The new D&D adventure Storm King’s Thunder™ just launched today (September 6th), and was released early to gaming stores back on August 26th. When I first received my copy from Wizards of the Coast last week, my initial impressions were very positive. The book looks great with half page and double page illustrations breaking up text, runes, lots of maps, tables and more. The adventure is well done and they have put in some work up front to help Dungeon Masters (DMs) by outlining the cast of characters and providing an adventure flowchart. The story mixes “gigantic” intrigue with plenty of exploration and combat. Players are simply tasked with saving civilization from the threat of giants.
After reading this adventure, I think it’s one of my favorite 5th edition adventures, but it might not be for everyone (we’ll get to that below). It’s a really solid purchase that will provide hours and hours of gameplay, as it is somewhat re-playable. This book gives you nearly everything you need to run SKT as a campaign or provides you with a valuable sourcebook when paired with the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide to run adventures in the Northwest of Faerûn.
What is Storm King’s Thunder?
This adventure has us return once again to the Sword Coast region of the Forgotten Realms. This time giant lords are locked in a power struggle after their god, Annam the All-Father, broke-up the hierarchy controlling the giants (called the Ordning). The choose your own adventure like set-up of this book has two major branches where the players choose which giant threat to face off against in a variety of locations. As the story progresses the players must decide which giants are allies and which are enemies. The story draws inspiration from both Shakespeare’s King Lear and Lear the Giant King (Dungeon Magazine #78).
From the Official Website:
Stand with or against the giants in this adventure for the world’s greatest roleplaying game.
This 256-page adventure for characters level 1-11+ provides everything a Dungeon Master needs to create an exciting and memorable play experience for the Storm King’s Thunder story, including rune magic items, a new treasure option for characters.
Giants have emerged from their strongholds to threaten civilization as never before. Hill giants are stealing all the grain and livestock they can while stone giants have been scouring settlements that have been around forever. Fire giants are press-ganging the smallfolk into the desert, while frost giant longships have been pillaging along the Sword Coast. Even the elusive cloud giants have been witnessed, their wondrous floating cities appearing above Waterdeep and Baldur’s Gate. Where is the storm giant King Hekaton, who is tasked with keeping order among the giants?
The humans, dwarves, elves, and other small folk of the Sword Coast will be crushed underfoot from the onslaught of these giant foes. The only chance at survival is for the small folk to work together to investigate this invasion and harness the power of rune magic, the giants’ weapon against their ancient enemy the dragons. The only way the people of Faerun can restore order is to use the giants’ own power against them.
Price: $49.95 C$63.95
Release Date: 06 September, 2016
What Do You Get?
- The book starts off with a Dramatis Personae right after the table of contents, outlining all of the major NPCs in the adventure and where to find them in the book. This is something I really and hope they continue to provide for future books.
- The introduction provides a detailed Adventure Background, clocking in at nearly seven pages, similar to what we saw in Princes of the Apocalypse. It outlines all of the major characters and factions. You’ll also find a half page image that draws out 20 giant runes.
- Running the Adventure provides what you’d expect, but adds a beautiful Adventure Flowchart outlining the adventure’s various paths to completion.
- The Adventure Synopsis provides some notes on running encounters and giving out treasure, including a random d100 list of Items in a Giant’s Bag see the treasure page preview with list.
The sprawling adventure set in the Northern Forgotten Realms can be broken down into three acts, with an option section to get low level players up to level 5. The adventure has a slower pace than some adventures, allowing the players to really explore the North and deal with giant threats as they see fit.
- Chapter 1 provides optional material to advance players from level 1 up to level 5 where the main adventure begins. The chapter provides a shorter adventure to run, followed by hooks for a few quests to keep players busy. I think this would be a good way to bring new players up to speed and like Curse of Strahd’s Death House and it’s good that they spent some of their page count to have this in the book. In addition, you can download this section of the book for free from the Dungeon Masters Guild.
