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Who Can Stand Against the Son of the Dragon? The Wyrmsmoke Mountains shook with the thunder of ten thousand screaming hobgoblin soldiers. From the phalanx emerged a single champion. One by one the tribes fell silent as the warlord rose up, red scales gleaming along his shoulders, horns swept back from his head. A hundred bright yellow banners stood beneath him, each marked w Who Can Stand Against the Son of the Dragon? The Wyrmsmoke Mountains shook with the thunder of ten thousand screaming hobgoblin soldiers. From the phalanx emerged a single champion. One by one the tribes fell silent as the warlord rose up, red scales gleaming along his shoulders, horns swept back from his head. A hundred bright yellow banners stood beneath him, each marked with a great red hand. He stood upon a precipice and raised his arms. �I am Azarr Kul, Son of the Dragon!� the warlord bellowed. �Hear me! Tomorrow we march to war!� Red Hand of Doom is a Dungeons & Dragons adventure designed for characters of levels 6�12. Confronted with the relentless advance of Azurr Kul�s horde, the characters must undertake vital missions to influence the outcome of the war. Can they shatter the armies of the enemy, or will Azarr Kul�s dreams rain destruction upon the human lands? For use with these Dungeons & Dragons® core books Player�s Handbook� Dungeon Master�s Guide� Monster Manual�


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Who Can Stand Against the Son of the Dragon? The Wyrmsmoke Mountains shook with the thunder of ten thousand screaming hobgoblin soldiers. From the phalanx emerged a single champion. One by one the tribes fell silent as the warlord rose up, red scales gleaming along his shoulders, horns swept back from his head. A hundred bright yellow banners stood beneath him, each marked w Who Can Stand Against the Son of the Dragon? The Wyrmsmoke Mountains shook with the thunder of ten thousand screaming hobgoblin soldiers. From the phalanx emerged a single champion. One by one the tribes fell silent as the warlord rose up, red scales gleaming along his shoulders, horns swept back from his head. A hundred bright yellow banners stood beneath him, each marked with a great red hand. He stood upon a precipice and raised his arms. �I am Azarr Kul, Son of the Dragon!� the warlord bellowed. �Hear me! Tomorrow we march to war!� Red Hand of Doom is a Dungeons & Dragons adventure designed for characters of levels 6�12. Confronted with the relentless advance of Azurr Kul�s horde, the characters must undertake vital missions to influence the outcome of the war. Can they shatter the armies of the enemy, or will Azarr Kul�s dreams rain destruction upon the human lands? For use with these Dungeons & Dragons® core books Player�s Handbook� Dungeon Master�s Guide� Monster Manual�

