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Tiamat Tuesdays: So You’re Running Tyranny of Dragons . . .

Tiamat TuesdaysTyranny of Dragons is an immense, sprawling adventure filled with epic encounters, plot twists, and numerous NPCs with their own agendas. Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat allow (some might say demand) Dungeon Masters to really stretch their wings and put their creativity to the test. Things start out straightforward enough in Hoard of the Dragon Queen, as you’d expect in a low-level adventure, but by halfway through, the Dungeon Master is making almost as many crucial decisions as the players are. The Rise of Tiamat asks a lot from DMs right from the beginning, with its immense background events, political component, and multitude of paths for characters to follow to their goal. It asks a lot of players, too, because they are free to chart their own course through events to a greater extent than in most adventures.

Because of that, this week’s column is devoted to offering advice to Dungeon Masters on how to maximize everyone’s enjoyment of these adventures and to keep their game tables humming like well-oiled machines.

We begin with a warning to potential players—this article makes direct mention of certain events from the adventure. If you plan to play in a Tyranny of Dragons campaign and you’d rather not have any hints about what terrors await, now would be a good time to flip to a different article (such as The Story So Far… as presented on the Wizards of the Coast site).

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Tiamat Tuesdays: Closing In On the Cult

Tiamat TuesdaysAs I hinted in the installment of Tiamat Tuesday on July 8, episodes 5–8 of Hoard of the Dragon Queen are more open-ended than episodes 1–4. The second half of the adventure isn’t a sandbox; characters still have a mystery to unravel and an evil plot to stop. They will, however, face dilemmas that have no by-the-book solutions. The usual methods for shutting down an evil cult won’t work against the Cult of the Dragon. There is no single high priest whose assassination will cause the organization to crumble. The cult’s crucial magic relics are so well-hidden and so misunderstood by outsiders that characters can’t even locate them, let alone destroy them. The cult is too big, too organized, and too dispersed to be knocked out by any single blow or even a combination of blows. Killing this beast will take a thousand cuts, and they must be well-placed ones.

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Tiamat Tuesdays: Tiers of Tiamat

Tiamat TuesdaysFor the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop roleplaying game, the story told in Tyranny of Dragons is spread across two separate adventure products: Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat. Hoard begins with fledgling, level 1 characters and follows them to level 7 or 8. Rise picks up right where Hoard leaves off and continues on to level 14 or 15. But while these form one continuous story, they are very, very different adventures, and not only because of the difference in tiers—although that plays into it.

Hoard of the Dragon Queen gets characters through the first experience tier and well into the second. The Player’s Handbook states “In the second tier (levels 5-10), characters come into their own,” and that’s certainly the case in Hoard. Each episode in the adventure corresponds roughly to a level: characters should be level 1 when they play episode 1, level 2 when they play episode 2, and so on.

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Tiamat Tuesdays: Behind the Scenes of the Dragon Attack Art

2 BW RoughWorking on the Tyranny of Dragons project has been something of a dream come true for me. Like a great many folks playing RPGs today, I grew up playing D&D. As an 11- or 12-year-old avid D&D player and aspiring artist, I used to spend hours marveling at all the adventures and rulebooks, daydreaming about how cool it would be to actually work at TSR when I grew up. Well, I’m all grown up now and I’m lucky enough to work in the RPG industry for some amazing companies and people, Kobold Press and Wolfgang Baur obviously heading up that list! However, for the 12-year-old D&D fan still very much inside of me, getting to work on an official D&D product, not to mention the very first adventure for the new D&D rules, is positively surreal!

As the primary person choosing the artists, assigning the art, and then working with the artists, I was determined that the art in these books would be as awesome as possible. One of the artists I knew we had to get involved was Guido Kuip. Guido had done lots of work for us in the past and I’ve always enjoyed working with him so I was confident he could deliver. And deliver he did!

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Tiamat Tuesdays: Maintaining Focus

Tiamat TuesdaysTyranny of Dragons is nothing if not epic. It starts out fairly small, as a tale of unknown raiders attacking towns and caravans along the Sword Coast for loot and ransom. Before it’s done, those raiders will be rounding up prisoners to sacrifice in their dark rituals, dragons will gather in numbers not seen for generations, and every political and military force on the Sword Coast will need to unite against the threat if they hope to stave off an unimaginable evil.

The Forgotten Realms is big enough to allow that kind of story—to absorb the devastating blows that these amassed evil forces deliver and survive. But with so much going on everywhere, we had a big task just deciding what to focus on. The player characters are clearly the heroes of the tale, but by the beginning of The Rise of Tiamat, the Cult of the Dragon is operating across a region that spans thousands of miles. A handful of heroes can’t be everywhere at once.

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