Tabletop Games: Storm King’s Thunder – End of an Era

Categories Culture, Media
Feature image for review of Storm King's Thunder

Our quest began in the winter of twenty-sixteen. The wild Cornish sea surrounded me and filled my stomach with fish and my heart with salt. I was miserable and alone after being exploded by a caravan in my previous quest for justice… But, I carried on, a pencil and paper in hand, dice in pocket unaware that the genesis of my next great adventure was about to appear…

I can’t keep that up. This isn’t a moody diary entry of a disastrous writer-adventurer. Nope, this is a professional review of the Storm King’s Thunder Dungeons and Dragons module. I promise…

Two years and three months of inconsistent game sessions and a billion side missions, we finally finished Storm King’s Thunder. The seventh official module of Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition.

So, here are my thoughts on the game from a player’s perspective. I’ll try to keep it as basic and spoiler-free as I can. But… It’s hard to call *spoilers* when I don’t know what was actually in the module book, what my DM made-up on the spot or what my DM forgot he made up so just re-made up months later. Oh, the beauty of D&D.

At First Glance

  • 5th Edition D&D campaign.
  • Takes players from Level 1 to Level 10.
  • Deals with Giant conflicts. (Not giant conflicts… But GIANT conflicts.)
  • Lots of travelling.
  • Quite sandbox-y.
  • A pretty long campaign, prepare to settle in.

Settings

Set in the Sword Coast of Faerûn in the Wizards of the Coast official campaign setting, Forgotten Realms. This campaign explores the classic, most recognisable locations that D&D has to offer. I’m talking, Waterdeep, Neverwinter, Baulder’s Gate, even the Trackless Sea and the Icewind Dale. If that’s not enough, the Yawning Portal makes an appearance, too!

This book contains descriptions for 146 locations in Northwest Faerûn. All useful for the players to explore to gain experience, alliances and magical items. So, there’s a lot of choice for the players and a lot of content for the DM. But don’t let that put you off. It’s been really fun!

For our party, the epic open world worked well. Those of us who made backstories got the chance to explore them, pretty naturally, because of how open the world was. We could just ping one place to another (oh, shit, *spoilers*) to visit our families or complete our personal quests. It was also pretty fun for us to roll our eyes at our DM and ask, “where next?”

A Quick Note…

Sorry, the writer in me has to talk about this! When you write fantasy or read fantasy, play it or watch it. There are two main types of settings. The first is a focused world, where the entire story takes place in one particular setting; e.g. Hogwarts, Stardew Valley, Kiriko (Kiki’s Delivery Service). The second is an open world, where every corner, or at least it seems like every corner, is explored and used up for the purpose of this one adventure; e.g. Middle Earth, Divinity: Original Sin II, Game of Thrones.

Storm King’s Thunder falls into the open world category. Where you are never confined to one place and free to roam across the realm. We went into mountains, desert, forest, sea and of course, massive cities and tiny towns. *Spoilers* And basically ‘used up’ the entire race of giants.

*For a campaign that is loosely set in a focused world, I’d recommend The Curse of Strahd.*

Character Progression

Storm King’s Thunder has you killing goblins at the start. Obviously. But the progression of your character is actually kind of cool. You can tailor the campaign to the type of game your party wants to play.

Combat-based; focus on them, Giants.
Role-play-based; focus on diplomacy between the separate factions.
Or, a custom mixture of both.

The campaign starts with the PC’s saving small towns and feeling like folk heroes. Then escalates, to being a part of massive city battles and becoming folk heroes. Finally, darting around the map crushing Giant strongholds and basically saving the world. (*spoilers*)

Here are some thoughts on my personal experience, playing Storm King’s Thunder.

Player Experience

Firstly, a little info on my party and character because this is the biggest sway to the gameplay. We, as a party were pretty keen on combat with only a light sprinkling of role-playing. Which is fine! I know a few people who don’t like combat heavy D&D. But, I quite like it and it works nicely for us.

I played a slightly spoilt, college dropout human bard called Mae. Who, somehow, joined forces with a bunch of absolute weirdos. A seriously-damaged, spiritually-scrambled dragonborn monk called Toquil; a justice-seeking, magpie-emulating asimar paladin called Vistaca; And a kitten-hearted smashy-conversationalist goliath barbarian called Uthal.

I honestly can’t remember how the party came together or anything about the beginning of the campaign. For me, the spirit of the campaign became apparent when we when a cloud giant “gave us a lift”. If you’re unfamiliar, this means that we spent a million days slow travelling somewhere over the Sword Coast trapped in a floating castle. I thought, “oh, this is gonna be a slow one!”

Fairly quickly, we realised the campaign story revolved around the political turmoil within the giant races. To this day, I’m unconvinced that we, that party above, were the most qualified people for the job. But hey, another beautiful aspect of D&D. And (uhh *spoilers, I guess*) two years later, real-time and probably in-game time, we settled that turmoil and completed the game.

Shows our in player set up. Comfy sofas, screens, dice bowl
Our in-person set up. Before use. Not shown: Beer, crisps, friends…

Bests & Worsts

The best:

  • Espionage on a casino boat.
  • Learning about Giant lore.
  • Constant epic battles with Giants in seriously cool locations.
  • Touring around the Sword Coast and get a flavour for the world.

The worst:

  • Being a bystander or an impostor in the story, some of it would have happened whether we’d been there or not.
  • Constant epic battles with Giants in less cool locations.
  • Not making close connections with NPC’s because of all the travelling.

Final Thoughts

For a first time D&D player, it’s a pretty good module to have. You get to travel the world, solve mysteries and fight the classic Dungeons & Dragons bad guys. (It’s called Dungeons & DRAGONS for a reason!) Plus, during the whole campaign, you feel like you’re getting a classic D&D experience.

For a DM, (mine told me to write this), it’s almost too open. And *spoilers* because of the amount of teleportation that is available to the PCs, it makes the gameplay quite unpredictable and difficult to plan.

For me, it’s been exactly what I want from a D&D campaign. Can’t wait for the next one.

Facts & Ratings

Pages: 259 (Hardback only)
Publisher: Wizards RPG team
Publication Date: 6 September 2016
Time to Play: Not sure… Took us 41 sessions.


Here’s an overview from the Wizards of the Coast website that’ll show you where to buy and how to play

If you like it when I talk about D&D, here’s something from two years ago where I talk about being a Bard!

Or for my last post: click here

Thanks for reading!

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