Storm King’s Thunder was initially published in 2016 by Wizards of the Coast. It’s a full campaign-length hardcover of 256 pages with amazing art work, maps, and a giant-sized adventure. This review is meant for any new DMs, with little to no experience, that want to know how easy Storm King’s Thunder is to run.
After defeating the Cult of the Dragon and perhaps sending Tiamat back to the Nine Hells (or failing to do so), adventurers take on the breaking of the Ordining. The All-Father of the giants realized that giants have become complicit and even allowed Tiamat to rise and thus shattered their social system which left the giants scrambling to take the top of the food chain.
Going off of the front cover alone, anybody can easily guess that there’s going to be some giants in the adventure and they’d be right. There are lots and lots of giants. The good news is that giants don’t make an appearance until much later, so you don’t have to worry about those.
When I first started as a Dungeon Master, Storm King’s Thunder was my second hardcover campaign. By that time, I was in the middle of Hoard of the Dragon Queen, or HotDQ for short, and that was more of a trial by fire. Compared to that adventure, Storm King’s Thunder takes you by the hand and guides you into it.
From the first few pages, the book gives the reader a nice break down of all the major players in the campaign and where to find them – page numbers, chapters, and the actual location in the book. Background information is provided over these major players, the land, and places that players could potentially meet and explore during their adventure.
The book also includes a biography of sorts and helps you with the personification of these NPCs if that’s your sort of thing. Plus, there’s even a helpful Adventure Flowchart that shows you the flow of the campaign and gives you an idea of where the characters can go next and what level they should be at. It’s an excellent reference point. I found myself going back to the Adventure Flowchart to double check to see if myself and the party were still on ‘correct’ path.
Ease of Running
So, how easy is it to run Storm King’s Thunder? Overall, the campaign isn’t difficult to run but that will depend on the players. As I mentioned before, the beginning gives you a lot of information and the first chapter is made to get your feet wet.
Players come to Nightstone for whatever reason to find its destruction by boulders. Talking with the few survivors reveal that the town had been attacked by giants. Boulders fell from the sky and caused the villagers to run. When everything is said and done, the players must rescue the villagers.
After that, the campaign opens up. Depending on a few factors, the adventure continues towards one of three locations. These locations provide an interesting set of NPCs that the players can control when the towns come under attack by giants. The successful repulsion of this attack takes the players on more traveling until reaching their destination.
I believe that this is where a new DM might have trouble. There is so much to do in this book and so many options. The North is a wide area. The book specifically has a chapter for all the towns and places on the map. While there might not be too much information about each place, it is enough for the DM is work with. There is lore and potential story hooks provided. While the book doesn’t necessarily give you every shop location, it gives you what you need to know and allows the DM to fill in the blanks of the town. You can be as descriptive as you want or not. My players have never needed every town to be flushed out. They’ve only ever wanted to know if there were anywhere to rest and resupply.
There isn’t any in game clock for Storm King’s Thunder. The players can potentially take as much or as little time as they need. While my players didn’t visit a lot of towns and didn’t follow too many adventure hooks, they did get side-tracked. As a DM, I had to give them a nudge to get back on track but that’s going to happen with any campaign.
How Long Does the Campaign Take
To run Storm King’s Thunder, it took my group about a year to finish the entire campaign. It also depends on how soon your players want to get through the adventure. My players specifically liked following subplots and exploring so that added to the day count.
As mentioned above, The North is vast and filled with settlements with their own problems and adventure hooks. It mostly all depends on whether or not the players want to go take on every Giant Lord, side mission, and bounty available to them.
Storm King’s Thunder is a large book. There is going to be a lot of page flipping. Information over the major cities the players can potentially visit are found across multiple pages. An easy way to handle this is to do some preparation before the next section of the campaign.
Have the encounters ready as opposed to randomly rolling during the session. Have all the information you might need bookmarked for easier access. Reading through the material beforehand is also an option. While the book does provide an appendix for some exotic creatures the players will encounter, it doesn’t have everything. A lot of preparation is needed for each session. You’re also going to need more than just the hardcover to play the adventure. It’s handy to have the Monster Manual, Player’s Handbook, and Dungeon Master’s Guide.
I wouldn’t recommend running Storm King’s Thunder for Adventurers League official play. It’s not worth it. The campaign gives the DM a lot of opportunities to roll for random treasure. Under the new rules, that’s not allowed anymore so a lot of it goes to waste. The players won’t get anything for their efforts. In my opinion, it’s better to play this hardcover adventure as a homebrew game than an official one.
Overall, Storm King’s Thunder is relative easy to run. The campaign gives you the maps any DM will need for an area, gives you the most important lore, and allows you to figure out the rest. I liked the fact that the beginning was easy to run and then it gradually took off the training wheels. It’s very well organized and the Adventure Flowchart helped a lot. The table of contents goes above and beyond to let you know where each important map is located.
While some of the information is scattered across many pages, bookmarking certain information beforehand can really cut down on the time a DM spends page flipping. The campaign allows a lot of freedom to roam around the North. While that can create a pit of story stopping, the book helps the DM get the players back on track. There are a lot of memorable NPCs like Harshnag, King Hekaton, and Iymrith to name a few.
The only ‘problem’ I found was that the players and the DM could easily be lost in the vast North with so many things to do but I believe that can be easily adjusted. The only reason why I couldn’t run Storm King’s Thunder again because of how long the campaign can be. While the game can change with every playthrough, I’m not ready to embark on the journey just yet but for those who are, it’s worth it.