Played: Storm King’s Thunder (DnD 5e)

Over time the exact number of sessions has been lost, but we played this campaign for a good 3.5 years starting with weekly rounds and later on a monthly basis (but bi weekly while Corona raged).

There are 30 sessions entered in our current campaign management tool. It should be noted that at the start of the count we were already 15-20 sessions into Chapter 3. Based on the round, we want to give a short game report about the adventure for Dungeons and Dragons 5e.

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 Spoilerwarnung

Parts of the plot are revealed in this post. Skip to the conclusion for a spoiler-free statement about the work.

Adventure Facts

To fight Giants, you must be Giant.

Ages ago, giants and dragons waged war across the Savage Frontier. These battles are long forgotten by the human civilizations of today, but ancient relics remain. And now, the land shudders once more with the thunder of giant footsteps.

Hill giants raid farms for food and livestock, as stone giants lay waste to settlements in their path. Frost giants plunder coastal towns, as fire giants gather slaves. Cloud giant castles drift across the sky, casting omnious shadows on the cities of the North. But no threat compares to the wrath of the storm giants, who stand betrayed.

Puny adventurers must rise to the challenge, gather their strength, unlock the power of ancient runes, and take the fight to the giant’s doorsteps. Only then can they discover a hidden evil fomenting a war between giants and small folk. Only then can they forge an alliance to end the war before it begins.

A DUNGEONS & DRAGONS adventure for characters of levels 1 – 10. For use with the fifth edition Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Master’s Guide.

Text from the back of the book

  • Publisher: Wizard of the Coast
  • Release Date: 2016
  • Language: English
  • Pages: 256
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Price: 42 € on Amazon*

What awaits us in this adventure?

Giants.

Queen Neri has been murdered and it looks like the small people are responsible. At the same time, Annam, the all-father of the giants, has broken the order of the giants. Every tribe and clan of the giants tries to get into the favour of the god of the giants through deeds and achievements. Above all, they rage in the Savage Frontier and devastate the towns and settlements of the small people. Among them are the places where the characters initially find themselves, such as Triboar, Goldenfields and Bryn Shander in the Ten Towns of the Icewind Dale.

After the Storm King, the former highest noble of the Storm Giants and thus also head of the Giant People, has disappeared, his daughter holds the position on the throne. It is up to the little people to get to the bottom of a conspiracy, find the king and put the wild giant lords in their place.

There are not only different paths leading to the adventure’s goal, but also legendary characters to meet. The Savage Frontier around Waterdeep, Neverwinter, Luskan, up to the Icewind Dale and beyond Everlund in the east are the playground of this adventure.

Copyright: Wizard of the Coast

Short Chapter Overview

Chapter one offers an introduction to the adventure. This adventure though, should bring the characters to level 5, because the campaign only really begins from there.

In the second chapter, the story of Storm King’s Thunder* (SKT) begins, the towns of Goldenfields, Bryn Shander and Triboar are attacked and the characters are in the centre of at least one of these battles.

The third chapter is a good part of the core of the adventure. Not necessarily the core, but you will probably spend a large part of the campaign here. Chapter three offers many locations with scenes that the group can experience and explore.

Chapter four then puts the group back on track. They are enlightened in a small dungeon as to what their next goal should be and meet another fellow of the campaign.

Chapters five to nine are chapters of adventures and dungeons for various giant lords who pose a threat to the Savage Frontier.

Chapter ten takes us to the Maelstrom to the Court of the Storm Giants. The core here is a huge dungeon and an audience at the court.

Chapter eleven plays with the background of the story and the hidden things that the players can still find out. A good opportunity for a little infiltration of a casino ship.

Chapter twelve ends the campaign with an epic battle in an unexpected place and the Storm King’s Thunder.

The good Pages

Apart from the book itself, which is really well constructed for a DnD adventure, there are some other good sides.

At the beginning of the book some factions are mentioned, such as the Emerald Enclave, Zhentarim but also the Kraken Society, which could play a role in this campaign. These are short descriptions, but are intended to provide inspiration if the game master wishes to include them.

Also at the beginning is a flowchart about the adventure. Different paths of the adventure, the corresponding chapters and character levels are shown here on one page. No long scrolling where the story is, what comes next and what level the characters should have. On this point, it should also be pointed out that not all chapters have to be played. Some also serve as possible paths to chapter 12. There are three cities for chapter two, all of which can be played or just one of them. To get from chapter four to ten, one chapter from five to nine is enough, but several can be played. Chapter eleven is also somewhat optional, but still nicely worked up. It should be said that even in the chapters there are now and then several possibilities with examples of how to reach a place or tackle the problem.

