Epic Encounters: Lair of the Red Dragon
Box of Goodies
When I went to my local friendly local game store, The Gamers Den, one of the new products they were selling were these Epic Encounters boxes made by SFG. I am someone who loves easy game prep. I was most intrigued by a few things: that the box boasts that it is one: 5E compatible and that two: it holds "Everything you need to create an Epic Encounter for your roleplaying game." After reading this and seeing the variety of Epic Encounters box types available I figured that the Lair of the Red Dragon would be one that I definitely wanted to review and bring to my readers attention.
What's In the Box?
In the box you get:
a very large Red Dragon miniature guarding its hoard of gold
16 cardboard Fire Brand Kobold tokens
2 cardboard lava pool tiles (2" map tiles)
A double sided heavy duty paper game mat that features lava terrain (its gloss paper, flexible, would not recommend using markers on the map)
and a paper back booklet with all the information you need.
One of the things I noticed with this booklet is there is a lot of nice art work to add flavor to the booklet. Right away on the introduction page it explains how the booklet has three tiers of play, which as a DM I like. The tiers are levels 1-4, 5-10 and then levels 10+. These tiers also level the red dragon type you will fight at the end, the mini that comes in the box is for the highest tier of play.
This booklet is quite different from any manual I have come across before. It's very much a guide with lots of information for a dm to use at their discretion. As a dm you will want to read the information and then use the information in a way that best fits your play style and game table.
The booklet starts by giving some lore and possible backstory of why the player characters have arrived at this dragon lair. Part of the idea is to make sure that your players know how deadly dragons are before proceeding to the encounters.
The next part is the Lair information (pgs 8 & 9). These two pages give an idea of what your players are experiencing in the dungeon. I also like that the writers have come up with a way to even make it difficult for those with dark vision to see making the cavern a true challenge for all players. There are some suggestions as to what your players may find in the lair and how your dragon may use some tactics while in it's lair. These are not combat tactics, but role play or tactics to use on the players as they continue into the lair before combat.
On page 10 we get into combat. These two pages talk about the sweltering heat and the haze, the scorching light and the choking fumes that all could come into play. It is recommended that you pick one or two of these options. There are also bullet points with recommendations on how to use the terrain and how a smart player can use the area to their advantage.
Page 12 shows the two map options and the different numbered areas for the encounters. The following two pages have each numbered areas labeled with what they are, and some gm tips for each. Something to note, this is not like your usual 5e published campaign. There is nothing for the dm to read to the players, the information is presented and the DM will have to describe and adapt for their table. There are also Gm Tips and three "If the players do this" to help guide what to say and do as the PC's approach the dragon.
There is a lovely two page flow chart of the 7 steps to the dragon's suggested attack pattern going from savage attacks and using different features of the environment to keep players on their toys. You can find more about these attacks and dragon's abilities on pages 12-13 where you can read more about the options in detail and learn DC's and damages each thing does. The information is introduced in paragraph form and not like the usual monster manual lay out.
Do you like your encounters to be cinematic? Do you want to bring more flavor to your table through descriptions and keep new things help build great moments mid battle? Then the cinematic suggestions on pages 20 & 21 are for you. Epic Lava diving, to using the dragons wings to make a powerful flight moment are just two of the examples of some cinematic options that the booklet gives. It also has a "What" and "when" section for all four options presented.
There is a page on treasure to tell what each of the tiers are suggested for receiving for loot at the end of a successful encounter. The opposite page to the treasure is an art piece that shows the shadowy fire eyes and outline of a lava lit ancient red dragon. I really enjoy the different art pieces that were put into the booklet with the different artist interpretations of these monsters.
The next section is the Stats for each of the monsters. These are done in the more traditional monster manual style with their ac, hit points, special abilities and their actions. The number of Fire Brand kobolds that are spawned changes based on what tier you are running the encounter but the stats of the kobolds do not. The next five pages go through young red dragon, adult red dragon, and ancient red dragon. The one that you pick to use is based on your player characters level.
The credits to this project are all listed on pages 24 and 25, followed by their license agreement.
