Dragonlance is a setting that is near and dear to the hearts of countless D&D players.
In fact, we’ve had years of speculation about whether or not we’d see the Dragonlance setting make an official appearance in D&D 5e.
But that time has finally come!
Making its appearance just before 2022 comes to an end, we finally have Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen.
Beat the drums, ready your weapons, and prepare to march.
War is upon you.
This is our review of Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen for D&D 5e!
What’s in the Book?
Let’s start by looking at what all you’re getting in this book. From there, we’ll dive into more detail about the campaign itself in just a bit.
The Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen book includes:
- 2 new character backgrounds
- New playable race (Kender)
- New Sorcerer subclass (the Lunar Sorcerer)
- 9 new feats
- 8 new magic items
- 22 stat blocks for monsters and NPCs
- 6 Sidekicks to aid the party
- A sweeping adventure told over 6 chapters
There are also some excellent mechanics related to running mass-combat scenarios. These rules fit within the streamlined 5e system and are effective without being overly complicated.
The adventure of Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen is intended to take characters from level 1 to level 11.
Many chapters can be completed in around 4 standard sessions, though a couple go well beyond that. Depending on your group and their decisions, you can expect somewhere between 80 and 90 hours of play from this adventure.
If your group plays weekly, you could easily be looking at playing this adventure in its entirety over 7 or 8 months.
A large chunk of that will be in the form of huge, sprawling combat encounters with tons of action.
This is a war campaign, after all!
Fitting with such an intense concept, the character options found in Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen are incredibly strong. After all, the party will be going up against the might of the Dragon Queen’s armies, so they’ll need all the help they can get!
Companion Board Game?
It can be difficult to really capture the feeling of war with the standard setup of miniatures or theatre of the mind in D&D 5e.
To this end, Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen launched alongside a companion board game, Warriors of Krynn.
Note that the board game is not mandatory to properly run this adventure. You can certainly still create the scenes that you need using miniatures or theatre of the mind.
However, it is a useful tool for better capturing the biggest battlefield encounters within Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen.
At the time of writing this review, the board game only appears to be included with purchases of the Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen Deluxe Edition Bundle. That may or may not change.
When you get the Deluxe Edition Bundle, you’ll also get a special DM screen and foil-cover adventure book.
The DM screen includes useful tables to help DMs quickly generate encounters in various war zones as well as discoverable supplies and prisoners when raiding Dragon Army encampments.
The Campaign (No Spoilers!)
Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen sees players traveling to the realm of Krynn.
As the armies of the evil Dragon Queen, Takhisis (also known as Tiamat) march forth leaving trails of destruction in their wake, the party joins the free people of Krynn in defending their lands from the onslaught.
The missions that the party undertakes are tense with incredibly high stakes. As the party seeks to acquire a powerful relic capable of driving back the Dragon Queen’s forces, the fate of the entire world rests on their shoulders.
No pressure, right?
The more social aspects of D&D 5e take a backseat in this adventure. Instead, the focus is more on exploration and combat.
I particularly enjoyed the hex-crawl exploration of the Northern Wastes in chapter 5. As regular readers likely know, I’m a sucker for open-world exploration in my games.
Additionally, Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen includes a Preludes section of the adventure.
There are three Preludes in total with each serving as a kind of quick encounter based on the PCs’ chosen backgrounds/classes. It’s a great way to quickly tie the characters into the adventure and the world.
This is a small touch with some major impact on the adventure as a whole that I hope becomes more common in similar books going forward!
While the adventure itself begins earnestly enough with the merriment of the Kingfisher Festival, it doesn’t take long for the action and intensity to dial all the way up.
From there, the stakes continue to raise higher and higher.
From the tragic circumstances of the adventure’s beginning all the way to the last page, Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen gets a tight grip on the players and doesn’t let go.
It’s no small challenge, mind you. Adventurers will have to be clever if they wish to stand against the might of Takhisis, her Dragon Armies, and the Death Knight Lord Soth.
Not Your Daddy’s Dragonlance
Dragonlance is a setting with a lot of history. The books by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis are as legendary (if not even more so) as the Legend of Drizzt by R.A. Salvatore.
As such, there tend to be a lot of things that players who are familiar with such works expect to see in a product bearing the same name.
The thing is, Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen isn’t necessarily targeting fans of those classic Dragonlance stories.
Rather than cramming in the storied lore of the Dragonlance novels and previously released (for older editions) material, Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen is looking to tell a new story.
You get the Kender, the fierce Dragon Armies, the Knights of Solamnia, and the Mages (previously Wizards) of High Sorcery. You’ll also see a couple of familiar names (like Lord Soth and Takhisis aka Tiamat) within the pages of this book.
