Three versions of the cover for 'Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen'.

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Since 1984, the Dragonlance setting has been drawing in readers and D&D players alike with its stunning and highly detailed world. Published by TSR, the first Dragonlance adventure in the 16-part series Dragons of Despair was launched in the same year as Dragons of Autumn Twilight. The following adventure Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen is the newest addition to the Dragonlance world, almost 40 years later. You can buy three different version of this adventure, and each is detailed below. These include the actual adventure, the typical alternate art cover, and a Deluxe Edition which includes a DM screen and the board game Dragonlance: Warriors of Krynn. Read on for a full breakdown of what you can expect to receive if you buy these products.

The Adventure Manual

The adventure manual is titled Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen, and it has exceptional features that help to bring the Dragonlance world to life at your table. First off is the setting information, which includes 15 pages of history, religion, geography, sociology, and other facts of life on Krynn. The new playable race, Kender, is available to play in 5e for the first time, as are the backgrounds (and assorted feats) that allow players to join two of the major factions of Krynn: The Knights of Solamnia and the Mages of High Sorcery. There’s also a subclass for sorcerers, allowing players to become a Lunar Sorceror, using the powers of Krynn’s three moons to empower your natural spellcasting abilities. Finally, there’s a full-length adventure for DMs and players. Let’s dive into what each of these features includes.

War Comes to Krynn

The preface of Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen opens with a helpful guide to using the book. This introduction is followed by some history lessons for Krynn. What was life before the Cataclysm? What was it like after? Where did this army of draconians come from? What was the War of the Lance? What is life like on Ansalon? Where is everything? These questions and more are answered for DMs, allowing them to, in turn, answer all the players’ questions about the setting.

After the thorough introduction to Krynn, there’s a healthy section breaking down the world’s religions. Every god is listed by it’s inclinations of Good/Neutral/Evil, along with their actual alignment, which can help players and DMs choose the deities any given character worships. Of obvious note is the Dragon Queen herself, Takhisis. Also known as Tiamat in other D&D settings, Takhisis is the Big Bad of the original War of the Lance story, and is making war on Krynn once again. The story launches in the midst of this war. Parts of the world already bow to the Dragon Queen, and armies accompanied by war machines and her evil dragon followers march across the continent, hoping to sweep the land of all resistance and usher a new age of Takhisis’ malevolent rule.

Character Creation

This chapter is dedicated to players, rather than the Dungeon Master. DMs and players alike will find useful information here, particularly about the peoples of Krynn, and the two factions players can join: The Knights of Solamnia and the Mages of High Sorcery. Players will find fresh takes on more traditional races along with the introduction of Kender as a playable race, along with other rule updates to facilitate play in the campaign. Notably, there are new feats which grant special priveledges among the factions of Krynn, along with combat benefits.

Finally, Sorcerer characters will have a new subclass available to them at level 1. Lunar Sorcery draws power from an ancestor exposed to radical amounts of lunar power. This power has been passed down to the character and now they have an inate connection to one, two, or three of Krynn’s moons. The phase of the moon the sorcerer is attuned to grants different benefits, such as different spells they can cast, the passive subclass features they benefit from, and the sorcerer can even embody the power of the moon itself, infusing their bodies with unique powers.

Cover of the Adventure manual, original art. Image: Wizards of the Coast

Chapters 2-7

The six chapters following Character Creation are an all-inclusive guide to the war campaign the player characters are going to fight. The adventure is optimized for 4-6 players, and takes characters from level 1 to level 6. The setting is set, in its entirety, in the city of Kalaman and the surrounding nation of Solamnia. Of particular note, the Dragonlance world has had many iterations over the last 38 years. DMs should feel free to make decisions about the world if there’s not a standing contradiction in the material. Players can be surprised with various details throughout the world, because this world is a bit of a sandbox, and is written with that flexibility in mind.

I won’t go into detail about how the campaign runs, as I don’t want any specific spoilers to pop up. But to give an overview of the material, here are some relevant facts the DM and players will need to know.

The setting is in the city of Kalaman, in the nation of Solamnia, on the continent of Ansalon, on the planet Krynn.
Chapter 2, the first portion of the adventure is for players at level 1, and sets the stage for later development.
Chapter 3 is for charactrers at level 2, and will level them up to level 4 by the end, as they travel to combat the forces of the Dragon Army.
Chapter 4 takes characters from level 4 to level 6, and the players will form significant relationships with the organizations of Krynn.
Chapter 5 takes them from level 6 to level 8, as they explore the world on a critical mission.
Chapter 6 progresses from level 8 to level 10, and the players are in for some serious consequences if they don’t complete this mission.
Chapter 7 requires level 10 or higher, and has the warriors of Krynn, including our heroes, facing a nation-destroying threat in the shadow of the Dragon Queen’s influence.

These adventure portions can be accented with the board game Dragonlance: Warriors of Krynn (see below), which can be a nice change of pace and allow some variety in playstyle for both Dungeon Masters and players. I would specifically note, however, that this is not required for the adventure. Just like every other adventure in 5e, this book contains everything you need to reach the end of the campaign.

Appendices

The appendices for Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen flesh out various components of the world, and provide statistics and in-game information for DMs to use as the campaign progresses.

  • Appendix A: Adventuring (non-magical) Gear and Magic Items. You can find 9 unique items in this section to provide rules for the various inventions and magical items found in Krynn.
  • Appendix B: Stat blocks for allies and enemies. A large number of monsters and enemies appear in the Monster Manual, but Krynn has its own unique monsters to bring to life, and their stat blocks are found here.
  • Appendix C: Sidekicks. It’s always good to have friends; right?
  • Appendix D: Story Concept Art. This gives you visuals to show characters for various details in the adventure.
  • Appendix E: Maps of Kalaman and the Northern Wastes and maps of the Continent of Ansalon. There is a single-sheet version of each map along with a full-color removable map in the very back of the adventure.