The Map and Mini
The double sided map allows you to pick which terrain you would like to run the encounter on. Both have the dark, smoke and lava filled cavern that is perfect for the red dragon. The map itself has beautiful artwork and features one inch grid squares for miniatures. The map itself is high gloss paper. It is not the most durable (such as laminated paper) but it seems to be durable enough for use. I personally plan on getting a framed plexi cover to put it in to allow for dry/wet erase markers to be used and to ensure the longevity of the map.
The dragon miniature is the main reason why the box is so big. The dragon comes in three pieces: body and base, and then two wing pieces. The wing pieces are a little snug to push in but it allows for the use of the miniature to be moved around the map without falling a part. As long as you're gentle with pulling the wings in and out, there is no use for glue to keep the miniature together and it breaks back down nicely to fit back into the box until your next game. The miniature itself is made out of plastic, and had some high detail work for the scales and face. There was a small blemish on one of the shoulders (looks like a cotton material got stuck in the plastic during production) but it is something that my Dremel and I can easily fix and I am sure is just a strange fluke. The miniature has a nice detailed gold and treasure hoard that it stands guarding over. Over all I am quite impressed with the miniature. Knowing me I might do a little bit of a paint job on it to bring out some more of the details as I love painting minis, but the miniature is ready to use right out of the box. A thing to note: with the way the booklet is written the ancient red dragon, which is what this miniature portrays, is only used for player characters 10 and higher. If you are using one of the lower tiered dragons you will have to use theater of the mind or provide a different miniature.
Overall Thoughts From the Fox
I enjoyed the information presented in the manual for DM's to create a unique piece. I like that it's flexible and you could run this box at least three times and have a completely different game each time, no matter what level tier you run it at. I am a DM who likes to have freedom to run and choose descriptions and I feel like this box benefits my game style by not limiting you to things that you must read to players. I especially liked the actions flow chart and the cinematic section.
When looking at price for what you get, the box leans to the not enough bang for your buck side of the scale. If you are looking for an ancient red dragon miniature it ranges from $27 - $70 based on if it is unpainted, a legendary figure etc. Now flip mats like this are usually in the $20-$30 but are also usually made out of laminated materials for better durability and use for markings. Overall I think the Epic Encounters boxes are nice, I like the details that go into the manual and it is super convenient to have everything in one box packaged up ready to go. I am happy that I got the box and was able to review it, but knowing what is in it now and the price point, I'm not sure that for experienced dm's with miniatures and maps in their arsenal if this box would be the right product to add to their game.
The box has lots of resources and materials to help bring an encounter the the game, but I don't feel as if purchasing the box was a game changing purchase. The maps, tokens and manual are all well made and I like that everything was in the box ready to go. I feel that if I am looking to put a table through a random encounter or a one shot for the evening I could easily pull this down with minimal prep after reading through the manual a few times and run a really cool encounter. I feel if you are going to use this box you will have to have your party already on a dragon themed quest/campaign or have some pretext /game play to lead up to the epic encounters box. The pamphlet did very well and had great writing to help set the scene and really bring the environment and the dragon to life. I wish that there was more scenes to help lead up to the big battle or have a little more to the game play rather than it just be one encounter, but I suppose that is why the box is named "Epic Encounter;" it is one really epic encounter that you take your players on.
The market price for this box is $49.95 not including taxes or shipping. Depending on which Epic encounter box you are looking at the prices fluctuate slightly. Steamforged Games currently has 10 different Epic Encounters boxes that you can choose from. I do have the other epic encounters boxes on a wish list to eventually purchase but as I said above, I like the boxes but I don't feel like it is something that I absolutely need to make or break a game encounter at my table.
Thanks to my Ko-fi sponsors for making this happen
I am so excited to present Epic Encounters: Lair of The Red Dragon box which our first goal met on Ko-Fi! Thank you again to Mchamm3r, Botticelli, Ryan, Prophet of Stars and Syrin380Auto for making our first goal happen. Dungeon Fox Chronicles has been an absolute passion project of mine and I love that