Thoughts on Horde of the Dragon Queen
For some reason I have had a yearning to read this adventure. Here we go! *Spoilers below*
Greenest In Flames I don't foresee my group charging into a town being attacked by a dragon. Though the section gives alternatives if the party doesn't go into town, I would wait until my party is already in town before I began the attack. I'm sure a lot of other DMs chose this option as well.
Raiders' Camp It might take even more convincing for a party who survived a night of a dragon attack to actually follow the dragon back to its base camp. Of course, the manual doesn't say the dragon leaves together with the raiders, and this section doesn't say the dragon is at the camp. Maybe it would be better if it just flew off on its own. I'd be very interested to see how my players infiltrated the camp. I'm betting they would send the thief.
Dragon Hatchery I can see each of these chapters taking a whole 4-6 hour sitting, if elaborated properly. This chapter is essentially a dungeon crawl.
On the Road Wilderness adventure, with random encounter options and planned encounters. This is difficult for me as a DM. How do the PCs get buddy buddy (or suspicious) of NPCs without playing out every day of the journey? Sounds like a lot of fun NPC interaction, but it has to be done right.
Construction Ahead This part is kind if cool, some investigation and some more interaction with NPCs. At this point I'm also wondering if my players would have just tried to take over the cultist carts during the last session, on the road. I'm also wondering how much work it would be to adjust this adventure for higher level, already established PCs.
Castle Naerytar Here's a nifty little castle for the party to explore under cover. If a party tries to take it by force, there are too many enemies to have any chance of success. It could also use a few ideas on how to bring the castle to life. Everyone seems to just sit in their room contemplating the meaning of life until someone arrives to interrupt them. Maybe a shipment of good just arrived, and all the cultists are actively sorting through it.
Hunting Lodge A minimally populated hunting lodge serves to get the characters further along the trail of the Cult. There are some bits of information and a possible tenuous alliance. If the PCs don't buy in, there could be a few bloody fights.
Castle in the Clouds This chapter/location, too, is just a way-stop to get the party closer to the published end. There are enough enemies here to overwhelm a party, or possibly some allies for an intelligent group.
Wrap Up: I think the adventure/book as a whole could be great for teaching players that they don't have to just fight everything they come in contact with. I also think, with a large percent of NPCs and dragon-kin, this would not be too bad to scale up to higher levels. Finally, I would love to hear how others have run or would run the On the Road section to get the PCs buddy-buddy with NPCs without playing out every hour of every day. Please let me know in the comments.