Wizards of the Coast launched their Elemental Evil story arc today with the release of Princes of the Apocalypse, a 256-page campaign for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Designed to take characters from 3rd level to 15th (with a few side adventures designed to take 1st level adventurers to 3rd), Princes includes new spells with elemental themes, the elemental-touched Genasi as a player character race for 5th Edition, and tips on translating this Forgotten Realms adventure to the Dark Sun, Dragonlance, Greyhawk, and Eberron settings.

But the question that’s on my mind: Is this better than the Tyranny of Dragons campaign?

Short answer: yes. Some spoilers follow.

Tyranny of Dragons has a few things that don’t work for me. Firstly, it’s in two books, Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat, and information about the background and motivations of the main antagonists are pushed to the second book. The introductory adventure (“Greenest in Flames”) is a bit of a mess where first-level characters are prompted to head to a village that is under attack by a dragon. Nearly all the numbers on the maps in the Hoard adventures aren’t referenced in the text. The rest of Hoard suffers a bit from being developed along with the tail end of D&D 5e development and really feels like it should have gone through another pass through editorial (and proofreading) before shipping. For a 96-page book with an MSRP of $29.95, the deadline beast seemed to be one that Kobold Press couldn’t defeat. Rise is better in those regards.

D&D Elemental EvilCompare that with the 256-page Princes of the Apocalypse (MSRP $49.95). Where Hoard and Rise both seem to be a rather linear adventure, Princes feels like a much more open world to explore. The campaign book is set in a large area of the Realms and can almost be used as just a setting book for the Dessarin Valley. Sure, there’s a Temple to crawl through, but there’s so much more all over the valley. The campaign structure provides a framework for the Elemental Evil cults to react to the hero’s meddling: instead of just going to the next chapter’s dungeon crawl, the cults are constantly working and plotting. They might think that they’re doing well, but once they climb out of a temple’s ruins, they might find… well, let’s just drop the name of a rather potent magical item and let your imaginations run wild: devastation orb.

While the adventure is really suggested for 3rd level characters and there are several hooks for bringing characters from the Starter Set’s Lost Mine of Phandalin (which I highly recommend as your first post-Dungeon Master’s Guide purchase if for nothing more than having the Starter Set Rulebook available for quick rules references), the “Alarums and Excursions” chapter is a great starting point for lower-level adventurers of any class. The initial township the PCs begin in have several locations with cues for low-level adventure hooks and the main campaign’s, which will help get your players invested in the town.

What else to say about Princes of the Apocalypse? Sasquatch Game Studio really did a bang-up job on the adventure. (Read more about their collaboration with Wizards of the Coast here.) Mike Schley’s and Sean Macdonald’s maps can be found at their respective websites, with options to purchase player and DM versions. (Mike Schley’s Princes of the Apocalypse mapsSean Macdonald’s Princes of the Apocalypse maps)

Yeah, I’d pick this one up.

On the radar for more related Elemental Evil: A portion of the Princes adventure can be found in the WotC D&D organized play program at participating game stores. Elemental Evil themed content is now available in the Neverwinter PC game (coming to the Xbox One “at a later date”). The Temple of Elemental Evil boardgame, compatible with The Legend of Drizzt and Castle Ravenloft, is scheduled to be released later this month.

A copy of Princes of the Apocalypse was provided free for review by Wizards of the Coast.