews of Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat elsewhere on the website). Overall, the campaign takes the players from a more narrowly focused search for a the formerly-eponymous Hoard of the Dragon Queen into a broader discovery of the nefarious plottings of a cult into a multi-national effort to stop the return of the evil dragon god Tiamat. The campaign remains the strongest in the middle, with the best aspects coming in Chapter 4 (On the Road; where the characters are traveling with a caravan and have a series of vignettes with their traveling companions), Chapter 6 (Castle Naerytar; where the characters have a lot of options in deciding how to infiltrate an enemy stronghold), Chapter 8 (Caste in the Clouds; see above, but the fortress is flying) and most of the second half, especially the Tomb of Diderius (in Chapter 11) to Xonthal’s Tower (Chapter 15). Unfortunately, the flipside of that is that the opening and closing of the campaign remain the weakest aspects, and possibly in need of DM tweaking. For example, the opening attack on Greenrest still concludes with a particular encounter that many DMs simply remove when, and the excellent Council of Waterdeep setup in the second half still doesn’t get the payoff it deserves at the end.
Still, Tyranny of Dragons as a single book, with errata incorporated, seems like a clear upgrade to buying the original books separately. If I was looking to run the Tyranny of Dragons campaign, and didn’t have the books already, I would definitely go for the new single-book version.
Promotional consideration was provided in the form of a review copy.