30 review for The Red Hand of Doom

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Red Hand of Doom is quite possibly the single greatest first-party adventure produced for the 3.5 edition product line, and one of the best adventures in general written for the D&D rules. Calling it an adventure though is like calling Tokyo a city: you're technically correct, but leaving a lot out. Maybe it's because this landed later in 3E's life (a scant two years before Fourth Edition); maybe it's because Wizards of the Coast let third-party studios fill out the adventure quota so as to avoi Red Hand of Doom is quite possibly the single greatest first-party adventure produced for the 3.5 edition product line, and one of the best adventures in general written for the D&D rules. Calling it an adventure though is like calling Tokyo a city: you're technically correct, but leaving a lot out. Maybe it's because this landed later in 3E's life (a scant two years before Fourth Edition); maybe it's because Wizards of the Coast let third-party studios fill out the adventure quota so as to avoid a repeat of 2E's shelf-glut; whatever the reason, Red Hand of Doom was tragically overlooked upon its release. Even now, it has only two scant, single-sentence reviews here despite a 4/5 average rating. I'm here to fix that: Red Hand of Doom kicks enough ass to qualify as a top-tier MMA fighter. The adventure, which is written to take a single fifth-level party entirely through to tenth or higher by its conclusion, and will consume months of real time (and 45-60+ days of in-game time depending on the PCs actions), is more accurately a campaign. No one-and-dones here; this sucker is 128 pages and three battle maps' worth of combat, intrigue, and pants-wetting fear once the PCs realize what they're up against. Red Hand's central conceit is that Azarr Kul, a powerful dragonborn hobgoblin, has spent years uniting the various hobgoblin tribes into one colossal nightmare. They've swept through the Wyrmsmoke Mountains, killing, enslaving, dominating, or recruiting everything they encounter. Races and creatures useful to Kul were conscripted, brow-beaten, or bribed into service. Those found lacking were exterminated, enslaved, or eaten. Now, with the Wyrmsmoke Mountains both above and below having fallen to his rule, Azarr Kul is expanding his empire into the surrounding human, elven, and dwarven territories. The army he commands can steamroll the smaller hamlets and villages of the Elsir Vale. The only chance the Vale has is for its communities to rally in a single spearhead of defense at the walled city of Brindol. Even this will only delay the inevitable destruction if some way isn't found to disrupt Kul's supply lines, delay his war band, and unite various disparate factions against a common foe. Your PCs will be busy. If there's one major criticism to be leveled against Red Hand of Doom, it's that it's the very definition of a railroad. If your players balk at the idea of losing agency in exchange for experiencing a phenomenal campaign, you'll have your work cut out to keep them from abandoning the table. It's possible to entice/fool the party into getting involved at the start, but make sure if you go this route your players won't hate you for it. I've played with groups like this before, who felt the DM providing them with anything less than a giant sandbox world for them to play in (and likely ruin) was a complete failure on said DM's part. I can appreciate that, but this is not the adventure for those types: if at any point the PCs decide to nope out of their responsibilities, the Red Hand will devastate a continent. A little over a month from the point the party encounters the first band of marauders, the Red Hand will assault Brindol. This ain't Skyrim where NPCs stand around until the PCs accept a quest and the world waits patiently for them to finish it -- if they waste their time, the Red Hand will waste them. If your players are this sort, or the sorts who rely on their potent backstabbing abilities, arsenal of offensive arcane magic, and frequent long rests, instead of their brains, to solve puzzles, give Red Hand of Doom a hard pass. While there's plenty of opportunity to brawl, the goal is guerrilla attacks focused on specific targets to slow down or disrupt the Red Hand's march. PCs stupid enough to believe they can stand their ground against a multi-thousands-strong army will be mopped up like the jizz-stained aftermath of a peep show. How serious is Red Hand of Doom at putting the boot to the PCs' necks? Well, their first encounter with an advance warband is rated Encounter Level 8. If you're unfamiliar with the terminology, the Encounter Level (EL) is shorthand for how difficult a particular fight should be for the average party. At Encounter Level 3 (the rating for a single Ogre under 3.5 rules), a party of four 3rd level characters should expend around 1/4th of their overall resources (hit points, offensive magic, healing items, etc...) to overcome said encounter. That's not an absolute, of course. The dice, player ingenuity, DM savagery, and party balance will play a huge role in how well things go. Therefore, an EL 8 like this one is meant to be a decent challenge for a party of four 8th level characters. Red Hand of Doom's PCs all start at level 5 though. This is meant to be a slobber-knocking meat grinder, the sort of fight that will kill PCs who don't take it seriously. That type of brawl typically capstones a chapter or even the entire adventure, but Baker and Jacobs aren't messing around. Throwing the party into the fire at the beginning underscores the enormity of situation. If