Red Hand of Doom (3e) – Sean’s Pick, 032118

Today’s the day we look at the third of five in our Tales of the Five Editions Week. When 3e came out, it had been quite a while since D&D had gone through a major change, and it was one of the Big Events of gaming history. The Red Hand of Doom is one of the most highly praised and respected adventures to come out of that time – called a “super adventure,” it’s pretty much a campaign all its own.

Who Can Stand Against the Son of the Dragon?

The Wyrmsmoke Mountains shook with the thunder of ten thousand screaming hobgoblin soldiers. From the phalanx emerged a single champion. One by one the tribes fell silent as the warlord rose up, blue scales gleaming along his shoulders, horns swept back from his head. A hundred bright yellow banners stood beneath him, each marked with a great red hand. He stood upon a precipice and raised his arms. “I am Azarr Kul, Son of the Dragon!” the warlord bellowed.

“Hear me! Tomorrow we march to war!”

Red Hand of Doom is a DUNGEONS & DRAGONS® adventure designed to take characters from the 6th level to the 12th level. Confronted with the relentless advance of Azurr Kul’s horde, the characters must undertake vital missions to influence the outcome of the war. Can they shatter the armies of the enemy, or will Azarr Kul’s dreams rain destruction upon the human lands?

(Excerpts from the Product History)

Red Hand of Doom (2006), by Richard Baker and James Jacobs, is a super-adventure for D&D 3E. It was published in February 2006.

Continuing the Super Adventures. D&D adventures from Wizards of the Coast were shockingly rare during the 3E era (2000-2008). That’s because they expected d20 licensees to focus on adventure publication, taking the brunt of one of the least profitable sorts of RPG publication.

Super-adventures from Wizards that were larger and more important were even rarer. Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil (2001) and City of the Spider Queen(2002) were the only two in the early 3E era, then Wizards almost totally abandoned adventures for three years, with the exception of some Eberron modules. Red Hand of Doom thus marked a big return for Wizards. It would be followed by several other Wizards adventures in the final 3E years, most of them in the “Expedition” series (2006-2007).

To qualify Red Hand of Doom as a super-adventure, designers Baker and Jacobs made sure it was both “huge” and “epic”. Though it’s not a full-fledged adventure path, it should support 6 months of play.

Origins. Red Hand of Doom was written as a classic adventure that could be used in any setting. To make the adventure classic, Baker and Jacobs focused on one of best-known races of old: goblinoids, with plenty of class levels to make them dangerous foes. To make the adventure generic, they created a new locale, the Elsir Vale, that could be placed in any setting.

Sources. Baker based the plot of Red Hand of Doom on something he’d seen in many fantasy novels, but that was less common in D&D adventures: “the Army of Evil … trying to conquer everything.” He didn’t muddy that concept with dungeon delves or macguffins — instead wanting to focus on the armies themselves and the sort of challenges that they presented. It was an adventure style that hadn’t been seen much since the “Bloodstone Pass” adventure series (1985-1988).

Jacobs notes a few more disparate influences: the Return of the King movie (2003), World of Warcraft (2003), and a Chris Thomasson adventure called “Foundation of Flame”, which appeared in Dungeon #113 (August 2004).

Hail to the Designers Notes! The biggest innovation in Red Hand of Doom is the inclusion of about a dozen designers’ notes. These boxed notes talk about the philosophies and expectations behind some of the encounters. Wizards had never done anything of the sort before.

Sean Patrick Fannon
Writer & Game Designer: Shaintar, Star Wars, Savage Rifts, Freedom Squadron, and much more!
Please check out my Patreon and get involved directly with my next projects!

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