DMs Guild Review – Dragon Relics

Collect ancient relics to stop an ancient blue dragon in the Anauroch Desert in this level 1-12 campaign built from several of the designer’s previously released adventures.

This review has been sponsored by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Designed by: JVC Parry

What do get when you combine three previously released adventures into a full level 1 – 12 campaign? Dragon Relics is the next big campaign release from JVC Parry (Call from the Deep), effectively utilizing some of the designer’s best adventures to create a richly varied and easy-to-run campaign.

On the surface Dragon Relics feels like a tighter remix of Storm King’s Thunder. An ancient blue dragon, Rah’Ziel, has risen to wreck havoc on the giants (and the world), starting with storm giant king Hrungir, whose cloud castle crashes several miles outside of the inn our intrepid level one heroes are staying at.

Investigating the wreckage and learning about the dragon from the near-dead giant is an exciting adventure hook, though it’s also a bit too short and neat. The party levels up to two after saving some ponies during the crash, and to three after only a pair of encounters on the way to the giant.

The best way to destroy the dragon, according to Hrungir, is to collect four ancient dragon relics made from the bones of his rival bronze dragon. The campaign is structured as a glorified series of fetch quests. But it also provides an easy motivator for players and a straightforward plot thread for DMs.

In chapter two the party treks up the Anauroch Desert to get the first relic. The 40+ day journey is a hex crawl with over 30 detailed encounters.

To further expand on the hex crawl, the appendix includes the Anauroch Gazetteer, featuring over 40 notable areas of interest in the region, such as an undead gyrosphinx haunting a castle, a literal ghost town from a horrific water-poisoning plot (Kefka strikes again!), and a Zhentarim wyvern mount-training outpost on a cliff.

The destination is a ship beached in the middle of a frozen wasteland, and a frost giant lording over orcs. It’s a fun scenario, though it’s a shame the first meaty content doesn’t happen until the party is level four. After they acquire the first relic they reach level five, making the tier one levels fly by as the bulk of the campaign focuses on tiers two and three.

dms guild review

Thankfully Hrungir gets his flying castle fixed up to provide a very convenient fast-travel system that solves one of the biggest problems of D&D – extended, boring overland travel. The party can gather the next two relics in any order, with chapters based on Blood at the Auction and Beneath the Sands.

The two chapters couldn’t be more different from each other, and that’s a big plus. Blood at the Auction is a role-playing heavy murder mystery as the PCs must win the relic at an auction house. The proprietor is murdered overnight, creating a delicious complication for the ten attending NPCs, whom are each given role-playing notes, personality traits, and secrets.

I particularly love the disguised night hag and rakshasa fighting over a completely different item, and most likely resulting in a climactic, chaotic battle as the real killer tries to flee.

On the other end of the scale, chapter four is all about combat and exploration, as the party delves into the ruins of an underground city, surviving a gauntlet of traps, and emerging into a magically-maintained underground jungle with multiple mini-dungeons full of traps and monsters. The dinosaur-filled jungle and emphasis on clever trap design reminds me of Tomb of Annihilation in all the best ways.

The final relic shifts gears yet again, as it lies in the middle of a holy fortification by a group of zealous Tyr worshipers (Kalinaar would no doubt be a member). Even though the party should be level nine by then, a frontal assault is heavily discouraged. This chapter should instead play out like a heist, with multiple entry points and detailed notes on guard patrols and day/night patterns.

This chapter is based on The Theocracy adventure, which I reviewed over two years ago! It’s been scaled down from tier three to late tier two, but otherwise still a fantastic scenario with a large dungeon and lots of moving parts.

dms guild review

The campaign is very player-focused, which makes it easy to run for the DM, but doesn’t leave our villain with much to do. The threat of a pissed off ancient blue dragon is real, but never really manifests in the world. I would’ve loved to see some retaliations or devastation that wasn’t focused on the party, such as the cult reprisals from Princes of the Apocalypse.

The villain only has two plans throughout the campaign. The first is to send a patrol of half-dragons at the party. They follow similar rules to the drow hunting party in Out of the Abyss, with a confrontation that could occur any time they get close.

The other is a single scripted encounter before the Theocracy chapter, as Rah’Ziel sends a magical simulacrum to attack the party, giving the players a chance to show off their powerful anti-dragon items.

With all four relics the party can assault Rah’Ziel in his desert lair. The final battle is an intriguing multi-stage boss battle. Rah’Ziel isn’t the kind to wait in his lair for the party, instead clashing right outside as his bronze dragon rival is summoned from the relics. When he’s forced to retreat inside, the party has to deal with four gargoyles who are linked to his life force. The gargoyles scatter throughout the lair, creating an interesting scenario that combines dungeon delving with an ongoing final boss battle.

As expected from the designer, Dragon Relics is professionally edited, with an attractive layout and nary a single word out of place. Full grid battle maps are provided for all major dungeons, as well as hex maps for bigger regions. Dragon Relics could also serve as a sourcebook for the Anauroch Desert thanks to the richly detailed Anauroch Gazetteer.

Despite my high praises, I’m not as enamored with Dragon Relics as I was with Call from the Deep. At 99 pages it provides far less content, and an ancient blue dragon hunting giants is a bit Been There, Done That. Yet it’s also incredibly easy to run, focuses on an interesting region, and effectively combines multiple stand-alone adventure into a satisfying overarching campaign.

Pros:

  • Professional layout and editing.
  • Successfully implements themes and mechanics from official 5E campaigns.
  • A satisfying variety of styles in each chapter, from a desert hex crawl to a murder mystery to exploring a dinosaur-filled underground jungle.
  • Extensive details on all traps, including complications and countermeasures.
  • Interesting and satisfying multi-stage finale.
  • Anauroch Gazetteer provides over 40 noteworthy areas, and over 30 encounters.
  • Full color grid battle maps for all major dungeons.

Cons:

  • Lacking in low-level content (level 1 -3).
  • No epilogue.
  • Very little villain interaction until the end.

The Verdict: With an incredible amount of styles, themes, and gameplay mechanics, Dragon Relics successfully combines several of the designer’s previously released adventures into one of the best DMs Guild releases of 2020.

This review has been sponsored by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

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