- Chapters 2 to 4 bring players through Rumblings, The Savage Frontier, and The Chosen Path. The adventure starts with the characters defending one of three locations: Bryn Shander, Greenfields or Triboar against a giant attack. From there they are pulled out to explore the Savage Frontier where they eventually befriend a giant. The giant brings them to a temple to consult a divine oracle for aid in stopping the giant threat. The oracle requires the players to find parts of a relic buried under ancestral mounds “scattered around the north”. When the players return to the temple the main antagonist of the campaign is revealed and the players escape on an airship.
- Chapter 3 is over 50 pages detailing threats and locations around the North, providing an excellent companion to the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide.
- Chapters 5 to 9 outline the lairs of each of the give giant leaders who are threatening civilization. Players choose to confront Hill, Stone, Frost, Fire or Cloud giants to seek out an important magic item needed to reach the stronghold of the storm giants.
- Chapters 10 to 12 have players going on a search and rescue for King Hekaton, revealing the true villain of the adventure with some court intrigue and chasing down the villain for a final showdown in her lair.
The Appendices provide:
- notes for linking up with Lost Mines of Phandelver, Hoard of the Dragon Queen, and Princes of the Apocalypse
- Magic Items that include many runes and Potion of Giant Size
- Creatures including “flying cat” Tressyms, Uthgardt Shamans and more
- Special NPCs which are provided to players to run in addition to their own characters at key points in the story
I really can’t complain as I think this book provides so much. There are two observations I thought I should share.
- I wish we got a fold out map of the North/Sword Coast region. While they did print the map on two pages, making it more readable than the tiny map in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, this would have been a nice addition to a great book.
- I thought this book has everything most DMs would need to run the adventure, but the book does make some external references. It has several references to other books such as the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and Monster Manual. The description on the website says this book “provides everything a Dungeon Master needs to create an exciting and memorable play experience for the Storm King’s Thunder story,” which is a little misleading.
- Player options such as class archetypes, backgrounds and ways to use rune magic besides magic items.
Who Might Want to Avoid It?
- Newer groups who might not be as comfortable with playing a story that relies on the players to make choices and heavily interact with NPCs (try Lost Mines of Phandelver)
- Groups who really just like dungeon crawls (try Princes of the Apocalypse)
- Groups who really don’t like intrigue and just want to kill stuff
- Groups who really don’t like wilderness exploration and just want to kill stuff
- Groups who really hate running NPCs alongside their PCs
- Players looking for new options for their characters
Who Should Buy It?
- Groups looking for a variety of gameplay with a balance of social, exploration and combat play
- Groups who really like having the freedom to explore a large area of a world without event driven time pressure or a straight line plot (railroad) forcing them along
- Groups who like giants and dragons
- Groups looking to avoid lower levels and get right into it at level 5
- DMs looking for Forgotten Realms setting resources and adventure hooks for their own adventures in the areas outside the cities of the Sword Coast/North
From my first flip through of this book, I was impressed. The book looks great and I think it’s an excellent adventure and setting resource. The additions of the Dramatis Personae and the adventure flowchart are superb and I hope we see them in future books. The illustrations throughout the book are great (just look at those I included on this review) and there are many maps too.
The adventure does a good job of mixing all three types of gameplay including court intrigue, interrogation, wilderness exploration, search and rescue, dungeons of various sizes, and plenty of combat – including running NPCs alongside their PCs. Some DMs might have an issue with so much of the book going unused as players make their choices and skip locations, but these locations can be explored later or used in your own adventures later.
This is one of my favorite 5th edition adventures, but it might not be for everyone, especially newer groups of players or groups that just want to hack and slash through dungeons. It’s a really solid purchase that will provide hours and hours of gameplay, as it is somewhat re-playable with the branching style of the adventure. This book gives you nearly everything you need to run SKT as a campaign or provides you with a valuable sourcebook when paired with the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide to run adventures in the Northwest of Faerûn.
Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher’s PR agency.