Whether this is a pro or con is entirely up to you.
Personally, I appreciate that this is an adventure that can be played without having any previous knowledge or experience with Dragonlance material.
Those who enjoy what this adventure lays out will no doubt love diving into the books that inspired it.
However, taken entirely on its own, this isn’t your daddy’s Dragonlance. The focus is instead on different areas, aspects, heroes, and villains of the War of the Lance.
What I Like About Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen
It’s hard to tell exactly where to start singing the praises for Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen. I’m absolutely impressed and regret being as skeptical about this release as I initially was!
First things first, though…
“Classic” Dragonlance or not, the adventure’s setting feels fleshed out and “alive” with choices feeling very meaningful. The heroes and the decisions that they make fundamentally matter in the grand scheme of things.
It’s a wonderfully fresh foray into the iconic Dragonlance setting for a new generation of D&D players that doesn’t necessarily alienate veteran fans of the setting.
The high-stakes nature of this adventure also means character death is very likely and possibly even expected. It’s been a while since we’ve seen an adventure that truly leans into the threat that it’s creating. This adds a great deal of urgency to the many encounters within the adventure.
Speaking of a sense of urgency…
There are plenty of engaging plot hooks in Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen. Both players and the DM will have no trouble establishing “why” the characters are doing what they’re doing.
The Preludes section greatly adds to this. As I said, I would like to see that approach also incorporated into future releases.
And while we’re talking about future releases, let’s get the art team behind Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen back!
This book has, in my opinion, the best artwork of all the 2022 releases. It’s thrilling, dynamic, and perfectly captures the feelings being created by the adventure.
Mechanically, the mass combat rules are useful for any DM that wants to run huge, epic battles and war campaigns. That’s a regular point of struggle for many DMs and the rules here are both simple and effective.
What I Don’t Like About Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen
There’s a lot to love about Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen. However, there are always going to be certain points of critique to be mentioned with anything.
My biggest gripe about this adventure is that most of the NPCs feel somewhat forgettable.
While the focus is definitely on the players and their characters (as it should be), I had a difficult time getting any feeling of attachment to any of the NPCs.
To fix this, DMs can introduce opportunities for the party to learn more of various NPCs stories. What have they lost in the war? What terrible things have they been forced to do or endure for the sake of survival?
Secondly, as we already covered, there’s a substantial focus on action and combat instead of roleplaying. It’s about an 80/20 split which means that those who especially enjoy the social pillar of D&D will have less to engage with.
Gripe Three has also already been mentioned above as well.
Specifically, there is very little inclusion of classic Dragonlance lore, locations, and characters which will almost certainly be turn-off for those who want the “classic” Dragonlance experience.
Lastly, we come to Gripe Four. Namely, there isn’t a strong conclusion to this adventure.
The tension and action build wonderfully as one massive crescendo that just seems to kind of… end… There’s not a real sense of things being wrapped up.
No real conclusion to the adventure means we’re left with a cliffhanger (until a follow-up adventure is released or the group brings in homebrew to continue their adventure.)
I would have preferred to end the adventure with some sense of accomplishment.
Though perhaps this is an indicator that a sequel to Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen will be coming in the (hopefully!) near future.
Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen has shown itself to be the strongest release of 2022.
The adventure is full of action-packed situations and many scenes capture the frantic feeling of war between the clashing armies. It’s exactly the kind of high-fantasy tale of heroism that I love in D&D!
That said, I would love to see follow-up adventures in this setting. This is definitely an adventure that leaves me wanting more.
While we do get to see some big names, a follow-up adventure that sees the war escalating and creates opportunities to truly go head-to-head with a character like Lord Soth would be incredible.
Much of the new material in here won’t work super well outside of a Dragonlance setting, but that’s to be expected.
Regardless, this is exactly the kind of epic adventure that I’ve been pining for. The stakes are high and the choices feel impactful without weakening the impact of the story as a whole.
Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen is an action-fueled war campaign that should not be overlooked!
Conclusion – Reviewing Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen
As of writing this article, I’ve now read through this adventure three times cover-to-cover. I’m blown away!
Not wanting to interrupt/pause my current games means that I’m looking at my calendar to decide if I’m able to fit in yet another weekly time slot to start playing this immediately.
I suppose we’ll have to see what happens.
While I’ve mostly enjoyed the other releases that we’ve gotten for 5e this year, none have (in their entirety) quite captured my imagination to the degree that Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen has.
It’s a very bright end to a year that has mostly seen releases being met with mixed receptions.
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