Hoard of the Dragon Queen Campaign – Review and Summary

Last Updated on February 1, 2023

If you’re looking to start a campaign in D&D 5e, there’s a huge pile of official adventures and countless third-party products waiting for you so that you can find the perfect adventure for your group. That being said, nothing really beats the classic nature of a campaign focused on dragons, cults, and evil wizards, which is why you should probably check out Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

In this article, we’re taking a look at just what exactly this campaign is, what it does well, what to expect from it, and most importantly, whether or not you should buy it.

Key Takeaways:

  • Hoard of the Dragon Queen is the epitome of a D&D campaign.
  • Combined with The Rise of Tiamat, the Tyranny of Dragons campaign can run from level 1 to level 15.
  • Dragons, cults, wizards, war, and more make this a great adventure that surveys what D&D really is.

What Is Hoard of the Dragon Queen?

Hoard of the Dragon Queen is the first campaign book published by WotC for Fifth Edition D&D. It is the first part of Tyranny of Dragons, a longer campaign. As it is the first part, it is meant to take a party of four adventurers from 1st level to 7th or 8th level.

Beyond the extremely literal, Hoard of the Dragon Queen is the start of a campaign about a group of cultists who wish to free Tiamat from her prison in the Nine Hells. Already, we’ve got two things that fill out the classic embodiment of a D&D adventure: dragons and cultists.

As you take your group through this campaign, you’ll run into plenty of fantasy tropes like raiders, mad wizards, ritual sacrifice, and even vampires. 

All that being said, the Hoard of the Dragon Queen takes a lot of work from the DM. There’s a reason it was introduced as its own adventure and not a beginner’s kit of some sort.

There are a lot of pieces in this book that, if a brand-new DM were to try running them as written, would be an absolute mess. Fortunately, this book has been out for a while now, and there’s plenty of insight you can find to enhance it and smooth out the rough parts.

Since this is mainly a review and summary with an in-depth guide to come later, we’ll just cover a few bits here. Of course, if you’re reading even a few months after this was published, you may see a link right about here.

  • Episode One is absolutely brutal for 1st-level players. We suggest leveling up your players after the first or second encounter.
  • The middle chapters are quite long-winded and can be paired down quite a bit.
  • There are balance issues throughout the campaign since this was largely written before the 5e Monster Manual was published and therefore before balance had actually been decided on.

What’s in the Hoard of the Dragon Queen?

Within the pages of this book, you’ll find what is essentially the skeleton of a campaign. The book guides you, the DM, through several episodes and discusses the major events that should be occurring, along with guiding you in how to run certain encounters and situations.

That being said, it is an adventure that takes place on the Sword Coast of Faerun, a popular D&D setting. There are definitely a lot of sections that take for granted your knowledge of the setting, characters, or factions. Rather than explaining everything in egregious detail, the book leaves you to either research or create a lot of the background information on your own.

This book is also notably missing the bulk of its creature appendix, but you can find that here. For some reason, WotC didn’t want to print these additional 29 pages and throw them at the back. Oh well.

As for the actual campaign itself, it is comprised of eight episodes, which we provide brief summaries of below. 

Spoiler Alert: Do not read if you are a player in this campaign, if you plan to be a player in this campaign soon, or if you are at high risk of playing this campaign in the future. Avoid prolonged exposure to these summaries as they may result in heightened expectations of the campaign.

Alright, medical disclaimer out of the way, here are the chapters:

  1. Greenest in Flames – The town of Greenest is under attack by a blue dragon and its Cult of the Dragon allies. The adventurers must face off against all sorts of threats to protect the town all while a terrifying threat looms above.
  2. Raiders’ Camp – Following the attack, our adventurers seek to learn more about the raiders by tracking them down and gathering information. 
  3. Dragon Hatchery – Returning to the camp to gather more information, our adventurers find it mostly abandoned, but what secrets lie in wait deep within the caverns nearby? Well, dragon eggs, treasure, and some clues as to what’s next.
  4. On the Road – Traveling north along the Sword Coast can be a perilous journey, but with the help of the Order of the Gauntlet, our heroes should be fine, depending on the threats they face, of course.
  5. Construction Ahead – More challenges arise as our adventurers track the cult north.
  6. Castle Naerytar – Our heroes face off against cultists stowing away in an ancient castle.
  7. Hunting Lodge – An old hunting lodge high in the Greypeak Mountains holds some final secrets of the cult.
  8. Castle in the Clouds – Will our adventurers be able to infiltrate the flying fortress of Skyreach Castle? Will they be too late?

The adventure ends with a satisfying conclusion and some epic battles, but, of course, it can easily be rolled into the Rise of Tiamat for a complete storyline and a final battle against Tiamat herself.

Should You Buy Hoard of the Dragon Queen?

You should almost definitely not buy the Hoard of the Dragon Queen. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy the adventure. What you should do, especially if you’re looking for a classic D&D adventure, is buy Tyranny of Dragons, a reprinting that includes both books of the “series” and is less of a burden on your wallet.

Before Tyranny of Dragons was released, the answer to this question would’ve been an outstanding yes. Now that both Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat have been reprinted and include errata that fixed a whole slew of errors in the original two books, there’s no reason to purchase either ever again.

The important thing here is that this is a fantastic adventure. It’s cliche, classic, and very linear, which might be a problem for veteran players but is perfect for newcomers looking to fill that dragon-shaped void in their hearts.

In conclusion, Hoard of the Dragon Queen is an adventure that includes an excellent storyline. While it might be a bit too much for first-time DMs, it serves as an excellent middle-ground between highly regimented adventures and homebrew campaigns.

Don’t miss out on our full guide to 5e books here.

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