Sandbox

The adventure has great scenes in itself. Especially the defence of one of the cities at the beginning is very cool. It also offers a strong hook for the campaign. Due to the age of the giants and their peculiarity, there is no time pressure in the adventure. This allows the sandbox of chapter three to be fully exploited and a memorable campaign to be created. Whether character plots, side plots with completely different problems or already laying out plot hooks for a subsequent campaign, everything is possible here and it doesn’t feel like the threat of the giants is over or the most important (but still the biggest 😉 ) problem.

In chapter three there is not only a wonderful map, but also many small descriptions, each with a scene or an encounter for the respective setting. The goal is to find the giant artefacts, of which there are more than enough, and the adventurers will travel through the lands. There are plenty of locations outside the story and their descriptions are worth their weight in gold here but also offer a good introduction to entirely new adventures and stories.

The bad Pages

The first chapter consists of 17 pages and only serves to get the characters to level 5. I can’t write much about it because I found it very questionable what kind of adventure this is supposed to be if it deals with a speedrun.

There is a fetch quest in the adventure that doesn’t start until you meet the person giving the quest. Finding this person twice is a bit annoying to say the least. But it still leads to a gimmick that is certainly exciting for some. But it can be changed quickly.

As great as the sandbox is that Storm King’s Thunder* offers here, you have to like it and nurture it. For a modern DnD adventure, there is quite a lot here, but it only scratches the surface. A bit more tooling would have been nice here to pick up the not-so-committed game master.

The clichĂ© of the Chosen is taken up in the adventure, which is a bit well-worn. What Storm King’s Thunder* also doesn’t focus on so much is that the protagonists are not involved in the important events. There is a disconnect between the story and the plot in the background. I personally thought that was great, but I can imagine that not everyone likes it.

In the Maelstrom, a nice opportunity for role-playing awaits the players. The map for the Maelstrom is very, very large for what actually wants to take place in the adventure. I suspect that for credibility rather than relevance, this map and all the descriptions of the rooms are found here in the adventure.

For whom is Storm King’s Thunder?

This is for all those who want to explore the borderlands around Neverwinter and the like, run a sandbox and still have a metaplot. The adventure doesn’t stress the players, which can be good and bad (speaking from experience :D), and allows you to put the campaign on the back burner when a story in Everlund or the High Forest comes more into focus.

Conclusion

Storm King’s Thunder* is a lovely campaign that doesn’t rush, offers a self-selected narrative pace and also plenty of opportunities for character play, subplots and exploring the rich landscape. We were able to fulfil personal goals, integrate factions into the game and increase the ranks of the player characters, gain allies and also introduce plot hooks and NPCs for the following campaign.

In my eyes, the adventure should be purchased by all those who want to run a sandbox. And they also have to know that work has to go into it. You can also ” pull through” the campaign. But if you do this then in my opinion it loses some of the charm of group and character development. The threat is not strongly pressing, but journeys over several weeks through the borderlands can be credible and necessary without the group having to think that the world will end if they don’t hurry. Chapter two shows nicely that the small peoples know how to defend themselves, but the giants are also a serious threat.

The adventure has its strengths and weaknesses, also in terms of content. A brief overview of the chapters with the most important points as a keyword list might have helped a lot at the beginning. Nevertheless, Storm King’s Thunder* is a great recommendation for a campaign in the Savage Frontier or as a subplot for your own loose adventure ideas.

Tips and additions

  • Read the adventure in advance or, if necessary, read the beginnings of the chapters so that you have the central idea of the adventure, so that you can do some foreshadowing or at least know what is happening in the background.
  • Lost Mines of Phandelver* is an excellent introductory adventure for SKT. Chapter one feels more like speedrun DnD for the characters to reach level 5 and enter the story.
  • Chapter three is great for setting plot hooks for character arcs or a subsequent campaign.
  • Let Harshnag tell the adventurers to come to him with artefacts of the giants so that they leave for the oracle. He can tell them in advance about the barbarian tribes and the gift to the oracle before they have to travel back and forth unnecessarily.
  • Read the Maelstrom chapter and think about what you really need. A lot can be skipped if the group does not have the goal of exploring the Maelstrom completely.
  • Consider bringing forward the first part of chapter eleven to solve the mystery of the wooden coin from the casino by the characters before they travel to the Maelstrom. It might give the players the feeling that they are bringing new information to the court.

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