This is Gaming Cypher’s PC Review (Done by John Pruitt) of Storm King’s Thunder by developer Roll20.
This is a different kind of experience when you think about the RPG genre and how far it’s come. I only have a limited amount of experience when it comes to tabletop games, but I would encourage others to try it out for themselves, because you can really have a good time with your friends. Some of the features include: over 250 hours of campaign preparation, completed and ready to go, over 200 stated tokens featuring original artwork from D&D, over 40 battle ready maps, cross-linked handouts throughout the adventure, and a grand story full of replayable adventures, including the largest D&D battles ever.
Storm King’s Thunder has a very good storyline with a plethora of moving pieces, like factions, NPCs with motivations, and choices. Depending on previous campaigns and one-offs, you could start the game off in many different ways; there are at least 4 linked adventures that you and your party can play through before starting Storm King’s Thunder. These adventures include The Lost Mines of Phandelver, Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Princess of the Apocalypse, and Out of the Abyss. I usually prefer the generic “We met in a pub” background and sudden events have forced unlikely allies to work together. Tabletop games tend to be as enjoyable as the game master makes them out to be, and in my experience some of the most enjoyable parts of a campaign come from the random events caused by your own party members. Nothing beats watching a lawful good character conflict with a chaotic evil character over something relatively petty, all the while the chaotic neutral guy is getting wasted in the pub. These are the random tangents that remind of what we’re fighting for … something about giants, right?
Yes, all kinds of giants! The main story takes place in the Forgotten Realms, primarily in the Savage Frontier, which is a cold and rugged land in the Northwest of the continent of Faerun. Mysterious circumstances following a dragon crisis have led to the proliferation of a small folk-giant conflict. All of the factions that you encounter are very much aware of the looming danger, and they are making efforts to avoid utter destruction. Meanwhile the reclusive Kraken Society has more sinister intentions, and it would rather fan the flames than extinguish them. The Roll20 module has a lot to offer the dungeon master. There is an abundance of content, very cool looking tokens/portraits/maps, and a whole lot of context to really provide the players with a sense of immersion. There are 12 chapters to complete before finishing the campaign, characters are expected to progress from level 1 to 11 by the game’s conclusion, and there are side quests, which the game master can use just by looking at the NPC appendix. Even when characters wander away from the main storyline, the module also has suggestions to get the party back on track without it feeling too forced.
Allow me to try to describe the gameplay. Keep in mind, I am not a D&D veteran and I’m fairly new to Roll20. Roll20.net comes off as user friendly; it helps you find games, it allows you to invite people to your game, and it offers a tutorial. Playing requires a great deal of imagination and patience, especially if the campaign lasts a long time. The game master is essentially omnipotent and all-knowing, and the players are only able to see and interact with what he or she allows. Everyone can communicate through the chat box, but voice and video are the primary communication methods used on Roll20. There is a simple algorithm to roll dice when you are attacking or trying to perform a task. You can also discretely roll the dice, and only the DM and the player will know about it. Unless, of course, you are trying to pick-pocket one of your friends’ items and you crit fumble, then you have some explaining to do. Crit fumbling in combat has more serious ramifications, maybe you’ll hurt an ally by mistake or trip over your own feet.
A lot of the game is directed by combat scenarios, like ambushes, sieges, rescue missions, etc. This isn’t quite Attack on Titan, but these battles are large in scale and they test your party’s leadership capabilities. There are some alternative paths and alliances in the game, but they are not as obvious as they seem. One allows players to bribe a giant, but I’m not sure how many people will make that connection given the enemy’s aggressive behavior throughout the story. Another choice requires you to choose where to make your stand against a large number of opponents in one of three locations. That is pretty cool, because the environment will have a significant role in countering the enemy. The third chapter seems to offer the DM the chance to have the party explore the frontier, and it has potential regarding random encounters. One such encounter includes meeting a generous NPC who help expedite your adventure by giving you an airship, but this character tends to watch the smallfolk from afar, which could allow for the DM to judge characters on their recent activities. Maybe he/she saw the rogue successfully pilfer through paladin’s pack, or maybe he/she saw the ranger begrudgingly heal the warlock. Something along those lines could make for an entertaining scene among players. The game’s drawback may come from the setting being a warzone encouraging players to fight as much as possible to increase their level, and you need to level up to continue playing the story. I would prefer to explore more and to find as many alternative paths as possible. Don’t get me wrong, you can find other ways to approach a given situation, but it feels like you’re limited in what you can do to get out of that situation.
I wanted to make a note regarding magical items. From what I understand, magical items that require attunement are fairly new given the 5th Edition. You can think of this like “soul-binding” or “bind on equip” from MMOs, but it appears that you are limited to how many magical items you can attune. One such item is called Flame Tongue, which is a flaming sword, and you can activate its flames by speaking its command word. I think attuning items to yourself and having a limited number of items to bind to yourself can encourage a player to become attached to their gear. It’s a pretty cool concept.
I don’t think this is a type of game that you can effectively rate from 1 to 10, because you can have a number of different experiences, and the campaign has a lot replay value. Roll20’s virtual tabletop is free to use, and if you want to really get into it you can purchase premium assets to help make your own campaigns. The team that has created this module has already done the hard work by creating the world, the characters, and the questlines. Now you can immerse yourself in the Forgotten Realms universe with your friends and decide for yourself. I would definitely recommend a BUY.
You can purchase the Storm King’s Thunder here: https://marketplace.roll20.net/browse/module/25/module-storms-king-thunder.