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Talking Dungeons & Dragons: Tyranny of Dragons Adventures With the Designers

Jonathan Bolding | 22 May 2014 17:35
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With the release of all the details about the launch of Dungeons & Dragons came the surprising revelation that the launch adventure modules would be made not by Wizards of the Coast, but by third party publisher Kobold Press and its veteran writers Wolfgang Baur and Steve Winter. To that end, we at The Escapist took some time with those designers to see what they had to say about their new adventures.

The Escapist: How did Kobold Press writing Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat come about?

Kobold Press:Wizards of the Coast asked me whether I'd be interested in putting together a team to do it. After about 2 seconds of deep thought, I said yes.

Really, it's a once-in-a-decade sort of offer; and the core theme of dragons is pretty irresistible to anyone who loves fantasy adventure.

The Escapist: How much of the seed of each adventure came from you, and which came from Wizards? Was the Tyranny of Dragons storyline your idea or theirs?

Kobold Press:The concept came from Wizards, along with the Tyranny of Dragons title, major NPCs, and some story elements and visuals. I worked with Steve Winter to turn the concept into playable adventures and encounters.

The Escapist: What other involvement did Wizards of the Coast have in the adventures' development?

Kobold Press:They send it out for playtesting, reviewed all the Forgotten Realms continuity, and kept us up to date as the rules continued to evolve. It turns out that it's damned hard to write an adventure while rules are still evolving, but the Wizards team was good about providing new updates.

The Escapist: What was it like writing in the Forgotten Realms?

Wolfgang Baur: Pretty much the same as writing in the Realms previously: wonderful, high fantasy, lots of room for magic and monsters, and a familiar cast of factions and major NPCs.

The Escapist: Do you know anything about the WizKids produced figure line being based on your adventures? Is that particularly exciting to you?

Wolfgang Baur: We don't know anything about it, but yes, any set of figures for Tyranny of Dragons is exciting.

The Escapist: Will the two adventures form a complete campaign? What levels of the game will the individual adventures cover?

Wolfgang Baur: The first book takes the player characters up to 7th or 8th level, depending on exactly what the PCs pursue and how they make certain decisions. The second book takes them up to about level 15.

You can run it as a standalone game with a few side missions. I'm happy that the design allows for a little more DM improvisation than some adventures do: there are sections where the PCs could make real choices and there's no way to cover everything in the space available. Very much like original D&D or AD&D, the Dungeon Master gets to make it their own.

The Escapist: What can you tell us about the episodic format of the adventures?

Wolfgang Baur: The adventure is written in discrete chunks or episodes, with some optional encounters that a DM can include if needed. After each main episode, a group could play something related (such as a character's side quest) or even a whole adventure of their own design, before picking up the Tyranny storyline again. Or you could play the whole thing straight through. It's up to you.

The Escapist: Mike Mearls says he thinks your specially structured adventure will be "among the great D&D campaigns" - comment on that?

Wolfgang Baur: We're very flattered, but I think that gamers will be the ultimate judge of that. Of course, we're certainly aiming for greatness, and the playtests and development have made this adventure a showcase for the new edition and for the Forgotten Realms. It's structured to be a tool for the GM and to offer some real choices to players. We'll see whether people like that more open play style or not. I certainly think that it's highly playable from start to finish.

rath-modar

The Escapist: What can we expect to happen in Hoard of the Dragon Queen? What levels will it cover?

Wolfgang Baur: You can expect new adventurers to be thrown into horrible danger right from the start, and then spend a fair bit of time chasing down the Cult of the Dragon and its allies. It covers 1st level to 7th level or so. Advancement for D&D is faster in the new edition, which makes the first couple of episodes especially exciting.

Oh, and you meet at least two dragons in the first book. I'm of the opinion that a game called Dungeons & Dragons really should have more dragons in it than has sometimes been the case.

The Escapist: What can we expect to happen in The Rise of Tiamat? What levels will it cover?

Wolfgang Baur: Things get dangerous and the threat of Tiamat gets really big. There's some dragon-slaying, there's high-level encounters such as recovering an artifact, there's several really tough fights against the big guns. It ends at about 15th level. If the characters have played smart, they'll survive; but foolish PCs could easily lose in the finale.

The Escapist: Who's this Rath Modar character I've heard about? How does he figure in?

Wolfgang Baur: He's a Red Wizard of Thay. He likes Tiamat. The players are gonna hate him.

The Escapist: Have a favorite encounter you'd like to detail or tease?
Wolfgang Baur: There are some kobold servants who should not be underestimated. Also, some NPCs just won't stay dead.

The Escapist: The first adventure releases well before the game's Monster Manual and DMG, will it contain rules to plug those gaps?

Wolfgang Baur: The first book, Hoard of the Dragon Queen, is playable with the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set alone.

The Escapist: What's the best way for enthusiasts to keep up with development and new details on the adventures?

Wolfgang Baur: Visit KoboldPress.com on Tiamat Tuesdays this summer, as we'll be sharing art and design notes from Hoard of the Dragon Queen there.

We'll also share information on the Kobold Press Facebook page, the @koboldpress Twitter feed, and in the Kobold Courier newsletter.

About Kobold Press:

Wolfgang Bauris the founder of Kobold Press, its publisher, and its general go-to kobold. He enjoys Gothic architecture, Turkish candies, and Seattle coffee to an alarming degree. Wolfgang is the author of the Midgard and Dark*Matter campaign settings, and the first contributor to the Kobold Guides to Game Design. He lives in an impenetrable set of warrens near Kirkland, Washington, with his wife and two daughters.

Steven Winter got paid for his first roleplaying-related article in 1980, landed a job at TSR, Inc. in 1981, and has been clinging to the RPG industry ever since. He has worked as an editor, developer, designer, fiction author, creative director for AD&D, and managing editor of Dragon and Dungeon magazines. More of his RPG-themed thoughts are posted at HowlingTower.com and on Twitter @StvWinter.

Unfamiliar with all the details about the new Dungeons & Dragons launch? Check out the details of all the products and launch dates, the D&D Adventurers Guild organized play program, and whether or not we think it will succeed or fail.

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