the initial encounter with the marauders doesn't make players rethink their expectations, they won't stand a chance when the full army comes marching down the road. Dead PCs can be replaced with new characters as the survivors move on, but this is a "Dark Souls" opening for sure. * * * * * One thing I love about Red Hand are the "Designer Notes" sidebars. These feature the authors communicating directly with the reader about their expectations for the encounter, what inspired it, and why they made the choices they did. I cannot tell you how awesome this is. If you're like me, there are any number of times you've read through a module and thought, "Really? Why?" at some particular puzzle, challenge, or encounter. Sometimes the designer explains what's going on (Gary Gygax's modules, for instance, were rife with these sorts of notes), but often we just get a room description, monster stat block, and inventory of what the PCs find once they overcome it. Baker and Jacobs are thorough with their information without resorting to pages of info-dump. While they obviously can't (and don't) comment on every encounter or room, they lend their voices throughout the text with their reasoning along with examples of how to play the NPCs, how their tactics evolve over time, and how certain actions on the part of the PCs affect future encounters with the Red Hand. All this is important because Red Hand is a marathon, both for players and DMs. Like special ops soldiers deployed to hostile territory, the PCs will have very little down-time. They'll find themselves racing at top speed from place to place, making difficult, sometimes agonizing, decisions about what to do in the face of the oncoming horde. Is it better to convince the leaders of a town to abandon it, allowing the Red Hand to overrun the place without a fight but ultimately saving lives and living to fight another day? Or would it be better to stage a holding action to slow the advance of the horde, forcing the Red Hand to pay for their acquisition at the cost of dozens or hundreds of lives who will not be available to then shore up Brindol's defenses? Time spent recruiting allies against the Red Hand is time not spent actively impeding their progress. A mission to recover an artifact of great power could mean sacrificing a nearby village to save another further down the road. Your players should have nightmares agonizing over choices like these. No matter what happens, the results will be memorable for all involved, and the authors built the book to take place over 20 to 25 sessions of play. It's not exactly Ruins of Undermountain or Night Below, but that's still an impressive amount of playtime to bundle into a single softcover. Back when Red Hand of Doom was published, the designers foresaw some complaints and tried to head them off. One of their design choices, to prevent a lot of repeated content in stat blocks, directs players to the relevant entries in the Monster Manual to describe infrequently-encountered enemies, and to the first Appendix in the back of the book to describe commonly-encountered foes along with all relevant NPCs and big baddies. This approach is still in use today (Tales of the Yawning Portal published for 5E does just this), but Red Hand received an internet supplement as a free downloadable version of the Appendix that DMs could print for easy reference during encounters to avoid a lot of time-consuming page flipping and note-taking. With this, the module is so much easier to run. It's not available on the WotC site any longer, but with a little google-fu (look for "Red Hand of Doom Web Enhancement") you can find it easily enough. One major thing to look for if purchasing a second-hand copy is the tear-out poster battle map. While you don't absolutely have to have it to make the campaign work, it makes plotting out the larger skirmishes (especially the end-game encounter with Kul) so much easier. The poster has three different maps printed across two sides, and I can't stress how much better this makes things for DMs and players alike. * * * * * So how do the PCs win? Minor spoilers, but you'd be pissed if it didn't stick the landing, so let's explore. Jacobs and Baker offer two ways of determining what happens when the Red Hand finally reaches Brindol. One, of course, involves rolling lots of dice to cover hundreds of rounds involving literally thousands of combatants. For the statistically-obsessed folks who let the dice fall as they may, this is obviously the only way to proceed. But the pair weren't interested in forcing gamers to wear out their d20s, so there's a second, easier option: Victory Points. Every major action the players undertake over the months-long course of Red Hand of Doom can generate Victory Points for the PCs. It's entirely possible for the PCs to kill every major bad guy they come up against by the conclusion of the adventure and still lose if they haven't done enough to strip the horde of its power. Actions which greatly hinder the horde's progress, like capturing commanding officers, setting up roadblocks, and forging alliances with other groups who can harass and slow the Red Hand's march all earn a specific number of Victory Points; if the party has accumulated enough VPs by the time the Red Hand reaches Brindol, the defenders hold the line and the Red Hand flounders. Break out the ale! Failure to reach this total doesn't automatically mean the end of the world though--parties within striking distance of the needed amount have a second chance to reach their goal by killing key targets during the final siege, and if they accomplish this, they still win, albeit a