NewbieDM Review: Dragonlance Shadow of the Dragon Queen adventure

Posted on December 1, 2022 by


Lets get one thing out of the way… Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen is not a Dragonlance setting book. You have to go elsewhere if what you’re hoping for is a Dragonlance Campaign Guide, or a 5e version of Dragonlance Adventures. It’s also not a sequel to Hoard of the Dragon Queen (in case you’re not sure what’s going on and think it may be). 

And what’s going on is that WOTC has decided to revive the Dragonlance brand for 5th edition D&D, in the form of an adventure and a mass battles board game named Warriors of Krynn that allows you to play the same characters in both. A deluxe edition includes both those things plus a DM Screen and an alternate book cover. The adventure takes place in the War of the Lance time period–for those who don’t follow DL, it’s probably the setting’s most iconic time period due to being the subject of the Chronicles trilogy, the novels that introduced Dragonlance to the world in the 80s. 

Shadow of the Dragon Queen takes place in a corner of the world not really touched on by the novels, where the PCs can be major players in a part of the war, without running the risk of being overshadowed by the novel’s protagonists. It’s the same way all Star Wars RPGs have (mostly) kept the PCs away from Luke and Han—“sure there’s a war over there, but things are happening here too”.


 Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen is a hardcover adventure book for D&D. It spends a few pages explaining the world of Krynn, including its money, languages, religion, and races. Kender as a playable race are introduced to the game, along with two backgrounds tied to the lore, Knights of Solamnia and the Mages of the High Tower. It also includes a poster map, perhaps the most beautiful poster map WOTC has printed for any setting, ever. But this book is not interested in being a setting book, and it even tells DM’s to “design the rest as you’d like” of anything that falls outside the area the book details throughout the adventure. It wasn’t even worth a mention to send them to the DMs Guild to buy old lore about Dragonlance? There’s tons of stuff out there! I found this to be an odd choice. 

But the bulk of the book is an adventure that promises to take players from 1-11th level as they become major players in a massive draconic war. 11th level. I’m convinced WOTC is not interested in high level play. This doesn’t warrant a 1-20 campaign? A draconic war? I really believe D&D should shave off those extra 10 levels and just be a 1-10 sweet spot game like Shadow of the Demon Lord… but I digress… 

This adventure starts in a unique way, offering three combat free preludes designed as short encounters the DM can use to ground specific PCs to the setting. There’s one that explains how a PC gains access to divine magic (the setting’s conceit is that the gods are absent), there’s one introducing the lunar magic aspects of the setting, and there’s one introducing the draconians and the dragon army.  It’s a clever way to to immediately showcase a few things that make the setting unique and gets the ball rolling on the task ahead. The adventure wastes little time getting the players involved in the thick of things, and after a funeral, a festival, and a fishing contest, the adventure takes off, putting the players in direct conflict with the dragon army and setting them loose on the world.

By the end of the first true chapter of the adventure, the PCs will have met draconians, tinker gnomes and their wacky creations, and have witnessed the cruelty and brutality of the dragon queen’s army. It also introduces what is one of the big selling points of the adventure, its interaction with the Warriors of Krynn board game.  Certain encounters will ask the DM to run them as one of the scenarios from the board game if they’d like, granting PCs things like Inspiration and minor magic items if they do so successfully. The transitions are seamless from Adventure to Board Game, and the scenarios in the game are written with the possibility of running both together in mind. There’s no downside to not using the board game, except that using it grants PCs small rewards. The back cover blurb of the adventure book included in the deluxe edition removes the word “optionally” when referring to using the board game with the adventure–telling me that the deluxe edition expects players to use both as they play out the campaign, but really it’s a nice add on and a solid way of incorporating both product as part of a larger play experience. See the images below. 

The art in the book is gorgeous, and again, the poster map of Ansalon (Krynn’s main continent) included in this adventure is in my opinion the most beautiful map WOTC has ever commissioned for their game, doted with draconic designs and even a portrait of Takhisis the Dragon Queen herself. The battlemaps in the book are just as pretty, and lovers of color maps will be happy to know that here is not one black and white or line art map in the book. Mike Schley, long time D&D cartographer contributes some of the battlemaps, with Francesca Baerald, who also designed the poster, rounding out the rest. 


Some battlemaps have an interesting thing going on to let DMs play out the combats as part of a bigger battle, Dragonlance is all about a war, and PCs are involved in skirmishes that make up bigger battles. Some maps have a stylized edge around them described as “the fray”, and if players enter that part of the map they risk taking damage, simulating stepping into other skirmishes or combat zones. I like it and think it should be part of adventure design moving forward as needed. 

It is important to note — the book DOES NOT include mass combat rules. All mass combat is represented by the board game if groups choose to use it. 

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The stylized border around the map is The Fray, and PCs risk damage by entering it.

The adventure allows PCs to interact with and get a good feel for things that make Dragonlance unique, such as tinker gnomes, Lord Soth and his undead minions, and an eponymous Dragonlance itself (unchanged from its entry in Fizban’s). Long time fans hoping to rub shoulders with Tanis or Tasslehoff will have to look elsewhere though, as no fan service like that exists here, for better or worse. I’m of the mindset that a cameo would have been nice, as has been done in other 5e adventures that feature some of the game’s most memorable NPCs, but again, I digress…. 


The adventure includes nine new pieces of equipment and twenty-three new creatures, five of those being draconians. Draconians are similar from their Fizban’s counterparts except for some changes in their death throes. The most powerful creature in the book is Lord Soth at CR19. 

Sidekicks, first introduced in the Essentials Kit, are back. The adventure features  six of them and they can be leveled up to 11th, like the PCs. Two of them are healers, a druid and a dwarven cleric, which sort of takes away from the uniqueness of the PC cleric when seen within the context of the setting, but I assume they are meant to be introduced if the PCs lack a cleric at all, so it works out I guess… The book also includes concept art to round it out. 

So. Dragonlance is finally here for 5e.

Or is it? 

If you are a fan of DL and was longing for a setting book, you’ll be disappointed, this is not it. And the book makes no attempts to be one. It mostly ignores the things that made DL unique from other worlds, for example it never tells us that orcs don’t exist on Krynn and that Minotaurs are sea faring creatures. In fact it ignores minotaurs completely except for a table on the DMs Screen included in the deluxe set.  It opens the door to any race existing here due to “portals from other worlds”, and ignores gully dwarves completely and glosses over steel and gold. 

This isn’t your dad’s Dragonlance. And that’s fine. Would I have wanted a new setting book? Absolutely. I love Dragonlance. Chronicles was my Tolkien. My fantasy gateway along with The Legend of Zelda.

But this presentation of DL is meant for someone else. WOTC setting the adventure during The War of the Lance allows you to find the 10000 other products already published (and still available) and use those for lore. The book isn’t going to do it for you.

The adventure looks like a fun romp through a mostly unexplored part of Krynn. It uses story based advancing, not experience points, and does not assume any previous knowledge of Dragonlance to play or run. 

You can find a twitter flip-through of this product here. 

WOTC provided a review copy of Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen for review purposes. 

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