Alternate Art Cover

A rose in twisted thorns featured on left panel, a steel helmet of a death knight surrounded by thorns on right panel.
The alternate art cover available in game stores. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

The alternate art edition of Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen features the death knight Lord Soth, Knight of the Black Rose. This edition can normally only be found in your Friendly Local Game Store, so you’ll have to hoof it in to collect this one. It’s sometimes available for preorder on Amazon, though, so you can try your luck there.

Deluxe Edition

There is a third purchase option for those who want an all-in-one purchase for all things Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen dubbed the Deluxe Edition. The adventure manual has unique art, the DM screen has special features, and Dragonlance: Warriors of Krynn is a great standalone game as well as a fantastic opportunity to bring tabletop board gaming to your D&D setting.

Alternate Alternate Art Cover

In an unusual turn, the Deluxe Edition of Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen has a third version of cover art. On this cover, heroes stand in the shadows of a red dragon while facing off against its queen’s army. It also features a surprising foil accent, which makes this edition really stand out.

DM Screen

The Dungeon Master’s Screen included with the Deluxe Edition features stark illustrations of war on the Players’ side. The DM’s side is really special, though. The first two panels are standard DM-screen stuff. Rules for cover, conditions and DCs are included, as they are the most called-upon rules in a night. The last two sections, however, feature unique references for things like War Zone Encounters and Dragon Army supplies and prisoners.

War Zone Encounters is a reference where a DM can roll to determine what kind of enemies or allies might be encountered if the players go off course, divided into categories for meeting the Dragon Army, exploring the Northern Wastes, or even Kalaman at large.

Dragon Army Supplies and Prisoners has three separate charts to allow DMs to quickly populate the items, gear, or prisoners of the Dragon Army that might be recovered when encountering agents of the Black Army. This really helps DMs flesh out random encounters by saving them the trouble of looking up diverse information in the adventure book, and keep the play moving along.

Board game — Dragonlance: Warriors of Krynn

This completely cooperative board game allows players and Dungeon Masters to play out the various scenarios of the war with the Dragon Army. DMs can play along, but only if there are 3-5 total players in the game. This makes it a great way to continue relevant play when players are missing, as you can put your character in the game or use a pre-made character, and these characters get all-new abilities that don’t benefit from the player’s character traits, spells, or gear. Here’s a break down of the major features of gameplay that can help you decide whether the Deluxe Edition is worth buying for the game.

Scenarios:

  • There are 13 scenarios, including “Scenario 0” which is a simpler challenge than the others, and acts as an introduction to the rules.
  • Each Scenario is completely cooperative, though if you have more than 5 players, someone can be in charge of managing the board (which is sometimes a lot of work.)
  • Scenarios include a battlefield made of varying numbers of Battle Tiles and Adventure Tiles.
  • Each Scenario has a unique combination of cards including the Commanders of each Army, their Equipment, Units, and War Engines.
  • Various Tokens are used to indicate th exact locations of enemy forces, hazards, objectives, and war engines.
  • Markers show where the different units are stationed, including Foot, Missile, and Mounted troops.
  • The Key Moment Tracker helps you keep track of time passing in each encounter.
  • The 7 dice are used to actually execute Battles and Skirmishes.

Heroes:

  • Players are each given a Hero Board, a Miniature, a Stress Marker, and a Recruit Class card. Players also use Ability Cards.
  • Your Hero Board tells you which actions you can take on your turn, as well as a place to track Stress.
  • You can use one of the six included miniatures or you can use your own character mini from your D&D game.
  • The Recruit Class Card shows your class abilities. If you are playing your character from your D&D game, you can choose a class that fits closest with your class, but there’s only one copy of each, and non-core classes (IE: Artificer, Blood Hunter) are not included.
  • Ability Cards give players unique actions that they can perform on their turn, and they affect the tile that the character’s mini is currently on.

Gameplay:
Using the Scenario Book, players will set up one of the 13 scenarios to play. Not all components will end upon the board, however. The Scenario Book will tell you how many (and which) elements will be used for that scenario. Thankfully, cards that are used in this way are given unique IDs, and they are marked clearly on the card. Using the various powers available, players will attempt to defeat the Scenario, it’s champions, and its objectives, in order to progress the story. The last page of the Scenario Book is a Campaign Chronicle, which you can copy to use to track your progress, as each victory or loss has an effect on the following scenarios. Play through all 13 scenarios to complete them campaign. If you’re doing the D&D adventure alongside it, certain rewards will be distributed to player characters in the D&D campaign, based on how well you do in the campaign chronicle.

Note for DMs: This is an excellent way for DMs to “take a night off” from normal storytelling that still moves the story forward. DMs can add themselves as an adventurer, so long as there aren’t more than 5 players, and if your group has 6 people, one person can stand in as the narrator and read the many story elements, and control the Dragon Army pieces.

TL;DR

Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen is a well-rounded representation of the world of Krynn, and the budding conflict with the Dragon Queen’s armies. This adventure doesn’t attempt to cover the war across the entire world, and focuses on the battles in Kalamar and Solamnia. The adventure can stand completely on its own, or you can elaborate on the battles using the board game Dragonlance: Warriors of Krynn. There are three unique covers available. The standard cover is available at all retailers, and preorders are open. The alternate art cover is available at your Friendly Local Game Store, and sometimes other retailers. Finally, the Deluxe Edition has the third cover, which features a holofoil design and comes with a setting-specific DM’s screen and the exclusive board game which can be used with the campaign or played separately.

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