lesser victory. Parties nowhere near the needed number, unfortunately, see Brindol sacked and the survivors forced to retreat further from the front lines. Even then, all is not lost as they'll have one final chance to redeem themselves. Unfortunately it involves traveling into the heart of enemy territory for a direct strike on the power behind Kul in a last-ditch effort to throw a wrench into the works. Is this brutal mission punishing players for doing the wrong thing? Absolutely! It's the least-optimal way to end the scenario, but it's still there as a lifeline for players who need it. * * * * * So there you have it: Red Hand of Doom. I wish every module included the types of designer notes and extra goodies this one does. While it's a complex adventure, and one you absolutely cannot run straight out of the shrink wrap, it's campaign-agnostic so you can locate the Vale and surrounding environs pretty much anywhere. Baker and Jacobs' notes are useful not only for understanding how to run the different encounters, but also for teaching novice DMs how to think about long-running adventures and designing campaigns more complex than "kick in doors, kill monster, loot, repeat." The other sidebars which detail responses to potential PC actions are an additional boon to the Dungeon Master who has trouble making that stuff up on the fly--they allow the DM to account for things they might otherwise not consider, and it's a great feeling to have a ready response when a player asks an intelligent question of that NPC they're interrogating. Baker and Jacobs are obviously familiar with the standard tropes as well, as there are points where sly jabs at "Knights of the Dinner Table" play styles come out. Most notable are entries concerning what happens if the players are stupid or foolhardy enough to insist on taking some kind of stand against a force which clearly outclasses them. Stuff like this should be obvious, but it's great to see the authors not just include it anyway, but also make it as cinematic and brutal as possible. "Hopefully, your players are smart enough to figure out that there are some battles their characters can't win. But if they insist on staring down the Red Hand horde, here's what happens," reads the opening of one section early in the book. Then later: "If your players insist on fighting to the death here, consider obliging them." Equally amusingly in another designer's note sidebar, we get this: "If you find that the characters are all so tough and determined that they can actually beat everything the Red Hand throws at them, you might not be running the adventure for the right character levels." Like every adventure ever published, Red Hand of Doom needs to be tailored for your group, but common sense should prevail. A group of epic-tier heroes with access to 9th-level spells, paragon specializations, and high-level feats could very well hold the Red Hand army at bay with one hand tied behind their backs...but that's why the adventure is designed for mid-level PCs, not borderline-demigods. For being not just a master class in campaign design but also entertaining as hell to read and play, I have no choice but to award Red Hand of Doom a full five blood-stained palms out of five. Neophyte GMs will find excellent suggestions and tips for running their own games (even if you aren't doing a 3.5 campaign), and even experienced Dungeon Masters can glean new ideas for taking their players down a notch or two if need be. Red Hand is brutal, but fair: if your players bite off more than they can chew, it doesn't automatically spell their doom, but if they're pig-headed enough to think they can take on the world, it'll snuff them without a care. Every DM worthy of the screen owes it to themselves to read through this campaign. It's like auditing a master class in adventure design and plotting by two giants of the craft. The only real problem nowadays is finding a copy that won't leave you destitute if you decide to pick it up. Thankfully, DriveThruRPG offers a PDF version for $10, so you don't have to auction body parts if you just want a look at a book with solid writing and phenomenal artwork.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rain

    I'd love to run this if I ever play 3.5 again. I'd love to run this if I ever play 3.5 again.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Samir Rawas Sarayji

    A long adventure.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Eric

  5. 4 out of 5

    Derek

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Wilson

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ricardo Portella

  9. 4 out of 5

    Scott Andrews

  10. 5 out of 5

    Eric

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jacqueline Taylor

  12. 5 out of 5

    Dennis de Lange

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sven

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Niklas Bersenkowitsch

  15. 5 out of 5

    Leunam

  16. 4 out of 5

    Yury Lyandres

  17. 4 out of 5

    Hugh Melrose

  18. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

  19. 4 out of 5

    Marco

  20. 5 out of 5

    Leon

  21. 5 out of 5

    Doubhghall Brophy

  22. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Massey

  23. 4 out of 5

    John Somers

  24. 5 out of 5

    Arlie

  25. 4 out of 5

    john

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

  27. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Cleveland

  28. 4 out of 5

    Frank

  29. 4 out of 5

    David Seeto

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ivan

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